Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for cooking and trying out new recipes. While the usual turkey and sides are great, this year I really wanted to wow my guests with some unexpected and unique dishes! As a food blogger who loves experimenting in the kitchen, I put together this list of 10 creative recipes to serve up at my Thanksgiving dinner.
1. Butternut Squash Lasagna – My Fall Twist
I gave classic lasagna an autumnal twist by swapping out regular noodles for slices of roasted butternut squash. The sweet, earthy flavor of the squash pairs perfectly with the richness of cheese and sauce. To assemble it, I layered slices of roasted squash with a pumpkin-flavored ricotta filling, Italian sausage, spinach and marinara sauce. The textures combined beautifully for a hearty yet comforting dish. This lasagna was a huge hit around my Thanksgiving table!
2. Hasselback Sweet Potatoes – So Impressive!
Hasselback potatoes always look so elegant yet intimidating. This year I tried making Hasselback sweet potatoes and they came out beautifully! I carefully sliced russet potatoes partway through into thin slices. After brushing them with olive oil, I roasted them in the oven until super tender. The accordion cut potatoes got crispy edges on every layer. For extra flavor, I topped them with chopped pecans tossed in brown butter and maple syrup. Delightfully sweet and crunchy! My Hasselbacks were a real showstopper side dish.
3. Pear, Walnut and Gorgonzola Salad – Sweet and Savory
I love experimenting with salads beyond basic lettuce and dressing. This pear, walnut and gorgonzola salad was a huge success! I tossed spring mix greens with fresh diced pears, toasted walnuts, tangy gorgonzola crumbles and chopped shallots. The sweet pears, crunchy nuts and bold cheese came together beautifully. I whisked up a simple balsamic maple dressing to drizzle over the top. This salad made a lovely start to my Thanksgiving feast.
4. Squash and Sage Soup – Velvety and Vibrant
This year I wanted to try something brighter than traditional heavy cream soups. I simmered up a gorgeous squash and sage soup that was perfect for autumn! Sauteing diced butternut squash, onion and garlic built so much flavor. Then I added in vegetable broth, cream and fresh sage. After blending smoothly, I finished it with a swirl of Greek yogurt for added richness. Ladling out this vibrant orange soup really started our meal off right.
5. Harvest Chicken Salad – Festive Fall Flavors
Chicken salad is one of my go-to lunches, but for Thanksgiving I gave it a seasonal twist using the best fall produce. I tossed together bite sized pieces of roasted chicken with diced apples, dried cranberries, toasted pecans and shaved brussels sprouts. To bind it all, I whisked up a dressing with maple syrup, whole grain mustard and apple cider vinegar. Piling the chicken salad onto croissants created a delicious hand-held meal for casual Friendsgivings. I love this fun fall riff on a classic!
6. Autumn Quesadillas – Easy and Delish
This year I hosted a more laidback Friendsgiving potluck. I wanted to contribute something fun and Mexican-inspired, so I came up with these autumn quesadillas. In tortillas I layered cooked sweet potato, black beans, salsa, and Monterey jack cheese. Then I grilled them in a skillet until perfectly melted and gooey. The combo of sweet potatoes, beans and bold Tex-Mex flavors made these quesadillas an instant crowd favorite. I’ll be making them again all season long!
7. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies – Cute and Seasonal
I’m known for always making cute, decorative desserts so this year I baked up some festive pumpkin whoopie pies. To start, I whipped up a batch of pumpkin-spiced gingerbread cookies. For the filling, I folded together cream cheese, canned pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and vanilla. After assembling little cookie sandwiches, I topped them with fluffy cream cheese frosting and sprinkles. These adorable pumpkin whoopie pies were the perfect ending to my Thanksgiving meal! I had fun getting creative with them.
8. Apple Cider Sangria – Festive and Fruity
No Friendsgiving is complete without a signature cocktail! I concocted an amazing apple cider sangria using wine, cider, oranges, apples, pears and fall spices. Cinnamon sticks and star anise infused the sangria with cozy flavor. Diced apples and pears made it extra fruity and beautiful. After chilling it down, I poured up glasses for my guests and everyone raved about this seasonal sip. The sangria was a unique, elegant way to kick off my Thanksgiving gathering.
9. Caramelized Onion Tart – Sweet and Savory
Onion tarts always impress me at restaurants so this year I attempted to make my own! I slowly caramelized sliced sweet onions in butter and thyme until super soft and jammy. Then I spread them over a flaky, pre-baked tart crust and topped with nutty Gruyere cheese. Once baked up bubbly and golden brown, my onion tart looked so rustic-chic! The combination of the buttery onions and nutty crust was out of this world. This unique appetizer felt like something from a fancy holiday feast.
10. Pumpkin Maple Bread Pudding – A Cozy Twist
Bread pudding is one of my favorite comforting desserts, so I gave it a delicious autumnal spin using pumpkin and maple. I toasted up croissants, brioche and challah bread for the base. For the custard, I whisked together milk, eggs, canned pumpkin, maple syrup, and fall spices. I poured the mixture over the bread and let it soak up all that goodness! Baked up with crunchy pecans on top, my pumpkin maple bread pudding tasted like a big hug. It was perfectly sweet and nostalgic for Thanksgiving.
Trying out these 10 new and unique dishes really made my Thanksgiving meal feel extra special this year. My guests were excited by all the seasonal flavors and expansive menu. Though not everything came out perfectly, the joy of cooking and creating memories together is what matters most. I loved getting creative in the kitchen and can’t wait to see what new recipes I try next year!
Troubleshooting My Thanksgiving Cooking Mishaps
Attempting complicated new Thanksgiving recipes didn’t go smoothly all the time! Here are a few issues I ran into and how I troubleshooted:
Problem: My butternut squash lasagna noodles were still tough and chewy after baking.
My Fix: I learned I need to roast the squash longer next time until super fork-tender before layering into the lasagna. Adding an extra splash of sauce will also help soften up the noodles.
Problem: My pear and gorgonzola salad turned into a soggy mess.
My Fix: I assembled the salad in advance but should have tossed the pears with the dressing right before serving to avoid mushiness. Lesson learned!
Problem: My pumpkin whoopie pie filling liquefied and oozed out the sides.
My Fix: Overmixing the filling made it lose structure. Next time I’ll fold much more gently. Refrigerating the assembled pies helps too.
Problem: My apple cider sangria was flat and one-note tasting.
My Fix: Sangrias often need extra sweetener and spices for depth of flavor. I’ll add more maple syrup next time and infuse with a tea bag too.
Problem: My onion tart had a sad soggy crust on the bottom.
My Fix: Par-baking the crust before adding onions is crucial for a crispy crust. Now I know!
While not everything went perfectly, I had so much fun challenging myself with these Thanksgiving recipes. Cooking new complicated dishes is always a learning experience. The memories of sharing these dishes with loved ones are so special to me. I can’t wait to try more creative recipes next holiday season!