Fresh Takes on Classic Thanksgiving Sides

Colorful, tart and a seasonal must-have, cranberries are the perfect complement to holiday menus. Roast turkey, duck and goose all benefit from the mouth-puckering acidity of cranberries. But it’s time to give them a tasty twist. These easy-to-make variations on the classic sauce will have you and your guests asking for more. (P.S. Think beyond Thanksgiving sides. Whole raw cranberries freeze beautifully for a month, so try later with duck, rack of lamb, or grilled chicken and jack cheese.)

Put a Spin on Cranberry Sauce

(Makes about 2 1/2 cups)

  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 12-oz. package of cranberries

Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add cranberries, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until berries start to burst. Cool.

Thanksgiving Sides

1) Cranberry-Apple Sauce

Substitute the juice of half an orange for the 4 Tbsp. water. Zest the orange and finely dice. Chop 1 tart apple into cranberry-sized pieces and add the apple and zest to sugar water with the cranberries. Proceed with the basic recipe. Season with ground cinnamon to taste after removing sauce from the heat. Garnish with apple fan.

2) Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Add to basic sauce after removing from the heat:
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
18 tsp. ground allspice
18 tsp. ground cloves
18 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 ½ tsp. grated, peeled
fresh ginger
Garnish with crystallized ginger. 

Thanksgiving Sides
Thanksgiving Sides

3) Chili Cranberry Sauce

Substitute 1/4 cup white wine for 1/4 cup of the water. Seed and chop a ripe, mild chili pepper (an Anaheim or poblano; or substitute 1/2 ripe red bell pepper and 1/2 ripe jalapeño pepper) and add to water with the berries. Proceed with basic recipe. Garnish with fresh red pepper. 

4) Cranberry-Port Sauce

Skip the water. Cook cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup orange juice and 2 Tbsp. grated orange rind together until just a few berries burst. Add 1/2 cup ruby port and cook another 2-3 minutes, until most of the berries have burst. Garnish with orange rind. 

Thanksgiving Sides


Many of us have memories of perfectly can-shaped cranberry jelly on the holiday table. That’s great, but if you’re looking for a way to jazz the jelly up a bit, here are a few ideas:

  • Serve the jelly in slices.
  • Add texture by sprinkling the jelly slices with chipped, toasted pecans.
  • Chill the jelly thoroughly, slice and shape with small cookie cutters.
  • Mash the jelly so that it resembles jam and garnish with orange zest.

Four Twists on Mashed Potatoes

Basic Mashed Potatoes

Serves 6

  • 2 lbs. potatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper

Peel and quarter potatoes. Put them in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them. Add salt and bring water to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork (15-20 minutes). Drain the potatoes, add the butter and mash with a ricer or electric mixer. Add the egg and beat it into the potatoes with a wooden spoon. Add milk or cream and continue to mash until fluffy.

Roasted Tomato Potatoes

Fold 3 oven-roasted tomatoes, coarsely chopped, into hot mashed potatoes. 

Blue Potatoes

Fold ½ cup crumbled blue cheese into hot potatoes. Top each serving with bacon bits.

Thanksgiving Sides
Thanksgiving Sides

Pakora Potatoes 

Fold 1 tsp. Turmeric, ½ tsp. curry and 1 cup of frozen peas into hot mashed potatoes.

Pesto Potatoes

Fold ½ cup basil pesto into hot mashed potatoes. Garnish with toasted pine nuts. 

Add-ons and Stir-ins for Cornbread

Jalapeno + Scallions + Cheese

Mince 3 seeded jalapenos. Grate 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese. Slice scallions to make 1/3 cup . Stir all ingredients into the batter at the end. Sprinkle with cotija cheese crumbles when baked.

Lemon + Blueberry

Add 1/4 cup sugar to the batter. Zest one lemon. Gently stir 1 cup blueberries with 1 tsp. flour, add lemon zest and berries to the batter. Sprinkle the batter lightly with sugar and bake.

Cranberries + Pecans

Stir 1 cup chopped cranberries with 1 tsp. flour. Chop 1/2 cup pecans and fold berries and nuts into the batter after mixing wet and dry ingredients.

Caramelized Onion

Slice one medium onion. Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in an iron skillet and arrange the onion slices in the pan. Cook slowly over medium-low heat until the onions brown. Pour in batter and bake. Invert to serve.


-Preheat your oven and your skillet—grease the skillet and put it in the oven while you mix the batter.

-Use stoneground meal for better flavor and texture.

Mary’s Fave Cornbread Recipe

  • 2 cups stoneground cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsps. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup creamed corn
  • 2 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 425 and place a 10” skillet in the oven. Combine the buttermilk, eggs and creamed corn. Combine the dry ingredients and add to the egg mixture. Stir to combine. If the batter is too thick, add a bit more buttermilk. Put the butter in the hot pan and tilt it to coat evenly. Pour in the batter and bake until the top springs back to the touch—about 25 minutes.

When you’re ready for dessert, check out this delectable Apple Pudding Cake recipe from cook and author Chef Tara Teaspoon.

See more stories like this and all of our food and drink coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah. 

Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf is the late Executive Editor of Salt Lake magazine and Utah's expert on local food and dining. She still does not, however, know how to make a decent cup of coffee.

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