Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes From Around The World
Stuffing, green bean casserole, and sweet potato pie are popular Thanksgiving dishes. Many of them are eaten not just for the taste but because of family tradition. This is even true for households in other countries. Popular Thanksgiving sides from around the world may look very different than what’s popular in America, but some may be worth trying this Turkey Day. Thanksgiving conjures visions of golden roast turkey and pumpkin pie, enjoyed among familiar faces around the table. Yet outside American borders, global cultures put unique spins on harvest festival traditions that resemble this beloved holiday. Discover tasty new side dishes to enhance your Thanksgiving meal as we explore popular offerings and flavors from table settings across the globe.
Autumn Harvest in Germany
In Germany, the celebration known as Erntedank gives thanks for the year’s bounty. This holiday commemorates the autumn harvest, so it’s only fitting that a colorful dish would complement their table. As you walk the streets of Munich in late September, you’ll see stands overflowing with rosy apples, earthy potatoes, and heads of purple cabbage. The sweet, woodsy aroma of roasting nuts fills the air. This dish contains purple cabbage braised with bacon added to it. It does tend to be tangy but provides a much different flavor than the traditional stuffing or mashed potatoes. Restaurants craft special menus to honor the season, featuring seasonal vegetables and traditional dishes like bacon-braised purple cabbage, known as Rotkohl.
The crimson cabbage simmers with bacon, apples, onions, vinegar and brown sugar, filling the kitchen with a tangy, sweet aroma. Its vibrant purple hue looks striking next to golden turkey and potatoes. Pair it with a bold German Riesling or ebony-hued Schwarzbier to match the rich, wine-like flavors.
Kimchi Harvest Salad in Korea
In Korea, many families observe Chuseok, a mid-autumn harvest festival. Those located in Korea put a unique spin on the traditional salad. There may be a good chance you will have a salad during your Thanksgiving meal, but why not make my making kimchi less boring? A bounty of freshly harvested Napa cabbage and radishes for kimchi making arrives in traditional markets like Gwangjang Market in Seoul. Under its soaring iron and glass ceiling, vendors sell brined seafood, red pepper powder, and other kimchi ingredients.
For a Thanksgiving twist, try Korena kimchi instead of coleslaw. To make this dish, you will use a whole head of cabbage, maybe more if you have many guests. Mix finely shredded Napa cabbage with radish matchsticks, scallions, chopped onion, and carrot dressed in a spicy sauce of gochujang, rice syrup, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. The combination of cool, crunchy vegetables, sweet vinegar notes, and fiery red pepper makes a vivid counterpoint to rich dishes. Serve in lettuce cups for a fresh bite. Pair it with a crisp Korean soju cocktail.
Persian Rice Stuffing
In Iran, the early October harvest festival Mehregan predates Thanksgiving. They have their own take on stuffing that’s interesting and tasty. A beloved celebratory dish is stuffed squash, or Kadu Dolma, with its aromatic rice filling. Instead of using small chunks of bread, basmati rice is the main ingredient in this stuffing. Other ingredients include turkey or chicken stock, garlic, celery, goat cheese, and pomegranate paste. The recipe starts by sautéing rice with chicken stock, garlic, celery, and onion. Then it gets mixed with tart barberries, floral rose petal jam, saffron, and chewy dates. The mixture gets combined with tangy goat cheese and earthy walnuts before stuffing into acorn squash halves or pumpkin.
Bake until the rinds soften and fill your kitchen with sweet aromas. The ruby barberries, purple onions and orange squash make for a highly colorized, festive side. Serve with Iranian Shiraz wine, known for its rich, full body.
Manicotti in Italy
While Thanksgiving isn’t an Italian tradition, American expatriates gather to celebrate stateside style. Rather than pass the green beans, families may dine on round tubes of pasta stuffed with cheese and vegetables. Manicotti makes a nice change from dishes like lasagna, which require more kitchen time. Cook the pasta briefly so it doesn’t get too soft when baked.
For the filling, sauté spinach, mushrooms, and onion together. Mix with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, garlic and herbs before stuffing into the manicotti shells. Top with marinara sauce and additional cheese before baking until melted and browned. Serve with a hearty Chianti Classico red. Save room for the grand finale – sweet tiramisu for dessert instead of pumpkin pie!
Feast on Feijoada in Brazil
Brazil celebrates Dia de Ação de Graças on the fourth Thursday of November with some familiar fanfare. But the dishes tell a distinctly Brazilian tale. The feast menu often features colorful salads of palm hearts and tropical fruits. And no Brazilian holiday meal is complete without feijoada (fay-zho-AH-dah), a rich black bean and meat stew.
This national dish simmers black beans with smoky linguica sausage, pork and beef. The meat takes on a luscious, velvety texture, and the broth becomes thick and unctuous. Rice, collard greens, hot sauce and orange slices accompany this protein-packed stew. For beverages, serve the sweet Brazilian soda Guaraná or rich Caipirinha cocktails with Cachaca (sugar cane hard liquor), lime and sugar. With flavors this big, just a small-tasting spoonful satisfies.
Thanksgiving Tamales in Mexico
In Mexico, the Día de Acción de Gracias holiday overlaps with the Day of the Dead festivities. While graveside family picnics feature prominently, some families also incorporate U.S.-style Thanksgiving dishes. One tasty regional twist – sweet corn tamales.
The dough for the masa gets a touch of sugar and studded with kernels of fresh corn. Steaming the wrapped tamales until the corn-imprinted dough is firm yet fluffy. Unwrap these treats and drizzle on crema fresca, queso fresco or good salsa. Serve alongside the roast turkey with shots of smoky mezcal for a true Mexican-inspired feast.
Lotus Root Chips in China
China’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival brings families together to feast under the glow of the harvest moon. There are no set dishes, but locals enjoy seasonal produce like lotus root. The crunchy tuber gets thinly sliced and fried into crispy, lacy lotus root chips.
Lotus root slices pop and sizzle when they hit hot oil, releasing a light, earthy aroma. These make an unusual and pretty garnish for your Thanksgiving plate. The airy texture contrasts with creamy or heavy dishes. Dip them into sweet plum sauce, hot Chinese mustard or nutty sesame sauce. Accompany them with Tsingtao lager or floral chrysanthemum tea.
Maltese Stuffat tal-Fenek
On the Mediterranean island of Malta, fall means the beginning of fenek (rabbit) hunting season. These cute critters get turned into a hunter’s stew called Stuffat tal-Fenek. Chunks of rabbit simmer with red wine, tomatoes, onions, celery, garlic, and herbs until fork tender.
For Thanksgiving, add cubes of roasted turkey or chicken to the stew, along with some roasted potatoes. Ladle it alongside your holiday bird or use it as a saucy stuffing baked inside the cavity. The sweet tomato and savory pan juices make an incredible sauce. Pour a goblet of full-bodied Maltese red to match.
Kenyan Kachumbari Salad
In Kenya, a raw vegetable salad called kachumbari accompanies hearty stews and grilled meats. For a Thanksgiving twist, use this bright relish to perk up rich dishes like turkey, casseroles, and gravy.
Chop tomatoes, onion, fresh chili pepper, cilantro, and lime or lemon juice. The spicy, herbal, citrusy flavors make a tangy, quick slaw-style salad. Add some diced avocado for creaminess. You can also stir in shredded cabbage, diced cucumber, or crisp bell pepper for extra crunch. Serve shots of smooth Tusker lager on the side.
Thanksgiving brings people together in gratitude and community, no matter where you live. Although dishes may vary wildly, the spirit of appreciating life’s abundance remains the same. As we gather with friends and family this season, consider adding an international twist to your familiar holiday table. Branch out with a side that tells a global harvest story to spice your palate and conversation with new flavors. From all of us around the world, Happy Thanksgiving!