When it comes to the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, we can all agree we love a big, delicious feast as much as the next person, but for me personally, there are two things I love even more.
- Spending time with my family and friends (while giving thanks and celebrating my birthday 😉).
- And having zero regrets after going back for seconds.
A little secret I have learned which will save you a whole lotta stress is to plan your menu with plenty of healthy Thanksgiving sides that aren’t all vying for oven time right when your hungry guests are arriving.
This also includes using other methods of cooking such as your microwave (gasp!), an air fryer, and my newest favorite invention, the Instant Pot®.
Now I know I said this was going to be an article about sides, but I just had to share this recipe for air frying a turkey and show you guys how gosh darn simple it can be to knock out a turkey in just 60 minutes. That was not a typo—you read that correctly, folks. In just 60 minutes, you can have a moist, healthy, perfectly cooked bird in record time. And don’t even get me started on how simple the cleanup is! (plus, see my 6 delicious healthy Thanksgiving sides recipes).
Coach C’s 60-Minute Turkey Recipe
- Remove giblet packet from turkey and pat the bird dry.
- Rub oil all over turkey and season generously.
- Place turkey, breast side down, into Air Fryer.
- Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Flip turkey over and cook at 350 degrees for an additional 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Chef Note: If you have the rotisserie attachment, just drop the temp to 325 degrees and cook for the same amount of time (60 minutes).
Now that the Turkey is done, let’s get to work on some healthy Thanksgiving sides (trust me, your family will love ’em).
6 Healthy Thanksgiving Sides
Cranberry and Goat Cheese Crostini
- 1 ½ cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
- ½ Honeycrisp apple
- ¾ cup dried chopped pineapple
- 3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp vanilla
- ½ cup crumbled goat cheese
- Toasted mini breads or crackers, for serving
- Put cranberries, apple, pineapple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency.
- Spoon cranberry sauce onto individual toasted mini breads (or crackers).
- Sprinkle goat cheese on top, dividing it evenly amongst all crostini.
Chef Note: You don’t have to use Honeycrisp apples. Any other firm, sweet-tart variety, peeled and coarsely chopped (to equal about 3/4 cups), will work.
Chef Note: If you prefer not to prepare the individual servings for this healthy Thanksgiving sides recipe, you can gently mix the goat cheese directly into the cranberry sauce to serve as a dip with crackers or bread.
Quinoa Salad with Pecans and Cranberries
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 1 ½ cups broth (veggie or chicken)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place quinoa in medium saucepot with the broth.
- Cover the pot, bring to a full boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Combine all other ingredients in a bowl. Pour on top of quinoa and mix together.
- Serve immediately, or cover and chill in the fridge.
Chef Note: You may also garnish with 2 tablespoons of chopped green onions and perhaps some toasted nuts for not only flavor but aesthetics. With this recipe, I am partial to pecans, but almonds or walnuts would work too!
Chef Note: I have also toyed with adding various additional spices such as garlic, onion powder, and cayenne to really kick things up a notch.
Chef Note: I have also tossed goat cheese or feta cheese on top before serving. Both of these cheeses pair nicely with this salad.
Spaghetti Squash with Sage Butter and Walnuts
- 1 three-pound spaghetti squash
- 1 tsp EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 ¼ tsp coarse kosher salt, divided
- ¼ tsp black pepper, divided
- ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh sage
- Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes with a spoon.
- Brush the flesh of each squash half evenly with ½ tsp EVOO, then salt and pepper (to taste).
- Place squash, skin side up, in a 9×13 baking dish. Microwave for 15 – 20 minutes on full power until it gives slightly when gently pressed. Let sit about 10 minutes (or until it’s cool enough to handle). Use a fork to shred the squash into a large serving bowl.
- While squash is cooking, toast walnuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Set aside.
- Melt butter until the butter has foamed and begins to turn a light golden-brown.
- Add sage, and continue browning the butter.
- Add toasted walnuts and browned butter sauce to spaghetti squash, and stir gently until combined.
- Pile the squash mixture back into one of the spaghetti squash “shells.”
Chef Note: You certainly do not have to serve in an empty spaghetti squash shell for this healthy Thanksgiving sides recipe, but it really makes for a cool presentation.
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped or thinly sliced
- 1 small head cauliflower, chopped
- 1 eight-ounce package baby bella mushrooms, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage (or 1 tsp ground sage)
- ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Then add the onion, carrot, and celery, sautéing until soft—about 7 – 8 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 8 – 10 minutes more.
- Add parsley, rosemary, and sage, and stir until combined.
- Pour in broth and cook until totally tender and liquid is absorbed (10 minutes).
- Enjoy this healthy Thanksgiving sides recipe!
- 4 cups bone broth or vegetable stock
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the stock and pumpkin puree over medium heat. Once it’s simmering, reduce the heat to low. Cover and keep warm.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add shallot. Cook until softened, 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add thyme and rice and cook for one minute longer.
- Add white wine vinegar and stock/pumpkin puree mixture one ladle at a time until all liquid has evaporated (about 20 – 25 minutes).
- Mix in parmesan, half of the parsley, and nutmeg.
- Top with remaining parsley, goat cheese, and dried cranberries.
Green Bean Bacon Bundles
- 1 ½ lb fresh green beans, trimmed
- 12 oz thick-cut bacon, cut into halves
- 1 onion, cut into slivers
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ tsp sugar
- Salt and pepper
- In a mason jar, mix the vinaigrette ingredients together until combined. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.
- Bundle up to 10 green beans, and wrap a bacon strip around each of the bundles. Set into the prepared baking dish. Continue until all the green beans have been wrapped.
- Sprinkle the onion on top of the bundles.
- Season the bundles with salt and pepper (to taste), and drizzle the vinaigrette over them.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Turn up the heat to 425°F, and cook for an additional 15 – 20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy.
Chef Note: You may absolutely replace the sugar in this recipe with honey.