Thanksgiving recipes: take a twist on these traditional favourites

Yara Shahidi loves celebrating the food parallels between cultures on Thanksgiving. If you’re adopting the American tradition this year, here are three ways to switch it up.

Serve up street food

Turkey dogs 

Swap a roasted bird for turkey hot dogs – a seasonal take on the German import that has become an American culinary institution. 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

We call this one the Thanksgiving triple threat.


(Serves 6-8)

4 large turkey sausages

4 large hot-dog rolls

Unsalted butter

Sea salt and black pepper

For the chestnut stuffing crumb:

3 tbsps sunflower oil

1 large onion, diced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

150g wild mushrooms, chopped

45g salted butter

2 tbsps dried mixed herbs

90g vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts

50g stale wholemeal breadcrumbs

1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked

2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked

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For the cranberry sauce:

2 tbsps cornflour

4 tbsps water

375g frozen cranberries

Grated zest of 1 orange

150ml fresh orange juice

150ml soft light brown sugar

1 tbsp peeled and freshly grated root ginger

1 cinnamon stick

For the cheese and chive mayo:

110g mayo

65g mature cheddar, grated

2 tsps dried mixed herbs

1⁄2 tsp English mustard powder

1⁄2 tsp garlic granules

3 tbsps fresh chives 


Step 1: To make the stuffing crumb, preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5. Heat the oil in a frying pan over 
a medium heat, add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 6 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften. Put the softened vegetables into a food processor with the other stuffing ingredients, season with salt and pepper and blitz until the mixture is just about coming together.

Step 2: Spread the mixture out on a baking tray and bake for about 40 minutes, turning and stirring it halfway through, until crispy. Take out of the oven and allow to cool.

Step 3: To make the cranberry sauce, combine the cornflour with the water. Tip the cranberries into a saucepan, add the cornflour mixture, orange zest and juice, sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Place over a medium heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the cranberries are softened but still hold their shape. Remove from the heat and leave the sauce to cool – it will thicken up – then place in the fridge until needed.

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Step 4: While the stuffing is cooking, crack on with everything else. Heat a little sunflower oil in
a frying pan over a medium heat, add the turkey sausages and fry for 8-10 minutes, or until they are well cooked through. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Step 5: Put all the ingredients for the cheese mayo – except the chives – in a food processor and blitz until smooth, then stir through the chives. Slice the rolls in half and spread with butter.

Step 6: Heat a frying pan over
a medium heat. Once hot, put
the rolls face down in the pan
for 30 seconds to a minute, until golden brown. Place a turkey sausage in each toasted bun,
top with cranberry sauce, a couple of clusters of the stuffing and squiggles of the cheese and chive mayo. Sprinkle with some chopped chives and serve. 

Make a Persian-style side

Iranian rice salad

Yara loves to bring her Iranian heritage to the table, and this Thanksgiving rice salad from British-Iranian chef Sabrina Ghayour mixes traditional butternut squash and dried cranberries with pomegranate and toasted almonds. 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Add some plant-based goodness to your festive feast.


(Serves 6-8)

1-1.2kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2.5cm cubes

Olive oil

3 tbsps cumin seeds

150g basmati rice

150g red Camargue rice

200g dried cranberries

100g toasted flaked almonds

100g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 large red onion,
very finely diced 

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed orange

2 tsps ground cinnamon

4-5 tbsps red wine vinegar

4 heaped tbsps clear honey

Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

300g pomegranate seeds 

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Step 1: Preheat the oven to 220oC/200oC fan/gas mark 7. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Step 2: Place the butternut squash pieces on the prepared baking tray and drizzle them generously with olive oil. Scatter over the cumin seeds and season well with salt and pepper. Mix everything together using your hands to ensure each cube is evenly coated with the oil and seasoning. Then roast for 40-45 minutes, or until the edges of the butternut squash are browned and charred. Once cooked, set aside to cool.

Step 3: Bring 2 saucepans of water to the boil and cook the 2 different varieties of rice according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold running water until completely cool, then drain well.

Step 4: Put the cranberries, almonds, parsley, onion and rice into a large bowl and mix well.
Add the orange zest and juice, cinnamon, 5 tablespoons of
olive oil, the vinegar, honey and
a generous amount of salt and pepper and stir well. Gently incorporate the cubes of cooled butternut squash into the salad along with the pomegranate seeds. Arrange the salad in a large bowl and serve at room temperature. 

Switch up a staple

Smashed sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes topped with marshmallow (yes, really) are an American Thanksgiving favourite. Make them more tooth-friendly by swapping in a sweetener from across the border: maple syrup.

Preparation time: 0 minutes, plus cooling time 

Cooking time: 1 hour

Don't wait til dessert to get your sweet fix.


(Serves 4-6)

750g small sweet potatoes

250g sour cream

2 tbsps lime or lemon juice

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsps olive oil

90g unsalted butter

80ml pure maple syrup

45g toasted buckwheat groats (kasha)

2 tbsps thyme leaves 

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Step 1: Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

Step 2: Using a fork, prick the sweet potatoes all over so they don’t explode in the oven (which can happen). Place directly on an oven rack and bake until totally tender, 50-60 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool.

Step 3: Meanwhile, combine
the sour cream and lime juice and season with salt and pepper. The mixture should taste fairly tart and salty. Smear on the bottom of
a serving platter.

Step 4: Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, use the palm of your hand to crush them slightly.

Step 5: Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Working in batches, add the sweet potatoes, pressing lightly to make contact with the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook until lightly crisped on one side, 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until crisped on the other side. Transfer the sweet potatoes to the serving platter and repeat with any stragglers.

Step 6: Without wiping out the pan, add the maple syrup and cook until it starts to caramelise, 2 minutes. Drizzle over the sweet potatoes. Top with the buckwheat, thyme and lots of flaky salt. 

From Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food For Having Friends Over by Alison Roman (£22, Hardie Grant)

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Photography: Haarala Hamilton, Kris Kirkham, Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriot


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