Thanksgiving is a holiday for heavy dishes—a little extra butter in the mashed potatoes never hurt anyone, right? But with so many rich dishes on the table, salad is crucial. It refreshes everyone's palates with bright flavors and crisp textures, balances out all that richness, and makes a pretty and colorful presentation. From winter greens with sliced beets to warm Brussels sprouts with bacon, we've rounded up 15 recipes in an effort to convince you to take salad seriously come Thanksgiving.
Fall Harvest Salad With Roasted Brassicas, Fingerlings, and Radishes
I know, I know—you're probably not interested in a Thanksgiving salad with this long of an ingredient list. But the good news is that most of the work can be done ahead of time—go ahead and cook the cauliflower, broccoli, and potatoes at the beginning of the week and slice the sunchokes and radishes Wednesday. All you have to do on Thanksgiving Day is toss everything together, and even that can be done several hours in advance.
Beet and Citrus Salad With Pine Nut Vinaigrette
One of the easiest ways to cook beets is to roast them in the oven in foil pouches—after an hour, they come out pleasantly earthy and candy-sweet. In this salad, we mix them with tart grapefruit and spicy arugula to balance out their sweetness. Beets and nuts make a great pair, so we dress this salad with a simple pine nut vinaigrette.
Winter Greens Salad With Flax Seeds, Shaved Beets, and Radishes
Roasted beets are delicious, but on Thanksgiving, I don't typically have a lot of extra room in the oven. Fortunately, beets are just as tasty thinly sliced on a mandoline and served raw. Here, we mix them with winter greens like endive, radicchio, and frisée, as well as sliced radishes, flax seeds, and Parmesan. Try to use golden or Chioggia beets to avoid staining the greens.
Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette"
We tend to dress salads with vinaigrettes, which are made by balancing acid and fat. This "vinaigrette" goes in a totally different direction, with olive oil that's whisked with acid-free shoyu-dashi. The salad does have a little traditional Turkey Day flair, though, thanks to the addition of earthy sweet potatoes.
Roasted Potato and Shallot Salad With Marinated Mushrooms and Kale
This rustic salad combines tender potatoes with shallots, mushrooms, and baby kale. The shallots are slowly roasted until sweet and caramelized, and the mushrooms are marinated in vinegar to give the salad some tart balance. The heat from the potatoes softens the kale just enough, while keeping a little crunch in the leaves.
Warm Brussels Sprout Salad With Bacon and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
You can't go wrong with a classic combination of spinach and bacon on your Thanksgiving table, but swapping the spinach for Brussels sprouts is even better. We char the leaves in rendered bacon fat to enhance their sweet, nutty flavor, and mix more of the bacon fat with honey and crushed hazelnuts to make a smoky vinaigrette.
Roasted Pear Salad With Endive, Pomegranate, Blue Cheese, and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Making an awesome salad is just a matter of remembering one word: contrast. This salad is packed with different textures and flavors: crunchy, bitter Belgian endive; wiry frisée; spicy arugula; sweet caramelized pears; bright and tangy pomegranate seeds; and funky blue cheese. With all of that going on, the dressing doesn't need to be flashy—a simple hazelnut balsamic vinaigrette is perfect.
Grilled-Kale Salad With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
This is my first fall in Los Angeles, and, while I miss the changing seasons, I do appreciate the ability to grill year-round. Serving grilled kale this Thanksgiving will be a wonderful surprise for your guests—the leaves get nicely smoky and just a little crunchy. We double down on the smoky flavors by serving the kale in a bacon vinaigrette, balanced out with sweet shallots and tangy apple cider vinegar.
Warm Winter Vegetable Salad With Ricotta and Herbs
Fall isn't thought of as a time of bountiful produce, but there's no shortage of vegetables available right now. Mixing together kale, carrots, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts highlights just how much the season has to offer. The cooked vegetables get some crunch from pistachios and a touch of cool creaminess from ricotta.
Whole-Grain Spelt Salad With Leeks and Marinated Mushrooms
I know you probably don't need a lot of extra bulk on your Thanksgiving table, but I promise that spelt actually isn't too heavy. Mixed with mushrooms and leeks marinated in apple cider vinegar, the hearty grain tastes downright refreshing. We finish the salad with fragrant, fruity espelette pepper powder.
Warm Whole-Grain Salad With Fennel, Arugula, Prosciutto, and Pecorino
Fennel is one of our favorite underappreciated fall vegetables. When roasted, this neglected root vegetable takes on a wonderfully sweet, anise-like flavor. To cut the sweetness a little, try mixing it with peppery arugula, salty pecorino cheese, and fatty prosciutto. We use a base of rye berries for this salad, but any whole grain you have on hand will work.
Carrot and Rye Berry Salad With Celery, Cilantro, and Marcona Almonds
With butter-laden mashed potatoes, cream-soaked green bean casserole, and, of course, turkey, Thanksgiving can be a tough time for vegans. This grain salad is sure to satisfy meat-averse guests, thanks to a robust mix of rye berries, celery, onion, carrots, and Marcona almonds. Cilantro leaves and a simple vinaigrette keep the salad from feeling too heavy.
Easy Make-Ahead Carrot and Chickpea Salad With Dill and Pumpkin Seeds
Chickpeas are one of our go-to ingredients for make-ahead salads—they actually get better after sitting overnight. Whip up this easy salad with carrots, dill, and toasted pumpkin seeds on Wednesday and, come Turkey Day, you'll have a simple side that you can serve straight from the fridge.
Roasted-Carrot Salad With Peanut-Sesame Mole
A traditional mole is an incredibly time-consuming affair. This sauce, made with orange juice, chocolate, chipotles, peanut butter, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds, gets you a lot of the same flavors in a more manageable amount of time. The spicy sauce is a lovely base for roasted carrots, onion, and radish.
Chilled Carrots With Tahini-Ginger Dressing
Adding tahini to vinaigrettes gives them extra depth, but be careful—its roasted-sesame flavor can easily take over a dish if you add too much. Here we use just two teaspoons of it, along with ginger, lemon, and cilantro, to make a dressing that complements simmered carrots, rather than overpowering them.