10 Fresh Thanksgiving Salads You Can Make Ahead

Say goodbye to limp greens!

Photo: Roland Bello

Sure, Thanksgiving might be mostly about the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, but that doesn't mean you should skip the greens. Thanksgiving salads are a fresh counterpoint to all of the carb-heavy plates. And when you've got an exciting salad selection picked out, eating veggies won't feel dutiful. You need something that's light with interesting texture and color to stand up to all of the other healthy dishes. You also need something with a bit of structure that won't wilt immediately, especially if you do Thanksgiving family style.

Luckily, each of these 10 options fits the bill. And, as an added bonus, each one is also make-ahead. Take our shaved Brussels sprouts with manchego and almonds—you can assemble the entire dish the day ahead, and the Brussels won't brown or turn soggy during the meal. Our grilled radicchio salad with goat cheese, thyme, and grapes has smoky, tangy, salty, and sweet components. It's balanced and complex and won't be shoved to the far corner of the dinner table. Several of our other salads have sweet-tart elements in them like apples, citrus segments, and pomegranate seeds. Think about it: These flavors are in cranberry sauce, too, and pair exceptionally well with roasted meat. You might even be compelled to add some of these options to your regular weeknight dinner rotation.

01 of 10

Grilled Radicchio Salad With Goat Cheese, Thyme, and Grapes

Grilled Radicchio Salad with Goat Cheese, Thyme, and Grapes
Jonny Miller

Marinating radicchio infuses it with flavor, and a turn on the grill lends smokiness and char. After transferring the vegetables to a serving platter, top with goat cheese and grapes, which pair well with the balsamic marinade. Garnish the salad with fresh thyme for color and an extra pop of flavor. Serve warm or at room temperature.

02 of 10

Apple and Watercress Salad

Apple and Watercress Salad
Levi Brown

Between basting the turkey and mashing the potatoes, you'll be thankful for a salad that's this easy to whip up. Simply toss sliced red apples with watercress, olive oil, lemon juice, and tarragon for a surprisingly flavorful (and crowd-pleasing!) side. Watercress is similar to arugula, and gives the salad a nice peppery kick.

03 of 10

Shaved Brussels Sprouts With Manchego and Almonds

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Manchego and Almonds
Roland Bello

This crunchy, vegetarian-friendly raw salad is a welcome way to round out an otherwise rich meal. Bonus: It won't hog oven time. Have some travel time ahead of you? Toss the Brussels sprouts with the dressing up to an hour in advance. The fibers will soften and the flavors will intensify.

04 of 10

Shiitake Bacon

Thanksgiving Salad: Shiitake Bacon
Greg DuPree

For a modern version of the classic dinner salad, start with your favorite Cobb salad recipe—but nix the pork bacon. This vegetarian, healthy-alternative version of cholesterol packed bacon is actually just shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake caps packed with delicious meaty umami flavor on their own. Then they're tossed in brown sugar, olive oil, and a smattering of spices—cumin, chili powder, and cayenne—that add even more savory flavor. Finally, they're roasted so they caramelize just like pan-cooked bacon. One of the best parts? They won't spatter your entire stove (or oven for that matter) with grease.

05 of 10

Kale With Roasted Cranberries and Sweet Potatoes

Thanksgiving Salad: Kale With Roasted Cranberries and Sweet Potatoes
Greg DuPree

They add a pop of red color and a bit of tartness to your salad, just like pomegranate seeds. In this recipe, cranberries are coated in a bit of maple syrup to balance out their sour bite. And this is genius: the maple syrup caramelizes around the berries during roasting, sealing their juices inside so they remain plump—and so the juice doesn't stain the sweet potatoes bright red. You can make most components of the salad ahead of time, including roasting the cranberries and sweet potatoes, chopping the kale, and whisking together the dressing (it'll keep for one day in advance).

06 of 10

Citrus Endive Salad

Thanksgiving Salad: Citrus Endive Salad
Romulo Yanes

In the colder seasons, it's hard to make a colorful, fresh salad with seasonal ingredients. This dish, made with Belgian endive, grapefruit, and red onion does it all. Even though there's a tablespoon of honey mixed into the salad dressing, the starter is more bitter and citrusy than sweet. It goes fantastically with rich Thanksgiving meals. Think of it like a palate cleanser. Cut the endive right before serving, but it's entirely possible to segment the citrus the day before. Here's how: with a sharp chef's knife, cut the top and bottom off the grapefruit. Resting the grapefruit on one of the flat ends, slice down with the chefs knife to remove the peel of the grapefruit in strips. When you're finished, cut along both sides of each grapefruit segment along the membrane. The segments can be stored in their juice overnight in an airtight container.

07 of 10

Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Seed Salad

Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Seed Salad
Levi Brown

Pomegranate seeds—which are at their prime from September to January—add a pop of color and flavor to this hearty vegetarian main. When picking the pomegranate, it should feel heavy in your hand, since its seeds are loaded with juice. The leathery skin should be firm and taut, with a light pink to deep red color.

08 of 10

Chopped Winter Salad With Butternut Squash, Apple, and Feta

Picnic Food Ideas: Chopped Winter Salad With Butternut Squash, Apple, and Feta
Yunhee Kim

Full of contrasting flavors and textures, this salad combines sweet roasted butternut squash with chickpeas, crunchy apples, briny olives, and salty feta cheese. The whole thing is finished with a drizzle of dill dressing. Hoping to incorporate sweet potatoes into the menu? Simply substitute them for the butternut squash.

09 of 10

Roasted Broccoli, Mushroom, and Barley Salad

Roasted Broccoli, Mushroom, and Barley Salad
Johnny Miller

Each bite of this wholesome salad is packed with good-for-you ingredients, like broccoli, mushrooms, and barley. To create, prepare barley according to package instructions, roast the vegetables, and then toss it all with a tangy and slightly salty anchovy dressing. Finish the dish with a sprinkle of feta and fresh dill.

10 of 10

Crispy Pomegranate, Watercress, and Fennel Salad

Crispy Pomegranate, Watercress, and Fennel Salad
Joseph De Leo

The juicy, tart pomegranate seeds complement the crisp fennel and slightly bitter watercress in this gorgeous salad, which takes just 10 minutes to prepare. Adding the vibrant lemon vinaigrette to the serving bowl first ensures the entire salad is evenly coated—but won't drip onto the rest of your sides.

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