Thanksgiving is a holiday deeply rooted in American traditions, but year after year of the same ingredients and the same dishes can make the holiday a bit repetitive. This is why some families are now opting for more culturally inspired Thanksgiving spreads, offering delightful tastes of dishes from around the world. We’ve gathered 7 of the most delicious international options for you to try out for this year’s holiday.
1. Spiced Sweet Potato Bites with Kale and Goat Cheese (India)
Start off your holiday with these elegantly spiced sweet potato bites from Soni’s Food. An homage to classic tastes of India, the recipe incorporates cayenne and cumin for an exciting spin on your typical holiday appetizer. Top them off with a bit of sautéed kale and goat cheese, and enjoy! The family is going to love this change of pace — it’s just hearty enough to keep them satiated until dinner, but light enough not to spoil their appetites.
- 3 ounces chèvre with honey
- 3 sweet potatoes, sliced at an angle
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne or red chili powder
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the kale:
- 3 cups fresh kale leaves, chopped
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all the spices and coat the sliced sweet potatoes on both sides.
On a foil-lined and oiled baking sheet, arrange the sweet potatoes in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil all over on both sides. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until you see them turning slightly golden.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add crushed garlic followed by kale. Add salt to taste and cook until they’ve wilted just a little.
Empty in a bowl and keep aside.
To assemble: Top about a tablespoon of kale on top of each sweet potato bite followed by some roughly crumbled goat cheese. Enjoy!
2. Butternut Squash Soup with Crisp Pancetta (Italy)
After everyone’s been seated for the official Thanksgiving feast, start them off with Food and Wine’s sophisticated Italian Butternut Squash Soup with Crisp Pancetta. The mild and sweet butternut squash is beautifully balanced with the thin, crispy slices of flavorful pancetta for a wonderful blend of flavors and textures. The recipe takes an hour and 45 minutes to make, and yields 12 servings.
- 4 medium butternut squash (6 pounds)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 12 very thin slices of pancetta (3 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Sugar (optional)
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Set the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, cut sides up. Put a piece of butter in each cavity and season generously with salt and pepper. Drape the squash halves with the pancetta slices. Roast the squash for 45 to 50 minutes, or until tender.
Transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain. Crumble and set aside. Scoop the squash out of the skins into a bowl.
In a large, heavy stockpot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add 3 of the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf. Stir in the squash and the stock and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pick out and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and purée until thick and creamy-smooth, about 1 minute per batch. Transfer the soup to a clean saucepan. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper (and sugar if desired).
Reheat the soup if necessary. Ladle into 12 bowls. Garnish the soup with the pancetta, the leaves from the remaining 3 thyme sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil.
3. Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Shiitake Mushrooms (China)
Kick the age-old green bean casserole habit — instead, sub in some Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Shiitake Mushrooms for a vegetable side. The flavors of tamari soy sauce and sesame oil are rich, but won’t overpower the other dishes in your holiday spread. If you have any trouble finding shiitake mushrooms (available at some grocery stores and almost all Asian markets), you can substitute another type of mushroom for equally delicious results. This dish from Andrea’s Recipes (originally published in Rebecca Katz’s The Cancer-Fighting Cookbook) takes just 20 minutes to make and yields 6 servings.
- 4 heads baby bok choy
- 2 tablespoons light sesame oil
- 2 scallions, white part only, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced ¼-inch thick
- sea salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Directions: Trim the bases off the bok choy and discard. Trim the leaves from the stems and cut both crosswise into bite-size pieces, keeping the stems and leaves separate.
Heat the light sesame oil in the sauté pan over medium heat, then add the scallions, ginger, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and a pinch of sea salt and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the water, tamari, and the bok choy stems and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves, lime juice, toasted sesame oil, and a pinch of sea salt and sauté until the bok choy is just wilted, about 2 minutes. Taste and add another squeeze of lime if you like. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.
4. Chestnut Rice (Japan)
Rice-based dishes are used in Japanese cuisine to help bring the palette back to “neutral,” writes Zester Daily. While much of the Thanksgiving table is packed with flavor-jammed dishes — gravy, stuffing, and cranberry, among others — this Chestnut Rice deserves its own spot on your plate as a light and tasty complement to all that Thanksgiving has to offer. The dish is seasoned with a delicate blend of kombu (seaweed), soy sauce, and sake. Top it off with yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit) or lemon for a fragrant finish. Recipe serves 6-8 people.
- 8-12 chestnuts in their shells
- 1 teaspoon salt for cooking the chestnuts
- 2 cups short grain white rice
- 5 tablespoons sweet rice (mochi-gome)
- 2-inch piece kombu seaweed
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce (usu-kuchi shoyu)
- 2¼ cups of water
- 2 teaspoons sake
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced yuzu or lemon rind
- 1 to 2 tablespoons roasted black or white sesame seeds
- Maldon salt to taste
Directions: Soak the chestnuts in hot water for about 10 minutes to soften the shell and make the chestnuts easier to peel. Peel the chestnuts. Slice the meat in half. Then cut each half into four pieces.
Bring a saucepan of water with the salt to a boil. Put the chestnuts into the boiling water and turn heat off and let stand for 10 minutes. This removes the surface starch. Drain the water and set the chestnuts aside.
Combine the short grain rice and the sweet rice in a bowl. Rinse and drain, then put the rice in the rice cooker or saucepan with the measured water, soy sauce, sake, and kombu. Soak for 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Add the chestnuts to the rice and cook in the electric rice cooker, regular pot or donabe pot, as you would cook regular steamed rice, following manufacturer’s instructions.
Remove the kombu. Discard (or eat it, if you like). Gently toss the chestnut rice. Garnish with sesame seeds, Maldon salt, and yuzu rind. Serve immediately.
5. Chile-Rubbed Turkey with Beet Stuffing (Mexico)
As we all know, turkey is the main player in a Thanksgiving feast. Adjusting the preparation of your turkey and stuffing will result in an exciting departure from the standard holiday fare. Saveur’s Chile-Rubbed Turkey with Beet Stuffing, drawing from Mexican inspirations, is a fail-proof way to satisfy guests this holiday. The recipe yields 10 to 12 servings.
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 16 cloves garlic
- 8 ribs celery
- 5 medium carrots
- 3 bunches scallions, minced
- 2 pounds roasted beets, peeled and roughly chopped
- 6 ounces pitted kalamata olives
- 2 cups fresh or frozen corn
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 20 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 8 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 8 Saltine crackers
- 1 (16-pound) turkey, thawed, neck and giblets reserved
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 cup flour
- 8 cups chicken or turkey stock
Directions: Make the stuffing: Heat 4 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch skillet, over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook, stirring, until well-browned, about 10 minutes. Finely chop half the garlic, 5 ribs celery, and 3 carrots, and add to skillet along with scallions; cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; add beets, olives, corn, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the chile sauce: Place both chiles in a bowl; cover with boiling water, and let sit until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 cups soaking liquid, and transfer chiles to a blender with remaining garlic, cumin, cloves, crackers, and 2 cups soaking liquid. Purée until smooth; set aside.
Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange neck and giblets on the bottom of a large roasting pan; place turkey, breast side up, in pan. Season with salt and pepper and rub with remaining butter; roast until skin is golden brown, about 1 hour. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, pour chile sauce over turkey, and cook, basting every 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thighs reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 2 hours. Transfer turkey to a cutting board; set aside. Pour pan drippings through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard solids. Meanwhile, place stuffing in oven; cook until golden browned on top, about 30 minutes; set aside.
Meanwhile, make the gravy: Return 1 cup fat from the drippings to pan and place over two burners of the stove; heat over medium-high heat. Roughly chop remaining celery and carrots, and add to skillet along with onion; cook, stirring, until soft, about 15 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring, until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring, until gravy thickens, about 15 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a serving bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Serve turkey with stuffing and gravy on the side.
6. Cranberries with Ruby Port (France)
The tastes of France mingle in this sophisticated Cranberries with Ruby Port Compote from Food & Style. Simmering these bold berries in port will add great depth to the flavor, while cinnamon and orange zest add their own dimension of sweet, spiced goodness. You can serve this compote immediately or keep it refrigerated for up to 3 days — for best taste, serve at room temperature. Recipe takes about 15 minutes to make and yields 2 cups.
- 1 cup Ruby Port
- ½ cup organic sugar
- 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
- Zest of ½ an orange
- pinch sea salt
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries (3½ cups)
- 1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
Directions: Place the port, sugar, cinnamon sticks, orange zest and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium/medium-high and add the cranberries. Stir well and fast-simmer for 6 to 7 minutes until the cranberries have fallen apart and the juices have thickened, stirring frequently. Coarsely mash the cranberries with a potato masher until the mixture is chunky. Add the vinegar, stir well and transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, remove the cinnamon sticks and orange zest and discard. Serve at room temperature.
7. Cream Cheese Flan with Quince Compote (Spain)
To finish up the meal, serve this silky Cream Cheese Flan with Quince Compote from Epicurious. The traditional Spanish dessert is baked in a water bath to achieve its delicate texture. For best results, you’ll want to prepare the dish one day ahead of time to allow it time to chill overnight. Remove flan from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before serving for best taste.
For quince compote:
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 3 large quinces (about 1¾ pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1½ cups sugar
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 large eggs
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Directions: Make compote: In large saucepan over high heat, combine 4 cups water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil, then add quince, reduce heat to moderate, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 45 minutes. Refrigerate quince (in poaching liquid) until cool. (Compote can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.)
Make flan: In large heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, stir together 1 cup sugar and ¼ cup water. Cook, occasionally stirring gently with wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until sugar melts and caramel turns dark amber. Working quickly and carefully, immediately pour hot caramel into cake pan, tilting to cover bottom and halfway up sides of pan. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
In large bowl, using electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, remaining ½ cup sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth and very creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, cream, and condensed milk and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes more. Pour mixture into prepared cake pan.
Transfer pan to large roasting pan and fill roasting pan with enough hot water to come halfway up sides of cake pan. Cover roasting pan loosely with foil and pierce foil several times with fork.
Transfer roasting pan to oven and bake 1 hour. Remove foil and continue to bake until edge of flan is set but center jiggles slightly when gently shaken, about 1 hour more. Remove cake pan from water and cool flan in pan on rack, then transfer to refrigerator to chill overnight.
When ready to serve, run thin knife around inside edge of pan to loosen flan. Shake pan gently from side to side and, when flan moves freely in pan, invert large plate over pan. Holding pan and plate securely together, quickly invert and turn out flan onto plate. (Caramel will pour out over and around flan.) Serve with quince compote.