November 26, 2022

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The 13 Thanksgiving foods that matter, ranked

5 min read

Thanksgiving is the best food holiday of the year. Yeah, I said it. Christmas ham, latkes during Hanukkah and hot dogs on the Fourth of July are great. But none compare to the gluttonous feast that is Bird Day. And its not just because of the bird.

Turkey is obviously the food most associated with Thanksgiving the bird that was eaten at the first Thanksgiving, so American that Ben Franklin thought it should be the countrys national bird instead of the bald eagle. Thankfully we arent eating any eagle on Thanksgiving, but we are eating plenty of sides and desserts.

But which Thanksgiving food is the best? Before you sit down to gorge yourself at dinner on Thursday, take a look at our rankings of the best Thanksgiving foods.

A Green Bean Cassorole made by Dorcas Reilly sits on a counter Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005 at the Campbell Soup Co. corporate kitchen in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)ASSOCIATED PRESS 13. Green bean casserole

When its done right, its great. It usually isnt done right. A boring vegetable mixed with canned soup and topped with fried onions out of a bag? No thanks.

Dinner rolls, an essential part of any Thanksgiving.12. Dinner rolls

Theyre a versatile food, great for sopping up gravy and whatever else is left on your plate or for snacking on before the rest of the food is ready. But we eat bread every day, and we dont get Thanksgiving food every day. Pillsbury rolls baked at home are better than rolls bought at the store, but still. Dont fill up on bread, friends.View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The Cookin Chicks (@thecookinchicks) 11. Cornbread casserole

My tyrannical editor insisted I include this dish, and wrote this gushing entry, to which I can neither attest nor deny: While this gooey treat isnt found on every single Thanksgiving dinner table, it should be. Its just the right mix of sweet and savory, soft in the middle and crispy on the edges. And its beyond simple to make: no more than five ingredients, the recipe is usually found on the back of the Jiffy corn muffin mix box. Seriously, if you havent tried it, make some and bring it this year youll be the new favorite cousin.

Close-up of container of cranberry sauce on a plate. (Photo by Gado/Getty Images)Gado via Getty Images 10. Cranberry sauce (fresh)

Its not a Thanksgiving dinner without cranberries, dont let anyone tell you different. And a ton of cranberries are grown right here in the Garden State! They add a sweetness and tartness to the plate, pairing with just about every other side. The fresh version of the sauce is nice because the actual berries add texture to the mix.

Wegmans organic jellie cranberry sauce. (Charlie Miller | cmiller@syracuse.com)Charlie Miller 9. Cranberry sauce (canned)

Watching cranberry sauce slither out of a can and plop onto a plate is a Thanksgiving tradition that rivals even the Thanksgiving Day Parade. What, your family doesnt do that? Weird. Its fun, and the soft, jelly-ish texture teamed with the tartness of the sauce makes it one of the holidays unsung heroes.

Gravy!8. Gravy

Homemade? Amazing. Out of a can? Usually just as good. You dont need to eat gravy the rest of the year if you dont want to. But if you dont have it on Thanksgiving? Youre playing yourself. Its the glue that holds everything together, and not just because sometimes it kind of looks like glue. It saves the day if the turkey is overcooked and is best friends with mashed potatoes. The phrase is good gravy for a reason. Because its good.

Turkey isn't overrated! (File photo)7. Turkey

Look. There will be no turkey slander here on NJ.com. Is it the best meat in the world? Absolutely not. But when its done right? Its plenty delicious. Ive talked turkey tips here, but for the uninitiated dont overcook or under-season the bird, dont be afraid to try some dark meat, and dont cover half your plate with turkey.

Mac and cheese at Freetown Road Project in Jersey City.Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 6. Macaroni and cheese

Show me someone who doesnt like mac n cheese, and Ill show you someone who is lactose intolerant. Seriously though, who doesnt love it? Its pasta and cheese. Its basically fool-proof. You may question if it is a Thanksgiving food, but I will not hear you. I will be too busy happily eating my heaping glob of mac n cheese.

Sweet potato casserole. Too sweet? Too bad. It's great. Advancelocal/file 5. Sweet potatoes

Potatoes were great already. Then they made them sweet! What will they think of next? The sweetest vegetable is pretty much universally beloved. Even kids like sweet potatoes. They are incredible in a casserole topped with brown sugar and marshmallows or delicious simply roasted on their own. Heck, theyre even great in a pie.

Mashed potatoes and sour creamNYT 4. Mashed potatoes

Sure, you can have mashed potatoes whenever you want. But they really shine when served with the rest of a Thanksgiving meal. Theyre marvelous by themselves with just butter, even better with gravy and elite when paired with just about everything else on the plate. Dont be afraid to stick them on your Thanksgiving sandwich the next day, either.

Pumpkin pie, one of the best pies and not just during Thanksgiving. 3. Pumpkin pie

This is basically the one time a year we eat pumpkin pie why dont we eat it on Halloween? I digress. Its a creamy and seasonal way to celebrate the holiday, with a lovely texture thats almost custard-like and a sensational flavor. The best part? Even the worst pumpkin pie is pretty darn good. Sweet potato pie isnt the exact same dessert, but its pretty similar and just as yummy.

Apple pie! (Kaytie Boomer | MLive.com)Kaytie Boomer | MLive.com 2. Fruit pie

Pie is better than cake. And many of the best pies are fruit pies. Even apple pie, perhaps the most overrated pie (I said what I said) tastes incredible on Thanksgiving. Blueberry pie? Sign me up. Peach pie? You shouldnt have! Cherry pie? Terrific song. It isnt Thanksgiving without pie.

Stuffing! (Photo by Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images).The Washington Post via Getty Im 1. Stuffing

Stuffing is easily the Thanksgiving food with the highest approval rating. Everyone loves stuffing, and for good reason! Its undeniably scrumptious, very seasonal and is almost always tasty. Everyone has their own spin on stuffing a well-prepared sausage stuffing is a game-changer but even just straight out of the box it is spectacular. Of all the foods on this list, these forkfuls of savory heaven are the moments for which were most grateful.

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Jeremy Schneider may be reached at jschneider@njadvancemedia.com and followed on Twitter at @J_Schneider and on Instagram at @JeremyIsHungryAgain.