With Thanksgiving just two weeks away, we’re rounding up ALL of our family’s favorite Thanksgiving recipes shared on the blog over the years.
In addition to hopefully inspiring your holiday menus, each of us also has a story to share about memorable Thanksgivings from days past, which we’ll add at the end. Let’s get started!
The Woks of Life Family’s Thanksgiving Recipes
We’ll go in rough order on these 24 Thanksgiving recipes, from turkey, to sides, to desserts, all the way to what to do with the leftovers!
1. Grandpa’s Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
Bill’s father was a professional chef working in the Catskills and eventual owner of a Chinese restaurant. This is his Thanksgiving turkey recipe, and we use it every year. It has never failed to produce an incredibly moist, flavorful bird, and there’s no complicated liquid brine or spice mix involved!
We’ve received messages from many Woks of Life readers who have also made this their family’s annual go-to Thanksgiving turkey recipe.
2. Cantonese Roast Turkey
A combination of Chinese and American traditions, this recipe applies the expert roasting techniques for Cantonese roast duck and chicken to a Thanksgiving bird. Try this for a slightly non-traditional, but no less flavorful Thanksgiving dinner.
3. Five Spice Thanksgiving Turkey
This five spice roast turkey with giblet onion gravy is a surprisingly traditional Asian-inspired approach to the Thanksgiving bird. Chinese five spice powder actually combines many of the spices we love during the holidays, including cinnamon, star anise, fennel, and cloves.
This juicy, richly flavored turkey will still be at home next to all your traditional American Thanksgiving recipes, while offering a little something new to your guests.
4. Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Stovetop Stuffing
This is a Thanksgiving turkey recipe for smaller celebrations and no-fuss cooks, and includes both the turkey and stuffing in one! If you don’t need to cook a whole bird or particularly enjoy white meat, this turkey breast recipe comes out perfectly juicy for both dinner and sandwiches the next day!
5. Smoked Turkey Legs
For those of you in warmer climates (or those in cold climates willing to brave the weather in the name of grilling), this smoked turkey leg recipe is for you! Smoky, juicy, and every bit as good as the theme park and festival turkey legs you may already love.
6. Perfect Turkey Gravy: 3 Ways
At a loss every year for how to achieve the perfect gravy to grace your turkey and stuffing? This is our complete guide to making gravy on Thanksgiving, with three different “enhancements.” Check out the recipe to see what they are!
7. Cheesy Scallion Mashed Potatoes
A deliciously creamy, cheesy change-up from your run-of-the-mill mashed potatoes, this is one of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes.
8. Crispy Hasselback Potatoes with Spicy Bacon Scallion Relish
Make sure you make a few too many of these crispy hasselback potatoes with spicy bacon & scallion relish, because everyone will be fighting over them!
9. Sweet Potato Gnocchi Bake with Bacon & Sage
If you’re not a fan of traditional candied sweet potatoes, but you still want sweet potatoes to make an appearance at your Thanksgiving table, give these homemade sweet potato gnocchi a try! Baked in a creamy sauce with bacon and fresh sage, your guests will toast to your brilliance in the kitchen!
10. Sticky Rice Stuffing (Gluten-free!)
This sticky rice stuffing is a great gluten-free option for those with Celiacs or a gluten-sensitivity (just use gluten-free soy sauce. It’s also SUPER delicious and INCREDIBLE with gravy.
11. Curried Butternut Squash Soup
This richly flavored, ever-so-slightly exotic tasting soup will brighten up your Thanksgiving table with a little something new. The soup is delicious, but the REAL start might be the croutons slathered with red curry butter.
12. Classic Stuffed Mushrooms
A classic, bordering on retro recipe from Bill’s youthful days cooking for large parties at the Holiday Inn in the Catskills, these stuffed mushrooms with buttery breadcrumbs are exactly the savory, crowd-pleasing appetizer or side dish you’ve been looking for.
13. Cheesy Kale Sweet Potato Tart
This combination of antioxidant-rich veg, paired with sweet potatoes, cheese, and lovely pastry makes a delicious and somewhat different seasonal side for Thanksgiving!
14. Miso-Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables
This is a show-stopping yet simple vegetable side dish. The key is using root vegetables with lots of different colors––multi-colored carrots and golden beets as well as red beets. They look like jewels on the plate!
15. Savory Corn Muffins with Sage, Bacon, Squash & Cheese
Everything you’ve ever wanted in your Thanksgiving bread basket, exquisite served warm with whipped, salted butter.
16. Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Adapted from our ever-popular milk bread recipe, these pumpkin dinner rolls are festive, fluffy, and soft. They’re reminiscent of Hawaiian sweet rolls, with a little holiday twist. Serve with softened butter, and everyone at the table will be in dinner roll heaven!
17. Butternut Squash Pie
Thanksgiving isn’t complete without dessert! This butternut squash pie is tastier than pumpkin pie made with canned puree, because of course, the squash is fresh! Make it over the top with a dollop of cinnamon vanilla whipped cream.
18. Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake
This is a perennial fall favorite, wonderful with a cup of hot coffee at the end of the Thanksgiving meal.
19. Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes with Maple Vanilla Buttercream
If you’ve got kids coming over for Thanksgiving, they’ll go gaga over these luscious and adorable pumpkin cupcakes. The adults will go crazy for them too, for that matter!
20. Cinnamon Sugar Apple Fritters
Apple fritters are so much easier to make than donuts! Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, this surprisingly light sweet treat won’t last long on the dessert table.
21. Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Congee
If we have a turkey carcass after Thanksgiving dinner, this is what we do with it the next day––a big pot of congee with Thanksgiving flavors makes the ultimate comforting breakfast.
22. Next-Day Thanksgiving Pastries
All you need is a pack of puff pastry, shredded cheese, and some Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes) to make these out-of-this-world pastries. Ideal for breakfast the next morning, or as a next-day lunch with a simple mixed green salad.
23. Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Lo Mein
This lo mein made with leftover shredded turkey will be a delicious change from Thanksgiving food. Make sure to serve with chili oil!
24. Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Ramen
Give a bowl of this warming Thanksgiving turkey ramen a try for lunch the next day. It’s pretty much a slam dunk of comfort and happiness!
Judy Leung: “Finding the George Washington Bridge”
I still remember that Thanksgiving over thirty years ago like it was yesterday.
It was our second year in America as new immigrants. My grandmother, who had been in New York by herself for years, worked to get all five of her adult children and their families from China to the United States, and by the time we got here, she was eager to introduce us to all things American.
In due time, we came face-to-face with hamburgers, pizza, chocolate milk, and peanut butter. (Toast with peanut butter has since become my preferred breakfast item, but I remember that no one liked pizza, because we all thought the cheese smelled bad. Those were different times.)
The big plan that year was to get everyone to my grandmother’s apartment in Monticello, NY for Thanksgiving. My parents had just bought their first car, an old, raggedy Chevy station wagon that they’d paid $500 for––their very first big ticket item.
As it turned out, the unforgettable memories of that Thanksgiving weren’t about turkey or stuffing, but the fact that it took us four tries to drive across the George Washington Bridge. Driving North on FDR Drive, our eyes were glued to the big green signs over the road, searching for a few familiar words. A couple times, we thought we’d made it across, but then that GW Bridge sign would appear again, and we knew we’d gotten it wrong.
None of us could utter two English words to ask for directions, and as we watched all the other cars speed by, it was like we were on a foreign planet––worried that the old car would break down, that we’d never find our way, and worse, that we wouldn’t make it to dinner on time.
Eventually, by some miracle of navigation, we did make it to my grandmother’s apartment, where we were able to have some traditional Thanksgiving leftovers for a late dinner. These included: a Shanghai braised pork shank, stir-fried leafy greens, rice, and bottles of everyone’s new favorite beverage, Sunkist orange soda.
There was a turkey, of course, but at the time, we had no idea what we were doing when it came to roasting a turkey. We’d never seen a bird that large, let alone cooked one. The poor turkey was a bit charred on the outside and still undercooked near the bone. We’d carve whatever edible pieces we could find, and the rest would go towards making soup the next day.
My memories of that Thanksgiving always remind me of how far we’ve come since then. The road has been tough, but we walked it. A shout-out to all immigrant families, wherever you may be! You have my utmost respect and admiration for your bravery and drive to achieve a better life in this new land we proudly call home.
Sarah Leung: “A Very Hey Arnold Thanksgiving”
I’m eight years old, and my top 5 concerns in life are as follows:
- Convincing my parents that my six-year-old sister and I are responsible enough for a puppy. (They are less than convinced.)
- Maintaining my position as Posh Spice in the power plays that regularly develop in any and all attempts to reenact scenes from Spice World.
- Figuring out what Andy Buki sharing his goldfish with me at snack time really means.
- Coercing every guest at Thanksgiving Dinner to go through the exercise of saying what they’re thankful for before the turkey is carved.
It all began a few days earlier, when I’d seen the Thanksgiving episode of that best of 90s Nickelodeon cartoons, Hey Arnold. Long story short, the characters are in a Rockwellian school play set at an idyllic Thanksgiving table. Then they each take turns saying what they’re most thankful for in a vaguely Brady Bunch sort of way.
Of course, eight-year-old me eats this up (kind of missing the point of the rest of the episode), and I proceed to distract everyone from the food preparation, the football, and the familial chatter to explain that they will be expected to announce at the table that night what they were most thankful for.
I poke and I prod, trying to get the attention of my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents. I try to convince my sister and cousins that it’s not a dumb idea. My determination even extends to an attempt to take dictation on one of my dad’s yellow legal pads, to ensure that if someone were to forget what they were going to say, I would be there with the right cues to remind them, and thus save the whole endeavor.
Of course, amidst the kerfuffle of me going around alerting everyone of the public speaking portion of our Thanksgiving program, I give no thought at all as to what I’m actually thankful for. By the time dinner rolls around, I’m beaming at my master plan’s triumphant success when I realize it’s my turn. And that everyone else had already taken all the really good answers, i.e. “health,” “family,” “this delicious turkey,” etc. etc. In short, I had no idea what I was going to say.
Not sure what happened next. I probably just started stuffing mashed potatoes in my mouth and mumbled something incoherent…like in those Snickers commercials. Typical eight-year-old me.
Bill Leung: “Two Roast Chickens”
Growing up in upstate New York with immigrant parents, the holidays were always an interesting time. In addition to traditional Chinese holidays, we always celebrated western and American holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. But early on, when my sisters and I were young, there were still quite a few missing links when it came to Western holiday origins, traditions, and of course, food.
I vividly remember one Thanksgiving dinner conversation many years ago. My parents had invited a few friends over for Thanksgiving dinner, and a discussion began about how the Thanksgiving tradition began.
One of my father’s friends said something like, “Yep, the American soldiers were on the battlefield and were literally starving to death when over the ridge appeared a flock of turkeys! They had those turkeys for dinner, thus saving their lives, and that’s why Americans eat turkey every year!”
As children, we learned to listen and not speak unless spoken to. But I had to respectfully disagree. My response went something like this:
“Uh, not quite, uncle. It was the Native Americans who helped the pilgrims farm and hunt. They celebrated after the harvest with a big, thankful meal of turkey and pumpkins.” I probably got a stern look from my parents for that one.
Similar to Judy’s early Thanksgiving experiences, we would have turkey, rice, and stir-fried vegetables for dinner. I felt like Peppermint Patty in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, when Charlie Brown serves toast, pretzels, and jelly beans for dinner. “Where’s the mashed potatoes? Where’s the cranberry sauce? Where’s the pumpkin pie???”
When I was 11 years old, my civil engineer uncle took me to his workplace the day after Thanksgiving to see a NYC fire station being built in Chinatown. A friend in the office trailer asked my uncle what we did for Thanksgiving, and my uncle muttered, “We had two roast chickens.” I think the guy took pity on me and offered me his slice of pumpkin pie, neatly wrapped in plastic.
When I shoved the first bite into my mouth, I immediately fell in love with it. Needless to say, as my sisters and I grew up, we got more involved in the kitchen and would help to prepare more traditional American Thanksgiving dishes for the holiday.
As history tends to repeat itself, our girls now take the lead when it comes to cooking Thanksgiving dinner and experimenting with new sides and desserts every year. Whenever we have pumpkin pie, I always silently thank that guy from the office trailer!
Kaitlin Leung: “To Grandmother’s
House Flushing Apartment We Go”
When the family temporarily relocated to Beijing seven years ago (i.e. my parents, and eventually Sarah), things were understandably a little bit weird. School breaks and holidays relocated from the suburbs of New Jersey to the crowded streets of Flushing, Queens, where my grandparents and my mom’s aunt and cousins live.
Fall breaks were spent shopping in Long Island and cruising the New World Mall Food Court. Train rides and the Chinatown bus between Philly and New York became a regular occurrence, to the point where I could leave class at 3:50, sprint to the subway, run through the train station, buy a ticket, and make it onto a 4:12 train with a surprising level of punctuality.
In spite of all this, when the first Thanksgiving without the family rolled around, I was feeling a bit depressed about the turn of events—this would be our first Thanksgiving without being together, while I was left in Flushing to scrounge up a traditional meal as the sole qualified person for the job.
So it was that I coordinated with my grandma to buy a turkey in advance and prep it with salt, pepper, and garlic. To my cousins, I allocated some side dishes. And in Philadelphia, drowning in self-pity and longing for the gourmet experience of a Thanksgiving at home, I hatched the rather hairbrained idea to make 2 pies, completely from scratch, carry them onto the train to New York, and THEN carry them on the subway to Flushing.
In my cramped apartment kitchen, I whipped up pecan and sweet potato pies. Both were, to my surprise, 100% perfect specimens. What I did not anticipate, however, was the fact that by the time I arrived at the train station, I was sweating from balancing my pies, a backpack, and an empty suitcase (for taking home leftovers and Black Friday spoils, obviously), and by the time I arrived at my grandma’s apartment, I was just about ready to collapse before I had a chance to prep the stuffing for the next day’s feast.
Despite some operational fumbles, dinner eventually went off without a hitch. We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, gravy (which I made for the first time! Normally my only job would be to add the pepper while my dad handled the heavy lifting), Cantonese roast duck risotto (it was a Chinese Thanksgiving after all), and yes, pie with plenty of ice cream.
Was it weird? Yes. Was it kind of awesome and, as cheesy as it sounds, something to be thankful for? Definitely.
We hope you enjoyed these Thanksgiving recipes and memories. Happy Thanksgiving to all of our extended Woks of Life family!
Note: This post was originally published in November 2015, but we have since updated it with ALL of the Thanksgiving recipes we’ve posted up to November 2019!