Thanksgiving Side Recipes to Up Your Potluck Game


Thanksgiving is like the Holy Grail of holidays for an enthusiastic home cook. If you find yourself in the kitchen cooking for a large group, you may be facing a mixed bag of emotions: apprehension, excitement, inspiration, anxiety… and that’s just how you feel about the turkey. Even if you’re not catering a whole meal, you may be asked to bring a dish to dinner. This year, the Cursory Cook has got you covered with some suggested side dishes that are the perfect mix of traditional and unique. All of them take less than one hour to prepare, and are full of ingredients that should be easy to find last minute!

Buffalo Chicken Mac n Cheese

Buffalo Chicken Mac N’ Cheese

Buffalo Chicken Mac N’ Cheese?! It sounds almost too good to be true. This spin on classic Thanksgiving mac n’ cheese will definitely be showstopper, ready in only thirty minutes. In experimenting with this recipe, I have found a few tweaks to be necessary, so here is an adapted version:


serve 4-6, cooking time 30 minutes

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 pound elbow macaroni
  • 6 ounces block American cheese, roughly grated or diced
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, roughly grated or diced
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s hot sauce
  • 1 to 2 cups shredded cooked chicken meat (from a rotisserie chicken recommended)
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallion greens
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese


  1. Combine cornstarch, evaporated milk, and eggs in a medium bowl and whisk until homogeneous. Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta in a large stock pot in salted water according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Return to stock pot and add cooking water, evaporated milk mixture, cheeses, and hot sauce.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy and smooth. Stir in chicken and scallions, reserving some scallions for garnish. Transfer to serving bowl, top with blue cheese and scallions, and serve immediately.

You can use any pasta shape in this recipe, and you may also decide to add more hot sauce if you’re serving a spicy-food-loving crowd. Finally, if you can’t find American cheese for grating or dicing, substituting Colby jack cheese works just as well.


Picture Courtesy of AllRecipes
Picture Courtesy of

Sweet Potato Crisp

Sweet Potato Crisp falls somewhere between a side dish and a dessert, which is never a bad thing. It’s an ideal contribution if you have a long car ride to get to your holiday destination, as it keeps well during transportation. The crisp is made from seasonal sweet potatoes, which should always be featured on a Thanksgiving table. The ingredients are so basic and recipe so straightforward that it can be an afterthought if you get a few last minute RSVP’s. Make sure to factor in enough time for peeling, boiling, and mashing the sweet potatoes.


serves 6, active cook time 20 minutes, total time 45 minutes

  • 3 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9 inch square baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, white sugar, eggs, 2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, milk, salt and vanilla until well blended. Spread evenly in the prepared baking dish.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the light brown sugar, pecans and flour. Stir in remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter to make the crumb topping. Spread topping over the sweet potatoes.
  4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until topping is browned and crispy.

Realistically, this dish will serve more than six, unless people are having it as their main course. Which I wouldn’t be so surprised by- it can be quite addicting!


Picture Courtesy of AllRecipes
Picture Courtesy of

Zucchini Boats with Mushrooms and Chickpeas

One of my personal favorite Thanksgiving sides, these vegetable boats are a flavorful celebration of autumn produce. Even better: it’s vegan-friendly and overall quite healthy! The presentation of the zucchini is fun, and may even encourage some picky eaters to give it a try. I would suggest being generous with the salt while sauteing the vegetables for stuffing, and if diets allow, sprinkling some Parmesan cheese over the boats halfway through their time in the oven.


serves 8, cook time approximately 1 hour

  • 4 zucchini, halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 (8 ounce) package button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • sea salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a shallow baking dish.
  2. Scoop out the flesh of the zucchini; chop the flesh and set aside. Place the shells in the prepared dish.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions for 5 minutes, then add garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Stir in chopped zucchini and mushrooms; saute 5 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin, chickpeas, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into zucchini shells.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until zucchini are tender.

I hope you get a chance to try one of these recipes this Thanksgiving. Whatever you make, remember to take your time and have some fun in the kitchen. No matter how delicious the food is, the act of preparing it and sharing it with friends and family is what this holiday is all about.

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