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The Definitive Ranking of Classic Thanksgiving Dishes

It’s almost time for Thanksgiving! In celebration of a holiday during which you basically just eat food, here’s a ranking of the best Thanksgiving dishes. Maybe you already have a favorite, but if you don’t or love them all, this list will help settle the debate of what you wanna grab first on the dinner table. With the help of this list, you’ll also be able to split your plate up to feature the golden ratio of dishes you want this holiday.


12. Dinner Roll

These are delicious, but it’s unnecessary to fill up on these before you get to other dishes. They pair great with gravy or cranberry sauce, but they’re too plain on their own.


11. Green Beans

You can choose to make these crispy, baked or in a casserole — there’re so many ways to elevate the taste of this veggie. However, green beans don’t contribute much to Thanksgiving.


10. Brussel Sprouts

Another veggie is next — are you really surprised? Brussel Sprouts are underrated and can actually be a tasty side dish — but that’s all they are, a side dish.  


9. Corn Bread

This actually used to be one of my childhood favorites! It’s still a classic, but it just doesn’t compare to the other flavors on the dinner table.


8. Gravy

Gravy may not be the star of the dinner table, but it perfectly complements turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. It helps add texture and a layer of flavor to these dishes.


7. Pumpkin Pie

This is the ultimate Thanksgiving dessert. You can’t have a Thanksgiving dessert selection without featuring at least one pumpkin pie. The filling is delectably creamy, and it has a flakey crust. You have to at least try to save room in your stomach for it.


6. Cranberry Sauce

Some people love it, and some people underestimate it; but this side dish adds a punch of tanginess to the meal. It adds a bright pop of color on the plate as well.


5. Mashed Potatoes

You can always have mashed potatoes for dinner, but it doesn’t change the fact that this dish is one of the best things to come out of Thanksgiving. It’s essential that you make sure the potatoes aren’t clumpy; each bite should be smooth. There are also many recipes that help make this dish more elegant for a festive occasion like Thanksgiving.


4. Macaroni and Cheese

Creamy, gooey and cheesy — these are three components of a stellar dish. Mac and Cheese may be a side dish, but it’s so good that it often becomes one of the stars of the meal. Tip: add breadcrumbs for an extra layer of texture.


3. Turkey

Turkey is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think about Thanksgiving. You can always bet that there will be a golden turkey on the dinner table! When it’s cooked to perfection, it lives up to the hype.


2. Stuffing

So. Much. Flavor. It’s a classic that so many people can put their own twist on. It may be filling, but definitely worth loading half your plate with. Plus, you usually only get this dish once a year, so don’t waste time and enjoy it.


1. Sweet Potato Casserole

This sweet dish pairs perfectly with all the other savory options, and it’s possibly the best part about the Thanksgiving meal. The sweet potato itself is creamy, but the pecans and marshmallows adds a little crunch and crisp. Yes, you heard me right — it’s the BURNT MARSHMALLOW. This is definitely the true star of Turkey Day. 


Even though we all have our favorites, each of these dishes are ultimately essential for compiling a perfect plate of food. While we may have favorites, our plates will probably be filled with a combination of most of these. Just make sure you get as many leftovers as you can,  because that may even be better than the meal itself!

Samantha Zecca

Wisconsin '20

Samantha is currently a junior studying retail and consumer behavior with certificates in entrepreneurship and digital studies. If she's not at the library, you can find her sitting at the memorial union terrace or trying out a new restaurant in Madison. Samantha is originally from New Jersey, but her favorite place to be is NYC going on day adventures either seeing a Broadway show, shopping, or visiting museums. From the midwest to the east coast, she has a lot to share.
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