8 Weird Thanksgiving Dishes That Could Be Hidden Gems

When it comes to foods, weird is in the palate of the beholder. Some of these foods may seem odd to you, but others couldn't imagine Thanksgiving without them.

Published October 27, 2023
Big Dinner with a lot of Food

You're used to green bean casserole and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. But you may have never heard of these weird Thanksgiving foods. Don't be fooled by their strange names or appearance, though. Some of these Thanksgiving dishes are oddly delicious! 

Jell-O Salad

Family Having Traditional Holiday Stuffed Turkey Dinner

One of the more well-known Thanksgiving dishes, Jell-O salad has countless variations. Every family does it a bit differently, but it's the Jell-O salads that combine sweet and savory flavors that stand out the most (Aunt Bethany's lime Jell-O and cat kibble salad from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation comes to mind).

One variation combines Jell-O with pineapple, olives, whipped cream, cheddar cheese, and walnuts. We're not sure if this was part of the Jell-O-based dishes that gained popularity in the 1950s or if it's the result of a pregnancy craving gone right (or wrong, depending on how you feel about olives in Jello). 

Need to Know

Ambrosia salad is a sweeter, fluffier take on salads without lettuce, and many families serve it on Thanksgiving. It includes marshmallows, fruit, and whipped cream.


Lasagna may be a favorite on any other Thursday night, but it's not what you consider traditional food for Thanksgiving. But many people choose the crowd-pleasing dish for their turkey day main course. Some do so out of tradition, others because it's easier than making a turkey, and some because their family loves it. 

Fried Squash

Fried zucchini homemade

Most people have vegetables on Thanksgiving, but most people don't fry them. Fried squash is a staple on dinner tables in the South, and it's often served on Thanksgiving. Usually breaded in seasoned flour and fried in a shallow pan of oil, fried squash is salty and crunchy. 

Fast Fact

Fried okra is also a popular Thanksgiving dish in the South.

Creamed Onions

The name of the dish may not sound the most appetizing. But, much like meat loaf, the dish is far tastier than the name it bears. Some creamed onion recipes use boiled onions, and others use sauteed, but they are both finished with a creamy sauce. Don't knock it until you try it! 

Country Ham

If you've ever had a Thanksgiving meal in the South, you know there is more than one meat dish on the table. Chances are the second meat is a salty country ham. It doesn't pair as well with gravy and cranberry sauce as turkey does, but it's still a savory addition to the Thanksgiving sides everyone is showing up for.

Quick Tip

Want to add an additional protein to your Thanksgiving, but you're not a fan of ham? Many people serve juicy steaks on Turkey Day!

Candied Orange Peel

Here's a unique addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table: a traditional holiday treat curing sweet tooths for centuries. Candied orange peel has been around for a very long time, but it's still part of Thanksgiving celebrations today. You might find it served as a light snack while dinner is in progress or see it served next to your pumpkin pie.

Cottage Cheese & Mandarin Salad

Yogurt and Mandarin Orange Pieces

You read that right. A fluffy, fruity dish of mostly cottage cheese and mandarin oranges is certainly an unexpected side on Thanksgiving. Some families may serve this as a dessert, but it's really not that sweet (thanks to the cottage cheese). This unusual Thanksgiving side also includes one of the key ingredients we've seen already on this list: Jell-O.


For some of us, soup is a staple all year round. But it's not something we think of enjoying next to our turkey and mashed potatoes. You may see the dish, in all its variations, served before the main meal or as a side. Even on Thanksgiving, who can say no to a cozy bowl of soup?

Fast Fact

Chili is also an unusual Thanksgiving dish served as a side or main course in many areas, particularly the Midwest. 

Unexpected Thanksgiving Desserts Worth Trying

Even if you aren't a fan of these unusual Thanksgiving dishes, you might be surprised by the variety of dessert choices for the holiday. If you aren't a pie person, try one of these desserts on turkey day instead.

  • Banana pudding is served on many Thanksgiving dessert tables in the South.
  • Cinnamon rolls aren't just for breakfast — they make a warm dessert option that's arguably better than pie.
  • Peanut butter pie is a favorite on Thanksgiving in Ohio.
  • Pumpkin rolls are a fun alternative to the traditional pie.
  • Snickers salad is an extra sweet mixture of Snickers bars, apples, whipped topping, and pudding.
  • If you love chocolate, you'll love dirt pudding — an extra-sweet chocolate pudding topped with crushed chocolate cookies.
  • Pineapple casserole is much more of a dessert than an actual casserole and has a salty cracker topping for balance.

Make Foods You Enjoy This Thanksgiving

We are well past the point of sticking to certain things just because they're traditional. If you love serving a certain dish because it reminds you of childhood, honors a loved one lost too soon, or just makes you happy, go for it! It's your Thanksgiving dinner, and you deserve to enjoy it.

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8 Weird Thanksgiving Dishes That Could Be Hidden Gems