5 People Share Their Favorite Unique Cultural Dishes to Make During Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in America has certain staple dishes that are easily recognized. There is no controversy when it comes to macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes. The choice of protein versus pie may conjure up some argument from the family. Some people may go with a juicy honey-encrusted ham while others will stand by the dry big bird known as turkey. When it comes to pie flavors, pumpkin usually wins the table over, but every now and then a pecan pie will sneak into the party. While we can all agree that there are general dishes that Thanksgiving would not be complete without, there is still a whole world of cultural dishes that deserve a seat at the table. The following dishes are based in different cultures and enjoyed by their respective families on Thanksgiving day.

  1. 1. Panes Con Pavo 

    "Panes con pavo is a Salvadorian style turkey sandwhich. First, my grandma traditionally prepares the turkey and makes a juicy broth using the bones and meat. She then shreds the turkey and buys a torta bread similar to a hoagie-type bread. You warm up the loaf and stuff it with the tender turkey.

    "The best part is getting a spoonful of broth and drenching the sandwich in it. The way the tender meat marries with its own juice is so delicious. You can add typical sandwhich condiments like mayo or mustard. We like to add fresh radishes, cucumbers and lettuce. 

    "My grandma and the grandpa are the ones who prepare the turkey and one of my aunts will pick up the bread from a local panaderia and then we all squeeze into my grandma’s quaint home and make sure everyone is well fed. There are usually leftovers for the next few days."

    - Danielle C. 

  2. 2. Pozole

    "On Thanksgiving day, my immediate and extended family get together. Both of the dishes are the Mexican forms of these dishes, as there are variants in different Latin American countries.

    "The pozole roja, also known as red pozole, is a rich mix of soup and stew. My aunts like to take the lead and buy the pozole, which is made from hominy. They then cook pork and add it to the pozole soup. They also make flavorful chile and cut up fresh vegetables like lettuce, red radishes and raw onions to add as toppings. Traditionally, my aunts serve the food. Pozole is my favorite during Thanksgiving because it warms you up during the cold months.

    "Tamales are corn-based food that can be stuffed with anything you want. We usually get pork tamales that have spicy chile sauce added to it. My dad usually purchases about 40 Tamales from a vendor in advance and picks them up an hour or two before we eat. The tamales are then left in a plastic bag and family members can get them whenever they like. I really enjoy the tamales and some Thanksgivings, they are the only thing that I eat."

    -Brandon S.

  3. 3. Pho

    "Even though it is a basic food item in Vietnamese culture, the flavor is anything but average! Every year, I look forward to eating chicken or roast beef pho that my grandma makes. My grandma is the main chef of the family and she has been cooking for decades. She even used to own a restaurant in Vietnam. But now that she is getting older, she does not make fresh pho as often unless it is for a special event. It takes a lot of time and labor to make the broth perfect. Sometimes, she will take up 2-3 stove tops with huge pots that she fills up with chicken and broth!"

    - Julia D.

  4. 4. Antipasto

    "This is my memory of an Italian Thanksgiving in the 1940s, around the time of World War II. My grandmother would have a large family gathering. She would have antipasto, macaroni with meatballs, sausage and italian bread. Then comes the big turkey with stuffing. No table was complete without vegetables, cranberry sauce and dessert fruit with nuts. Of course, by the time the turkey arrived, we were all were too full to eat, so later we'd made turkey sandwiches. We also had whiskey soda then too! The night would go on as everyone played poker. That’s what I remember as a child. It was a wonderful memory. I still remember all the smells of the food and I am 85 now!" 

    - Grandma Tina 

  5. 5. Meat Pies 

    "My favorite thing to do when the weather gets cold is bake. In Ghana, I would bake so many things to sell like donuts and cookies, but the crowd favorite was meat pies. As I got older, it became a tradition to bake meat pies during winter breaks and especially during Thanksgiving. You would think there is already too much food, but my kids and family love meat pies, no matter how full they are.

    "You start by making a buttery and flakey pie dough. It needs to have good support to fold and hold shape. The meat inside is usually ground beef with carrots, onions and sometimes celery. It does not take long to bake, which is good because my kids are impatient. I let them help crimp the edges of the pie with a fork and do an egg wash on the pie. It is the perfect end to a Thanksgiving dinner, and the more leftovers the better. They can last for weeks in the fridge and even longer in the freezer."

    - Susana O. 

Whether your unique dishes come from your culture or you want to try something new, please remember that it is okay to switch it up this Thanksgiving. Surprise the family with a dish they have never had before. And who knows, maybe you will even start a new tradition.