There’s a lot that goes into planning the perfect Friendsgiving, and the food is just one part of it–but an important part, to be sure. If you’re still not certain what you want to serve, check out this menu curated from Chowhound’s Cookbook of the Month archives. It skews fairly traditional, but with lots of international twists, and some truly uncommon choices for those who really want to switch things up. Plus, it covers drinks through dessert, so you can button down every detail and draw up your plan of attack well in advance.
We did go heavy on the vegetables, so even if you’re looking for a meat-free meal, you can still build a satisfying smorgasbord. Pick and choose your favorite recipes from our list below, or peruse the comment threads and the cookbooks themselves for other inspired ideas.
Whiskey Maple Syrup Sour
This is a fantastic fall cocktail, and it’s super simple too: just whiskey, maple syrup, lemon juice, a dash of bitters, and a bit of seltzer for a fizzy lift. The maple makes it taste autumnal–and it means you don’t have to bother making simple syrup. See what our community members thought. Get the Whiskey Maple Sour Syrup recipe.
Martha was way ahead of her time with this one, publishing a very on-trend rose sangria recipe in her 1999 cookbook (which was one of our December 2007 COTM picks). Tequila and cranberry juice make it extra festive, and there are only a few other ingredients (Rubee posted the Rose Sangria recipe in the thread), but feel free to add a bit more fruit based on what looks best, like ripe figs or pomegranate seeds. Allegedly, it tastes great the next day, so you can even mix it up ahead of time too.
Starters, Soups, and Salads
Chinese Five-Spice Pecans
Martha scores again with these easy spiced pecans, which make a great pre-dinner cocktail nibble (and as alex9179 suggests, any leftovers would be great sprinkled over ice cream). Get the Chinese Five-Spice Pecans recipe.
Butternut Squash Soup
As pistachio peas points out, this recipe is vegan as written, but you can sub in chicken stock if you prefer. It’s a basic but always comforting–and delicious–bowl of fall flavor. Consider garnishing it with some of those pecans, perhaps. Get the Butternut Squash Soup recipe.
Potato Soup with Smothered Onions
If butternut squash soup seems boring, try this unexpectedly rich and delicious potato soup from our very first Cookbook of the Month selection (way back in 2006). It may sound equally unassuming, but a hefty dose of caramelized onions makes it luxurious and deeply flavorful; the potatoes make it naturally creamy; and just a touch of cheese makes it even better. Get the Potato Soup with Smothered Onions recipe.
Arugula and Autumn Grapes with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Saba Vinaigrette
If you want to serve a salad to get your greens in, this one is pretty classic (and great for fall), but the addition of a saba-enhanced vinaigrette makes it more intriguing. One word of caution from L. Nightshade: If you don’t have a smaller mortar and pestle, your grapes might jump out onto the counter, so consider smashing them in a different bowl if need be. Get the Arugula and Autumn Grapes with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Saba Vinaigrette recipe. (Also worth checking out: the book’s Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Parmesan, not to mention the Sweet Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, and Romesco, and the Chorizo Cornbread Dressing…)
Kale, Apple, Walnut, and Sumac Onion Tabbouleh
If you’re looking for something a little more exciting, this take on tabbouleh combines several classic fall flavors with citrusy, tangy sumac, which is well worth hunting down. Get the Kale, Apple, Walnut, and Sumac Onion Tabbouleh recipe.
Buttery Turkey with Warm Sorghum Vinaigrette
If you can’t bear to skip the turkey, this rendition is delicious and a bit different, thanks chiefly to the warm sorghum vinaigrette, which is so good that dkennedy says it’s reason enough to keep the milder-than-molasses syrup on hand at all times. She also suggests doubling the book’s cranberry relish recipe, as “the balance of sweet and savory makes it perfect atop turkey and essential for turkey leftover sandwiches.” Can’t argue with that! Get the Buttery Turkey with Warm Sorghum Vinaigrette recipe.
Not into turkey? Try David Chang’s showstopping slow-roasted pork shoulder, which is dry-brined in salt and sugar the night before, then cooks for about six hours (so you still get that all-day oven experience). As arcticshark attests, “the long, slow roast really lets the fat melt and get crispy. And the brown sugar finish makes the pork.” Serve with the traditional accompaniments (rice and ssam sauce, plus lettuce for wrapping up each bite), or branch out and add your own inventive sides. Get the Momofuku Bo Ssam recipe.
Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts
The original recipe calls for spinach, but several Chowhounds can speak for chard, which pairs beautifully with the sweet golden raisins and buttery pine nuts. (The book’s Endive and Fennel Gratin with Almonds is another intriguing option.) Get the Spinach (or Chard) with Raisins and Pine Nuts recipe.
Green Beans with Garlic Sauce
If you find green bean casserole passe, try these crisp-tender green beans with slivered red bell peppers instead. According to both nikkihwood and BigSal, they’re easy and tasty–and the sauce is a bit unusual, as it starts with vinegar-soaked bread, but it’s a time-tested Spanish technique. Get the Green Beans with Garlic Sauce recipe.
Vinegar-Roasted Beets with Spring Onion and Yogurt
This is another super simple but flavor-packed recipe that highlights beautiful beets; you could try a mix of magenta and golden for extra pop. Either way, as greedygirl points out, the prep is pretty easy, which is always a plus. Get the Vinegar-Roasted Beets with Spring Onion and Yogurt recipe.
Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Roasted Poblanos
This recipe starts with rajas (roasted poblano peppers in cream) and adds onions, garlic, oregano, zucchini, and corn kernels, fresh or frozen. Is it any wonder it’s “a real winner” in Njchicaa’s book? It’s intended as a taco filling, but could also serve as a rich, creamy side. Get the Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Roasted Poblanos recipe. (If you’re taking your whole meal in a Mexican direction, try the Green Chili Adobo from the book instead of gravy, and the 24-Hour Cajeta for topping your pies or other desserts.)
Roasted Broccoli with Cardamom and Nutmeg
Broccoli may be underrepresented on holiday tables, but adding cardamom and nutmeg makes it exciting enough that you won’t be able to overlook it, especially since the spices are mixed into a cream cheese and yogurt sauce so they really stick. As saregama discovered, it works well with cauliflower too. Get the Roasted Broccoli with Cardamom and Nutmeg recipe.
Cumin-Coriander Roast Carrots with Pomegranates and Avocados
EllenCooks said this unusually delicious combination “was much loved by everyone”–and other Chowhounds agreed. (If you happen to prefer a pescatarian main course for your feast, you might try this book’s Fish Stuffed with Walnuts and Pomegranate too.) Get the Cumin-Coriander Roast Carrots with Pomegranates and Avocados recipe.
Cauliflower and Fontina Gratin
This was on nomadchowwoman’s Thanksgiving table in 2016, and several other community members tried it and loved it too. The cheesy sauce gets extra depth of flavor from an infusion of bay leaf, peppercorns, and onion. For the full recipe, you’ll need to nab the book.
There are lots of lovely recipes in this book that would be a great addition to your spread, but if you must have mashed potatoes no matter what else is on the menu, try David Lebovitz’s method of making them in a stand mixer. It might sound fussy, but pistachio peas believes “the texture is worth the small amount of effort and dirtying another thing in the kitchen.” Get a similar Stand Mixer Mashed Potatoes recipe.
Squash with Cardamom and Nigella Seeds
This fragrant roasted squash with red onions, crunchy pumpkin and oniony nigella seeds, cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom would pair well with both traditional holiday flavors and more globally influenced profiles; you could also treat sweet potatoes the same way for a change from the usual marshmallow-topped casserole. And you can toss it all on a baking sheet, as Caitlin McGrath did, if it won’t fit in your skillet. Skip the yogurt and it’s another nice vegan option too. Get the Squash with Cardamom and Nigella Seeds recipe.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers and Lemony Brown Butter
Brussels sprouts are a must on many holiday tables, but even skeptics may be swayed by the flavors of mustard seed, capers, brown butter, and lemon juice. Consider increasing the recipe, or else, much like foodcompletesme, you might wish you had more than one pound of deliciously sauced sprouts. Get the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers and Lemony Brown Butter recipe. (While you’re at it, try the Roasted Parsnips with Bacon and Rosemary too–and if you want a smaller bird on your table, may as well make the book’s Crispy Butterflied Roast Chicken as well!)
This has the seal of approval from several Chowhounds, including beetlebug, who “loved how velvety it was,” and ronla, who was “a little surprised this dish isn’t illegal in some parts.” It’s a bit like savory bread pudding, and certainly a rich and interesting alternative to traditional stuffing. Get the Onion Panade recipe.
Saffron Rice with Golden Crust (Chelow)
Another stuffing swap option is this gorgeous golden saffron rice with a crisp crust (tahdig), which Allegra_K called a “show-stopping number” that “was quite the production, but so completely worth it.” It would work equally well paired with roast meat or poultry as it would with any number of vegetable dishes. Get the Saffron Rice with Golden Crust (Chelow) recipe.
Kimchi Fried Rice
If you’re making the bo ssam (or almost any sort of Asian-flavored bird), consider pairing it with this kimchi fried rice; ad7yn says it’s “one of my main reasons I stock up on kimchi.” Crisp bacon and gochujang butter are also involved, so you know it’s going to be good. Get the Kimchi Fried Rice recipe.
Brown Butter Cornbread
For more traditional menus, this skillet-baked brown butter cornbread with whole corn kernels nestled inside is great served in wedges, or used as the base of a stuffing. If you have leftovers, painperdu suggests drizzling with a little maple syrup for breakfast the next morning (and skipping the optional chile powder dusting in that case, but you do you). Get the Brown Butter Cornbread recipe.
Compound Herb Butter
Anthony Bourdain taught us countless lessons–about life as much as about food–but for this occasion, we’re highlighting one of the most basic recipes in his classic Les Halles cookbook: compound butter with bunches of fresh herbs, a touch of honey, and just a bit of salt and white pepper. It couldn’t be easier, and yet it elevates anything it touches, whether you’re slathering it under turkey or chicken skin or melting it on top of steaks or bread. As a wise man once said, “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.” Get the Compound Herb Butter recipe.
Kabocha, Olive Oil, and Bittersweet Chocolate Cake
This unusual loaf cake made with kabocha squash has a lot of fans around these parts, although more than one had a bit of trouble unmolding it, so be sure to grease and line your pans. And use a good quality olive oil for the glaze, as the flavor really comes through. This could be a great replacement for tired old pumpkin pie. Get the Kabocha, Olive Oil, and Bittersweet Chocolate Cake recipe.
Toffee Apples (Basi Pingguo)
These aren’t quite the candy apples you’re probably picturing. Here, apple wedges are battered, fried, and tossed in a caramel with lemon zest and sesame seeds. As you eat the apples, you dunk each piece–batter and all–into a bowl of ice water, which magically sets the caramel without making things soggy. As MelMM attests, “it’s a delicious, fun, and impressive dessert. Get the Toffee Apples (Basi Pingguo) recipe.
All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake
With pumpkin, pecans, cranberries, apples, and a maple glaze, this Bundt cake is bursting with fall flavors, but DiningDiva suggests adding semisweet chocolate and increasing the amount of spices for even more oomph. We think that’s great advice in general. Get the All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake recipe.
Bake Sale Winning-est Gooey Oat Bars
If you don’t think you can pull off a pecan pie (or just don’t feel like it), these raved-about Smitten Kitchen dessert bars are a good alternative; they’re gooey and sweet, and are mebby’s “new go-to for turning a tired or surly household happy”–so imagine what they’ll do for a group that’s already having a great time! Get the Smitten Kitchen Bake Sale Winning-est Gooey Oat Bars recipe.
Related Video: Melissa Clark’s Go-To Thanksgiving Pie
Header image courtesy of What’s Gaby Cooking.