The Best Dishes and Wines to Take to Thanksgiving Dinner

Are you going to a family member or a friend’s home for the holiday? Hosts are often vague when stating what dishes guests should contribute to the meal. “Bring anything” is usually about as detailed as it gets. Well, we’ve got some great Thanksgiving side dish ideas for you this year. You’ll impress everyone at the table with your creativity and skills in the kitchen. Even better, we spoke with Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan, co-author of Wine for Dummies and president/owner of NYC's International Wine Center, about the best wines to pair with these delicious meals. Now that's something to truly be thankful for.

1. Thanksgiving - Empanadas

Empanadas de Queso


1 1/2 lb. cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

1/3 cup finely chopped celery

1/3 cup finely chopped green olives

1/4 cup raisins 

2 packages premade empanada dough rounds (14 oz., or about 20 rounds total)

2 tbsp. milk

1 egg, beaten


Combine cheese, celery, green olives, and raisins and toss well. Place 2 tablespoons of filling just below center of each empanada round. Using pastry brush or finger dipped in water, moisten bottom edge of empanada round, and fold top over filling. Press edges to seal filling, and prick tops with fork tongs.

Add milk to beaten egg and stir well. Place empanadas onto lightly greased baking sheet and brush each one´s top with egg wash. Bake in preheated 400°F oven 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 20 empanadas.

Wine Tip: Ewing-Mulligan says: "Empanadas with cheese can go nicely with almost any dry red wine, but the presence of olives and raisins here adds a slight sweet-and-sour note that calls for a wine with good fruitiness. A Chilean Carmenere wine, a red wine made with the Carmenere grape which grows mainly in Chile, is a good choice because of its fresh red-fruit flavors and its refreshing acidity. I like the Mont Gras Carmenere, which is widely available and only $12."

2. Thanksgiving - Shrimp Cakes

Spicy Sweet Potato and Shrimp Cakes


1 lb. sweet potatoes or yams, cooked and mashed

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

1 egg

1/2 lb. cooked shrimp, chopped

1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs

2 tbsp. finely chopped jalapeño chiles

1/2 tsp. salt

6-9 tbsp. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Mediterranean Blend spread


In bowl combine potatoes, red pepper, onion and cilantro. Stir in egg, shrimp, bread crumbs, chiles and salt; shape into 12 patties. In nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, melt 3 tbsp. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! spread and cook as many patties as can fit, flipping once, 5 minutes or until heated through. Repeat for remaining patties. Makes 12 servings.

Wine Tip: Ewing-Mulligan says: "The shrimps dictate a white wine and the yams dictate a wine with a bit of sweetness to balance both the natural sweetness of the potatoes and the spiciness of the jalapeños. A Chardonnay that’s on the sweetly fruity side (as opposed to an oaky Chardonnay) can do the trick. Try Beringer “Founder’s Estate” Chardonnay from California ($11) or look for an Australian Chardonnay that’s labeled as 'unwooded.'"

3. Thanksgiving - Stuffing

Corn Bread Stuffing


For bread:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups milk

2/3 cup melted butter

For stuffing:

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 leek, thinly sliced

4 stalks celery, chopped

3 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chopped pecans

2 loaves corn bread, cut into small cubes

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup minced fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter two loaf pans. In mixing bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir to incorporate. In small bowl whisk together eggs and milk. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients. Pour in melted butter. Stir until blended.

Divide batter into two loaf pans. Bake loaves approximately 25 minutes, until toothpick or knife inserted into center of each loaf comes out clean. Transfer to cutting board. Cool slightly before cutting into cubes. For stuffing, in large sauté pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, leek, celery, and jalapeños. Cook until onions are lightly browned. Add garlic and sauté another 30 seconds. Add pecans and corn bread. Stir to incorporate ingredients. Add chicken broth and parsley. Cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.

Bake in covered dish for 25 minutes. Makes approximately 8 cups.

Wine Tip: Ewing-Mulligan says: "A white wine with refreshing high acidity can cut through the richness of the stuffing. The wine has to have lots of flavor, though, or the stuffing will overpower it. The Chenin Blanc grape is naturally high in acid and its wines have some richness, too. Two good Chenin Blanc wines are Simonsig Chenin Blanc from South Africa (about $11), and Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc from the Clarksburg area of California (about $12)."

4. Thanksgiving - Acorn Squash

Healthy Chorizo-Stuffed Acorn Squash


2 cups wild rice 

4½ cups chicken broth 

¼ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste 

4 small acorn squash 

Canola oil 

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely diced 

12 oz. Spanish chorizo picante, chopped 

2 tsp. dried sage 

¼ cup chopped parsley 

¾ cup chopped dried cranberries 

¼ cup maple syrup


Preheat oven to 375°F. Rinse rice. In medium saucepan, bring rice, broth and 1/4 tsp. salt to boil. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, with some grains split open, about 45 to 60 minutes; add extra liquid or drain excess if necessary. Transfer to large bowl. Meanwhile, cut off squash ends if necessary to stand them upright, then cut in half lengthwise and seed. Brush inside and out with oil and place cut side down on baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325°F. In sauté pan, melt butter. Over medium heat, cook onion until soft. Add chorizo and sage and cook 5 minutes. Add to bowl with rice. Scoop out squash so edges are 1/4‑inch thick; add pulp to bowl. Stir in parsley and cranberries and add salt, to taste. Mound stuffing into squash halves and drizzle with maple syrup. Bake until heated through, about 25 minutes.

Wine Tip: Ewing-Mulligan says: "A white wine with refreshing high acidity can cut through the richness of the stuffing. The wine has to have lots of flavor, though, or the stuffing will overpower it. The Chenin Blanc grape is naturally high in acid and its wines have some richness, too. Two good Chenin Blanc wines are Simonsig Chenin Blanc from South Africa (about $11), and Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc from the Clarksburg area of California (about $12)."

5. Thanksgiving - Arroz con Leche

Pumpkin Arroz con Leche


7 cups whole milk

½ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

3 whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks 

2 cups arborio or short-grain rice

1 can (15 oz.) packed pumpkin 

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp. pure vanilla extract 

1 tbsp. dark rum (optional) 

2 tbsp. unsalted butter 

¼ cup dark brown sugar


In heavy, large saucepan, add milk, salt and nutmeg. Tie cloves and cinnamon in cheesecloth and add to pot; heat until bubbles begin to form. Add rice, bring to boil and stir. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until rice is slightly tender but chewy, about 20 minutes. Uncover and stir in pumpkin, sugar, vanilla and rum (if using). Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until pudding thickens but some liquid remains, about 15 minutes (it will also thicken as it cools). Discard spice bundle; stir in butter. To serve, sprinkle with brown sugar.

Wine Tip: Ewing-Mulligan says: "Sherry, from Southern Spain, is a classic wine that comes in sweet or dry versions and is usually a great value. This dish needs the sweet style, such as Sandemans “Armada Rich Cream” Oloroso Sherry (about $15)."

6. Thanksgiving - Potatoes

Papas en Escabeche (Potatoes in Vinaigrette)


2 pounds small red or yellow potatoes, unpeeled 

1 pound calabacitas or zucchini 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1 serrano or jalapeño chile 

1 large yellow or red onion 

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed 

4-5 cloves garlic, crushed whole 

1 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns 

3-4 bay leaves

2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup white vinegar


Cut the serrano or jalapeño chile lengthwise, remove the seeds, and then cut widthwise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Peel and cut the onion lengthwise and then cut each half into 1/4-inch slices. In a large bowl, combine the chile, onion, cumin seed (crush partially by rolling them firmly between your fingers), garlic cloves, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, lime or lemon juice, olive oil, and vinegar and toss well. Gently drop the potatoes into the boiling water and cover partially. Simmer for 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender yet hold their shape. Add the calabacitas or zucchini and boil, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Drain well, reserving 1/3 cup of the water. 

Transfer the vegetables to the bowl that contains the onion, chile, garlic, and the rest of the spices. Toss well. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pour in the 1/3 cup of reserved water. Toss again and then transfer the potato salad to a large casserole dish or glass jar. Seal tightly and refrigerate for 2 or more days before serving. Makes 5 to 6 servings.

Wine Tip: Ewing-Mulligan says: "The lively acidity and fresh flavors of this dish make for a great pairing with Albariño, a high-quality white wine from the grape of the same name that’s grown in the Galicia region of northwest Spain. It’s dry and generally medium-bodied, crisp in texture, flavorful and not oaky in taste. Many good brands are available, such as Brandal, $17."

7. Thanksgiving - Pie

Pumpkin-Coconut Pie


For crust:

1/2 cup vegetable
 oil 3 tbsp. cold milk
 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
 2 tsp. sugar
 1/2 tsp. salt

For pie:

1 cup shredded coconut 3 eggs 1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. ground ginger 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 1/2 tsp. salt 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk 1 tbsp. melted butter 2 cups sweetened whipped cream


Preheat oven to 425°F. In small bowl mix together oil and milk with fork. Beat until smooth and creamy. Place flour, sugar, and salt in 9-inch pie pan. With fingers, mix to incorporate. Add oil mixture to dry ingredients. With fork, mix to form dough. Using fingers, pat dough around sides and then over bottom of pan. Prick bottom with tines of fork. Bake 15 minutes.

For pie, place coconut on baking sheet. Brown 5 minutes. Allow to cool. Set oven to 350°F. In mixing bowl beat eggs. Add pumpkin, sugars, spices, salt, milk, butter, and half of toasted coconut. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until filling has set. Allow to cool, cover and refrigerate before serving. To serve, garnish slices with whipped cream or topping. Sprinkle remaining toasted coconut over top. Makes 8 servings.

Wine Tip: Ewing-Mulligan says: "You need a sweet wine to complement the richness and sweetness of this pie. A red Port, from Portugal, is a great choice. You could choose any young Port—so-called ruby-type Ports— but one very good choice that’s widely available would be Croft “Distinction” Port (about $16)."