Thanksgiving is a major day of celebration for people from around the world. The most important part of the celebration is the Thanksgiving dinner that has been religiously followed since 1621. It was originally called ‘Pasqua’ or ‘Passover’ and with time it came to be called Thanksgiving dinner. The Thanksgiving food list has also evolved over time due to the current food trends and different dietary requirements. Though there are many options today, one cannot beat the classic Thanksgiving meal combo of turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, and pie. Let’s take a look at some of the best thanksgiving dishes from around the world and how they have evolved over time.

What Is Thanksgiving Dinner?

The history of thanksgiving dates back to the fall of 1621 where the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest with a Thanksgiving celebration. This celebration included a grand meal, also called the ‘turkey dinner’ where the entire meal is centered on a large roasted turkey. This is a planned meal to honor their good fortune and to give thanks for the abundance of food. Thanksgiving dinner is easily one of the largest eating events in the United States. 

decorate thanksgiving table
Thanksgiving table with roasted turkey, sliced ham and side dishes

Significance Of Three Traditional Thanksgiving Staple

A typical traditional thanksgiving dinner will have turkey, pumpkin and corn. These three items have been the highlight of thanksgiving traditions since the beginning.  

Turkey: It’s believed that, way back there was an estimate of 10 million turkeys in America and was easily available as they were on everyone’s farm. That’s how it all began, but today people feel that as turkeys are quite large in size it could feed a big family easily. This traditional dish for Thanksgiving food is also associated with generosity, gratitude, family, and friendship.

Pumpkin: Pumpkins too were available in abundance and the local Native Americans considered them a symbol of sun and man’s personal power. This autumn harvested vegetable is considered an affordable one for most of the people. Thanksgiving pumpkin is strongly associated with unity, prosperity, and happiness. It is considered an important item to mark Thanksgiving dinner.

Corn: The Native Americans taught the English colonists how to plant and cultivate corn to survive the harsh winters. Every Thanksgiving table will normally have some form of corn, be it cornbread, cakes, porridges, creamed corn, or even as décor because of varieties of colors. This popular symbol of Thanksgiving was a part of the first thanksgiving party and continues to be till date.

10 Global Thanksgiving Dinner Dishes

From Turkey to Tourtière, we have gathered some of the best thanksgiving party dishes from around the world. Check them out to find what type of Thanksgiving meal is best for you and your family.

Sweet & Spicy Braised Turkey, Korea

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How about some braised turkey with a Korean twist for this Thanksgiving? Give the classic Thanksgiving roasted turkey a twist by adding some soy sauce, cranberry sauce, mirin, ginger and garlic. The best part about this dish is the sweet and spicy glaze on the turkey that’s deeply caramelized and blended with the roasting juices. It is so good that even leftovers can be used to create new dishes after thanksgiving like fried rice, fried noodles, roll ups, dumplings, egg rolls and more! It’s a perfect dish to enjoy with your family and friends.

Pumpkin Empanadas, Mexico

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Baking of pumpkin empanadas brings back childhood memories of mothers and grandmothers baking, especially in November around Thanksgiving time. With pumpkins being a very important part of Mexican cooking, it’s no surprise that pumpkin empanadas are typically one of the classic dishes of Thanksgiving dinner. They are made in big batches for the entire family. Many cooks and chefs make pumpkin empanadas using canned pumpkin, but during thanksgiving time they are made of fresh pumpkins as it’s the season of pumpkins. 

Beans and Rice, Cuba

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Homemade Cuban Black Beans and Rice with Cilantro

Cuban-style beans and rice are inexpensive and a convenient choice for economical meals. This easy to make classic dish is also a very healthy meal compared to the other spreads. It is popularly known as ‘congri’ and goes with pretty much any type of meal. Rather than cooking separately, the beans and rice are cooked together which gives the dish its signature gray shade. Finally the onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, and oregano seasoning adds punch to this otherwise simple meal. You can also substitute white rice with brown rice for a healthier version of this classic Latin American dish.

Hasselback Potatoes, Sweden

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Hasselback potatoes with herbs on a plate

This dish is one of the easiest potato side dishes you can prepare for your loved ones for a Thanksgiving party. Hasselback potatoes are a Swedish version of baked potatoes which got its name from the Hasselbacken restaurant in Stockholm where it was first made. It involves a simple cooking technique that transforms it into both beautiful and delicious at the same time. The potatoes are sliced into thin wedges but left joined at the bottom to give an accordion-like shape. Bake them a little more than usual to get crispy edges and finally top them with buttery bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. This is a perfect Thanksgiving dish that can be made for small gatherings.

Doro Wat, Ethiopia

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Spicy Doro Wat

Doro Wat is traditionally a very spicy dish made to warm up even the coldest Thanksgiving nights. It is basically a chicken stew made of lime juice, hard-boiled eggs, chicken, chicken stock, dry red wine, ginger, cardamom, butter and berbere or chili powder. This dish is generally served on top of injera, a traditional Ethiopian flatbread, which soaks up a lot of the stew. Doro Wat recipe captures the very best of Ethiopian cooking and at the same time resembles Americanized stews in texture and appearance. Doro Wat being the most famous of all African cuisine is easily available in every Ethiopian restaurant, no wonder it is the national dish of Ethiopia! 

Cranberry Sauce, America

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Homemade Red Cranberry Sauce for the Holidays

Until the 19th century, Cranberries were just one of the few commercially grown fruits native to the United States. It was only after the introduction of Cranberry sauce that the Cranberries demand increased. Cranberry sauce originated in the Northeastern quadrant of the country and is one of the most important components of the traditional Thanksgiving food today. This sauce is often eaten in conjunction with turkey, pork, chicken, and ham for Thanksgiving in the United States. Cranberry sauces are absolutely perfect with turkey, they’re just made for each other. With 92% of Americans serving cranberry sauce at their Thanksgiving meals, it may seem like a universal Thanksgiving food.

Tourtière, Canada

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Slice of traditional pork meat pie Tourtiere with apple and cranberry chutney from Quebec, Canada.

Tourtiere also known as meat pie is a perfect main course for Thanksgiving. Simple ingredients like ground meat, onions, and savory seasonings are mixed together and baked in a traditional pie crust. A typical tourtière can contain minced pork, turkey, beef, veal or potatoes. This healthy and satisfying French Canadian meat pie is super easy to make and very affordable. So make one for yourself and a few for your family and friends. Indeed a very comforting food for thanksgiving and during the cold winters. 

Lasagna, Italy

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Italian cuisine is hugely popular all over the world, hence it would be a great idea to add lasagna to your Thanksgiving menu on this national day of thanks. This dish has the stature to own the center of the Thanksgiving table. The beautifully stacked layers of pasta, chunks of onion, carrot, ground meat, and assorted vegetables mixed in red tomato sauce makes for the best lasagna possible. Make sure to use homemade tomato sauce to make your lasagna taste like Thanksgiving.

Maple Glazed Rutabaga, Finland

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Maple Glazed Rutabaga is a wonderful side dish that will make your Thanksgiving sparkle. Your decorate thanksgiving table is incomplete without this tasty root vegetable. Roast Rutabaga with shallots in the oven and then finish with maple syrup to give it a wonderful crunch and sweetness. The heavenly taste and sweet fragrant of this dish will have your guests asking for more. This simple yet tasty dish makes the perfect addition to your thanksgiving table. 

Tandoori Chicken, India

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Indian tandoori chicken wings served with pilau rice and garlic naan , selective focus

In India tandoori chicken is that dish which can take the place of traditional turkeys and own the center of the Thanksgiving table. Big or small chunks of chicken are marinated in hot spices along with creamy yogurt, crushed ginger and garlic and a dash of lime juice for as long as 24 hours and then grilled in a Tandoor. Tandoor is a clay oven fueled by coal. These smoky well cooked chicken tastes best when wrapped in naan or roti. Do add this popular dish to your Thanksgiving menu to add more spice and flavor to your Thanksgiving dinner.

Suggested Reads: Thanksgiving Traditions And Celebrations Around The World

Thanksgiving Fun Facts to Share With Your Family And Friends

– The first Thanksgiving dinner didn’t serve Turkey, they likely served venison, ducks, goose, oysters, lobster, eel, and fish alongside pumpkins and cranberries.

– It is believed that only five women were present for the first Thanksgiving celebrations in 1621.

– 68% of Americans dislike Thanksgiving dishes like canned cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and even turkey but still eat them in honor of the tradition.

– There are four towns in the US that’s named “Turkey.” They are in Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

– According to the National Turkey Federation, more than 45 million turkeys are served at Thanksgiving in the US.

– The average number of calories consumed on Thanksgiving is between 3,000 to 4,500.

– In a pool conducted in 2020, tofu was the most unpopular element of a potential Thanksgiving meal.

– Butterball, a popular turkey hotline company answers more than 100,000 turkey-cooking questions in November and December.

– The night before Thanksgiving is known as ‘Drinks giving’ or ‘Black Wednesday’ as it is one of the booziest days of the year.

– The day after Thanksgiving dinner is the busiest day of the year for plumbers and drain cleaners.

Also Read: 35 Delicious Types Of Pancakes Around The World

By now you must have pictured your ideal Thanksgiving dinner table. Hope these classic dishes are an inspiration for you. Recreate your version for this Thanksgiving and do share them with us in the comment box below. Happy Thanksgiving!

What is the most eaten food on Thanksgiving besides turkey?

83% of people said the turkey was the most eaten food. Mashed potatoes came second with 78% of people rating it as their favorite.

What was the original Thanksgiving dinner?

Two surviving documents have confirmed that the original Thanksgiving harvest meal had freshly killed deer, assorted wildfowl, cod, bass, and flint. 

What time do most people eat Thanksgiving dinner?

Thanksgiving dinner time varies from region to region. Ideal time is between 5 to 7 pm. 

What can replace turkey on Thanksgiving?

Chicken, Duck, Beef are other substitutes for turkey.

How many sides should a Thanksgiving dinner have?

Ideally, for a small family dinner, 1-2 appetizers and 3 sides are good enough.


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