A few dishes are expected at Thanksgiving — mashed potatoes and stuffing have earned their place on the table — but what if this year you usher in a few unexpected turns?

You know, Thanksgiving wasn’t always beige. The most iconic meal of the year deserves its place on the brighter side of things, don’t you think? This year, host a new-fashioned Thanksgiving. Use these simple tips from our holiday chef squad and our resident culinary expert, Allison Thomas, to fill your menu with color.

Add more produce.

“Adding more vegetables to what you’re already preparing makes your meal so much brighter and prettier,” says Jenné Claiborne, chef ambassador and author of “Sweet Potato Soul.” “As a vegan chef, I love produce and I love color — it’s the perfect collaboration.”

Whipping up a creamy dip? Don’t just serve it with crackers. Create a colorful crudités platter with rainbow carrots, sliced watermelon radishes, Romanesco florets, sliced cucumbers and radicchio leaves. 

Try it: Muhammara Spiced Red Pepper

Go green.

Fresh herbs and greens make eye-catching garnishes, so play them up wherever you can. “I don’t think you can overdo it with light, fresh herbs,” says Claiborne. Sprinkle chopped parsley over stuffing or chopped chives over mashed potatoes for a quick burst of color and flavor.

 For more inspiration, look to your recipe’s ingredient list. “If you’re already using celery in your stuffing, save the leaves and use as a garnish before serving to add contrasting color,” suggests Thomas.

shot of Turkey and Gravy on fork


Dress up your turkey...

Think of your turkey’s serving platter as a blank canvas for a rainbow of edible garnishes. “Mixed citrus, like oranges and kumquats, with miniature pears, persimmons or cut halves of pomegranates are beautiful to tuck into the sides of the platter,” says Thomas.

...and the cranberry sauce, too.

“Dishes like cranberry sauce are already vibrant, but adding fresh orange or lemon zest adds even more color and bright flavor,” says Thomas. You can also sprinkle over chopped mint leaves for a splash of green and a cool burst of flavor.

Make a salad.

“A beautifully composed salad is a nice way to add brightness to your meal and break up heavier Thanksgiving foods,” says Rucker. Start with an assortment of lettuces, like green romaine and red radicchio, then build your salad from there.

Try it: Salad with Beets, Gorgonzola and Maple Dressing.

Shot of Harissa Carrots on Fork

Play with new ingredient combinations.

Add excitement to your meal by pairing unexpected flavors. Instead of pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream, try crimson-colored berry gelato. If you’re roasting carrots, don’t just toss them with butter — serve them over a bed of Greek yogurt and drizzle with harissa, sesame seeds and coriander seeds.

Try a different kind of showpiece.

Give turkey the backseat — and make a meatless main the focal point of your table this year. “I’d love to try a big stuffed squash ... with a little bit of turkey on the side,” says Nicole Rucker, chef ambassador and author of “Dappled: Baking Recipes for Fruit Lovers.” Stuff acorn or butternut squash with an array of fillings like whole grains, dried cranberries, sweet potatoes, chopped apples, fresh herbs and more. 

Try it: Harvest Stuffed Acorn Squash

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