Clean eating may seem challenging around the holidays, but the truth is, there are tons of crowd-pleasing recipes made from wholesome ingredients that are worthy of any celebration or gathering. And you don’t need to spend hours searching online to find them. I already did!
As a clean eating expert, I scoured the web and compiled this list of side dishes, mains, and desserts just for Sonima readers. You won’t find any refined sugar or processed ingredients in these recipes. Instead, everything uses nutritious vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, lean proteins, and flavorful herbs and spices, so you can feel good serving them to your guests.
Pick one or two dishes to add to your Thanksgiving meal, or create an entire clean eating menu. Either way you’ll not only satisfy everyone’s taste buds, you’ll also be supporting their health. Here’s to a delicious and nutritious Thanksgiving!
Side Dishes: Vegetables and Fruit
Green Beans with Garlic and Pomegranate Seeds
Who doesn’t love a simple side dish that takes only a few minutes to whip up? Just char green beans and then toss with sweet balsamic vinegar and fresh pomegranate seeds. It’s all ready in 10 minutes yet looks super impressive.
Shaved Carrots with Charred Dates
Dates make a wonderful natural sweetener and also are a good source of fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants. Cook them until soft and blackened, and then toss with carrots, blood oranges, and lime juice for a sweet-tangy salad that keeps you coming back for more. As a bonus, you can prep the carrots the day before your gathering.
Maple Roast Veggies
Thanksgiving meals can be a lot of brown and white. There’s nothing quite like this side dish to add a boatload of bright colors plus antioxidants to your holiday table. Toss carrots, bell peppers, delicata squash, and yellow onion with a touch of maple syrup and olive oil for the perfect hint of sweet to complement the vegetables and the rest of your meal.
Cranberry Orange Sauce
A Thanksgiving table isn’t complete without cranberry sauce, and when you see how simple it is to make from scratch—plus how much better it tastes—you’ll never go back to what comes out of a can! Adding orange juice means you can cut back on the sugar and get an extra dose of vitamin C. This is sure to please your palate whether you’re using it over turkey or roasted vegetables.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Lemon
Even if you despised Brussels sprouts when you were a kid, this recipe is sure to please your taste buds. Fresh lemon juice adds a nice contrast to the veggie, which is cooked until perfectly crisp yet tender. And all you need is four ingredients and 25 minutes, making this an ideal last-minute side dish to whip up while the rest of Thanksgiving dinner finishes cooking.
Sweet Potato Bites
This gorgeous recipe makes a great appetizer or a side dish any time of year. These cute little bites are loaded with flavors from sweet orange zest to spicy arugula, and the dairy-free cashew basil topping adds the perfect touch of creaminess.
Side Dishes: Stuffing, Grains, and Gravy
Easy Gluten-Free Stuffing
This gluten-free stuffing is easy to toss together a few hours before your guests arrive. The key is to use stale bread so that your side dish doesn’t turn out soggy. Dried apricots lend a touch of sweetness and potassium, but you can use any dried fruit you like.
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash Rings
These cute squash rings balance savory flavors like sage and quinoa with sweet apples, cranberries, and of course the star ingredient. Nutrition-wise, you’ll get some protein from the quinoa and walnuts along with a dose of fiber and antioxidants from the veggies and fruit. If you’re dairy-free, you can easily swap your favorite dairy-free cheese in place of the cheddar.
Vegan Cornbread Sage Stuffing
There’s something so cozy about cornbread stuffing that puts everyone in the holiday spirit. Plus, using fresh sage adds the perfect touch—feel free to use as much as you’d like for more flavor. You can make the cornbread and the stuffing ahead of time, too, which can be a lifesaver come Thanksgiving Day. If you can’t find spelt flour, use whole-wheat flour, which has loads more fiber than white flour.
Whole Grain Farro Stuffing With Miso Mushrooms
Farro is like a heartier and healthier rice that provides protein, fiber, iron, and other nutrients. Here it’s mixed with mushrooms, carrots, and miso to make a filling stuffing that also contains a little bit of probiotics from the miso. This may not be your grandmother’s recipe, but everyone will love it just the same. Omit the cheese if you eat a dairy-free diet.
Wild Mushroom Gravy
Every Thanksgiving table needs an outstanding gravy, and this is by far one of the most delicious recipes I’ve tried. Oyster mushrooms lend that crave-worthy umami flavor that’s amazing poured over anything from mashed potatoes to turkey. They’re also a source of B vitamins that our bodies need for energy and healthy metabolism.
Wild Rice and Cider Cranberry Pilaf
Infused with the fresh holiday flavors of cinnamon, cranberries, and apple cider, this pilaf certainly isn’t traditional but is so exceptional that it doubles as a main dish for vegetarians and vegans. Take the time to let the onions brown so you get those amazing caramelized notes.
Grain-Free Sweet Potato Flatbread
This is one of my favorite recipes, and I receive dozens of emails about this recipe every fall. It’s quite magical how you can make flatbread out of sweet potatoes without using any eggs! This bread has the consistency and texture of cornbread, but it’s sliced into thinner pieces so you can easily add your favorite spread like hummus or pesto on top. It is also an incredible option to make turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving.
Vegan Mushroom Gravy Pie
This take on shepherd’s pie is almost too beautiful to serve—be sure to take a photo before everyone digs in! You top a comforting combination of lentils and mushrooms with garlicky mashed potatoes dotted with kale. Talk about a meeting of nutritional powerhouses! There’s fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals in every forkful.
Vegan Pumpkin Risotto
We eat with our eyes, and the bright orange color of this dish makes it fit right in with the holiday décor on your table. It’s also a sign of the beta carotene in the pumpkin, which fights free radicals and helps support healthy vision. But how does it taste? Wonderfully creamy with a hint of fall flavors like ginger and nutmeg.
Mini Vegetarian Pot Pies
Yes, these perfectly portioned pies take some time. But one bite, and you’ll see they’re worth the effort. The filling is loaded with flavor from seasonal veggies—carrots, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and rutabaga—plus chickpeas, which provide extra protein and fiber. To make things easier, you can always make the crust dough one day and then finish up the recipe the next.
Savory Thyme and Garlic Roast Turkey
Roasting turkey on Thanksgiving can present a problem: You want to add flavor, but you also don’t want the bird to be so flavorful that it clashes with the other dishes on the table. This recipe showcases how a few simple, common ingredients can take your turkey from basic to four-star. Fresh thyme, garlic, lemon, and onion add zing while complementing your side dishes. Mission accomplished.
Nutty Crusted Butternut Squash Bowl with 10-Spice Roasted Chickpeas
A salad may not seem substantial enough for a holiday dinner, but this option satisfies while leaving room for dessert. Coating butternut squash in a mix of nuts and seeds gives the veggie amazing crunch and provides some omega-3 fatty acids. Add spicy roasted chickpeas and marinated kale, and you have an orchestra of amazing flavor and nutrition. Save any leftover chickpeas for a healthy snack.
Spatchcocked Turkey with Anise and Orange
Also known as butterflying, spatchcocking is when you remove the backbone and lay the bird flat to cook. It often leads to juicier meat and faster cooking. Let the turkey sit with the orange zest, thyme, rosemary, and anise brine as recommended. That time helps prevent a dry turkey and infuses tons of flavor.
Spiced Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Every Thanksgiving table needs a soup to round out all the hearty options. This one is great, as it doesn’t require a lot of active cooking time. Plus, you get the anti-inflammatory powers of turmeric as well as stomach-calming ginger—something many of us need after a holiday dinner.
Spiced Vegan Butter Chickpeas
This chickpea dish is a one-pot meal that gets its creaminess from cashews and is loaded with holiday spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and nutmeg. It’s sure to warm and fill everyone up, and it goes great with whatever dinner rolls you’re serving.
Clean Eating Pumpkin Pie
It’s not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. This version has extra fiber in the flaky crust thanks to the spelt flour and oats. But the filling is the winner: It’s made with almond butter and maple syrup rather than eggs and refined sugar.
One Bowl Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins
These cute muffins look decadent, but they’re pretty healthy. You have potassium from pumpkin puree, antioxidants from cocoa, and fiber from oats, all mixed with a treat: chocolate chips! Serve as dessert, and top any leftovers with creamy almond butter for a snack the next day.
Pumpkin Spiced Apple Pie
For some, apple pie makes Thanksgiving. This dessert has pumpkin pie spice in both the crust and the filling for flavor in every single bite, plus there’s not an overload of added sugars. Just be warned: Your guests may crowd into the kitchen because the aromas from the oven will have them hungry for a taste!
One Bowl Pumpkin Bread
This festive pumpkin bread pairs well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. But the best thing is that it all comes together in one bowl before you transfer the batter to a baking pan. The fewer dishes to clean on the holidays, the better! It’s best to serve cool, so feel free to make it the night before your big meal.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Angel Food Cake
Light and fluffy angel food cake is a nice alternative to richer desserts. A mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger makes this perfect for the holiday. Serve with fresh fruit on top and a pinch of ground cinnamon.
Healthy Pecan Pie
“Healthy” and “pecan pie” may seem incongruous. But trust me, this is better for you than most store versions, which often use corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and loads of refined sugar. Plus, pecans are a source of fiber, manganese, thiamin, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and omega 3s.
No-Bake Pumpkin Chia Cheesecake
The oven sees enough action on holidays. Let dessert come together in the freezer. Your guests will never know this creamy cheesecake is made from cashews, coconut milk, and pumpkin puree without a drop of dairy. The crust is amazing on its own. Made from dates, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds, it can double as a healthy snack bar.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Everyone loves a cookie on the dessert table, and these soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies are easy to make and filled with all the classic flavors. Chances are you have most if not all of the ingredients on hand, so go ahead and whip up a batch.
Paleo Pumpkin Pie Bars
You don’t need to be on a Paleo diet to love every morsel of these bars, which are a cousin of pumpkin pie. The crust is made from nuts rather than grains, and the filling contains coconut milk and eggs. All of those healthy fats create a rich, velvety texture—a single bar will leave you happily full. For extra decadence, you can add the coconut butter drizzle on top.
>>Amie Valpone is the founder of AmieValpone.com and best-selling author of the cookbook Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body.