Thanksgiving Side Dish Power Rankings

Creamed spinach, a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, tastes great when it’s fresh, but not so much the next day.

With Thanksgiving here already, it is time to look beyond the bird for the best side dishes to crowd your plate. And since gravy and cranberry sauce are condiments and stuffing is de rigueur, those three items are left off the list. Dishes are judged on two categories: in-meal enjoyment and leftover utilization.

Mashed Potatoes

Whether creamy or lumpy, skinless or skin-ful, mashed potatoes are ladled vigorously every year on Thanksgiving, making it the clear winner in the battle for side-dish supremacy. Draped in gravy, mashed potatoes can rescue dry turkey from the doldrums and render lesser desired side dishes more palatable with an enterprising mixing technique.

Leftover Rating:

A+, for inclusion in the leftover sandwich, mashed potato hash, pancakes, waffles, croquettes, etc.

Corn Casserole

A warming mix of corn, creamed corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream and melted butter coalesce to bake into a soft pillow of luscious textures and flavors. When this casserole hits the table, all other corn preparations become obsolete and rightfully so.

Leftover rating:

A. Corn casserole becomes the perfect vehicle for Black Friday eggs over-easy after it’s sliced and pan-fried in butter.

Sweet Potato Casserole

A photograph of a sweet potato casserole with a portion missing.

The carb-overload continues with this sweet left turn of a side dish. Baked in a Dutch oven or casserole dish, sweet potatoes ride that thin line between dinner and dessert with brown sugar, vanilla extract, nutmeg and, oh yeah, mini-marshmallows and maybe some pecans. The foliage-orange coloring also adds a tint of autumn to the dinner kaleidescope.

Leftover rating:

B-. The sweetness limits the possibilities a bit, but sweet potato biscuits and pancakes are wonders of the morning after.

Brussels Sprouts

The first vegetable entry on the list, Brussels sprouts go from gross to incredible when they are roasted with a simple mix of garlic, salt and pepper. Some enterprising cooks add bacon to the mix for a fatty flavor up-tick. Brussels sprouts do the job it was cooked for: to provide roughage to aid in the digestion process—they just happen to do so with more flavor than most.

Leftover rating:

C. Here’s where it gets iffy. Sprouts reheat fine in the oven, but Brussels sprouts muffins, pancakes, etc. are not recommended.

Creamed Spinach

What can be said about creamed spinach? It’s spinach and cream. It looks unappetizing and aside from providing vitamins and the aforementioned roughage, it borders on unnecessary.

Leftover rating:

D. I don’t know, maybe try mixing it into scrambled eggs if you dare.

Green Bean Casserole

Another cream and vegetable equation, this time topped with some sort of fried-onion crumble from a can. Honestly, the only ingredient saving this dish from the garbage is that fried-onion topping.

Leftover rating:

D-. Ever try eating reheated canned fried-onion topping? You won’t like it.

Glazed Carrots

Utter nonsense. Glazed carrots are a plain and unappealing vegetable disguised with queasy amounts of butter, brown sugar and even maple syrup in some recipes. Throw one or two on the plate for color, but let it get lost under the green bean casserole.

Leftover rating:

F. Just no.

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Steve Mosco
Steve Mosco, the former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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