To help you prepare for Thanksgiving, we rounded up 16 sides and asked readers to vote for their favourite. After four days of voting in our single-elimination bracket, and more than 18,000 votes, a winner was chosen: Stuffing.
For readers who saw their favourites knocked out in early rounds, we’re here for you. For those of you who thought our top 16 was missing some key dishes, you’re not alone. Globe staffers also let us know we missed some sides – including two who told us that the exclusion of green bean casserole was an egregious error.
We’ve given them space to air their grievances here. Do you think we’re still missing a dish? Sound off in the comments or email us at email@example.com.
What makes a good holiday side dish? Is it just a food that’s universally beloved? One that everyone eats? How dull. Instead, let me argue for Ambrosia salad as the ultimate Thanksgiving side. Known as Five-Cup Salad in some quarters, this “salad” composed of crushed pineapple, mandarin orange slices, coloured miniature marshmallows, shredded coconut and sour cream is more divisive than raisins in stuffing, more disruptive than your cousin’s new girlfriend, more inflammatory than your uncle’s political views. Equal parts side dish, conversation piece and marshmallowy agent of chaos, Ambrosia salad divides families into factions fighting for and against its very existence. Some (correctly) love it. Others disparage it. (They’re wrong.) But whatever your personal views, be assured there will be controversy and impassioned argument when Ambrosia salad is on the menu. And what could be more festive than that?
– Jana Pruden
It’s the quintessential French-Canadian dish for any holiday (as if you needed a reason to cook one). A meat pie typically made with beef and pork, it has all the classic Thanksgiving flavours and pairs perfectly with anything else around the table.
– Jacob Dubé
Green bean casserole
Every Thanksgiving meal needs that dish that dates back to the 1960s and incorporates a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup – and that’s the green bean casserole. It may not look fancy, but with five simple ingredients it’s a quick side dish to add green veggies that are not Brussels sprouts (which don’t go over well with my picky seven-year-old). The best part – you top the casserole with French’s French Fried Onions – or Hickory Sticks! Every kid will dive in.
– Clare O’Hara
String bean casserole
I’m not sure how common string bean casserole is in Canada, but it’s a staple of American Thanksgiving and it showcases the glory of one of America’s greatest gifts to the world: salty processed food. The dish consists of canned green beans, condensed cream of mushroom soup and processed cheese. On top of all that you sprinkle a few fistfuls of those dehydrated fried onions, also from a can. All of this gets baked until it congeals into a savoury, swamplike mass. The onions add a little crunch to every bite, and every bite is amazing. It’s technically a vegetable.
– Steve Kupferman
A paean to stretching a meal and making do with less – and therefore obviously THE zeitgeist dish of 2023 – bread sauce is an old Suffolk delight. Milk is simmered with sage and a clove-studded onion; to that thickening base one slowly adds handfuls of torn white semi-stale bread, and salt, and pepper, until the cook is left with a saucepan of smoothish white pudding-like sauce. It lives with the stuffing and the gravy and the turkey. It shines as a replacement for butter on turkey sandwich leftovers. The taste is sublime, the cost negligible, the sense of moral righteousness unparalleled.
– Ian Brown
Peeled, boiled, mashed, eaten. Not much else to say about this humble side. But with a bit of salt and brown sugar, its flavour complements the Thanksgiving meal and its texture – not quite creamy, not totally mashy – carries it across the finish line.
– Caora McKenna
I’ve been vegetarian since I was 10 years old, so at most of my family’s traditional holiday dinners, I can *only* eat sides! My mom always makes a point of reserving some stuffing to bake outside the turkey so I can have some too. She makes it with wild rice and mushrooms, and it’s delicious.
– Kasia Mychajlowycz
In many parts of Canada, Thanksgiving arrives just as orchards are brimming with ripening apples. A long-weekend outing to the country for a hay ride and a bushel of Honeycrisps is a tradition for many families.
European settlers first brought the fruit to Canada in the 17th century, so baking apples into crisps, crumbles and pies has a long history in the apple-growing provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.
In small-town Ontario where I grew up, inevitably skirmishes would break out around the Thanksgiving table over apple versus pumpkin pie. It was inconceivable not to offer both – preferably with a hint of maple syrup baked in.
– Carolyn Ireland