Iconic Thanksgiving Foods

Giuliana Barberio, Staff Writer

When we think of Thanksgiving, we think of the food. The day we can stuff our faces and not feel bad about it…except the morning after. Yes, we know about the history of Thanksgiving. But let’s take a minute to think about the food we see on the dinner table each year. The dishes we’ve grown to love. The dishes that bring our minds straight to Thanksgiving. Overall, the dishes that Thanksgiving has claimed for their own. You’re in luck because in this article, we will be talking about just that.


When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of family and friends gathered around the big turkey. It’s so common to the point where some might call Thanksgiving, “Turkey Day”. It is served with many side dishes including mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc.. There are certain people out there who love to decorate and make their turkey look pretty. They surround it with veggies, berries, meats, and sage. Sage is actually the most traditional herb for the holidays. Even in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they have Tom Turkey. He’s a giant animatronic turkey that is able to flap his wings and bob his back and forth. The turkey has made a big impact on traditions, stories, and Thanksgiving itself.


Stuffing can be eaten alone or stuffed into a chicken or turkey. It is a mixture of cut up bread which is used as a side dish. It also consists of vegetables, herbs and spices, nuts, and sometimes other meat. When used in turkey for Thanksgiving Day, it is to keep the turkey meat moist so it doesn’t get dry and tasteless. But alone, it is an enjoyable mix of flavors. It’s almost dual purpose.

Sweet Potatoes and Marshmallows

With all the savory and delicious side dishes, they had to make room for at least one sweet. It is one of the very common side dishes out there for Thanksgiving. No Thanksgiving Day meal can go without it, it’s a real staple. It’s almost as important as mashed potatoes and a green bean casserole. Fun Fact: Marshmallows melted on top of mashed sweet potatoes didn’t become a thing for Americans until the early 1900’s. Angelus Marshmallows was the first to create this dish, but it was only available to the rich at the time.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is pretty much cranberries made into a sauce or relish. Besides it being a dish used in Thanksgiving dinners, it is used in Christmas dinners as well. The flavor of cranberry sauce differs on where it’s made. In Europe it tastes more sour-like and in America it is more sweet. It’s unlikely that cranberry sauce was eaten by the Pilgrims because even though they had access to cranberries. Sugar was a completely different story.

Mashed Potatoes

This side dish is almost about everyone’s favorite. The one and only light, creamy, and fluffy mashed potatoes. Potatoes were first eaten mashed in 1747. Hannah Glasse put her recipe in her book The Art of Cookery, she mashed them in a saucepan with milk, salt, and butter. Mashed potatoes are generally served with meat and vegetables. You might not have known this. But, when mashed potatoes are roughly mashed they are referred to as “Smashed Potatoes”.

Pumpkin Pie

Last but not least, dessert! No matter how full you are, everyone has room for dessert…maybe seconds. Besides for Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie is eaten all throughout the pumpkin season. Before pumpkin pies were well, pies, they were savory soups. American colonists would put the soup into a pumpkin instead of sweet custard in a pie. But, not until the early nineteenth century was it made into a proper pie. Since then, the pumpkin pie is a traditional dessert served after Thanksgiving dinners. Fun Fact: Pumpkin pies were forbidden in 1947 because of the eggs in the recipe.

There is no day like Thanksgiving where you just go into a food coma and feel good about it. There is just something about eating turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie all in the same meal. It really screams Thanksgiving as well as amazing leftovers that could last you a week straight.