Southern Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Are southern Thanksgiving side dishes a real thing? Doesn’t everyone have mostly the same side dishes on Thanksgiving? The answer is yes, southern side dishes are very much so a real thing. Also, no everyone will not have the same side dishes on their menu with their turkey. Many will not even eat turkey, they will have ham instead. These southern side dishes are the best and the majority of southerners will have their own variation of this on their plate for Thanksgiving.

Mac N Cheese

A perfect southern macaroni and cheese will look like this.

mac n cheese

Now we can talk about how to get there.

  1. Cook 1lb of noodles just 2 minutes less than the package says. This will be al dente. You want your noodles to not be fully cooked just yet so they can absorb the flavor you are going to put on them.
  2. While noodles are cooking grate 32oz or 2lbs of cheese. Take a shortcut here and purchase bags of shredded cheese.
  3. After pasta is done boiling, drain it and pour it into a 13x9in dish.
  4. Put all of the cheese on top. Make sure to cover all of the noodles so none are left exposed.
  5. Divide your stick butter into 8 tablespoons. Place all 8 tablespoons of butter evenly spaced out on top of the cheese.
  6. Pour milk over macaroni and cheese. Usually, 1/2 cup of milk will do the job, but you want to make sure you have just enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan.
  7. Salt and pepper the top. Go easy on the salt as the cheese is salty already, and heavier on the pepper.
  8. Bake in a 350° oven for 30-45 minutes. You want the butter to melt and crisp to achieve the browning on top.

Macaroni and cheese is a very serious topic for a southern thanksgiving meal. In fact, oftentimes as much care and effort is put into the macaroni and cheese that it could almost equal that of the turkey itself. I can tell you most people go for this side first and get more of it than almost anything else served.

Greenbean Casserole

This side item is so easy to make that many people often try to complicate it to make it better. The truth is it is great just the way it is. You can always add a little extra of this and that to bring out the flavors you like better, but the recipe as a whole is great.

  1. Place 2 cans or 2 cooked from frozen bags of green beans into a medium-size bowl. greenbean casserole
  2. Add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup.
  3. Fill the can half full of milk, pour, and mix in the bowl.
  4. Add 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a couple of dashes of pepper.
  5. Mix in 2/3 of the fried onions.
  6. Pour into an 8×8 or 9×9 dish
  7. Cook on 350° for 25 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly.
  8. Top with remaining onions.

I usually end up doubling this recipe and still adding extra fried onions after that. My family loves onions, but if you don’t like them as much just stick to the recipe.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Some may argue that this is not a side dish for Thanksgiving but more of a dessert, but in the south, this is a side dish and everyone looks for it on the table. Sweet potato casserole is sweet potato, marshmallows, brown sugar, and often times nuts are added for a crunch.

  1. Peel and boil 2-2 1/2lbs of sweet potatoes until they are very tender.
  2. Place potatoes in a large mixing bowl and mash.
  3. Mix in 1/4 cup of butter, 3/4 cup of packed light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and mix in 1/4 cup of chopped pecans.
  4. Put the potato mixture into an 11×7 inch casserole dish.
  5. Top with another 1/4 cup of pecans and mini marshmallows. Cook at 375° for 20-25 minutes until browned.

You can decide for yourself if this casserole fits into the side dish or dessert category. My vote is definitely for a side dish. After all, it is Thanksgiving and everyone bends the rules just a little for Thanksgiving dinner. I find that the 11x7in dish is not nearly as common to find where I live so I have this one. I really love it and the fact it has a lid makes for great storage, and transport to get-togethers.  *As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Cornbread Sage Dressing

What is dressing? It is just the difference of not being “stuffed” into a turkey. Really, stuffing or dressing is suitable to call this dish in my opinion. In my house, we have always called it dressing. Stuffing to us is something that comes out of the stovetop box.

  1. Start with your favorite cornbread recipe cooked, cooled, and crumbled up into a larger bowl.
  2. Add 1 egg, 2-3 tablespoons of ground sage, 1 large yellow onion diced and enough chicken stock or broth to make it a soupy mixture. (2 cups or so)
  3. Pour mixture into a 13×9 inch casserole dish top with 1 stick of butter cut into tablespoons, cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes uncover, and cook until brown on top.

I serve my dressing with gravy, it is so good and possibly my favorite thing on my table for a holiday meal. I even make this to go with ham. You can use stock or broth here, either will do but stock typically has more flavor. I did not put an exact measurement on the stock either because it will all depend on how big the pan of cornbread you make is, to how much dressing it will yield. It may seem a little complicated at first but it really is not and I encourage you to give this a try.

Turkey Gravy

This gravy is so tasty because it uses drippings from your turkey. This recipe is really simple.

  1. Start with 1/4 cup of butter melted in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Wisk in 1/4 cup of flour until lightly browned.
  3. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of turkey drippings. You can strain your drippings or keep pieces in them. I have prepared this both ways and it purely depends on your grave preference.
  4. Continue to whisk until the gravy gets bubbly and heated through. Remove from heat.

Any time you are making gravy make sure to remove it from the heat just before your desired thickness has been reached. Gravy will thicken as it cools. You can add fresh or dried herbs here such as thyme and parsley. For my personal preference, I just add a dash of salt and plenty of ground black pepper.

Mashed Potatoes

For a basic mashed potato recipe, you can use the rule of thumb of 1 potato per person you are cooking for. I usually use 6 potatoes.

  1. Peel cut and boil your potatoes until they are very tender.
  2. Drain and return to pot. (or stand mixer bowl)
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of butter, and 3/4 cup of milk.
  4. Blend together using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is a very basic recipe. I like to add different flavors from time to time and my usual go-to is garlic. In step 3 I will add garlic powder to taste. Using a mixer will help blend the potatoes together faster than by hand and will also help break them up to a smoother consistency. Of course, if you do not want your potatoes as smooth you can whisk by hand. On that same thought if you want less thick add more milk 1 tablespoon at a time until your desired consistency is achieved.

mashed potatoes

Deviled Eggs

I do not know if any holiday or a special meal that is complete without deviled eggs. At least in my house is has become an expectation that I make them every so often and every holiday. Again here I use 1 egg per person, but I have one child who absolutely loves them so I make extra. For this recipe, I am using 6 eggs.

  1. Boil eggs for 12 minutes, make sure that your water is at a full boil before you start counting time.
  2. Drail eggs and allow them to cool. After cooling peel them.
  3. Cut eggs in half. Place the white on a plate or serving dish and the yolk in a mixing bowl.
  4. I use more mustard than mayonnaise like a 3:1 ratio. Meaning I use 3 tablespoons of yellow mustard and 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Add to egg yolk.
  5. Mix until smooth.
  6. Add a large over heaping tablespoon of dill pickle relish, a small dash of sage, and oregano.
  7. Mix until smooth again. If this is thicker than what you would prefer add 1 teaspoon of mustard or mayonnaise at a time until it is the way you would like it to be.
  8. Use a small spoon, and spoon the mixture back into egg whites. Sprinkle each one with paprika.

Ready To Eat

Thanksgiving is a special day whether you will have a large group coming to eat at your house, just your close family, or friends that have become family. You may even be taking a side dish to someone else’s house. If you find yourself in the south this Thanksgiving, there is a good chance you will find these Thanksgiving southern side dishes being offered to eat. If you are not in the south you should still give one a try. I suggest the cornbread dressing or mac n cheese. On my table, we will almost every single one of these. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

There are no rules when cooking and putting meals together, in case you want to add a salad this Thanksgiving you can find some inspiration here.

Which one do you like or would like to try the most?

Eat Well


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18 thoughts on “Southern Thanksgiving Side Dishes”

  1. I am salivating now after reading this! all these sound so delicious. Being from the UK we don’t celebrate thanksgiving but I always thought you’re side dishes to accompany the turkey would be similar to Christmas dinner.

    I was surprised by the Mac and cheese and the deviled eggs especially with gravy!

    But I’d give it go!

    • Yes, here in the US Thanksgiving and Christmas are similar meals. We do make a few changes from one to the other, but it is mostly the same dishes. Mac and cheese is the best cooked the southern way.

  2. Hi,

    I love the green bean casserole and the sweet potato casserole. I like the taste of onions, so I’ll definitely have onions with it. I have not used sweet potatoes for many dishes yet, but it does taste yummy and I would like to start using it for more meals. The sweet potato casserole looks easy to make and I love the crunchy combination with the pecans. These are two recipes that I will make soon!

    • Christine, I hope that you do make them and love them as much as we do. The sweet potato casserole is so good. You really can’t go wrong with it. For the green bean casserole, I add 2 containers of fried onions. We love onions here so I always add extra. I hope they turn out just as good for you.

  3. I absolutely love deviled eggs. Many of my family do not like it so we do not have them very often and I really have never learned to make them for myself. I am so bookmarking this recipe for Thanksgiving because I am having those deviled eggs! Thank you so much for sharing this because I needed a reminder of how good deviled eggs are. Lol

    Yum! Can’t wait to try them!

    • Shyla, you should have no problem making the deviled eggs. It really is pretty simple so once you have done it and have a feel for it, you won’t even have to look at a recipe or anything. I think it is fun to play around with the mixture and add new things. Once in a while, I will add diced onions or some other seasonings. Put more or less mayonnaise or mustard in them. Have fun eating and experimenting with them. Let me know how they turn out.

  4. A great selection of tasty side dishes here, although I would hardly call macaroni cheese a side dish as it is really a whole meal and a yummy one at that! My second preference of the dishes you mention is the sweet potatoes casserole. Another tasty dish. Some very good recipes here which I hope to use in my household as I enjoy doing the cooking as much as my wife. Jim

    • You are very right. Sometimes the macaroni and cheese is all you need for a meal. We have just had it for dinner on the occasion. My family loves leftovers so we will eat it for two days in a row. I hope that you do get to try all of them and enjoy a southern way of cooking. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

  5. All these dishes sound and look delicios to me. I’m not from the US but we in Croatia share a lot of meals with you guys. After all, you guys originated from Europe, so it’s natural that we have connections in terms of food, culture, etc. I love mash potatoes. They go fantastic with turkey, ham, steak, chicken, you name it! Thanks for sharing this post. Keep up the good work with your site.

  6. It looks so delicious. I haven’t tried eating Southern Thanksgiving foods before.
    I will try to cook the Mac N cheese following the menu as instructed in the post. And the Mac n cheese looks similar to Macaroni bake gluten in Japan.

    Thank you for sharing,

    • I have never heard of macaroni bake gluten, but I am off to check it out now. The southern style macaroni and cheese is definitely not one for someone who is trying to watch what they eat, but everyone needs a little treat once in a while. Come back and let me know how you liked it.

  7. Oh, I simply wouldn’t know how to choose, these all sound (and look) absolutely delicious.
    I was surprised, however-Mac and Cheese-1 lb of noodles and 2lbs of cheese-shouldn’t it be then Cheese and Mac…? LOL
    In my home country there’s no thankgiving, but we do make something similar to this dish, only with around half cheese quantity. I’m intrigued now, though, so I’ll have to try out your recipe.
    Another surprise for me-the sweet potato recipe. We do love it and use it even more often than the plain potato, but I’ve never thought of adding more sweetness by combining it with brown sugar and marshmallows. This is also one that I need to try.

    • Cheese and Mac could definitely be a good name for it! It is a fair amount of cheese, but it is so yummy. In my house, we use sweet potatoes fairly often too without adding anything extra to it. If you don’t have Thanksgiving in your home country you could prepare any of these dishes for any other special occasion you have. I hope you enjoy them.

  8. Cheyenne,

    You’re killing me here. The Cornbread Sage Stuffing and Macaroni and Cheese are probably going to be made before Thanksgiving. They are both the ultimate comfort foods for me and let’s just say it’s time to get comfortable!

    Thanks for posting these, I’ll come back and let you know how they tasted!


    • I know right?!? The sage cornbread is my absolute favorite with a little gravy on it. If I could stand to gain 10lbs I would eat it at least once every week. I hope that you enjoy them, and Thanksgiving is far enough away you can totally make them now and later. Do let me know you like them.


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