Posted by: Jeremiah Graves | November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Side Dishes, Ranked


Earlier this week the fine folks at Gawker Media published a top ten ranking of Thanksgiving side dishes.

Unfortunately, their ranking was erroneous on a number of counts and could easily be used to misinform and sway the uneducated masses about what they should and should not be prioritizing with their limited plate space this Thanksgiving.

Luckily, I’m here to fix things with the most scientifically-accurate, researched-based, 100% factual ranking of Thanksgiving side dishes you’ll find anywhere on the internet.

There’s limited time to start plotting your Thanksgiving game plan, so let’s get right into things.

01. Stuffing (Cooked Outside of the Turkey)
The reigning king and undisputed champion of the side dish game. It is imperative, however, that you get the stuff cooked outside of the bird. Beyond that, I’m not picky. Stove Top is great. Homemade is great. Stuffing as a concept is simply f’n great. That having been said, if you cook your stuffing inside the Turkey you’re not only proving that you’re a big fan of food-borne illnesses, but also soggy-ass stuffing. Just dip a loaf of Wonder Bread in some piping hot turkey broth if that’s your jam and then everyone else can avoid wasting their time and energy on your disgusting in-the-bird mess.

02. Mashed Potatoes
I couldn’t give mashed potatoes the top spot because they’re so unpredictable. What kind of mashed potatoes are you going to plop down on your plate: Lumpy? Creamy? Buttery? Dry? Garlic? No Garlic? Chives? No Chives? Rosemary? No Rosemary? There are too many options. It’s too easy for them to be delivered to you in a manner that is not to your liking. What then? No. Seriously, WHAT THEN?! If your potatoes aren’t the right kind, the whole day is pretty much shot. If you give me lumpy, rosemary-ridden mashed potatoes, I’d burn your f’n house down. True fact. I won’t even think twice. I’ll set it ablaze and walk out the door with your pan of stuffing. This is why mashed potatoes cannot occupy the top spot, they incite riot and tear families apart. You can’t hold down the top spot with that kind of liability attached to your name.

03. Green Bean Casserole
This is pretty much the only Thanksgiving side dish that I can make without burning down the kitchen or potentially poisoning my loved ones. It’s also one of the top five tastiest things on the planet. The key is to triple the recommended number of French fried onions. (Pro Tip: When preparing green bean casserole, buy an extra container of French fried onions to devour while you’re assembling this messy beast…you’ll be glad you did.)

04. Brussels Sprouts (Cooked w/ Bacon)
I literally hadn’t eaten Brussels sprouts until I was in my mid-20s. The first time I had them they were covered in bacon bits and bacon fat and I was in heaven. Granted, you could probably cover a hubcap in bacon grease and I’d ask for a second helping, but either way, welcome to the top of the heap Brussels sprouts.

05. Gravy
If you don’t consider gravy a side dish in and of itself, you’re doing Thanksgiving wrong. Gravy is more than some mere “topping.” Gravy is the glue that holds the entire meal together. It’s also versatile enough that you can literally put it on anything and it will improve it ten-fold. Turkey, check. Mashed potatoes, check. Rolls, check. Pie, check. In your glass of wine, check. Gravy is your friend and gravy deserves your undying respect this Thanksgiving.

06. Pie (Pumpkin)
I may be cheating a bit here. Depending on who you ask, pie might not be considered a “side” in the traditional sense. Personally, I can rarely make it through the entire meal before I’ve pounced on a slice, so I’m counting it. To be fair, I left it out of the top five to avoid controversy.

06. Corn (On the Cob)
If you think there is a better delivery vessel for a vegetable than on a cob, drenched in butter, and covered in salt-and-pepper, you are incorrect. Plus you get to do that sweet typewriter thing when you get to the end of the ear and head back to start chomping at the other end. (Pro Tip: Make a loud “DING” noise every time you stop and rotate the cob, your guests will love it!)

07. Cranberry Sauce (Canned)
If you want to get into a debate over real vs canned, we can do that, but you should be warned, I’ve killed a man during this argument before and I’m fully-prepared to do it again. #TeamCANberry

08. Brussels Sprouts (Cooked w/o Bacon)
Sprouts take a small step back when you remove the bacon element, but cover these suckers in olive oil, pepper, and Romano cheese and I’m still going to eat two or three pounds of ‘em myself.

09. Crescent Rolls
It’s like a dinner roll, but hella-fancy. As an added bonus, these are, like, one of two things you can actually trust anyone under the age of 20 to prepare without completely screwing them up. That’s a nice little win right there. Thanksgiving? More like, DelegateSomeOfTheFuckingWorkToTheseFreeloadingKids-giving…amirite?!

10. Sweet Potato Casserole
If I had made this list five years ago, this wouldn’t have cracked the top 20. Now that I am the wise-elder of the pack and knower of all things that need to be known in the world, I can tell you that this concoction is pretty f’n baller. You take sweet potatoes or yams (Sidebar: don’t let anyone convince you that they’re different, they’re the scallion vs green onion of the starchy-orange-ish things world) and you bake ‘em up with marshmallows on top. Sweet potatoes, good. Marshmallows, good. Tell me how this isn’t a win-win?! TELL ME!! That’s right. You can’t!

11. Mac and Cheese
I know a lot of people would rate mac and cheese higher than this, but I’ve got to be honest here. I don’t believe that I’ve ever actually eaten mac and cheese for Thanksgiving. I know it’s very popular, but I’ve just never encountered it in that scenario. I love me some mac and cheese, so it gets a solid middle-of the pack ranking regardless of my lack of Thanksgiving experience. Perhaps someone who does rock the mac for Thanksgiving can persuade me in the comments to bump this sucker up a notch or two (or nine).

12. Pie (Non-Pumpkin)
Damn near any other day of the year, I’d have put this guy in a tie with pumpkin pie, but there’s nothing more Thanksgiving-y than pumpkin pie. Regular pie takes a tumble, but still comes in strong and respectable. I’m just not reaching for a slice of lemon meringue or apple pie with the same gusto on Thanksgiving, ya know?

13. Dinner Roll
They’re like crescent roll’s dorky younger brother that you let tag along to the mall because he can make you laugh sometimes and you can steal his fries at the food court without him really bitching about it because he knows that you drove him there and you could totally just leave him if you wanted and then he’d be stranded and have to hang out in front of the Wetzel’s Pretzels kiosk until his mom showed up and that’d be hella-embarrassing, so he’s just gonna let you take some fries without any fuss. So yeah, dinner rolls…they’re good, but they’ll never quite live up to their predecessor.

14. Cranberry Sauce (Real/Homemade)
I’m not a hater, but if you grew up poor enough, you were totes hooked on that metallic can flavor just as much as the actual cranberry flavor itself. You just can’t make the transition. It is a thing that cannot be done.

15. Corn (Creamed)
It’s like corn that pooped all over itself. Despite that description, it’s pretty freakin’ tasty. There’s a reason it’s the NUMBER TWO way to eat corn. See what I did there? Number two is a euphemism for poop…and I said it’s like corn in poop. Still nothing? It’ll land later. You’ll be watching the TV tonight and be all “ooooohhh…the number two way to eat corn…I get it!” and you’ll laugh and laugh.

16. Corn (Cobless, Uncreamed)
It’s alright, but you’ve got so many better options. (Pro Tip: Regular, off-the-corn, uncreamed corn is pretty boring, so mix that sucker in with a pile of mashed potatoes and gravy and then throw it on a roll. That’s how you live the high life, my friend.)

17. Stuffing (Cooked Inside of the Turkey)
Things I Don’t Like in My Food: soggy bread, food borne illness, Turkey guts.
Things Stuffing Cooked Inside the Turkey Contains: All of the shit I just listed.

18. Salad
If you brought a salad, I’m making you sit in the garage while we eat. (Caveat: If it’s a Cobb salad, I’ll turn on the heat and turn off the car that’s been slowly filling the garage with exhaust all afternoon.)

19. Green Beans (Un-Casseroled)
If they’re not in a casserole, what are you even doing with your life? For Pete’s sake, I CAN MAKE GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE…that means YOU can make green bean casserole. Get your shit together and make a green bean casserole.

20. Literally Any Other Vegetable
Seriously? On Thanksgiving? You can eat veggies like a health nut 364 days a year, but not today, Bucko! Get outta here with your glazed carrots and roasted squash. If your veggies aren’t covered in butter, cheese, viscous goo, or marshmallows – I’ve got no f’n room on my plate for that bullshit. Not today, Michelle Obama…not today!!

. . .

Naturally, if you disagree with any of these rankings, you’re incorrect.

I think it’s important you know that up front. There is no debate. You are incorrect. 100%, irrefutably, completely, absolutely, positively, totally incorrect.

That having been said, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.



  1. Hell, YES, to #14. I am not ashamed of my canned cranberry “sauce.” At 7, I lived for that stuff, man. Those were the goods. And #15 made me giggle…because I’m two years old.


    • You are, in fact, my target audience for any and all poop-related humor.


  2. This is my favorite post ever. Not just JG post, I mean any post ever on the interwebs. I love Thanksgiving and I love food, and I think you nailed just about everything. I will say that I love cranberry sauce out of the can AND homemade (as long as you don’t put orange peels in it). For me, they are like 2 different things, like spaghetti and Spaghettios. Both good, but you can’t even pretend they are the same thing – it’s apples and oranges. Plus homemade cranberry sauce is one of only about 5 things I can actually cook, and that includes ramen…


    • Thank you, Darcy!! I totally agree both kinds are solid, but Canberry will always hold a very dear place in my heart. You just can’t compare the two.


  3. I LOVE that you’ve been writing more. However, I’m sorry but we can never eat thanksgiving dinner together. I disagree with most things here. And MARSHMALLOWS DO NOT BELONG ON VEGETABLES. I am the sweet potato casserole queen.




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