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Easy Thanksgiving Dishes to Make in the Golden State

Easy Thanksgiving Dishes to Make in the Golden State

It's easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy. But these simple Thanksgiving dishes by California bloggers can make your life easier.


10 min read

November 21, 2020

“The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we all can agree so vehemently about? I don’t think so.” —Nora Ephron

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy. Between organizing a small family gathering or planning Thanksgiving getaways and looking for cabins to rent, it’s easy to forget about the most important parts of the holiday. Thanksgiving is about bonding with your loved ones and being grateful for all the good things that have happened in your life. Whether you’re feasting with your close family or enjoying Friendsgiving with your roommates, this is the time of year to indulge in mouthwatering dishes.

Simple Thanksgiving Recipes

When preparing a Thanksgiving spread, you often end up spending more than an entire day in the kitchen, only to have everything consumed in the span of 30 minutes. That’s why this year, we’re going to help you solve that problem so you don’t miss out on the fun. Whether you’re preparing everything yourself or organizing an intimate potluck dinner, these simple Thanksgiving recipes will make you feel grateful for all the time you saved cooking. 

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The Best Thanksgiving Appetizer Recipes

This cherry salad is absolutely fantastic and, best of all, easy to make. Photo courtesy of Julie and Jesse.

1. Cherry Salad

Salads are the ideal healthy Thanksgiving appetizer. Between all of the hearty and fatty dishes you’ll be eating later, your body demands a bit of greens. Level up your game this year and use the best Thanksgiving appetizer recipe from Food Between Friends. We promise you, no one’s had a salad like this before. 


For the salad

1 ½ pounds cherries, pitted

½ cup parsley, roughly chopped

¼ cup mint, roughly chopped

⅓ cup toasted pistachios

For the dressing

2–3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons sorghum syrup

A pinch of salt

¼ cup olive oil


1. Cut pitted cherries into halves. Gently toss them with parsley, mint, and toasted pistachios in a bowl.

2. In a separate small bowl, combine lemon juice with sorghum syrup and a pinch of salt. Slowly add in the olive oil while whisking, and continue to whisk until thoroughly combined.

3. Splash half of the dressing over the cherry mixture, and toss until combined.

4. Serve the cherry salad with the rest of the dressing on the side, and indulge in this easy Thanksgiving dish

This delish butter lettuce salad with anchovy cream is bound to please every guest at the table. Photo courtesy of Turntable kitchen.

2. Butter Lettuce Salad With Anchovy Cream 

If you’re still looking for the best recipes for Thanksgiving, Turntable Kitchen has the solution. Wow your guests at the dinner table with this tasty and delectable healthy Thanksgiving appetizer—they’ll be asking for the recipe right after the feast.


⅔ cup heavy cream

2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, plus more for salad topping

A handful of fresh basil leaves

3 garlic cloves, crushed

Kosher salt and ground pepper

¼ cup olive oil 

Few handfuls of walnuts

1 tablespoon basil, roughly chopped

3 cups butter lettuce leaves (or any kind of super fresh baby lettuces), roughly torn

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Maldon salt


1. In a small pot over medium heat, combine cream with the anchovy fillets, basil leaves, and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Once brought to a gentle simmer, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.

2. In a small skillet, heat olive oil and cook walnuts, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant. 

3. Remove the walnuts from the heat. Transfer them to a cutting board and roughly chop. Season and toss them with the chopped basil.

4. Remove basil leaves from the cream and anchovy mixture. Use a fork to mash the anchovies and garlic into the cream. If necessary, season with more salt and pepper.

5. Place lettuce in a large bowl, and toss with vinegar and Maldon salt.

6. Add a generous amount of the cream mixture to the lettuce, and top with toasted walnuts and more anchovy fillets. Toss until combined.

7. Serve immediately. 

Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Take advantage of California's seasonal produce by making this broccoli-studded casserole.

1. Loaded Cauliflower Broccoli Casserole

Is anyone bringing California-grown Thanksgiving roasted vegetables this year or is it on you? Ditch the regular side dish and take it up a notch with Ev’s Eats easy Thanksgiving casserole


8 slices of bacon

½ large broccoli, cut into florets

½ large cauliflower, cut into florets

½ cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon heavy cream

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

6 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped and divided

1 cup shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 370 degrees.

2. In a large skillet, fry the bacon until it’s crispy. Set aside.

3. In a separate pan, steam the broccoli and cauliflower for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.

4. In a large bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, heavy cream, and black pepper. Add steamed cauliflower and broccoli, half of the bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, and three tablespoons of chives. Mix well.

5. Transfer mixture to a baking dish greased with cooking spray.

6. Top mixture with Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses as well as the rest of the bacon.

7. Cover the baking dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. 

8. Remove the foil and bake for another five minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

9. Serve this easy Thanksgiving side dish with love and gratitude.

Can't figure out what to make? Toss green beans with thyme, shallots, and pistachios for a delicious meal. Photo courtesy of Eat the Love.

2. Green Beans With Thyme, Shallots, And Pistachios

Normally, we don’t associate healthy food with Thanksgiving—we’re looking to stuff our faces with delicious homemade meals we’ve been craving all year. But this quick and healthy Thanksgiving side dish by Eat the Love will change your life. 


2 pounds green beans

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup shallots, diced

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

½ cup pistachios, chopped or crushed

Salt and pepper 


1. Trim the ends of the green beans, then rinse beans.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add trimmed green beans. Cook for five to seven minutes, or until the beans are tender but crispy. Drain them and place them in a serving bowl.

3. In a large sauté pan, add butter, shallots, parsley, thyme, and pistachios. Cook for three to four minutes, or until the shallots are tender and translucent. 

4. Once the shallots are ready, pour the mixture over the green beans and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Serve immediately. 

This Thanksgiving, indulge in a delectable rice stuffing. We promise you won't regret it. Photo courtesy of Culinary Hill.

3. Rice Stuffing

End your search for easy stuffing recipes and add a twist to the dish this year. Culinary Hill showed us a new way to prepare stuffing that’ll blow everyone’s minds at the dinner table. And the best part? Out of all the easy Thanksgiving dishes, this is the simplest yet the most creative. 


2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

1 cup onion, minced 

1 cup white rice (long-grain, jasmine, or basmati)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup dried cranberries

½ cup chopped pecans

3 sliced green onions, for garnish


1. In a medium saucepan, warm olive oil or butter over medium heat. Then, add onions and cook for five minutes, or until tender and translucent. 

2. Add rice, cumin, and curry powder. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until rice is lightly browned, stirring frequently.

3. Add garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. 

4. Pour in vegetable or chicken broth along with the bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil.

5. Once boiling, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been fully absorbed. 

6. Use a fork to take out the bay leaf.

7. Add cranberries and pecans, and stir until combined.

8. Garnish with green onions and serve.

Is there anything more fitting than creamy mashed potatoes as a Thanksgiving side dish? We think not, so you best you make some.

4. Creamy Mashed Potatoes

No Thanksgiving is complete without a side of mashed potatoes. It’s the perfect Friendsgiving meal idea—the dish is easy to prepare and loved by many. Make ultra-fluffy and creamy mashed potatoes using A Cozy Kitchen’s recipe, and let your closest friends feel like they’re back home with their families. 


3 pounds russet potatoes

Kosher salt

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for garnish (optional)

3–4 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream

Freshly ground pepper 

Minced fresh chives, for garnish


1. Wash and peel potatoes. Then, dice into two-inch chunks. Place them in a medium pot, then add water and a pinch of salt. 

2. Place the pot over medium-high heat, and cook potatoes for 20 minutes, or until they’re very tender.

3. Once cooked, drain potatoes and allow them to cool for a few minutes.

4. In a separate small saucepan, add heavy cream and butter, and warm over medium-low heat until butter is melted. 

5. Smash garlic cloves and add them to the heavy cream and butter mixture. Let it infuse for 10 minutes.

6. Use a ricer to mash your potatoes in batches, then place them back into the pot. 

7. Pour in heavy cream mixture and crème fraîche or sour cream, and mix well. Season with salt to taste.

8. If necessary, warm potatoes over low heat.

9. Transfer potatoes to a serving bowl, then garnish with more butter and fresh chives.

10. Serve this easy Thanksgiving dish to your friends. 

Thanksgiving Main Dish Ideas

Doesn't this roasted chicken look absolutely fantastic? Make this easy mouthwatering dish yourself. Photo courtesy of Indian Simmer.

1. Blackened Spiced Roasted Chicken

Are you having trouble coming up with Thanksgiving main dish ideas? Indian Simmer, an S.F.-based food blog, is here to help you spice up your feast. Turkey is the most important dish of the day, but it doesn’t hurt to change things up and roast a chicken instead—especially when chicken satisfies everyone’s taste buds. 


Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

2  garlic cloves, crushed

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

2 teaspoons red chili powder

½ cup cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons lemon juice


Chicken Thighs

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 tablespoons spicy red pepper sauce 

2 lemons, divided

2 teaspoons cumin  

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons sumac

2 teaspoons garam masala powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 large red onion, cut into thick circles

1 potato, cut into thick circles

1 carrot, cut into thick strips

1 tablespoon olive oil

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

6 garlic cloves, crushed


1. Start by preparing the spicy red pepper sauce. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat and add cumin seeds, allowing them to crackle. 

2. Stir in garlic and red bell pepper. Sauté for a minute. Add chili powder and cilantro, and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

3. Transfer pepper mixture to a blender. Add lemon juice and salt, then blend until smooth. Set aside.

4.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, and set aside.

5. Pat chicken thighs dry using a paper towel. Take two tablespoons of the red pepper sauce, and spread it all over the chicken. Squeeze juice from one lemon on top.

6. In a small bowl, combine cumin, cayenne, oregano, sumac, garam masala, and salt. Rub spice mix over the chicken and under the skin.

7. Toss onions, potatoes, and carrots with olive oil. Season with salt, if desired. Place onto the baking sheet in a single, even layer.

8. Place chicken thighs on top of the vegetables, skin side down.

9. Place sprigs of fresh thyme and garlic cloves between the pieces of chicken. Slice the other lemon and tuck slices between the chicken.

10. Bake for 30 minutes. Flip chicken thighs so they are skin side up, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear when poked with a knife.

11. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

12. Transfer to a serving platter, and serve this exquisite and easy Thanksgiving dish with the remaining spicy red pepper sauce.

Make your next meal vegan and enjoy caramelized tofu. We promise you won't regret it. Photo courtesy of 101 Cookbooks.

2. Caramelized Tofu

As delicious and heavenly as Thanksgiving meals are, some people don’t get to enjoy every dish on the table. This is why it’s important to prepare food for vegans and vegetarians—we don’t want anyone to feel left out. 101 Cookbooks makes it possible for everyone to enjoy easy Thanksgiving dishes that are vegan and cruelty-free. Who knows? They just might become your new favorites. 


A few splashes of olive oil

7–8 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into one-inch pieces

Fine-grain sea salt

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

⅓ cup pecans, toasted and chopped 

3 tablespoons fine-grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

½ pound brussels sprouts, washed and cut into ⅛-inch-wide ribbons


1. In a large skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat and add tofu strips. Season with salt to taste, and sauté for four minutes, or until slightly golden.

2. Add garlic and pecans, and cook for another minute. Add sugar and continue cooking for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove from heat, and stir in cilantro. Transfer tofu to a plate and set aside.

4. Use the same pan to cook the brussels sprouts—there’s no need to wash it. Add a splash of oil and a pinch of salt, and increase the heat to medium-high.

5. Add shredded brussels sprouts and cook for three minutes, or until several of them are golden brown, stirring frequently.

6.  Remove from heat and combine with the tofu.

7. With your vegan Thanksgiving main dish idea brought to life, serve the delightful meal to your friends and family. 

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