Popular Thanksgiving foods ranked (2024)

Thanksgiving is approaching at the end of the month, and with it comes numerous family gatherings all marked with a common thread — a variety of delicious food.

There is little debate over the existence of Thanksgiving feasts — can anyone really say that isn’t their favorite part of the holiday?

Regardless of family climates, sitting down for a feast is a universal comfort.

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People do have different opinions about what is the best Thanksgiving food. The Badger Herald collected student opinions and added a few author’s picks in this list of the best Thanksgiving foods.

6. Turkey

The classic entree for Thanksgiving is definitely a large turkey dish.

Carving a turkey is a core tradition for many families around the country. Regardless of if you get it frozen at the store or if your family hunted one that morning, the existence of the turkey is ubiquitous.

Students said turkey is a universal dish with high protein value — but University of Wisconsin senior Emily Kruger said turkey is consistently too dry, and ham is her preferred alternative.

Some families, including my family, like to offer both options for people with different preferences.

5. Rolls

Though rolls are certainly not a main dish, they are a key element of any Thanksgiving meal. My family always gets Sister Schubert’s rolls, and other students mentioned crescent rolls or sweet Hawaiian rolls.

They are a favorite among younger family members, and when I was a kid, my sisters and I would challenge each other to roll eating competitions because they were so good. Kruger agreed rolls are an easy Thanksgiving choice.

“A bread roll is one of the easiest things to consume, giving you simple carbohydrates,” Kruger said.

4. Other random foods

A few students had specific food they enjoyed that might be less mainstream. These included various marshmallow and sweet potato dishes.

Kruger said her personal favorite is cranberry marshmallow fluff.

“It’s a perfect combination of bitter and sweet — the cranberry and the marshmallow,” Kruger said.

UW sophom*ore Caleb Ekezie said he enjoyed sweet potato dishes because there are lots of options for how to make them. They can be savory with chicken or turkey gravy or make them sweet with brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans in a casserole.

“It’s the tastiest, most versatile food,” Ekezie said.

3. Pies and other sweets

It is pretty difficult to have a true Thanksgiving dinner without a pie. Specifically, pumpkin pie.

That isn’t the only dessert students enjoy, however. A few mentioned apple pie, sweet rolls with jam or any type of fluff. Kruger said her personal favorite is raspberry silk pie, with a close second of French silk pie and pecan pie.

UW sophom*ore Natasha Hicks said she loves apple pie with ice cream.

“It’s just the right amount of tart and it’s not too sweet and it tastes like fall,” Hicks said.

2. Potatoes

One of the most popular Thanksgiving foods is easily mashed potatoes. It’s a classic side dish, but I can’t say it’s my personal favorite.

Some students argued there are better alternatives. Kruger said she prefers twice baked potatoes, while UW junior April Krumpos said cheesy potato casserole is the best.

“Because it has the flakes on top and it’s extra crunchy and you can chew on it,” Krumpos said.

1. Stuffing

My grandma is from the south — so she calls her famous stuffing “dressing.” After cooking chicken and cornbread in the oven, she eventually combines the two, with bread and water, to make a delicious dish that has become a family favorite.

Many other students mentioned stuffing was a favorite on Thanksgiving, but they might have different recipes.

Trader Joe’s stuffing is also a great option and easy to make. It only requires water, in addition to the box mix, and is definitely delicious. Because it is only available a few months of the year, I try to stock up so I can enjoy it throughout the year.

A deep connection

A few students emphasized the relationship building that can happen over Thanksgiving dinner and even by cooking together in the kitchen.

“There are always good conversations in the Thanksgiving kitchen,” Kruger said.

Kruger said she enjoys being in the kitchen with family and preparing a meal with people she loves.

Additionally, UW senior Kaitlyn Israngkun Na Ayuthia said one of her favorite parts of Thanksgiving is connecting with special people in her life.

“It’s a time to share a meal and share life with people you love,” Israngkun Na Ayuthia said. “It’s an opportunity to care and be cared for.”

Looking ahead

A few students said they are ready to move past Thanksgiving and get in the holiday spirit right away.

Hicks said she has already decorated for Christmas. To her, Thanksgiving is just a day, but Christmas is a lifestyle. Thanksgiving is but a means to an end.

“Once it’s over, people have no excuse not to start celebrating [the winter holidays],” Hicks said.

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