On a table sagging under the weight of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and who knows what other dishes, a salad can easily go ignored. And 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 can be a welcome addition to the spread, as both a palate cleanser and a delicious attraction in its own right. Plus, if you eat something green on Thanksgiving, that cancels out all the unhealthy foods, right?
In that spirit, we've rounded up 18 Thanksgiving salad recipes worth saving room on your plate for, from crisp broccoli with a basil-pistachio vinaigrette, to roasted cipollini onions with red cabbage and chicory, to an updated take on seven-layer salad.
If you're planning on making an elaborate Thanksgiving feast, you might well be wary of a salad with so many ingredients. The good news is that most of the work required by this recipe can be done ahead of time: You can cook the cauliflower, broccoli, and potatoes a couple days in advance, then slice the radishes and sunchokes on Wednesday, leaving a very manageable workload for Thanksgiving Day.
Beet and horseradish is a classic combination, and this salad makes the most of it with tender, deeply sweet roasted beets and 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.
For this colorful salad, we use the same roasting-in-foil technique for the beets, which leaves them 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.
Even with the foil-pouch method, roasting beets can still take over an hour, and 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 great salad. Here, we thinly slice the beets on a mandoline, leaving them crisp and lightly sweet, and mix them with winter greens, sliced radishes, toasted flax seeds, and Parmesan.
It's common to discard the stems when preparing broccoli, but when you do, you're wasting a delicious part of the plant. In this salad, we mix raw broccoli stems with lightly blanched florets to get a variety of textures, then add bitter radicchio and toss it all with a bold vinaigrette flavored with basil and pistachios.
Ordinary raisins can be a fine salad mix-in, but once you've tried homemade oven-dried grapes, you'll forget all about the store-bought kind. Not only is the flavor better, but you can also dehydrate them to just the degree you want—let them sit in the oven a little longer for a chewier texture, or less time to keep them plumper and juicier. These DIY raisins are especially at home in all kinds of salads, like this simple one made with kale, walnuts, and blue cheese.
Try this salad, which pairs roasted fingerling potatoes with shallots, mushrooms, and kale, as an alternative to a typical Thanksgiving potato dish. 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 residual heat from the potatoes.
Brussels sprouts have gotten a well-deserved second look in recent years—they can be wonderful, despite your childhood memories of them, as long as they're prepared properly. The key to cooking sprouts is to use very high heat, giving them a nutty char. Here, we char the leaves in meaty bacon fat and dress them with a flavorful hazelnut and bacon vinaigrette.
This salad uses shredded Brussels sprouts in two ways—we leave half of them raw and wilt the other half in salt to soften them. Both get paired with creamy goat cheese, crunchy toasted hazelnuts, and a winter-appropriate tangerine vinaigrette.
Cipollini onions are a Thanksgiving staple, and this salad gives them a fresh context in which to shine. We roast them until they're meltingly tender, then toss them with crunchy red cabbage and toasted walnuts for textural contrast. To offset the sweetness of the onions, we also toss in bitter chicory and aged goat cheese—Humboldt Fog is my personal favorite.
This sophisticated take on seven-layer salad can be made a day ahead of time, which means one less thing to do on Thanksgiving Day. 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.
This perfectly seasonal 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 on Thanksgiving.
Hearty grain salads don't just keep well; they actually tend to get better after spending a few days in the fridge. That's certainly true of this salad, made with chewy wheat berries, sweet roasted beet roots, sautéed beet greens, toasted pecans, and pickled apples. You can use whatever types of beets you'd like, though a mix of colors will make the prettiest salad.
This comforting, hearty salad starts with rye berries, a more flavorful alternative to wheat berries, which we combine with carrots, onions, cilantro, celery, and toasted Marcona almonds. We cook the carrots until they're tender and rely on the celery and almonds to give the salad some crunch. Given the range of flavors in this salad, it doesn't need to be dressed with anything fancier than a basic vinaigrette.
In this fresh version of potato salad, creamy fingerling potatoes are tossed with Spanish chorizo, onions both pickled and sautéed, and peppery arugula, then dressed simply with sherry vinegar and olive oil—not a drop of mayo in sight. Don't forget to use a heavy hand when salting the water for the potatoes; it's essential to getting them adequately seasoned.
Earthy and flavorful wild rice meets two bright and fruity elements in this salad—sweet-tart dried cranberries and tangy pickled apples. Toasted pecans add a rich and nutty note, while sautéed onion and celery contribute some aromatic depth. It's a perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving table.
This version of wild rice salad complements the earthy nature of the rice with equally earthy ingredients: sautéed mushrooms, celery root, and toasted pine nuts. Add even more flavor to the salad by incorporating reconstituted dried mushrooms and cooking the rice in stock instead of water.
This gorgeous (and easy) salad incorporates carrots both as thin strips shaved with a peeler and in larger, crunchy quick-pickled pieces. A dressing of warm spices, rich ghee, and tangy yogurt balances out the vegetal flavors of the carrots and dill.
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