Top 8 Unique Thanksgiving Side Dishes 2021

Top 8 Unique Thanksgiving Side Dishes 2021

UPDATED 11/23/2021

Say hello to easy Thanksgiving sides! While turkey or ham may be considered the ‘star’ of your big feast, if you’re anything like me, the side dishes are what make up the most of your ideal Thanksgiving plate.

If you’ve been tasked with bringing a side to your family meal of Friendsgiving, look no further than these crowd-pleasing sides. Below, I’ve gathered some of our healthy fall favorites like heart-warming soups, greens, and refreshing salads to help you lighten up your hearty dinner. 

With the list below, I hope you get all the recipe inspiration you need to create your dream feast this year! Bonus points, these fall-inspired sides taste so good no one will even know they’re the healthier version. 

Healthy Holiday Appetizer Side Dishes 

Who doesn’t love stealing a bite or two of something delicious while waiting for the main event? If no one has signed up to bring an appetizer, consider this your ticket to save the day. 

My family is infamous for an appetizer spread nearly bigger than the feast itself. Keep it simple - veggies and dip, a cheese board, or a hearty dip like artichoke dip will be more than enough to snack on! 

Easy Instant Pot Spinach Artichoke Dip

This creamy instant pot spinach artichoke dip is hearty, cheesy, and delicious! This dip is just as satisfying as the classic, but we’ve lightened this recipe up by removing the cream cheese and using light mayo. Your guests will never know! 

Cooking Time: 15 Minutes 

Serves: 8-10 people 

Instructions:

- 1 (14 oz) Can Artichoke Hearts, drained & coarsely chopped

- 10 oz Frozen Spinach, thawed & squeezed

- ¼ Cup Shallots, diced

- 1 Clove Garlic, minced

- ¼ Cup Chicken Stock  

- ½ Greek Yogurt

- ½ Cup Light Mayo 

- ¾ Cup Grated Parmesan

- 1 ½ Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese 

- ¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 

- Salt & Pepper to taste 

- Tortilla chips, pita chips, or chips of choice to eat with!

Instructions:

  1. Add artichoke hearts, spinach, shallots, garlic, yogurt, mayo, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in the instant pot. Stir until well combined.
  2. Set to manual and adjust the time to 3 minutes. When finished, quick release to vent. 
  3. Stir in cheeses until melted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Pour into a serving dish and serve with your chips or crackers of choice.

Healthy Fall Salad Side Dishes

Most people don’t think about salad as a mainstay to a Thanksgiving meal, but every year it remains to be my favorite part of my family’s celebration. With so much creamy richness on a plate, something crunchy, light, and refreshing swoops in a surprising way to balance it all out. 

Plus, salads are the perfect opportunity to play with the best seasonal flavors like apples and pears, nuts, or even roasted butternut squash. Get creative! 

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Creamy Tomatillo Dressing

This fresh and satisfying salad makes the most of one of the most delicious roasted fall veggies – delicata squash. Light pomegranate seeds and pepitas give a nice crunch, while creamy tomatillo dressing, avocado, and cotija cheese provide a surprisingly welcome southwest touch. Friends, meet your new favorite fall salad! 

Cooking Time: 10 Minutes 

Serves: 8-10 people 

Vegetarian, Whole 30, Paleo 

Ingredients:

Salad 

- 4 Cups Kale, deribbed and chopped 

- 2 Cups Romaine, thinly sliced 

- ¼ Cup Pomegranate Seeds 

- ¼ Cup Cotija Cheese 

- ¼ Cup Pepitas 

- 1 Avocado, sliced or diced 

Red Onions

- Red Onion 

- Red Wine Vinegar  

Squash 

- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil 

- 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup 

- 1 tsp Cumin 

- 1 tsp Garlic Powder 

- ½ tsp Smoked Paprika 

- ¼ tsp. Cinnamon 

- Black Pepper, to taste

- Salt, to taste 

- 2 Delicata Squash, halved and sliced into half-moons 

Dressing:

- 1/3 cup Greek Yogurt 

- 2/3 Cup Buttermilk 

- 2 Small Tomatillos 

- ½- 1 Small Jalapeno

- ½ Cup Cilantro  

- 1 Clove Garlic

- ½ Packet Ranch Mix 

- 1 lime, Juice of 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. In a small bowl mix the squash seasoning well to combine. Spread delicata squash evenly on a pan, drizzle with olive oil, maple syrup, and seasonings, toss to coat. 
  3. Roast for 25-30 minutes, giving the pan a shake halfway through. 
  4. While the squash is roasting, make onions and dressing. 
  5. Combine onions and vinegar in a bowl, toss to coat, and set aside. 
  6. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender. 
  7. To assemble, add the kale and romaine to a bowl, add pickled onions and salt, toss to coat, and massage lettuce. 
  8. Add a small amount of dressing, toss, add more and toss, continue until lightly dressed. 
  9. Add in half of the roasted squash, pepitas, pomegranate seeds, cotija, and avocado. Lightly toss. 
  10. Top the salad with the other half of the ingredients, garnishing as you like. 
  11. Have the rest of the salad dressing handy in case people prefer more.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

While this bright salad is something I usually lean towards in the summer, it’s a fan-favorite my family asks for all year round! The delicious strawberry vinaigrette converges with spinach, feta, crushed nuts, strawberries, and avocado to add a light touch of sweetness to your savory plate. 

 

Cooking Time: 10 Minutes 

Serves: 8-10 people 

Vegetarian, Whole 30, Paleo 

Ingredients:

Salad 

Salad Ingredients:

 - 1 Package Spinach

 - 8 oz Strawberries, halved

 - 1 Large Avocado, sliced

 - ½ Red Onion, thinly sliced

 - ½ Cup Crumbled Feta

 - ⅓ Cup Sliced Almonds

 - ⅓ Cup Pistachios, shelled and chopped

Balsamic Vinaigrette Ingredients:

 - 1 Cup Strawberries

 - 3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

 - ¼ Cup Olive Oil

 - 1 Tbsp Honey (optional)

 - ½ Tsp Dijon Mustard

 - 1 Garlic Clove

 - Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add vinaigrette ingredients to the blender, blend at high speed until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Assemble salad, drizzle with dressing to taste

Comforting Fall Soup Side Dishes

Add an extra touch of coziness to your holiday menu with a big pot of soup to complement your meal. Don’t worry, these recipes are nice and light and will elevate your menu rather than making it heavier. 

Each of the soups listed is easy to prepare in advance. If you have an instant pot they can easily be transferred and kept warm just by using your pot. Make sure to set out any toppings and garnishes to provide the full experience.  

Tomato Basil Soup

Tomatoes are a flavor you likely won’t see a lot of at your annual Thanksgiving spread, but it provides such a warm, crowd-pleasing flavor that even the pickiest eaters are sure to enjoy! This rich soup will be a delicious companion to your feast this year. 

Cooking Time: 45 Minutes 

Serves: 4-6 people 

Gluten-Free, Whole 30, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian

Ingredients:

- 1 Tbsp EVOO 

- 1 Yellow Onion, diced 

- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced 

- Red Pepper Flakes, to taste

- Salt & Pepper, to taste 

- 15 oz Fire Roasted Tomatoes

- 15 oz Crushed Tomatoes 

- 1 cup Chicken or Vegetable Broth 

- ½ Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar 

- Handful Fresh Chopped Basil, plus more for serving 

- ½ Cup Coconut Milk 

 

Instructions:

  1. Set instant pot to sauté. Once hot, add the olive oil, garlic, and onions and sauté until cooked through, and onions become translucent. 
  2. To deglaze the pot, add the chicken broth and scrape with a spoon. 
  3. Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. 
  4. Seal the instant pot, and select the manual, setting the time to 10 minutes. 
  5. Once it’s finished, allow the instant pot to naturally release 10 minutes before opening. 
  6. Transfer the soup and a handful of basil to a high-speed blender or use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. 
  7. Return the soup to the instant pot, add ½ Cup Coconut Milk, or if you aren’t watching your dairy some milk or cream. 
  8. Turn the instant pot on ‘keep warm and allow flavors to meld for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. 
  9. Serve by itself, with crusty bread, or a fresh grilled cheese! 

Whole 30 Butternut Squash Soup

Nothing screams fall more than a bowl of heart-warming butternut squash soup. This creamy soup recipe omits the dairy for a lighter, healthier soup that doesn’t sacrifice flavor. 

Cooking Time: 30 Minutes 

Serves: 4-6 people 

Gluten-Free, Whole 30, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian

Ingredients:

- 1 Butternut Squash, Cubed

- ½ Tbsp Cooking Oil

- 1 Yellow Onion, Chopped

- 1 Clove Garlic

- 1 Apple, Chopped

- ¼ Tsp Ground Cinnamon

- ¼ Tsp Ground Nutmeg

- ¼ Tsp Ginger

- ⅛ Cayenne Pepper

- 2 cups Vegetable Broth

- ¾ Canned Coconut Milk

 

Instructions:

  1. Add vegetable oil, garlic, onion, chopped butternut squash, chopped apple, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and vegetable broth to instant pot & stir.
  2. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  3. Quick release pressure. 
  4. Cool for 10 minutes. 
  5. Blend until smooth. 
  6. Add ½ cup of coconut milk. 
  7. Mix, serve, and enjoy!

Lightened Zuppa Toscana Soup

This Healthy Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana is the soup of our dreams! This creamy soup combines crumbled Italian sausage, tender potatoes, crispy bacon, and nutrient-rich kale for a mouthwatering bowl of goodness.  

Cooking Time: 30 Minutes 

Serves: 4-6 people

Ingredients:

- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil 

- 4 Slices Turkey Bacon, diced 

- 1 White Onion, diced  

- 4 Garlic Cloves, minced 

- 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning

- 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes 

- Black Pepper & Salt to taste 

- 1 Lb Chicken Italian Sausage 

- 6 Yellow Potatoes, cubed

- 1 Gallon Chicken Stock 

- 1 cup Heavy Cream or half and half

- 1 Bushel Kale, stems removed and roughly chopped 

 

Instructions:

  1. Set Instant Pot to Sauté, allow a few minutes to heat, then add olive oil, and turkey bacon, stirring constantly as the turkey bacon cooks so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until desired consistency is reached – we like ours nice and crispy. 
  2. Remove bacon from the pot and reserve for topping.
  3. Add diced onion, minced garlic cloves, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and sauté until onion is translucent. 
  4. Add Italian sausage, and continue to cook, breaking into small pieces until sausage is browned and cooked through. 
  5. Add chicken stock, potatoes, and stir. 
  6. Seal the instant pot, and select the manual, setting the time to 5 minutes. 
  7. Once it’s finished, allow the instant pot to vent before opening. 
  8. Stir in the Heavy Cream and Kale, letting it sit for a few minutes until kale is wilted. Pro tip: If you plan to cook ahead, save adding the kale until right before you plan to serve the soup. 
  9. Serve by ladling the soup into a bowl, and top with turkey bacon, red pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese to taste. 

Healthy Thanksgiving Air Fried Vegetable Side Dishes

Who said vegetables can’t taste just as delicious as heavy carbs, or rich gravy? Well, when air-fried your favorite seasonal vegetables get a major glow up and taste more decadent and delicious than you could even imagine! 

Air Fried Brussels Sprouts

These air-fried Brussels sprouts will surprise you. With just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of time and care, they come out just as good as the Brussels sprouts you could get from any restaurant in town! 

Cooking Time: 20 minutes 

Serves: 4 people

Gluten-Free, Whole 30, Paleo

Ingredients:

- Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved 

- Avocado Oil 

- Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste 

 

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in the air fryer basket and mix generously. 
  2. Air fry at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Stir and shake broccoli halfway through. 

Air Fried Broccoli

Just like the Brussels sprouts, broccoli’s crunchy exterior makes it the perfect candidate for air frying. Once cooked this broccoli comes together in a crunchy, satisfying way. Don’t be surprised when you come back for seconds! 

Cooking Time: 12 minutes 

Serves: 4 people

Gluten-Free, Whole 30, Paleo 

Ingredients:

- Broccoli 

- Avocado Oil 

- Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste 

 

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in the air fryer basket and mix generously. 
  2. Air fry at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Stir and shake broccoli halfway through. 

Hope you enjoy an amazing Thanksgiving celebration this year filled with delicious food, maybe some of the sides shared above, love and cheer! If you’re looking to add a little more balance to your holiday week, be sure to check out our 7-Day Thanksgiving Exercise Routine, to keep you moving and feeling good all week long. 

 

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