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Here in Australia, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

I’ve had to be in the United States at the right time in order to really participate in the traditional feast of food, family, and football (for those who aren’t napping).

I’m also lucky to have great friends that have welcomed me into their families for the Thanksgiving holiday, although I did celebrate another one at a hotel and they put on a massive spread, but without the essential family aspect.

Being an outsider, I’ve always looked at Thanksgiving in an extremely positive manner. I think it’s great to get together, swap stories, and eat with family or close friends that you may not get to see that often.

One thing I like to do is watch the families I’ve been lucky to hang out with interact while they go about eating Thanksgiving dinner. One thing I’ve noticed – more than the turkey – the sides. Who eats what, who chooses first, which foods get avoided, and how much there is altogether.

This has led me to rank the 11 most popular thanksgiving sides in order, which you’ll find below. What are the Thanksgiving sides that you can’t be without?

Thanksgiving Dinner
Image by Julie Rothe from Pixabay

1. Mashed Potatoes

Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

Rather than sing a million praises for my all-time favorite side, I’ll ask a simple question instead:

What would your mom and grandma say if you didn’t serve mashed potatoes with Thanksgiving dinner?

That’s why mashed potatoes are number one. Always. Check out our recipe for Smooth and silky mashed potatoes

2. Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese
Photo by Priyanka Aggarwal on Unsplash

While it’s not traditionally on the Thanksgiving table in some States, Mac and Cheese can be the notable point of difference for others on the Holiday.

A well crafted mac and cheese will keep the kids’ table occupied while complementing veggie sides are a must for the big kids.

We’ve got a great recipe for mac and cheese with pumpkin! Check it out here.

3. Gravy

Gravy Boat
Image Source: Glory Foods via Flickr CC BY 2.0

While cranberry sauce gets the better publicity, a good gravy is the rock solid Turkey day necessity that often gets overlooked.

Thick, dark, and rich, or conjured from out of the pan with veggie char, elbow grease and sleight of hand, there’s no Thanksgiving that doesn’t include this liquid gold.

Nothing can help make a dry bird better than gravy. We’ve got some great tips on how to make amazing giblet gravy.

4. Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole
Image Source: mroach via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

There’s no doubt about it, Thanksgiving is about the most heavy duty stomach-stuffing holiday around. There are carbs everywhere!

A tasty sweet potato casserole gets passed along to every spot on the table, and it doesn’t hurt having a slightly lower carb content and a little bit of sweetness.

Check out this tasty, crunchy sweet potato casserole recipe. All you need is a bit of brown sugar and pecan crumble to take this side to another level.

5. Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread Dressing
Image Source: Jeffreyw via Flickr CC BY 2.0

I must admit that I’d never eaten cornbread dressing before I first visited the US, let alone knew that there was a better use for stuffing than jamming it into the bird’s cavity to cook.

These days, I’m a dressing convert. It’s a fantastic way to support turkey and chicken with more of the flavors used to season it.

Stuffing the bird remains important, (more on that below) but if you can put a bunch of flavorful ingredients together and then incorporate it into the rest of your Thanksgiving meal, then I’m all for it! Give this recipe for bacon cornbread stuffing a try!

6. Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce
Image Source: Luis Tamayo via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

While it’s one of the main Thanksgiving drawcards and I like how cranberry sauce tastes, I just don’t think it has the gravitas or that indispensable aura that you get with the best homemade gravy.

I can definitely see myself forgetting to put a dollop of cranberry sauce on my lovely white meat, but I could never see myself forgoing the chance to put gravy on nearly everything, which makes a huge difference to these rankings.

I can appreciate the allure of cranberry sauce, but it’s the sparkly high heels to gravy’s versatile pumps. We’ve got a great cranberry sauce that’s sure to be a showstopper.

7. Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole
Image: via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Kicking off the solid and dependable section of this list is the green bean casserole. For some it’s a highlight of your Thanksgiving meal, others will not eat beans at all.

For me, it’s a necessary bit of color and freshness amidst the sweet or savory flavors.

I like beans snapping fresh and steamed, (I don’t feel the need for much else), however, a subtle casserole does add to your Turkey day sides as a slightly different flavor. Give this Green Bean Casserole a whirl for your Thanksgiving table.

8. Corn

Hot Buttered Corn
Image Source: Brian Child via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

If I didn’t like butter, salt, and pepper so much, then corn may not make this list of sides at all.

But you can’t tell me that grabbing an ear, smothering it in happiness, and then ripping into it is one of the most enjoyable food feelings you can get.

Corn is popular with fussy kids, and may also give you the opportunity to roast your friends and family with a controversial eating technique; my wife says I look like a rodent when I eat corn.

Want to try something extra indulgent? Check out this recipe for cream cheese corn casserole.

9. Dinner Rolls

Dinner Rolls
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Don’t get me wrong, piping hot dinner rolls (crusty and fresh with butter) taste absolutely fantastic.

But in no way should they come at the expense of the premier sides above and the real meal. Eating a roll (or two, let’s face it) takes up too much valuable stomach space that can be put to good use elsewhere.

If you are primping for the dinner rolls, you’re either a Thanksgiving Dinner rookie, forced to eat one by mom, or one of those poor unfortunate souls with a bread ban at home.

We’ve got a dinner roll recipe that will make the bread portion of the meal look deliciously elegant.

10. Stuffing

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

If I hadn’t had discovered my love for dressing, then turkey stuffing would be higher on my list.

But separating the stuffing that goes into the bird to cook, from the same stuffing that’s been prepared as a specific side dish, is the right way to go about it. We’ve got a recipe that we particularly enjoy for sausage cranberry stuffing.

The stuffing can get put in to keep the bird moist as it cooks, infusing the turkey with the wonderful flavor of herbs and spices.

But after the job is done, I’m happy to cast it aside (or leave it) and devour the fresher non-bird version with the Thanksgiving meal instead.

11. Brussel Sprouts

Image by Mogens Petersen from Pixabay

I’m sure there’s a right time and place for Brussels sprouts, but I’m yet to find it. This just might be the recipe to get me to enjoy Brussels sprout, a bacon Brussels sprout gratin, because bacon and cheese make everything taste good.

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