Cooking something new for Thanksgiving is always a risk. An uncle might complain. An aunt might forbid it. The recipe could take longer than expected. Chaos ensues.
Straying from tradition can feel emotionally loaded, but it might be worth it. For many families, Thanksgiving will be different this year. If the usual cook isn’t cooking and the table isn’t full, why stick with exactly the same food? It’s a chance to try something new, especially for first-time holiday cooks.
Here are 21 beloved dishes recommended by members of The New York Times Food department.
1. J. Kenji López-Alt’s Cheesy Hasselback Potato Gratin
Two potato dishes are high priority, and I always make them both: the crispy-topped, cheesy Hasselback potatoes, adapted by Emily Weinstein from J. Kenji López-Alt, and the soft, airy almost Robuchon-style mashed potatoes (passed through a ricer and mixed with as much butter and cream as they can possibly hold) from Kim Severson. TEJAL RAO
Some people might give a side eye to salads at Thanksgiving. But Julia Moskin’s lemon-garlic kale salad is always a hit. It’s the perfect tangy-green counterpoint to all of the brown stuff on the plate. Even my 8-year-old loves it. MARGAUX LASKEY
Recipe: Lemon-Garlic Kale Salad
3. Julia Reed’s Bourbon Pecan Pie
I’ll be honest, I’ve never actually made this. I’m not a baker. But my partner does so every year, and it’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving desserts. (Do not fear the corn syrup!) I always look forward to a leftover slice with a cup of coffee the next morning. MARK JOSEPHSON
I choose a different turkey recipe every year; my family said that Melissa Clark’s rosemary and citrus turkey was the best I’ve ever made. And if you haven’t had Millie Peartree’s Southern macaroni and cheese, adapted by Kiera Wright-Ruiz, I’m not sure you’ve really lived. EMILY WEINSTEIN
Recipe: Southern Macaroni and Cheese
7. Melissa Clark’s Hot Crab and Oyster Dip
This year I’m making Melissa Clark’s hot crab dip with chopped fresh Gulf oysters to nourish us while we finish cooking the main meal. BRETT ANDERSON
A true 30-minute side that is deeply flavorful, these carrots are equally good straight out of the oven or at room temperature. They have just the right amount of nuance to stand out, but can still mingle with the rest of the Thanksgiving spread. ALEXA WEIBEL
9. Angela Dimayuga’s Beef Empanadas
My daughter always requests mashed potatoes, and, after trying many different recipes, we found this recipe from David Tanis to be our favorite. The cheese is great, but the addition of an egg, which I’d never used before, makes the potatoes extra creamy and delicious. KIM GOUGENHEIM
On our Thanksgiving table, mashed potatoes have given way to my own gratin, but not if I’m making Susan Spungen’s excellent mushroom bread pudding. It doubles as a side dish and alternate stuffing, especially with sausage added. FLORENCE FABRICANT
Recipe: Mushroom Bread Pudding
18. Melissa Clark’s Brandied Pumpkin Pie
The squash-onion topping in this recipe, adapted by Mark Bittman, is a secret weapon: It’s extremely flavorful, can be made many days in advance and only gets better as it sits in your fridge. Smear it on toast with ricotta or goat cheese for a quick Thanksgiving appetizer, et voilà, you’ve bought yourself time to finish the meal. EMILY FLEISCHAKER