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Ranking Thanksgiving Side Dishes, from worst to best


Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a truly American holiday because yeah, the historical stuff, but also because people are encouraged to eat as much as they can. Only on days like today are you encouraged to stuff your face, get drunk, put on stretchy pants, watch football and nap, all before 5 p.m. (In some cultures, we also call this “Sunday Funday.”)

To get you ready for the busy day ahead, I ranked every Thanksgiving side dish I could think of from worst to best:

16. Creamed onions

Look, I love onions as much as the next person, but what is that?! The internet tells me creamed onions are pearl onions that are cooked slowly over time until they’re sweet. Apparently it’s a New England thing, and that’s fine by me. They can keep their mushy little onions while we slather butter and cheese over carbs like normal fat Southerners.

15. Cranberry sauce (canned)

Cranberry sauce is the dish you think you have to have on your Thanksgiving table but is rarely ever touched; that’s especially true of canned cranberry sauce, which is why you put the least responsible person in your family in charge of it because there’s no messing that up.

Mmm…you know what goes great with this delicious turkey we spent hours slaving over? This gelatinous cranberry substance in the shape of an aluminum can that Derek didn’t even bother to cut up. 


14. Carrots

No matter how hard you try to dress them up — balsamic reductions, roasted, truffle butter, etc. — they’re just carrots. The only reason they belong on the Thanksgiving table is so you can guilt your kids into eating something healthy before the second helping of pie.

13. Squash

You know what sucks? Serving yourself what you think is sweet potatoes only to find out it’s squash.

12. Cranberry sauce (fresh)

The only reason this is higher on the list than the canned variety is it takes actual effort to make, meaning whoever is in charge of making it will guilt you into eating at least a spoonful.

11. Brussels Sprout

As an adult, I have mostly gotten over my childhood distaste for brussels sprout; however, I think it says something about them that they are only acceptable as a Thanksgiving side dish when they’re cooked with bacon and onions.

10. Green bean casserole

The real stars of this dish are the fried onions on top. One of the things I love most about Thanksgiving is that it’s perfectly acceptable — encouraged, even — to make foods that are supposed to be healthy — green beans, brussels sprout, broccoli, sweet potatoes, etc. — totally unhealthy.

I guess we should have something green on the table…hmm…just put these beans in a dish, put some Cream of Mushroom soup, butter, and cheese on them and stick it in the oven for a while. …Wait, still too much green. Throw those fried onions on it. 

9. Broccoli casserole

See above.

8. Sweet potato casserole

See above, just make it even better by putting brown sugar, butter, and pecans on top. Or marshmallows. I personally prefer the former, but hey, neither is healthy and both give you an excuse to eat something sweet before dessert.

7. Baked apples

And no, not like whole baked apples like some people make. I’m talking about sliced up apples cooked in brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon served piping hot, Cracker Barrel style. The ultimate example of healthy gone bad and by bad I mean awesome.

6. Dinner rolls

The dark horse of any holiday meal. I personally prefer rolls to be slightly sweet and just soft enough to soak up leftovers on the plate. If you’re in the Danville area, Burke’s Bakery has THE BEST dinner rolls around. Tell ’em I sent you.

5. Corn pudding

Not a huge fan of corn by itself, but who isn’t a fan of corn cooked in butter, milk, sugar, and eggs? This is a staple dish on any southern Thanksgiving table.

4. Gravy

Some people may consider gravy a condiment, but not this blogger. Gravy is the Tyler Ulis of the Thanksgiving table; it makes everything around it better. Mashed potatoes a little bland? Gravy. Turkey too dry? Gravy. Little brother won’t shut up? Gravy. (Although that last one might get you in trouble.)

3. Mac and cheese

Mac and cheese on any day is amazing. Fancy it up by popping it in the oven and you’ve got a Thanksgiving classic. Even if all of the other side dishes fail, you can never go wrong with mac and cheese.

2. Mashed potatoes

I mean, just look at that. I went back and forth over mashed potatoes and stuffing for the #1 spot, and even though mashed potatoes didn’t come out on top, everyone wins. Lumpy or smooth, with gravy, sour cream, or butter, there is nothing better than overloading on this delicious carbohydrate. Some things are just worth being fat for.

1. Stuffing

Other than Thanksgiving and Christmas, when do you eat stuffing? Exactly. That’s why it’s the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish, no matter how you prepare it. My mother makes stuffing balls with spicy sausage, taking the dish to an entirely different level. (My sister and I fight over who gets to be the taste tester.) Since we don’t put our stuffing inside of the bird, technically I guess it should be called dressing, but whatever. That just sounds odd. Stuffing balls FTW.

I’m sure some of you disagree on the rankings, which is why I came up with this handy little ranking tool for you to weigh in yourselves:

Happy eating.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

24 Comments for Ranking Thanksgiving Side Dishes, from worst to best

  1. shelby
    10:22 am November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Corn pudding, broccoli, Mac and cheese. and the onions are some that we’ve never had on out turkey day table. I much prefer dressing to stuffing.
    Mrs ft, will you go out with me?

  2. roundball fool
    10:22 am November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Fun post, Tyler. Nice work. We had big discussion last night at a gathering. Do you call it stuffing or dressing? Majority said dressing. A regional thing that seemed to fall along native Kentuckians picking dressing and our friends from the north and east calling it stuffing.

    Happy Thanksgiving all!

    • MrWildcat61
      12:52 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

      I prefer stuffing to dressing. Stove Top over the cube variety

  3. HillbillyInBC
    10:25 am November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Fried apples, not baked, in the corner of eastern Kentucky where I was whelped. And we generally had those for breakfast with biscuits and gravy instead of dinner.

    • YES! My mom fries apples in an iron skillet with brown sugar and butter, and she makes gravy (with bacon grease, the Kentucky way!) and biscuits too. I grew up with both, and only recently did I realize her style of gravy (made with bacon grease) is known to some as Kentucky milk gravy (at least on some of the recipe sites). I thought it was just gravy! 🙂

  4. bigblueforever
    10:32 am November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Never heard of creamed onions? I like dumplings. I bet TT is making sandwiches today.

  5. Shawn Kemp
    10:47 am November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Still no Cousins crossing over Big Handsome?!


    • keiths
      6:10 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

      leave it to some dumb ass to put a basketball video in a thanksgiving food post

    • 25OR624
      7:46 am November 27, 2015 Permalink

      This is the day the Lord made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). Love your life and love your team and team-mates and coaches; because where love is, God is (Tolstoyism). The way to Happiness: keep your heart free from hate, and your mind free from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Fill your life with love. Scatter sunshine. Forget self, think of others. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” This simple philosophy is the key to happiness. Eliminate depressing and discouraging thoughts; think happy and positive thoughts.

    10:49 am November 26, 2015 Permalink

    I spent 25 Thanksgivings in New England and I think my grandmother may have served creamed onions once because… they suck. Mac n cheese as a legit side is a very southern thing, though I believe we Yankees have been missing out for many years. Winter squash is big up north because it keeps well in cold weather but it still is pretty boring, even with real maple syrup. We always called dressing : stuffing; even if it was cooked outside the bird. Great rolls can make the meal. Fun post.

  7. AirForceChris
    10:51 am November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Deviled eggs are my number two even though they didn’t make the list.

  8. Long Dong Silver
    12:22 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Corn pudding gives me the most righteous farts

  9. Briar Gates
    12:44 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Creamed Onions. Thems fightin’ words.

  10. MrWildcat61
    12:50 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Gotta have Homemade Dumplings. Its our family favorite. Brussels sprouts I have never had before, but these actually looks tempting to try. How do you prepare yours and what do they taste like

    • ukcamel
      1:41 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

      With lots of butter and if you like greens you’ll like sprouts.

    • huck
      1:55 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

      gotta second on the dumplings, its not thanksgiving or Christmas without dumplings and corn bread for me, need some ham as well.

      What….. store bought rolls and mac and cheese? sure wouldn’t find that kinda stuff in my family’s holiday meals.

      happy Thanksgiving BBN….. and you others too

  11. JewelieLou
    1:00 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

    I’m going to have to go against the list and say Broccoli Casserole and Sweet Potato Casserole are the two best.

  12. Angelo
    1:27 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

    butternut squash baked with sage, rosemary and thyme!!

  13. ukcamel
    1:42 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

    Have to include whatever the dish is that is jello with marshmallows and fruit inside it.

  14. MTT, I hope that you and yours (and all the KSR krew, err crew) have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

    Thanks to you and all at KSR for giving us great UK sports coverage for free!!!

  15. LansingCat
    5:34 pm November 26, 2015 Permalink

    I dunno what the hell creamed onions are.

  16. mapcatfan
    12:26 am November 27, 2015 Permalink

    Much prefer cornbread dressing – heavy on the sage – over the waxy, ball-shaped dressing. And you have to have Cranberry/Orange relish to go with the Turkey. (Trader Joe’s version is wonderful!)

  17. Angelo
    12:50 am November 27, 2015 Permalink

    Ambrosia!!!! It’s not Thanksgiving without it!!

  18. kentuckyrld
    12:59 am November 27, 2015 Permalink

    If your reporting skills are no better than your taste in food then we definitely would have to classify you in the idiot category.