As foodies, Thanksgiving is obviously one of our all-time favorite holidays. Thankfully, America has no shortage of holidays dedicated almost purely to eating (Lookin’ at you, July 4), but this perfect day dedicated to our wonderful, would-be national bird definitely takes the top spot in our hearts.
This year (if you’re following along on Instagram, you know this), we’ve found ourselves in Shanghai for the holiday. But of course, in between slurping big bowls of noodle soup and lots of Shanghai-style hong shao rou, i.e., braised pork belly, we had to fit in a little turkey for a truly cross-cultural Chinese American Thanksgiving. We’ll be having the traditional turkey this year, along with a Chinese-style goose, and whatever other odd fusions of traditional sides we can throw together with family here in Shanghai.
That said, in the lead up to our own holiday feast, we thought we’d offer up some thoughts for traditional Thanksgiving favorites, and some out-of-the-box Asian-inspired options that we love. Consider these 22 recipes to pull off an Asian American Thanksgiving, and when I say that I do mean Asian-American as well as Asian / American depending on what combination of recipes you decide to make. ;)
But before we dive in, I thought I’d share a few cardinal rules to remember when making Thanksgiving dinner:
- Make sure to thaw your turkey, bring it up to room temperature, and marinade it (at least) overnight! Spend the energy you’d normally exert over the course of 4-6 hours of roasting time sweating over the bird on these prep steps instead, and you’ll have a perfectly cooked bird in just 2-3 hours.
- Stick to a game plan for tackling sides and turkey! Better yet, make your friends and family bring them over to your place. No shame in emailing this post as needed ;)
- Pre-make and pre-prepare things, but don’t put too much stock in it! Generally, there’s a lot of pressure to pre-make things and use shortcuts to create a *seemingly* effortless Thanksgiving experience, but I can never figure out why people want Thanksgiving to dominate their thoughts for 3-4 days straight when it can all come together easily the night before and the day of. Plus, we say half the fun of the holiday is having all hands on deck to pull together a delicious meal. The 40 minutes before mealtime is always the most fun, because at our house everyone has to drag themselves away from the football game or their phones to assemble the sides, pull the turkey out of the oven, set the table, toss the rolls into the bread basket, make the gravy, and, of course, crack open a trusted can of cranberry sauce! (Yes, we’re those people, and we’re not afraid to admit it.)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!
Can’t-go-wrong, classic turkey
This is of course, Grandpa’s Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey, which if you’ve been following the blog from the beginning, you know by now is our go-to. With a recipe perfected by my grandpa on my dad’s side–head chef of the Holiday Inn circa the 1970s–this recipe is perfect and effortless. You can wave a wet brine, dry brine, orange/cranberry/herb hoopla in our faces and we’ll almost always come back to this simple combination of oil, butter, salt, pepper, and garlic, because it is that good.
An easy turkey breast for beginners and small parties
Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Stove-top Stuffing has your turkey and your stuffing done in one pan. This is great for smaller gatherings and folks who prefer white meat! And if you’re If you’re looking for that super easy and classic stuffing flavor, this is the way to go. We’ve made it with fresh cubed bread and with the stuff from the bag (a holiday time guilty pleasure, what can we say), and either way it works like a charm. If you go the route of the pre-packaged stuff, just add 2-3 cups of turkey or chicken stock and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes per the package instructions.
A Cantonese, “is-this-from Chinatown?” Turkey
Honey Glazed Cantonese Turkey is marinated in the perfect blend of hoisin sauce, sweet bean sauce, garlic, and shallot, and ginger, and stuffed with aromatic tangerine peels. If your crew is clamoring for something different, having a Thanksgiving table with a full Asian twist might be the way to go. Lightly sweet and aromatic turkey goes great with some Asian inspired sides (we’ll get to those in a minute), or even a selection of any of your favorite Chinese recipes from the blog!
An Asian Holiday Spice (AKA five spiced) Turkey
This Five Spice Roast Turkey with Giblet Onion Gravy lets the glorious blend that is five spice powder really shine–cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cloves, and Sichuan peppercorns are perfection–i.e., a regular lineup of classic holiday spices (okay, so minus the slightly tongue-numbing fifth one). That said, this turkey lends itself well to a traditional feast or a more experimental fusion dinner. Whatever you make, don’t forget to pour over lots of perfect giblet onion gravy.
If you’re not here to gobble America’s favorite gobbler despite the Thanksgiving holiday, check out our other holiday favorites like Five-Spice Roasted Goose, Italian Stuffed Rolled & Roasted Porchetta, The Perfect Prime Rib Roast, or Plum-Sauce Glazed Ham!
A good Thanksgiving meal hinges on the mashed potatoes if you ask me. I’m always worried about having the right proportions of mashed potato to turkey relative to the quantity of people we’re serving, which means I’m always the designated masher of the family. I’ve made mountains and mountains of mashed potatoes over the years, and this cheesy version with cheddar and scallion is a favorite.
If you’re looking for something a little bit lighter than roasted veggies or your favorite green bean casserole, try this epic Caesar salad. My take on the dressing takes a more is more approach, with plenty of garlic, anchovies, dijon mustard, and extra virgin olive oil to yield a rich and flavorful dressing that gets tossed with a blend of Tuscan kale, romaine, parmesan shavings, and crispy croutons.
If you’re going full Norman Rockwell for Thanksgiving, what could be better than a tray of perfect stuffed mushrooms? Buttery herbed breadcrumbs and delicately roasted mushrooms makes for a delicious bite with cocktails before dinner.
If you have an ambitious friend or family member who’s badgering you about what they can bring, might I suggest this gooey sweet potato gnocchi bake with bacon and sage? In recent years our Thanksgiving menu always includes a big tray of molten mac n’ cheese, and this is an excellent evolution of that tradition. And if you want to take some of the assembly out of the equation, use store-bought sweet potato gnocchi instead!
A follow-up to the mac n’ cheese idea is this butternut squash lasagna, which is made with a wonderfully hearty blend of butternut squash–stirred into the béchamel sauce, kale and mushrooms. Looking back at Sarah’s original recipe, I’d suggest adding a pinch or two of nutmeg to make this side dish truly warming and festive.
Sides with an Asian Twist
So what can you eat with a Chinese Thanksgiving turkey? This Sticky Rice Stuffing is a perfect candidate. Made with generous amounts of mushroom and Chinese sausage, it’s far tastier than your standard stuffing, plus with the swap of tamari for regular soy sauce, it’s fully gluten free!
Everyone’s seen the standard butternut squash soup show up on the Thanksgiving table, but this curried version with crispy and buttery red curry croutons is sure to get people’s attention. Plus the whole thing comes together in the blender: a pan of roasted squash, red curry, coconut milk, and broth get blended together until smooth, and that’s it!
This is a special holiday side that takes just a little extra effort to pull together, but yields wonderfully crisp layers of potato. The whole thing gets complemented by a big handful of a bacon scallion relish with cumin and red chili flakes inspired by the tastes of Xinjiang.
These Roasted Root Vegetables are a revelation! It’s all too easy to fall back on boring old herbs, salt, and pepper for roasted veggies or your go-to infusion of bacon. This recipe yields wonderfully umami roasted. vegetables–the miso flavor is quite subtle but undoubtedly stand out. Plus they’ll go perfectly with your Asian-inspired turkey!
For a little pre-dinner snack, fry up some classic cream cheese wontons, as an alternative to a standard cheese board. But be advised, if your family and friends are anything like ours, we’re pretty sure folks are going to be snatching these up as they come out of pan.
Another great appetizer to get people in the right state of mind for their Chinese turkey feast are perfectly crispy shrimp toasts. With the exact right blend of pork and shrimp tried and true by my grandpa’s expert hand. Don’t be surprised if you get requests to make these a new holiday tradition!
Gravy is the GLUE that holds your entire dinner together. You mess up the gravy and you may as well negate everything you’ve done. Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little…/ a lot. But gravy is the crucial last leg of the race, and you don’t want to accidentally mess it up! We’ve got a comprehensive guide to three kinds of gravy to make sure there’s plenty of liquid gold for mashed potato lakes and turkey drenchings, with tips for how to pull off the exact right color and viscosity.
Sarah Our family takes our gravy very, very seriously, so it’s a high stakes operation…
So what are you going to give your guests to make little mini turkey sandwiches with and mop their plates with at the end of the dinner? We suggest these buttery soft pumpkin dinner rolls. The consistency is as if a potato bun and a loaf of milk bread came together and had a lil holiday baby. A little pumpkin in the dough plus a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds adds a festive touch. In short, delicious.
Pumpkin English Muffins make for perfect morning fuel to ensure your Thanksgiving feast is a success. Achieving the perfectly craggy English muffin at home is far easier than it seems. Plus, you can always throw one into the toaster the morning after Thanksgiving, and assemble a little turkey sandwich. (You’re welcome.)
This is a new take on a pumpkin dessert that’s filled with all the flavors of fall–pumpkin and plenty of spices make this simple little single layer cake an impressive but easy sweet for your dessert table. What’s more, it’s got the light texture and flavor that you need when you’ve already downed a huge plate of turkey.
Given the trends these days in how people eat, I *know* you’ve got at least one practicing vegetarian or devout vegan or just-trying-it-to-see-what-it’s-like dieter or lactose intolerant friend/cousin/aunt/uncle/sibling/etc. coming to dinner that you’ll be worrying about. This Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Silk Tart is the most delicious vegan dessert–made with almond milk, silken tofu, chocolate, and peanut butter. It’s SO GOOD. I’ll never say no to chocolate, and this is a lighter but still rich and satisfying recipe. If you want to make it gluten-free, my advice would be to substitute the graham crackers in the crust for your favorite gluten free cookies.
These swirly pumpkin and molten chocolate brownies are a sheer delight. Layers of pumpkin and chocolate bake together to form a wonderful crisp brownie crust, and the pattern is sure to get you a few oohs and aahs.
Over the years, I’ve realized that lots of people don’t really love the taste of pumpkin–nay, they go so far as to hate the taste of pumpkin! And it’s fair given how many other lovely seasonal gourds and flavors there are out there. Take this butternut squash pie for instance–it yields a lovely classic-looking pie with a slightly different flavor. I also love sweet potato, which I’m guessing you could substitute into this favorite recipe of Sarah’s, but don’t tell her I gave you the idea…