Non-Traditional Sides for Your Holiday Table

Non-traditional sides, starters and desserts for your holiday table from MJ's Kitchen. @mjskitchen


We’re going a little non-traditional this year for the holidays, forgoing the turkey and sweet potatoes, and even the cranberry sauce.  So just in case you too are looking for something different this year, here are a few non-traditional sides for your holiday table – from my kitchen to yours.

Starters, Appetizers, and Salads

Cheese and cheese pairings |


Cheese Pairing Suggestions

An exotic selection of cheese and complementary pairings from a cheesemonger.



Pumpkin Beer Cheese soup with Zamorano and Parrano cheese |


Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup

When used as a starter, a cup of this soup introduces the flavors of the holiday with celebratory notes of a dark lager.



Roasted fennel with sprouts, feta, pomegranate seeds, and a drizzle of cranberry balsamic from the Santa Fe Olive Oil Company #fennel #salad #pomegranate @mjskitchen


Roasted Fennel with Cranberry Balsamic

This salad takes advantage of the seasonal fennel and pomegranate enhanced with the flavor of cranberries.  A beautiful salad for any holiday table.


A simple salad of cara cara orange and persimmon |

Orange and Persimmon Salad

Simple and elegant – a true palate cleanser that resets your taste buds so you can enjoy every bite of each and every dish on the table.



Apple, celery, and radish salad with a Green chile dressing.


Apple Salad with Green Chile Dressing

Crispy sweet apples combined with crunchy celery pair very nicely with a spicy sweet vinaigrette.




Vegetable Sides


Carrots cooked in bourbon, sweetened with honey and topped with dill


Bourbon Carrots

With four different seasoning choices, these bourbon carrots can be adjusted to complement any and all of your holiday dishes.



Cushaw squash flesh

Stewed Cushaw

Talk about something completely different!  Stewed cushaw introduces an earthy and buttery flavor to your meal.




Leeks lightly braised with preserved lemons and tarragon

Leeks Braised with Preserved Lemons and Tarragon

This simple dish proves that the leek is more than an ingredient.  Adding a touch of preserved lemon and herb to braised leeks yields a delicate and savory side.



A healthier version of the blooming onion - Baked blooming onion with Hatch chile and cheese |

Blooming Onion with Hatch Chile and Cheese

For those of you who must have green chile at every meal – Onion, green chile and cheese introduces a spicy and aromatic component that you’ll swear was created with turkey in mind.



Mushrooms stewed in olive oil and butter with a variety of fresh herbs.

Herbaceous Mushrooms

Just like leeks, mushrooms are more than an ingredient and this dish proves it.  When braised with a little butter and a few herbs, the umami of mushrooms helps to counterbalance the saltiness of other dishes while bringing out their best flavors.



A peperonata stew with sweet peppers, tomatoes, capers |

Peperonata (Stewed Sweet Peppers)

Just the colors alone sell this dish, but the flavors are not to be missed.  In one dish you introduce salty and sweet, acid and savory. A great dish that is best when made the day before and allowed to rest.



Red chile makes an excellent gravy for mashed potatoes |

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Red Chile Gravy

Still need that chile fix but you prefer red chile over green?  Make a red chile gravy to go with your holiday potatoes.  It’s great with both white and sweet potatoes.



Grains and Pasta Sides


Polenta with smoky polenta and aged cheddar

Smoky Polenta with Aged Cheddar

Polenta is a nice substitute for potatoes, and when made with aged cheddar cheese and smoked paprika, you have a dish that will make your guests not even notice that potatoes aren’t on the table.



Orzo salad with olives, veggies and pine nuts |

Lemony Orzo Salad

If you are looking for a simple dish that makes A LOT for a large group, this is it.  Orzo with a variety of vegetables, preserved lemon and feta might just be the only side dish you really need.



Rice with Preserved lemons and artichokes|

Preserved Lemon Rice

OK…I absolutely love preserved lemon!  They just add so much flavor to the simplest of ingredients that it’s not hard to make them a staple.  Preserved lemon rice with a few artichokes, transforms rice into a delicate and superbly flavorful dish.



Macaroni Grill Herb Bread |

Herb Bread

What holiday table couldn’t use a hot loaf of herby yeast bread?  Just use whichever herbs work best with the turkey and the rest of the meal.



For the relish tray:

Bowl of quick pickled cucumbers |

Quick Pickled Cucumbers

Oh these are so good!  Great on salads, sandwiches and as a item in your holiday relish tray.  Crunch, with a little sweetness and acidity.



Sweet and spicy pepitas (pumpkin seeds)|

Sweet and Spicy Pepitas

Finger licking good pepitas (pumpkin seeds)!  Place a couple of small bowls of these pepitas around the house for your guest to nibble on, or add to relish tray. Great sprinkled on a salad or vegetable.



Quick & Easy Pickled Peppers that you'll enjoy year round. #pickled @mjskitchen

Quick and Easy Pickled Chile Peppers

Add a little spice to your relish tray with these pickled chile peppers or chop a few up and add to other items on the tray.




A little something sweet on the side:

Pears poached in apple cider, Cointreau and spice

Spiked Poached Pears

A different poached pear – poached in apple cider with a hint of orange and spice.  A light bite that makes a nice starter, side or dessert.




A simple persimmon parfait made with granola and yogurt. Nothing fancy, just good.

Persimmon Cranberry Parfait

Enjoy the seasonal persimmons with this lightly sweet parfait.  A healthy, light, and enjoyable finish to a heavy and abundant meal.



Lavender-scented Pinon Biscotti

Pinon Lavender Biscotti

A couple of hours after gorging on lots and lots of food, the only thing you may be in the mood for is a cup of tea and cookie.  Lavender scented biscotti are perfect for this or for just ending the day with a touch of aromatic sweetness.



A chocolate pudding seasoned with red chile powder, cinnamon and ginger

Spicy Chocolate Pudding

Who doesn’t like chocolate?  If you want a little more than a couple of pieces from a chocolate bar, you might look into these creamy, chocolatey, and spicy pudding cups.



An Old Fashioned Cocktail enhanced with a dash of orange bitters and cranberries #cocktail #old-fashioned |


Cranberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail

A nice sipping cocktail for sitting by the fire at the end of your holiday meal, enjoying family and friends.



Happy Holiday Planning!




36 Responses to “Non-Traditional Sides for Your Holiday Table”

  1. Sissi December 27, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    I’m coming very very late, but I’m sure I can still find inspiration for New Year’s Eve! Actually I think I’ll go for pepitas since I have been snacking since Christmas and don’t intend to stop this now in the middle of holidays. I must check if I have them!
    Thank you so much for inspiration!

    • mj December 29, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

      Happy Holidays Sissi! Hope you are having a nice restful and fun holiday. We’ve been traveling and just got back in time to see the new year end and hope for wonderful 2018. I’m having some family over for the New Year’s eve and am planning on making the pepitas. I just can’t get enough them. 🙂 Happy New Year Darlin!!!

  2. Raymund Macaalay November 27, 2017 at 12:31 am #

    Wow most of this I havent actually tried, very interesting line up. Definitely tow or three of these can go to our holiday dining table

    • mj November 28, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      Thanks Raymund! Hope you have a great holiday season!

  3. Healthy World Cuisine November 25, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    So much deliciousness on one page, don’t even know where to begin. Hope your holiday weekend has been lovely. Take care

    • mj November 25, 2017 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks Bobbi! Hope you are having a wonderful holiday as well!

  4. Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina November 25, 2017 at 12:27 am #

    Wow, so many great “unique” holiday side dishes, M.J. I wouldn’t know where to begin, but I think your bloomin’ onion might be where I’d start. Happy Holidays!

    • mj November 25, 2017 at 11:45 am #

      The blooming onion is a GREAT place to start! 🙂 Thanks!

  5. Sharon November 22, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

    What a wonderful assemblage of recipes and options! You clearly worked very hard on this. There’s something here for everyone. Thank you so much. Have a blessed Thanksgiving

    • mj November 22, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

      Thank you very much Sharon! Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

  6. Evelyne CulturEatz November 22, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

    My kind of post, I love to try different things for the holidays. And so many ones to try here. Tops would be Roasted Fennel with Cranberry Balsamic and Persimmon Cranberry Parfait. Happy Thanksgiving MJ!

    • mj November 22, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

      Thanks Evelyne! Those are two good ones that you pointed out! Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

  7. Lisa November 21, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    Wow, so many of these recipes look delicious, and not just for Thanksgiving! I’m very drawn to the Sweet Potatoes with Chile gravy. that sounds like a fantastic combination!

    • mj November 22, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

      Well you picked a good one. Sweet potatoes and red chile is an awesome combination so the pairing is a natural for this dish. Thanks!

  8. Katerina November 21, 2017 at 5:56 am #

    What a beautiful gallery of truly unusual savory and sweet treats!

    • mj November 22, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

      Thanks so much Katerina!

  9. Umakant November 21, 2017 at 3:00 am #

    Nice…! its really nice and i love your idea, and your photography and i will trying to making this recipe like you. Thanks for sharing….!

    • mj November 22, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

      Thanks Umakant!

  10. mae November 20, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    Fascinating recipe list! Our Thanksgiving will be traditional, but these would be good for other menus too.

    best… mae at

    • mj November 22, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

      Thanks Mae! Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. Karen (Back Road Journal) November 20, 2017 at 6:49 am #

    We go to our son’s home for the holiday. Even though they have the whole dinner planned I always like to bring something as a side and your ideas are great.

    • mj November 22, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

      Thanks so much Karen. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  12. Liz November 19, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

    Such a wonderful array of recipes, MJ! My family is stuck on all the same dishes, though I can shake up one of the pies each year. It kind of takes the fun out of the planning, but also experiment on them all the rest of the year! Hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving, my friend!! xoxo

    • mj November 19, 2017 at 7:53 pm #

      Thanks Liz! Well, we’ll see how my family likes going non-traditional. We haven’t told them all yet, so I guess they’ll just have to eat it whether they want it or not. 🙂 But then, who would refuse smoked rib roast? Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  13. Deb|EastofEdenCooking November 17, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    Of course I’m focused on the desserts! The Persimmon and Cranberry Parfait has caught my attention. I never miss a chance to share persimmons with others. Happy Thanksgiving MJ!

    • mj November 19, 2017 at 10:14 pm #

      Well, of course! When will it ever become the standard for the dessert to be served first? 🙂 Thanks Deb and a Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  14. Kelly@InspiredEdibles November 16, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    Yay for freedom of choice! I think we’ve cooked a turkey 3 times (maybe) in the past twenty years so I’m all for options. I just watched your preserved lemon video – so helpful and video worthy (is that your voice I’m hearing MJ? love getting personal glimpses 😉 and I still have time to do the preserving before Christmas! Also got my eye on those bourbon carrots…

    • mj November 17, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      YAY is right!!!! We do a turkey almost every year and this year both Bobby and I wanted to do something different. It’s been fun planning it. 🙂 Yes, that is my voice and my hands in the video. Bobby was behind the camera. 🙂 I tried putting up some preserved limes the other day, but they aren’t looking so good. I might have to stick with lemons, which isn’t a problem at all!

  15. Judy Purcell November 16, 2017 at 7:56 am #

    MJ, these all sound amazing! Not sure I can convince the crowd around here to go non-traditional for TG, but these sides are on my must-try list now. Great collection!

    • mj November 17, 2017 at 10:25 am #

      thanks so much Judy! We’ll see how the family reacts to the lack of turkey and traditional sides, but with this groups, I think we’ll be o.k. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. Angie@Angie's Recipes November 15, 2017 at 10:07 pm #

    Such a great collection of holiday treats! I love all of them, but NEED that pumpkin beer cheese soup ASAP!!

    • mj November 17, 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Thanks Angie! OH, that beer cheese is definitely a must have!

  17. Vicki Bensinger November 15, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    MJ what a wonderful array of food you’ll be having. I love these dishes and the persimmon and cranberry parfait sound and look divine and do your sweet potatoes with red Chile sauce. Yum. Such a fun idea and it’s nice to break loose from the old standards now and then. Love this!!!

    • mj November 17, 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Thanks so much Vicki! That parfait is quite lovely and something I make several times as long as the persimmons are in season. And then red chile on potatoes – YUM!

  18. 2pots2cook November 15, 2017 at 11:14 am #

    Sweet Heavens ! As I scroll down the things are getting better and better ! Love so very much your twists ! You are and excellent dancer 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing !

    • mj November 17, 2017 at 10:22 am #

      Thanks so much!! 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

I love hearing from my visitors, so please leave a comment. Thanks for dropping by!