On a table sagging under the weight of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and who knows what other dishes, it's easy for a salad to go ignored. It's especially easy to ignore it if the salad is an afterthought, something thrown together in a couple minutes right before people sit down to eat. But Thanksgiving dinner is a meal full of heavy dishes, and an artfully prepared salad should be a welcome addition to the spread, if only as a palate cleanser. Plus, if you eat something green that cancels out all the unhealthy foods, right?
We've rounded up 15 recipes worth saving room on your plate for, from broccoli with a basil-pistachio vinaigrette to roasted cipollini onions with cabbage and chicory to an updated take on 7-layer salad.
Fall Harvest Salad With Roasted Brassicas, Fingerlings, and Radishes
If you're making an elaborate Thanksgiving feast you might be wary of a salad with so many ingredients, but the good news about this recipe is that most of the work can be done ahead of time. You can slice the radishes and sunchokes on Wednesday and cook the cauliflower, broccoli, and potatoes a day or two before that, leaving only a very manageable workload for Thursday.
Roasted-Beet Salad With Horseradish Crème Fraîche and Pistachios
Beets and horseradish are a classic combination, so here we combine the two in the form of roasted beets with a creamy crème fraîche-based horseradish sauce. Our favorite way to roast beets is in tightly sealed foil packets—the beets steam as they roast for faster cooking.
Beet and Citrus Salad With Pine Nut Vinaigrette
We use the same foil roasting technique here, which makes the beets tender and candy-sweet. To cut that sweetness a little, we mix the beets with tart grapefruit and spicy arugula, then dress the salad with a pine nut vinaigrette.
Winter Greens Salad With Flax Seeds, Shaved Beets, and Radishes
Even with our foil method, roasting beets can still take over an hour, and I know that's a long time to give up space in your oven on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, beets don't need to be cooked at all to make a salad. Here we thinly slice them on a mandoline and mix them with winter greens, sliced radishes, flax seeds, and Parmesan.
Broccoli Salad With Radicchio, Basil, and Pistachios
It's easy to discard the stems when preparing broccoli, but if you do you're wasting a delicious part of the plant. In this salad we mix raw broccoli stems with lightly blanched florets and bitter radicchio, then toss it all with a bold vinaigrette flavored with basil and pistachios.
Kale Salad With Oven-Dried Grapes, Toasted Walnuts, and Blue Cheese
Raisins are a fine salad mix-in, but once you've tried homemade oven-dried grapes you'll forgot all about store-bought raisins. Not only is the flavor better, but you have the ability to dehydrate them exactly as much as you like. They're at home on all kinds of salads, like this simple one made with kale, walnuts, and blue cheese.
Roasted Potato and Shallot Salad With Marinated Mushrooms and Kale
An alternative to a typical Thanksgiving potato dish, this salad pairs roasted fingerlings with shallots, mushrooms, and kale. We roast the shallots to bring out their sweetness and marinate the mushrooms in vinegar to give them an acidic bite. The baby kale goes in raw, but wilts slightly thanks to the residual heat from the potatoes.
Warm Brussels Sprout Salad With Bacon and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Brussels sprouts have gotten a well-deserved second look in recent years—despite what you might remember from your childhood, they are wonderful when prepared properly. The key to cooking the sprouts is to use high heat, which gives them a nutty char. Here we char the leaves in bacon fat and dress them with a hazelnut vinaigrette.
Salt-Wilted Brussels Sprout Salad With Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese
This salad uses shredded Brussels sprouts two ways—we leave half of them raw and wilt the other half in salt to make them a little easier to eat. We pair the sprouts with creamy goat cheese, crunchy toasted hazelnuts, and a wintry tangerine vinaigrette.
Red Cabbage Salad With Roasted Cipollini Onions
Cipollini onions are a Thanksgiving staple—in this recipe we roast them until meltingly tender, then, for contrast, toss them with crunchy red cabbage and toasted walnuts. Because the onions are so sweet we also toss in bitter chicory and funky aged goat cheese (Humboldt Fog is my go-to choice).
7-Layer Make-Ahead Salad With Chickpeas, Endive, and Yogurt Dressing
This 7-layer salad can be made a day ahead of time, which means one less thing to do on Thursday. The base is canned chickpeas, which we top with endive, cucumber, onions, celery, radishes, herbed yogurt, and crumbled feta. A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds is a nice festive touch.
Roasted Pear Salad With Endive, Pomegranate, Blue Cheese, and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
This salad is packed with contrasting flavors and textures—sweet roasted pears, bitter endive, tart pomegranate seeds, funky blue cheese, and a hazelnut vinaigrette. The vinaigrette can be made a week in advance and the pears can be roasted on Tuesday, but save everything else for right before serving.
Beet and Wheat Berry Salad With Pickled Apples and Pecans
Hearty grain salads tend to not just keep well, but actually get better if they spend a few days in the fridge. That's the case with this wheat berry salad made with roasted beet roots, sautéed beet greens, toasted pecans, and pickled apples. You can use whatever beets you'd like—a mix of colors will make for the prettiest salad.
Carrot and Rye Berry Salad With Celery, Cilantro, and Marcona Almonds
This comforting salad starts with chewy rye berries, which we mix with carrots, onions, cilantro, celery, and toasted Marcona almonds. We cook the carrots until tender and rely on the celery and almonds to give the salad some crunch. There are enough flavors in the salad that it doesn't need to be dressed with anything fancier than a basic vinaigrette.
Whole-Grain Spelt Salad With Leeks and Marinated Mushrooms
For this grain salad we turn to nutty spelt, which plays nicely with crunchy cucumbers and vinegar-marinated mushrooms and leeks. A sprinkling of espelette pepper gives the salad a fragrant, fruity finish. You can use smoked paprika if that's all you have, but I know you're making a trip to the store to prepare for Thanksgiving anyways so it's worth tracking down the espelette.