3 Thanksgiving Side Dishes for the Girl Who Can’t Cook



Thanksgiving can be a bit stressful (understatement?). Maybe you’re getting together with family you don’t see eye-to-eye with and have to travel during one of the most congested times of year. Or, perhaps you are cooking when that’s not something you normally do. Enter these incredibly simple side dishes, which are great for the complete novice and for more seasoned cooks who just can’t be bothered. Thanksgiving brings enough baggage with it — there’s no reason your side dishes need to add to the stress pile.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Spicy Sour Cream and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds


A baked potato is one of the most straightforward things you can make and one of the most satisfying, too. Baking a sweet potato is just as easy, but a little more festive…and healthier, too. A mixture of sour cream and hot sauce introduces flavor with just about zero effort; toasted, salted pumpkin seeds tie in the whole fall vibe of Thanksgiving and add a nice bit of crunch and salt. Easy, easy, easy. Note that you can roast the sweet potatoes ahead of time and heat them up at your host’s house just before serving.

Serves 6

+ 6 not-too-big sweet potatoes

+ ½ cup sour cream

+ 2 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce (or more if you’d like or none at all, that’s cool!)

+ Large pinch kosher salt

+ 1 ½ tablespoons toasted, salted pumpkin seeds

Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Place a large piece of aluminum foil on your middle oven rack.

Prick each sweet potato in a couple spots with a fork or a paring knife. Once the oven is hot, place the sweet potatoes directly on the foil and roast until tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the sour cream in a small bowl along with the hot sauce and salt and whisk everything together.

Split the sweet potatoes lengthwise and divide the sour cream mixture between them. Sprinkle each with pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

Arugula Salad with Dried Cherries, Pecans and Apple Cider Vinaigrette


This salad is the easiest thing. You just pour a few ingredients into a jar and shake them together to make a simple dressing. Then take that jar, a box of baby arugula (no need to wash it!) and a few dried cherries and pecans (or any dried fruit-and-nut combination you like) with you to wherever you’re going. When you get there, mix everything and that is that. If you can’t find toasted pecans, either just leave them as-is or toast them in a dry skillet set over low heat until they brown just a little bit and smell fragrant (keep an eye on them and stir them as they toast or else you risk burning them).

Serves 6

+ 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or any type of vinegar)

+ 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

+ 1 teaspoon honey (or maple syrup)

+ ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

+ Large pinch kosher salt

+ 6 large handfuls baby arugula (or one five-ounce box)

+ Small handful dried cherries (or unsweetened dried cranberries)

+ Small handful toasted pecans, roughly chopped

Place the vinegar, mustard, honey (or maple syrup), olive oil and salt in an empty jar and secure with a lid. Shake vigorously until everything is mixed. If you don’t have a jar, whisk together in a bowl.

Place the arugula on a large serving platter or in a large bowl and drizzle with the dressing. Use your hands or two large spoons to gently mix. The goal is for the greens to be evenly dressed. Scatter dried cherries and pecans on top and serve immediately.

Roasted Apples with Maple Syrup and Olive Oil


These apples are wonderful as a sweet and unexpected side dish with the main meal (just like how applesauce goes so well with pork chops). They’re also a great healthy dessert option, and are especially good with whipped cream…a can is fine!…or vanilla ice cream, if you’d like. Wherever they appear during your meal, feel free to serve them hot, warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

+ 6 apples (I highly recommend crisp apples such as Honeycrisp, Gala or Fuji)

+ 2 tablespoons olive oil (or melted butter or coconut oil)

+ 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey or brown sugar)

+ ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

+ Large pinch kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 400ºF.

Cut each apple lengthwise into quarters. Cut out the seeds and stems, or use an apple corer and then quarter.

Place apple wedges in a roasting dish and add olive oil, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Use your hands to mix.

Roast, pulling the dish out to stir now and then, until apples are softened and browned in spots, about 45 minutes.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with syrup from the baking dish spooned over.


Julia Turshen is the author of Small Victories, a book with easy recipes, advice and ideas for home cooking triumphs. Follow Julia on Instagram @turshen and Twitter @turshen. Inserted photos by Julia Turshen.

Feature photo by Krista Anna Lewis; creative direction by Emily Zirimis.

More from Archive