Vintage Thanksgiving Recipes Every Southerner Needs to Make This Year
If anything can be called classic, it’s Thanksgiving dinner. From the roasted turkey to the cornbread dressing, the pumpkin pie to the green bean casserole, there are a number of traditional dishes that make an appearance year after year, decade after decade. Since we don’t mess with these staples, the recipes are what we’d call fine-tuned perfection.
Well, pull out the antique china and gelatin mold. We’re revisiting some retro Thanksgiving recipes that have graced Southerners’ tables for over 50 years. Think old-school favorites like sliced sweet potato pie and molded cranberry salad, as well as forever classics like spoonbread and corn pudding. These vintage Thanksgiving recipes are here to make your Thanksgiving meal just a touch more nostalgic.
Cornflake, Pecan, and Marshmallow-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
Make-Ahead Yeast Rolls
Savory Corn Pudding
Citrus-Marinated Turkey Breast
Recipe: Citrus-Marinated Turkey Breast
For the pared-down Thanksgiving or the last-minute-guests Thanksgiving, this turkey recipe likens back to the days when festive citrus flavors were favored during the holiday season.
Aunt Grace's Famous Cornbread Dressing
Ultra-smooth, incredibly moist, and passed down through the family, Aunt Grace's cornbread dressing is so good that it just had to be shared with us (and readers) by our travel editor. The trick? Using four types of bread. Trust us, it makes a difference.
Frozen Cranberry Relish
Recipe: Frozen Cranberry Relish
The reader who submitted this family recipe back in the 1990s dubbed it "the relish that sounds terrible, but tastes terrific." Convincing enough? This festive frozen relish feels akin to our beloved congealed salads.
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots
A classic combination dressed up for the holidays, this Brussels-and-bacon casserole might just give green bean casserole a run for its money.
Southwestern-Style Spoonbread Dressing
Southerners love spoonbread, that much we know. This retro recipe is like a cross between spoonbread and cornbread dressing. Therefore, it's pretty amazing.
Old-School Squash Casserole
Recipe: Old-School Squash Casserole
If you're wondering why this is on the list, you're surely not from these parts. Crunchy, creamy, and cheesy, this casserole is a Turkey Day non-negotiable.
Marbled Pecan Pound Cake
Recipe: Marbled Pecan Pound Cake
We think Mama might've loved this pound cake just a little more since it could be made ahead and frozen before Thanksgiving week descends into chaos. Straight from the Southern Living archives—1993 to be exact—this marbled pecan pound cake can be served as-is or sweetened a bit with homemade whipped cream.
Molded Cranberry Salad
Recipe: Molded Cranberry Salad
Even if it just sits there, pushed to the farthest corner, a congealed salad just wants to be included on Thanksgiving Day. We published our fair share of congealed salads in the 1960s, and we wouldn't mind bringing this cranberry rendition back.
Recipe: Grits Dressing
When this cornbread-free dressing recipe graced Southern Living pages over 25 years ago, it stirred the proverbial pot, to be sure. But if we're swapping out a cornmeal-laden version for anything, it's going to be for grits. (Who says there isn't room for both?)
Classic Candied Yams
Recipe: Classic Candied Yams
Candied yams aren't as favored on the Thanksgiving spread as they once were. Back before sweet potato casserole reigned supreme, these lightly spiced and oh-so-sweet yams were a Southern staple.
Mini Turkey Pot Pies with Dressing Tops
A clever way to use leftover turkey—or, if really going for it, to serve alongside the Thanksgiving spread—turkey-and-dressing pot pie is Mama's way of using pie crusts, casseroles, and just about anything else lurking around the kitchen.
Sliced Sweet Potato Pie
On a special occasion like Thanksgiving, an antique version of sweet potato pie feels just right. This double-crust, old-fashioned pie might look ordinary on the outside, but when it's sliced, the inside reveals vibrant orange layers of sweet potatoes flecked with spices and sweetened with sugar and sorgham syrup.
Traditional Relish Tray
For some Southern families, it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without this traditional appetizer spread. Round out these recipes with store-bought pickled cherry peppers, olives, and okra. Halve the okra pods lengthwise, and wrap them in prosciutto or country ham.
Smoked Turkey Breast
Recipe: Smoked Turkey Breast
Let the brine (and smoker) do the work. This classic smoked turkey is full of autumnal flavors like apple cider, fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage.
Classic Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe: Classic Sweet Potato Casserole
Thanksgiving calls for at least one enticingly sweet side dish. This retro favorite combines every classic topping—marshmallows, pecans, and cornflakes—for a creamy, crunchy, gooey finish.
Old-School Green Bean Casserole
Recipe: Old-School Green Bean Casserole
Creamy and savory, and with a bit of crunch at the end from crispy fried onions, this old-fashioned green bean casserole hits all of the tried-and-true notes.
Recipe: Apple-Bourbon Pie
Sure, apple pie is classic. But this rendition from our 1995 November issue is anything but ordinary. Bourbon-infused raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, apricot preserves, and chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts give it a festive zing.
Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Fennel
Somewhere, a Southerner is always making a case for including sausage in a dish. This cornbread dressing recipe proves that he or she is usually right!
Slow-Cooker Collard Greens with Ham Hocks
Collards are like good Thanksgiving guests. They don't get in the way, but definitely add something to the occasion. (In this case, the sideboard.) Southern to the bone, collard greens with ham hocks are too easy and delicious to pass up.
Turkey Pot Pie With Cranberry-Pecan Crusts
Find a more festive Thanksgiving casserole, we pose. Using Thanksgiving turkey and adorably-cut cranberry-pecan crust, this pot pie takes an old-school classic and renders it fall-tastic.
Our Easiest Pumpkin Pie Ever
Recipe: Our Easiest Pumpkin Pie Ever
Once upon a time, we sent the Southern Living Test Kitchen on a mission to discover the easiest, most fantastic pumpkin pie recipe in all the land. And they succeeded. If you thought homemade pumpkin pie was difficult to pull off, think again.
Recipe: Oxbow Bakery Pecan Pie
This Texas-based recipe feels straight from the archives. “A lady from Houston just grabbed me and hugged me with tears in her eyes,” says the purveyor of this pecan pie, Becky Wolfe. “She said she hadn’t had pie like this since her mother passed.”
Herbed Wild Rice Dressing
Recipe: Herbed Wild Rice Dressing
It's wild, that's for sure. In Louisiana, rice-based dressings are a common occurence—lend it to Cajun cooking's love for the grain—and this rice dressing recipe makes a case for broadening beyond cornbread.
Classic Fresh Field Peas
Recipe: Classic Fresh Field Peas
Using both ham hocks and bacon drippings, these fresh field peas don't go subtle on flavor for the day of feasting.
Hot Cranberry Bake
Recipe: Hot Cranberry Bake
This simple, crisp-like dessert is like having holiday heaven on speed dial. Quick and easy, it's a classic we brought back from an issue dated almost three decades ago.
Pumpkin-and-Winter Squash Gratin
Recipe: Pumpkin-and-Winter Squash Gratin
Southerners love nothing more than piling seasonal vegetables into a casserole dish, covering them with cheese, and topping it all with something crunchy. This gratin uses pumpkin, butternut squash, and russet potatoes.
Roasted Herb Turkey and Gravy
Recipe: Roasted Herb Turkey and Gravy
Cover all of your Thanksgiving needs with this old-fashioned, wonderfully basted turkey. Spices like sage, thyme, and fennel seeds do most of the work.
Honey-Glazed Spiced Carrots
Recipe: Honey-Glazed Spiced Carrots
Talk about a festive demeanor. These carrots make a bright and cheery addition to the spread. During the holiday season, Southerners will cover just about any vegetable with butter, sugar, and a bevy of festive spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake
Upping the ante on pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake appears on many a Southern feasting table. Decadent and creamy, this recipe might disappear as quickly as your go-to pie. (Might.)
Basic Deviled Eggs
Recipe: Basic Deviled Eggs
Somewhere along the line, this favorite Southern snack became a beloved Thanksgiving tradition. Southern cooks pop these in between covering the casseroles and basting the turkey.
Published in Southern Living in November, 1990, this recipe has all the makings of a keeper. A version of poppyseed casserole shows up on every Southern table, from time to time, and what better way to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey?
We like to stuff things other than the turkey, too. These festive mini acorn squash? Perfect stuffing vessels for Southern-style black-eyed peas.