Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

Terrific Themes For A Great Spread

turkey on platter surrounded by numerous side dishes

Creating a theme is always, always the way to go. All of our Thanksgiving menu ideas have a theme that will give cohesion to your Thanksgiving dinner menu.

Some of our Thanksgiving food ideas start with one of our traditional Thanksgiving table centerpiece ideas. Others are a little bit out of the box (in a good way, of course).

Careful, with these nifty menus you just might get pressured into holding the Thanksgiving feast every year!


Autumn Theme Menu

Nothing is more traditional for Thanksgiving than the colors of autumn: rich rust and reds; olive green with pops of orange and gold. And it's oh-so-easy to tie an autumn-themed traditional Thanksgiving menu to the numerous cornucopia ideas on our Thanksgiving Table Centerpiece page.

A great start for an autumn Thanksgiving menu idea is a deep olive green tablecloth. Add contrasting napkins in a variety of colors like rust, maroon, and golden brown. Place a table runner with an autumn leaf pattern down the center of your table; make sure it has most or all of these colors in it.

In the center of the runner add your wicker cornucopia. Fill it with pomegranates. You now have the warm golden brown of the wicker and the rich reds of the pomegranates.

All this Thanksgiving menu idea needs now is a little pop. Spray-paint some tiny pinecones in a warm pumpkin color and strategically place them throughout the cornucopia. Sprinkle a few around the outside of the cornucopia as well, along with some whole cranberries. Your stunning Thanksgiving table decoration will be a wonderful complement to the delectable food to come.

cranberry relish in large white serving spoon

Time to add to the reds of the cranberries used in your centerpiece. A series of small pumpkin-, rust-, and gold-colored bowls, each filled with a different cranberry relish, is perfect. One relish should be traditional, of course...can't do without jellied cranberry sauce. But for this Thanksgiving celebration, take a less-traveled road and spice up the other two cranberry relishes with any of the following:

  • orange marmalade
  • ginger
  • pineapple
  • cherries
  • lemon zest
  • almond slivers
  • red grapes
  • raspberry vinegar

Now let's move on to the side dishes of your Thanksgiving menu. Ideas to expand your color palette include serving orange sweet potatoes. Texture is as important as color in the fall menu, and whipped sweet potatoes are a wonderful, creamy addition on both fronts.

string beans with sauteed mushrooms

Next, include dark green beans sautéed with mushrooms. Again, the rich green is a perfect addition to the autumn-themed color palette.

Serve roasted tri-colored fingerling potatoes instead of the more traditional mashed potatoes (you're having whipped sweet potatoes instead). With the fingerling potatoes, you get all of our colors in one dish: golden yellows, red, and a beautiful deep purple.

turkey on platter surrounded by fresh herbs, apples, orange slices

Finally, there's the traditional Thanksgiving menu masterpiece: the golden brown turkey. The presentation of the turkey is just as important as the taste. After all, it's the big finale in a range of Thanksgiving menu ideas, so it needs to be memorably special.

Continue the autumn theme and place apples, cherry tomatoes, and orange slices around the bird. Fill in the gaps with fresh basil, rosemary, and thyme for a gorgeous finish. Serve on a large plain platter and carve at the table for the full dramatic effect.


Football Theme Menu

football on bed of parsley

Whether you like it or not, football is a huge part of Thanksgiving. It's as traditional as the Thanksgiving dinner menu you'll be presenting in a most untraditional way.

Have some fun and place a football (squeaky clean, of course) on a bed of parsley laid out on a shiny silver platter. Surround the football with some red bliss potatoes and a few carrots for color. The sight is sure to make everyone smile.

Now get going with setting up the rest of your Thanksgiving buffet so that everyone can make scrumptious sandwiches and watch the big game. This Thanksgiving menu idea calls for several wooden bread boards and breadbaskets to hold your yummy eats. Line the breadbaskets with linens in fall colors. Put out little bowls for condiments and extras.

THE BREAD BOARDS

The Meats: Cook them on the grill in advance. On Thanksgiving Day slice a turkey, honey-baked ham, and roast beef.

The Cheeses: No American here. Go with sliced cheddar for the turkey, a brie for the ham, and a Swiss for the roast beef.

The Greens: Romaine for the turkey, spinach for the ham, arugula for the roast beef.

The Condiments: Cranberry relish for the turkey, honey mustard for the ham, and horseradish sour cream for the roast beef.

The Extras: Sliced green apples, caramelized onions, sliced tomatoes, sweet peppers, and pickles.


THE BREADBASKETS

Basket 1: Sourdough baguettes, cut in thirds and sliced down the middle.

Basket 2: Ciabatta sliced thin so you can see all of the great holes.

Basket 3: Marbled rye, my personal favorite—the color alone is reason enough.

Basket 4: Kaiser rolls, because you should always stock the classics.


THE BEVERAGES

A big silver washtub filled with ice, bottled beer, bottles of soda, and bottles of lemonade is all you need for this Thanksgiving menu idea. Best of all, if you're pressed for space, you can always put the tub outside.


THE DESSERTS

You can't have a traditional Thanksgiving menu without desserts, and that means pies, pies, and more pies.

Pie 1: Apple of course, warm with vanilla ice cream on the side.

Pie 2: Pumpkin—insert another "of course" here—with real whipped cream on the side.

Pie 3: Chocolate cream, because you just have to have chocolate. Add a raspberry sauce on the side.


Potluck Casserole Theme Menu

mashed sweet potatoes, cranberries, rolls in varied serving dishes

The key to a good potluck is to be specific with each of your guests about their assigned food. It's not enough to say "you do the potatoes." You need to say something along the lines of: "We're looking for a potato dish that has color and texture. Not mashed, maybe scalloped. Or perhaps a potato dish that not only has cheese but sour cream in it too."

Bottom line, in order to make your Thanksgiving menu ideas come together seamlessly, it's worth the effort to map out the dinner in its entirety. Here's a chance for your natural bossiness to finally be appreciated. Guests really don't like to guess at what's needed, so go ahead and dole out both detailed directions and suggestions.

The host is responsible for the turkey and the stuffing. Yep, that's actually a rule. Okay, it's not a real rule, but it may as well be. Feel free to assign a guest the task of bringing the dinner rolls.

You'll need to delegate any or all of the following dishes for your potluck casserole theme menu:

dishes of diced beets and butternut squash
  • potato
  • beet
  • green bean
  • sweet potato
  • macaroni and cheese
  • apple
  • butternut squash
  • cauliflower
  • spinach
  • corn
apple pie a la mode with pumpkin in background

Don't forget to assign the Thanksgiving desserts as well. Here's a yummy selection that fits with any Thanksgiving menu idea. I'd happily make the sacrifice and devour them even if it weren't Thanksgiving. You're welcome.

  • apple pie
  • sweet potato pie
  • mince pie
  • pumpkin pie
  • brownies
  • sugar cookies

Now if only you could assign the clean up. Oh, that's right, you can!

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