Thanksgiving must-haves: A primer on the Southern classics

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By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Zoe Blair

It’s Thanksgiving Eve and we’re all ready for the feast tomorrow. While some of you may be sitting on the couch watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or prepping for football while someone else cooks, here is a helpful list for you chefs out there to know what everyone wants to see on the table.


A Thanksgiving fan favorite, dressing is a staple in nearly every Southern household. And there is indeed a difference between “stuffing” and “dressing.” Stuffing is — you guessed it, cooked inside the bird. Dressing isn’t. With so many variations, there’s a dressing that’s right for everyone. If you don’t like it, you haven’t found your recipe yet.


Is it a Thanksgiving meal without turkey? With tons of ways to cook a bird (just don’t catch yourself on fire if you’re planning a turkey fry), a moist turkey is something just about everybody enjoys. Spend your day tomorrow eating too much of it and then take a well-deserved nap on the couch.

Not to mention, there are tons of ways to use up those turkey leftovers. Turkey and dumplings, turkey noodle soup, turkey sandwiches … the options are endless.

Cranberry Sauce

It’s the topic of an age-old debate: canned or homemade cranberry sauce? Personally, I prefer the canned version. It just doesn’t taste the same without the lines around it. And it’s one less thing to cook, so it’s a win-win situation.


Pecan, apple, pumpkin, chocolate: the possibilities are endless. Dessert is one of the most important parts of a Thanksgiving meal, so don’t forget to save room while you’re stuffing your face with turkey.

Bonus points for ice cream or whipped cream topping.

Macaroni and Cheese

A fan favorite, macaroni and cheese is something that everyone will love. Tomorrow is the day to make sure you pull out grandma’s recipe instead of that trusty blue box. Trust me, the whole family will thank you if you’ve got a casserole dish of thick, cheesed-up noodles with a crunchy topping.

Green Bean Casserole

A Thanksgiving classic, many will be upset if there’s no green bean casserole on the table tomorrow. Everyone makes it slightly different — canned or fresh beans? Fried onions or bacon? Any way you cook it, it tastes better every year.


Whether it’s rolls, cornbread or a thick slice of sourdough, you’ve got to have some bread in your Thanksgiving spread. It’s the picky eater’s favorite part about the Thanksgiving meal.

Mashed Potatoes

While basic, mashed potatoes are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. Make sure that they’re homemade and not from a box though, or else your Aunt Nancy will never let you cook the meal again. And don’t forget the gravy!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Another big Thanksgiving debate: does the sweet potato casserole feature marshmallows or no marshmallows? Either way, it’s an excellent way to sneak some sweets into your meal before dessert. If you’re a not-marshmallow person, try a crunchy topping of bread crumbs. If you’re going for a carb-friendly (and extra delicious) dish, try topping it with crispy bacon.

What are your Thanksgiving must-haves?

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