My Maple Glazed Acorn Squash is roasted in the oven with simple ingredients to bring out its natural sweetness- it’s the perfect side dish for your holiday table.
Thanksgiving is arguably the biggest food holiday of the year. Sure, the turkey is usually the star of the meal but I’ve always been more excited about the supporting players- the side dishes. Everyone has their favorite side dishes that they look forward to at Thanksgiving. Some traditional dishes are close to your heart and perhaps should not be messed with but you can also try some new, unique dishes to mix things up this year. It’s a good idea to have a variety of side dishes with a good mix of colors, textures and flavors. Include some lighter fare to balance out the heavier dishes. And be sure to have several dishes that can be made ahead of time so that you can focus on spending time with your family on the big day.
In my mind, Thanksgiving side dishes fall into a few categories. Here’s a breakdown of these categories along with some suggestions for updating classic dishes.
Purees: Mashed potatoes are a staple on most Thanksgiving tables. If you’re a purist, you like your mashed potatoes with just butter and cream. A simple way to update your potatoes is to stir in some new ingredients to pump up the flavor. Fresh herbs, pesto, cheese, miso or horseradish are a few examples. One of my favorite combinations is mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and goat cheese. If you’re willing to part with the potatoes, try making a puree with a different vegetable like celery root, parsnips, butternut squash or beets.
Stuffing/Dressing: Instead of buying boxed stuffing, make homemade stuffing. You can prepare it in advance and then simply pop it in the oven on the big day. Try using different varieties of bread like baguettes, sourdough, multigrain or cornbread. Or, skip the bread entirely and make a stuffing with a different grain like wild rice, quinoa, farro or barley.
Gratins/Casseroles: Many of us grew up eating the traditional green bean casserole made with cream of mushroom soup and topped with canned, fried onions. It’s a great way to get kids to eat vegetables at Thanksgiving. Why not try a different vegetable gratin this year? Spinach, cauliflower, kale or artichokes all would be delicious topped with toasted breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Or instead of traditional potatoes au gratin, make a root vegetable gratin by thinly slicing a variety of root vegetables like celery root, parsnips and rutabaga. If you love corn, you can bake a delicious corn pudding. For an Italian twist, try serving baked polenta with wild mushrooms.
Roasted Vegetables: It’s a good idea to balance the heavier dishes with some dishes featuring fresh vegetables. Roasting vegetables intensifies their flavor and it’s easy to do. Squash is everywhere this time of year. You can use butternut squash or for something different, try roasting slices of acorn or kabocha squash brushed with a little maple syrup. You can even make stuffed squash by filling the cavity with a mixture of rice, vegetables and dried fruit. Roasted Brussels sprouts are another classic Thanksgiving dish. For extra flavor, try adding a little bacon or pancetta before popping it in the oven. Or if you want to add some spice to your dinner table, try some new combinations like roasted cauliflower with curry powder or baby carrots with coriander seeds.
Salads: Salad might not be everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving side dish but it’s nice to have a fresh salad to balance all of the rich food. Incorporate seasonal ingredients into your salad like roasted butternut squash, dried cranberries and pecans. A roasted beet salad with goat cheese is another good option. For you Brussels sprout lovers, try a shaved Brussels sprout salad with walnuts and pecorino cheese.
Sweet: Canned cranberry sauce may be a staple on your Thanksgiving table or perhaps even a traditional jello mold. This year, why not make a fresh cranberry relish or chutney? Or skip the cranberries altogether and try something different like a fresh pomegranate relish? And who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned sweet potato casserole with marshmallows? For a simpler, lighter dish, try roasting sweet potato wedges with a bit of maple syrup or brown sugar. Or for an Italian flare, make sweet potato gnocchi and serve it with brown butter, sage and Parmesan cheese.
If you’re looking for a simple side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner table, try my Maple Glazed Acorn Squash. Acorn squash has a sweet, orange colored flesh and hard green skin that softens and becomes edible as it cooks. It’s also packed with several nutrients. I toss the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme and roast it in the oven. A final brushing with maple syrup enhances its natural sweetness. It’s the perfect side dish for your holiday table.
Maple Glazed Acorn Squash
My Maple Glazed Acorn Squash is roasted in the oven with simple ingredients to bring out its natural sweetness- it's the perfect side dish for your holiday table.
- 2 medium acorn squash
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chopped, fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice the squash into ½-inch slices. Toss the slices with the oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Arrange the slices on two lined baking sheets and bake 15 minutes. Turn the slices over and brush with maple syrup. Bake another 7-10 minutes until done. Serve warm.
Maple Glazed Acorn Squash
Amount Per Serving
Calories 82 Calories from Fat 21
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 0.3g2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.