If you’re looking for a way to inject some more flavor into your traditional Thanksgiving dishes, just add bacon—incorporate it into just one or two courses, or lard the entire Thanksgiving feast with bacon. Here are one writer’s suggestions on how to do it.
A Word of Appreciation for Thanksgiving Traditions
I love Thanksgiving—a holiday designed entirely around eating massive amounts of food, taking a break, lounging on the couch, and going back for round two. And how great is it that, unlike other holidays, you still have three whole days off afterwards?! Here’s how much I love this holiday: Growing up, Thanksgiving was so important to me that I once suggested we have a practice meal somewhere mid-way through the year.
“You gotta stay sharp, mom,” I’d say. “This meal is the focal point, the show. There’s a lot riding on this, and it’s only made once a year. I think we should have a practice to make sure we get it right.” Laughing, while rolling her eyes and shaking her head, my mom wasn’t buying it. Now that I’m older and do the majority of the cooking in my house, I appreciate how much work it is to get a feast of that magnitude together, so I understand.
Luckily, there were never any issues. Year in, year out, my mom delivered masterpiece after masterpiece. One year, I over-indulged to the point of near-unconsciousness. Another year, I was so eager to partake in every culinary delight prepared, I had, unbeknownst to myself, started eating with a fork in each hand. My sister caught it, and asked, “Hey, are you eating with two forks!?” Shaken out of “the zone,” I looked at both hands, chuckled with a half smile, and said, “Yeah, I guess so!”
Spending time with family, the traditional dishes, and the no-need-to-apologize-or-be-embarrassed mass consumption make this holiday tough to beat. We all have our favorites. That’s why, still, my mom will send an email to the family asking for our “must-haves.” You know, those dishes so essential to your Thanksgiving enjoyment that forgetting them would almost ruin the day. With that, my goal here is not to trample on sacred ground by suggesting a way to muck up a cherished favorite. My goal is to help you out with the other items on your table—the things that could be enhanced for maximum enjoyment.
How Bacon Can Make Things Even Better
I want to help you brainstorm ways to turn those plain mashed potatoes, or that soggy corn, or the boring vegetables into, perhaps, a new Thanksgiving “must-have” for you and your family. I hope to assist you in livening up your Thanksgiving feast with bacon! So, without further ado, here are some ideas (many of which also happen to be great for a keto Thanksgiving menu).
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What I’m about to say could shock and appall you. I find turkey boring. There, my secret is out! I’ll eat it, and Thanksgiving certainly isn’t the same without it, but I wish the traditional meal involved a different type of meat—like beef or pork. Wait, what if I wrapped the turkey in pork? Could I do that? Yes, I can! Bacon-wrapped turkey to the rescue! Get our Bacon-Wrapped Turkey recipe.
The Mashed Potatoes
My dad makes great whipped potatoes. But, if you’re not so fortunate to love the spuds sitting on your table, try a loaded mashed potato bake. With cheese and bacon, it’s sure to tantalize those taste buds. Get the Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole recipe.
The Sweet Potatoes
Gotta love a meal that traditionally includes two types of potatoes! Sweet potato casserole with mini marshmallows may be classic, but sweet potato casserole with bourbon, bacon, pecans, and fried sage leaves is clearly several steps up. Get the Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole with Sweet and Savory Bacon Pecans recipe.
My sister makes great cranberry muffins (I highly recommend) for the family, but sometimes I have a hankering for cornbread. And if you’re looking to be bold with your cornbread, throw some bacon and thyme in the mix for a great savory-sweet balance sure to address your carb cravings. Get our Bacon Thyme Corn Muffin Tops recipe.
My sister loves plain old, frozen corn-off-the-cob, but I could take it or leave it. There does seem to be something Thanksgivingy, though, about having maize in the meal. That’s why I’m wondering if I can do some convincing and mobilize enough support around a bacon-corn casserole. Creamy, delicious, bacony corn. Get the Creamy Bacon Corn Casserole recipe.
The Soup, Pt. I
Continuing this corn streak, I’d also be up for a corn chowder with bacon. In my family, a nice fall soup is made to tide folks over while the cook puts the finishing touches on the full meal. Chowders are good, hearty fall soups, and corn, as mentioned above, seems right for the occasion. Get our Bacon Corn Chowder recipe.
The Soup, Pt. II
Another soup that enjoys much more favor in our family is the butternut squash variety. Very fall, and very good. Putting in some savory bacon to counter the sweetness of the squash could revolutionize this warm-up (pun intended!) course to the main event. Get the Roasted Butternut Squash Bacon Soup recipe.
I really enjoy stuffing. Actually, I suppose if you want to get technical, I enjoy dressing (I’m told this is what unstuffed stuffing is called). Anyway, I remember trying different variations on stuffing throughout the years. Some of them involved sausage. And while that’s fine, what if I prefer bacon? There’s a bacon stuffing recipe for that! Get the Bacon Bornbread Stuffing recipe.
The Vegetable…Sort of
Not much of a veggie lover? Prefer your greens rich and decadent? Might I suggest a creamed spinach with bacon? Get the Creamed Spinach with Bacon recipe.
The Actual Vegetable
I would never mess around with the classic green bean casserole. That creamy, oniony dish is tough to top. But, if you happen to go for something a bit fresher, I’ve never met a fresh green bean that couldn’t be helped by some crispy bacon bits. To see what I’m talking about, get our Bacon Green Beans recipe.
Related Reading: How Green Bean Casserole Became a Thanksgiving Staple
If you’re the type of family that likes to have a salad on the table, I’d recommend going with a traditional spinach salad. Not only are there bacon bits atop it, but it’s made with a warm bacon dressing. That’s right, so much bacon you could legitimately change the name from “spinach salad” to “bacon salad.” Get our Warm Bacon Spinach Salad recipe.
An obvious and kid-friendly choice for your Thanksgiving table is mac and cheese. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon who operates on rocket scientists to see the potential in adding bacon to this tasty dish, so I won’t belabor it. Get the Three Cheese Bacon Mac and Cheese recipe. (Or try our Smoky Mac and Cheese recipe with bacon, smoked almonds, smoked paprika, and smoked gouda.)
Do you like butter? I sure do. If you want to add a little something extra to your meal without making a big fuss, make a quick and easy bacon butter. Yes, that’s a thing. Put it on bread, potatoes, stuffing, mashed sweets, or vegetables and you go from blah to bumpin’! Get the Bacon Butter recipe.
You didn’t think dessert would be left bacon-less, did you? Salty sweet desserts are a big thing, and bacon has been on everything from doughnuts to chocolate truffles. This pecan pie with bacon and bourbon is a delicious way to end your bacon-wrapped Thanksgiving feast. If you prefer pumpkin pie, a subtle way to add bacon could be mixing crumbled candied bacon into a streusel topping. Get the Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie recipe.
Alright, I think I’ve sufficiently whipped myself into a bacon frenzy, and might have to go scrounge around for a BLT. Hopefully, I’ve given you some ammo in your fight against humdrum Thanksgiving dishes. Here’s wishing you a safe, peaceful, filling, and tasty Thanksgiving feast.
For more tips, tricks, and recipes, see our Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving.
Related Video: How to Make Bacon Candy
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