Squash is an iconic feature of the fall kitchen—your local grocery store is probably overflowing right now with fat pumpkins, butternut squash, and perhaps a few more esoteric varieties, like kabocha (check out our winter squash shopping guide to learn how to tell one from another.
Despite its seasonality and symbolism, squash isn't prominent in too many classic Thanksgiving dishes, pumpkin pie being the big exception. But there's a lot you can do with that colorful pile of gourds you've spied at the farmers market—think savory kabocha squash soup, baked acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, a thick and cheesy butternut squash dip, and even pumpkin lasagna. Below are 20 of our favorite dishes starring fall and winter squash—some traditionally Thanksgiving-y, some less so, every one of them a delicious addition to your holiday table.
For a gorgeous Thanksgiving centerpiece that vegetarians and nonvegetarians can both enjoy, these glazed sugar pumpkins, stuffed with mushrooms, kale, kabocha squash, and Gruyère, are just the ticket. Bonus: They can be made in multiple stages or even entirely in advance and reheated, giving you extra flexibility that'll come in handy on Thanksgiving.
Most Thanksgiving dinners end with pumpkin pie; thanks to this recipe, you can start the meal off with pumpkin, too. Pumpkin's mild flavor can be applied just as easily to savory dishes as to dessert. To keep this vibrant soup out of the latter territory, we flavor the roasted pumpkin with leek and onion, thyme, lemon juice, and chicken stock, balancing out its sweetness.
Like the previous recipe, this one calls for roasting the squash until it's deeply caramelized to bring out its natural sugars. Golden sautéed onions reinforce that sweetness, while the addition of sour cream to the cinnamon- and nutmeg-spiked whipped cream topping ensures that it's not overwhelmingly rich.
If your oven will be fully booked on Thanksgiving Day, don't fret—you can still make a terrific butternut squash soup entirely on the stovetop. We do it by incorporating browned butter, plus a little sugar to taste, though some squashes are naturally sweeter than others and won't even need the extra help. Combined, those ingredients help make up for the sweetness and complexity you miss out on by skipping the caramelization step, producing a fully flavorful soup in just 35 minutes.
This stovetop soup doesn't try to emulate the sweetness of roasted squash. Instead, we play up squash's savory side here, poaching butternut, kabocha, or kuri squash in dashi along with leeks and carrots, then pairing it with miso, ginger, and lemon. To add just a hint of sweetness for balance, we garnish the soup with an apple-scallion salad.
Don't serve this hearty soup as an appetizer—it could be a meal on its own, and on Thanksgiving, it'd make a great centerpiece dish for a vegan dinner. Quinoa, kale, and carrots pack a nutritious punch alongside cubed butternut squash, and curry powder adds a pleasant warming spice. A topping of toasted pepitas adds crunch.
We've got a whole roundup dedicated to our favorite Thanksgiving salad recipes, but we can't resist adding just one more here—and this one gets bonus points because it can be made a day ahead of time. We roast butternut squash and kale until they're tender, then mix them with chewy dried cranberries and crunchy cinnamon, and paprika-spiced pecans. It's all dressed with a vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar and—in keeping with the season—sweet maple syrup.
This creamy dip can be prepared ahead of time, too, and pairs perfectly with crispy pita chips or homemade baguette toasts. We make it by puréeing roasted butternut squash with woodsy sage and caramelized onions, then topping it off with a generous helping of cheddar cheese. After 20 minutes in the oven, it should be gooey, lightly browned, and completely irresistible.
Roasted squash is wonderful in soups and salads, but it's delicious served on its own as well. This Japanese-inspired side dish flavors kabocha squash with a mixture of soy sauce and butter, a popular savory/nutty combination in Japan. A dusting of the Japanese seven-spice blend shichimi togarashi lends a mild but noticeable kick.
For a Western European take on roasted squash, this recipe swaps out the soy-sauce-and-butter treatment for a tart glaze of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. We roast the glazed chunks of acorn squash along with shallots and fresh rosemary for extra flavor.
Pasta may not be your first thought for a Thanksgiving starter or side, but why not? Everyone loves the stuff, and this recipe—which pairs small pasta shapes with a brown butter sauce, sautéed squash, and a handful of fragrant sage—is impossible to say no to on any occasion. The sauce is a snap to make: Once you've browned the butter, just mix in starchy pasta water to form a creamy emulsion.
I know, I know—making your own filled pasta from scratch on Thanksgiving Day doesn't sound particularly realistic. Fortunately, these ravioli, packed with a creamy blend of butternut squash, chopped onion, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and blue cheese, freeze beautifully, so you can make them well ahead of the festivities. If the blue cheese feels too aggressive for your Thanksgiving menu, feel free to replace it with goat cheese.
Tradition, schmadition: Lasagna on Thanksgiving is no more classic than other pasta dishes, but it's comforting and homey, and it makes a fantastic main dish for a vegetarian holiday meal. This version is especially appropriate, as it's bursting with fall flavors, including squash, apple, and sage. You can use either kabocha squash or sugar pumpkin here—we purée some of it with cream cheese and sauté the rest in butter before layering it all with soaked no-boil noodles and a Gruyère sauce.
There's no actual pasta in this dish—we make it "carbonara" by flavoring it with all the ingredients you'd find in that namesake, including egg, crispy pork, grated cheeses, and black pepper. Rather than cook them all together, we build the dish in layers, topping roasted squash with a warm pork fat and olive oil vinaigrette, cheese, and crumbled hard-boiled egg yolks.
Risotto is known as a time-consuming dish, but using a pressure cooker makes it remarkably easy, not to mention hands-off. You can flavor risotto any way you like, but for a seasonal Thanksgiving dish, it's hard to beat this version, made with roasted butternut squash and apple, brown butter, and sage. We also sneak in a touch of miso to amplify the risotto's savoriness.
We're of the mind that Thanksgiving dinner shouldn't just taste good—whenever possible, it ought to look good, too. If you're in the market for a hearty vegetarian centerpiece that also makes a lovely presentation, whole stuffed acorn squash is a perfect choice. Here, we fill the squashes with white and wild rice, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and ricotta salata. One of these alone might suffice for dinner, or if you are preparing a larger spread, cut them into slices and serve them alongside other dishes.
If you aren't already convinced, let these honey-glazed Hasselback butternut squashes act as proof that you don't need a roasted piece of meat for your holiday centerpiece. The squashes are cut in half and pre-roasted before they're carefully cut Hasselback-style. They're glazed with a combination of honey, butter, and vinegar, and bay leaves are slipped between the slices. As if that's not enough, the squash is finished with a crisp topping made up of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, dried cranberries, and chopped pistachios.
Oven space is often at a premium for Thanksgiving, so if you are looking for a squash preparation that doesn't require any roasting, consider this gorgeous side dish of lotus leaf-wrapped steamed squash with pork and shiitake mushrooms. Inspired by lo mai gai, with diced winter squash standing in for the traditional sticky rice, the natural sweetness of the squash plays off the tea-like aroma of the lotus leaves, and balances the savory notes from ground pork, dried shiitake mushrooms, garlic, soy sauce, and oyster sauce.
Korean hobak beombeok may just be the ultimate autumn dish—a porridge that can be served any time of day (which falls in line with the loose concept of "dinner" time on Thanksgiving), bursting with winter squash, chestnuts, jujubes, and sweet potatoes. The sweetness from the dates, squash, and sweet potato makes this dish a worthy substitute for Turkey Day classics like candied yams or sweet potato casserole, but with the bonus of leftovers that can be served for breakfast on Friday morning. Now that's the way to work smarter not harder this Thanksgiving.
If you're cooking one of our recipes involving pumpkin, you're bound to end up with a ton of seeds on your hands. You could throw them out—or you could roast them with a little oil, salt, and pepper to make the perfect crunchy snack. Even better, try spiffing them up with one of our nine seasoning combinations, including garlic and Parmesan, honey mustard and thyme, and soy and furikake.
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