The best part of every Thanksgiving meal is the usual array of side dishes dotting every corner of the table. There are crowd favorites like mashed potatoes and stuffing, and then there are the borderline controversial dishes like candied yams or the gelatinous green bean casserole that makes the menu each year. And while it’s entertaining to debate whether canned cranberry sauce is sublime or an outright abomination, it might be a good idea to rethink what side dishes will be accompanying this year’s main course.
Searching for new Thanksgiving recipes usually churns out similar results: a starchy potato dish, a salad with a tangy vinaigrette, or yet another pumpkin-related dish that we probably didn’t need. So even though we respect the traditions of Thanksgiving dinner, we believe that our tables should accurately reflect who we are and the flavors of our home kitchens. Here are nine Latin American side dishes that can bring some needed flare and sabor to this year’s acción de gracias.
Rajas con crema
This is a Mexican taquiza classic that is both decadent and very simple to make. Roasted, peeled, and sliced poblano chiles are cooked with sauteed onions, fresh corn, and a healthy amount of Mexican crema. If you’re in the mood for some more dairy, feel free to add queso cotija, quesillo, or even Monterey jack, and enjoy with some warm tortillas.
Stuffed tomatoes have become associated with Argentinian cuisine, but this dish can also be found all over the world from, Turkey to Italy. The South American version typically consists of carefully scooping out the inside of a tomato to create a natural bowl, and then mixing the pulp with other ingredients like cooked rice, tuna, mayo, carrots, and olives. Place your rice and tuna salad back into the tomato shells and you have a very customizable salad bowl that’s entirely edible too.
Pão de queijo
Brazilians love their pão de queijo, and we can’t blame them. These cheese-flavored bread rolls are delicious and the perfect replacement for the usual Thanksgiving biscuit. The cheese is rolled into the dough rather than stuffed inside for melting, making these pieces of bread full of cheesy flavor but without being too decadent. Enjoy with coffee or as a side dish to a hearty meal.
Causa de atún
Some might think that mashed potatoes couldn’t get any better, but they can, and it’s called causa. This Peruvian dish is a layered casserole of cold mashed potatoes seasoned with yellow ají for color and spice. After spreading a base layer of mash, add layers of fresh avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and your choice of protein. This can be anything from shredded chicken, canned tuna, or ahi tuna tossed with spicy mayo. When it comes to causa, the delicious possibilities are truly limitless.
Habichuelas guisadas are everyday food in the Dominican Republic and can be made from a variety of beans, whether pinto, black, or red. Your choice of beans gets boiled along with herbs like thyme, oregano, and cilantro, as well as onion, garlic, celery, bell peppers, and auyama, a type of pumpkin. While everything cooks together in your boiling pot, mash some of the beans to break the skin and create a creamier stew. This bean side dish is packed with flavor and is good enough to get promoted to the full-on menu course.
Queso fundido con chorizo
Enjoying a bubbling pot of queso before the main course is always a great start to a meal, and even more so when it’s accompanied by the smoky flavor of chorizo. Once you cook your chorizo and strain any excess oil or fat, garnish your baking dish of shredded cheese with spicy ground sausage and pop everything into the oven. In a few minutes, you’ll have a very flavorful cheese dip that’s best enjoyed straight out of the oven with tortillas or chips.
Pastel de choclo
Pastel de choclo is a sweet and savory cornbread from Chile filled with meat, olives, and raisins. The recipe’s ground beef is seasoned with spices such as cumin and paprika before it’s mixed into a roux of flour and broth. Fresh, or frozen, corn is then sauteed with similar spices, basil, and milk before getting blended into a puree and thickened with cornstarch. Afterward, layer your meat mixture, add fixings like eggs, raisins, and olives, and finish it with your smooth corn layer. Bake until golden brown on top and enjoy the meat-filled cornbread dish.
Cachapas are a traditional Venezuelan street food full of delicious sweet corn flavor. They’re similar to pancakes, but with an interesting twist. Make your batter by blending fresh corn, eggs, milk, cornflour, salt, and sugar until smooth, and then allow it to sit for 10 minutes to reach the right consistency. Next, butter your griddle and make corn pancakes until golden brown on both sides. Fold the cakes in half with a slice of Venezuelan queso de mano in the middle (or mozzarella as a substitute) and watch the heat from the cachapa melt the soft cheese.
Rellenitos de plátano
These plantain-based empanadas are native to Guatemala and come filled with sweet frijol stuffing. Start your dough by boiling plantains in water with cinnamon sticks until fully cooked, roughly 10 minutes. Next, blend your black beans until smooth and cook with sugar, cinnamon, and cacao until they become a thick paste. Mash your plantains to form a dough and fill it with your frijoles before frying the rellenitos on both sides. Simple, delicious, and great for satisfying a mid-dinner sweet tooth.