Article: We Ranked Thanksgiving Foods From Best to Worst. Tell Us How We Did!: Howstuffworks
We Ranked Thanksgiving Foods From Best to Worst. Tell Us How We Did!
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About This Article
If there's one thing you can count on at a big family Thanksgiving dinner, it's that there's going to be a little something for everyone there. Plate after plate of your holiday favorites tend to encourage all of us to forget anything close to a diet. We overindulge in every fatty, buttery, rich and creamy, ooey-gooey dish that we should be holding back on but aren't. From grandma's homemade mac and cheese to flaky biscuits to a perfectly roasted turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, it's a safe bet that your favorite must be in there somewhere. But what about your least favorite?
For every holiday "must-have," there's a "don't want" on the list. No one loves everything equally, right? Do you crave canned yams like you crave mashed potatoes? Is green bean casserole more or less important than the stuffing? Where would you rank them if you were making a list of the absolute most perfect Thanksgiving dinner you could possibly have? If you're not sure, then feel free to check out our list. Maybe we nailed it for you. Or maybe we completely blew one. One way to find out, though! Pull up to our table, and check out our Thanksgiving dinner rankings.
Stuffing just isn't an everyday food, and that makes it special. You can buy a box of stuffing mix, sure, but it's not the same thing. Real stuffing, proper Thanksgiving stuffing, is a detailed and painstaking process. You need the right spices; you need to time the preparation along with your turkey; you need to stuff the bird and get that taste you just can't get from stuffing made any other way. It's so good because it's Thanksgiving.
Mash in a flash
There's a saying about not messing with the classics, and it clearly applies to mashed potatoes. Nothing is more simple and plain than a potato, but they're so good. And when you mash them up all nice and fluffy with a little butter and milk, plus some salt and pepper to season? Oh, that's the stuff right there. That's pure comfort food that sticks to your ribs and makes you feel good.
Something 'bout pumpkin
Pumpkin pie deserves its rightful place near the top of any Thanksgiving food list, and it's hard to deny. Just look at what happens to the world come October every year — the veritable deluge of pumpkin spice products, from lattes to cookies and beyond. Did you know they make pumpkin spice kitty litter? They do! But the original pumpkin spice is pumpkin pie. This is the trendsetter, and it's legendary.
Mack on some mac
All year long, people eat mac and cheese made from a box mix, and it's fine. But real mac and cheese, homemade mac and cheese where you cook up a roux and add the cream and freshly grated cheese, that's a special dish. That's the stuff that makes you feel loved when you eat it. Good, old fashioned, down-home goodness. There's a reason it's a soul food staple. It's like a hug you get to eat.
It's not quirky to love a turkey
You have to give props to the turkey on Thanksgiving. The whole meal is centered around the bird, and when it's roasted to a golden brown, it's just so good. Yeah, you have to watch out for your turkey getting a little bit dry, but when it's seasoned just right, basted to stay moist, stuffed and carved with an expert hand, it makes a Thanksgiving meal something to really be thankful for.
Give us a chance to explain this one. Some people just hear the words "creamed spinach" and cringe, but have you ever had creamed spinach? Like a well-made creamed spinach? You need to use really good full-grown spinach, not baby stuff, then add a hearty and creamy sauce made from scratch with your own roux and some sauteed onion and garlic, and bang! It's the best spinach you'll ever eat.
Gravy seems like an afterthought in a lot of ways, but it's definitely not. You can absolutely make a poor quality gravy or use some forgettable stuff from a can, but if you have a gravy wizard in the house who can use some pan drippings, strain out any impurities and whisk away the chunky bits to make a smooth, rich and tasty end product, then this can take your turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes to the next level.
The sweetest potatoes
Sweet potato casserole isn't for everyone, but it brings something to the table when someone makes it the right way. Rich and hearty sweet potatoes and that toasted marshmallow on top for an added kick of sweetness make this a dish that you never get to experience the rest of the year, but one you'll look forward to when the season finally hits.
Butter you up with butternut
Once upon a time, in a more formal world, every meal started with a soup course. Since Thanksgiving is a little more formal than any ordinary occasion, it's very cool to indulge in a hearty bowl of butternut squash soup to celebrate the season. Nothing warms your insides quite like a bowl of rich and creamy soup on a cold day, right? It may not steal the show, but it's a very nice touch.
Peek at the pecans
What's a Thanksgiving meal without a little indulgence? And what's more indulgent than a sticky-sweet slice of pecan pie? You can't handle too much of this stuff because you don't want to sugar-addle your brain, but a little bit at the end of a meal is a perfect way to cap off the evening and give you one last sugar spike before you crash entirely and end up napping on the sofa.
Is this too corny?
Corn. That's all — just corn. Maybe a pat of butter, some salt and pepper to taste, and boom, there you go. This is the ultimate harvest food, either on the cob or not, and it's just a bright, tasty addition to any meal. The downside is that, when Thanksgiving does roll around, you're not getting that delicious, fresh stuff on the cob like you would in the summer, but hey, that's all right.
Ham's the plan
Not everyone wants a turkey for Thanksgiving, but they still want some kind of centerpiece — the big roast "something" that everyone can carve a slice off of — and a ham fits the bill. It's not nearly as traditional as a turkey, but sometimes you need to shift gears to start your own traditions, and sometimes a little variety is what you need.
Don't dread the bread
Cornbread is something that can go really well or really poorly. Dry cornbread is not the sort of thing you'll want on any occasion, and especially not Thanksgiving. But a well-made cornbread that's a little bit sweet and just moist enough is a great side to have with your meal, and it's like the cherry on top of the ice cream. It doesn't make the meal, but it helps complete it.
Can you bear cranberries?
Cranberry sauce is a divisive addition to any meal. Do you make it yourself or take it from a can? Do you even eat it or just use it as a gelatinous decoration? It's not for everyone, but if you have a good sauce, it really adds a sweet and tangy kick to some turkey, and that's not too shabby. The key thing here is "good" sauce, so best of luck finding one that works out.
Gallop to the scalloped potatoes
Let's say you're bored with mashed potatoes because you eat them every week already. It's not the potato dish you want this Thanksgiving, so what should you do? You can give scalloped potatoes a try! They can get the job done, and if you make them with some cheese, you'll have a bit of a rich and ooey-gooey addition to the meal. Make them a little off, and you'll get kind of a swampy mess, though.
Keep rollin', rollin', rollin'
Never let anyone tell you dinner rolls aren't important, because they are! They may be just bread, but is bread ever really "just bread"? It literally goes with everything, and on Thanksgiving, using a roll to sop up some gravy, make an impromptu turkey sandwich or sit on the side of your plate to complete the whole look is part of the experience. A dinner roll is a small but significant part of any good meal.
Roast with the most
Not everything at Thanksgiving can be rich and cheesy and fatty. Well, it can, but it shouldn't. You need vegetables, and a good dish of roasted veggies can be absolutely delicious. The problem is, people often overlook veggies or just put minimal effort into making them. But any vegan will tell you that you can season and roast veggies to perfection and make them sing!
How do you like your yams? Some people are down for candied yams, but every once in a while you'll get those canned yams foisted on you, and oof, is that a scene you want to be a part of? They're kind of like peanut butter that got made very, very wrong, and they can throw your whole game off if you're not careful. If you really dig yams, they're worth going out of your way for, but that's a big if.
Apple of your eye
When it comes to pie, it's hard to really go wrong. Even some underwhelming pie is still some good pie. And apple pie is one of those comforting, warming, delicious things that makes you feel like you're having a good meal. Why so low on the list? Because it's apple pie! People literally say something is as American as apple pie because it's a staple that you can rely on. It's not really special, and you can eat it all year long. That doesn't make it bad, though.
A haze of glaze
Glazed carrots are better than boiled carrots — give them credit for that. Some brown sugar and butter can do miracles, but it feels almost like cheating. You're candy coating carrots to make them palatable, and with all the other sweets you're having, is that even necessary? It's good to have some vitamins and another veggie on your plate, but at the end of the day, if you didn't have them, would you miss them?
Shout about sprouts
If you were to Google a list of people's most hated vegetables, you could count on Brussels sprouts being pretty high on the list. Most people really dislike these little guys, and, if we're being honest, they do kind of stink up the joint when you cook them. Of course, if you fry them with some bacon and onion, you may be onto something worth your time. If you do that.
Fall for Waldorf
If you've never had a Waldorf salad, there's probably a good reason for it. Every so often, someone will drag one of these out for Thanksgiving dinner because it has a bit of a harvest quality to it, what with the apples and the walnuts. But it's worth noting that this is a salad with apples and walnuts in it. Also celery and grapes, along with a mayo dressing, on lettuce. Eat at your own peril.
Don't cry over these
Cream usually means something good is happening. Ice cream. Cream cheese. Creamy peanut butter. But then there are creamed onions. If you've never experienced them, then you're probably better off. If you really, really like onion, this might be a thing for you, but most people aren't down with onions as the center of any dish that isn't deep-fried, so this one isn't necessarily a winner.
Mean green bean
Oh, green bean casserole. Where did you come from? Every single Thanksgiving this gets rolled out all across the country, and every year people shake their heads in dismay. Don't feel bad if you like this — everyone has their own tastes, and that's fine — but this perplexing mishmash of green beans and goopy soup with crispy onions is just odd. It's just really odd.
Don't be jerky with Tofurkey
This is it — this is the biggest lie of Thanksgiving. It's a nice idea, to be sure: to include vegans in the main course, to have that big "something" that you can carve up and enjoy. But this ain't it. Tofurkey, by and large, is not that good. It feels weird in your mouth, it doesn't taste like turkey, and it's super underwhelming if you wanted a real meal. Vegans have much better options for a main course.
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