Fall Panzanella with Kale, Cranberries, and White Beans
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I’ll go on record and say that Thanksgiving is the most underrated late-season holiday. Sandwiched between the costumed, Bacchanalian antics of Halloween, and the sparkly, soundtracked magic of Christmas, a humble occasion centered around the dinner table savoring a singular, spectacular meal is…well frankly, my kind of holiday.

Potluck EssentialsThe Best Products to Transport Your Precious FoodBut if I’m being honest, even as a fervent disciple of Thanksgiving, there are a couple of things that don’t sit quite right with me. Firstly, the idea that the average home cook, whose oven might otherwise play occasional host to a cookie sheet, loaf pan, or casserole dish, is suddenly expected to execute a whole-roasted mega-poultry with a surprisingly narrow margin of error between succulent and sucked-the-life-out-of-it, seems ridiculous.

Secondly, most of us urbanites can’t claim miles of quartz countertop nor a dining table for that matter required of a worthy Friendsgiving buffet. And yet we proceed, with blind enthusiasm, into hosting a yearly fork-and-knife dinner party whose signature side dishes number upwards of a dozen.

But what if there are other ways to maintain both the spirit and seasonal flavor of Thanksgiving, without stumbling blearily through a body cavity seasoning process during your morning coffee? Below, a few ideas.

Friendsgiving Cocktail Party

Mini Chicken Pot Pie Bites recipe


This theme relies on a strongly held personal belief that any dish worth having can be transformed into a bite-sized version. (I’d even take it one step further and say that any dish worth having can be transformed into a deviled egg, but I digress.) Don’t believe me? Check out these recipes for Turkey Pot Pie Bites, Mashed Potato Cakes, Stuffing-Stuffed Mushrooms, and Sweet Potato Biscuits. Throw in a batch of gravy for authenticity and a zesty Spiced Cranberry Sangria to wash it down with, and you have all the makings of a complete Thanksgiving dinner that can be eaten with one’s hands while standing up.

Friendsgiving Heritage Buffet

Japchae (Korean Stir-Fried Sweet Potato Noodles) recipe


Whether you believe the original Thanksgiving was a civilized affair celebrating the coming-together of cultures or not, there’s no reason that your Friendsgiving can’t be precisely that. Rather than assigning the standards, invite your friends to bring dishes that evoke memories or celebrate their diverse cultural backgrounds. You might not end up with the kind of potluck plate that begs for a layer of gravy over absolutely everything, but then again how else will Cheese Blintzes, Korean Japchae, Green Shakshuka, and Peruvian Chicken Chili ever come together to share plate space in your life?

Related Reading: The Best New International Cookbooks for Fall

Friendsgiving Brunch

Skillet Pear Cake recipe


Perhaps you’re the kind of host who’s had it with the whole potluck fiasco. Here’s a potluck idea—have your friends bring drinks, drinks, and other drinks, and you make all the food. Hosting Friendsgiving is a chance to show-off, and you don’t want your thoughtful, home-cooked dishes to be degraded by proximity to the apps from Trader Joe’s your less-culinary-inclined friends brought over. A great way to take ownership of the entire meal without getting overwhelmed by a huge bird is brunch. A seasonally appropriate casserole, a few pastries, and a lovely salad take the pressure off of the stove top, but still make you look like a domestic deity. Check out our complete guide on How to Host a Friendsgiving Brunch.

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Southern Style Friendsgiving Barbecue

Mashed Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon


If your local barbecue restaurant is offering to smoke a turkey or two for a modest price, then by all means, let them! And get some! (Like you really want to empty out your refrigerator for several days in order to brine a whole bird?) All I really need flavor-wise to completely evoke Thanksgiving vibes is a whiff of sage, and many Thanksgiving staples translate adorably with a little southern twang, like Mashed Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon, and Cornbread, Sausage, and Apple Stuffing. And if you have friends who are somehow opposed to the idea of Macaroni and Cheese or Baked Beans gracing their Friendsgiving buffet, don’t you want to know that sooner rather than later?

Friendsgiving Leftover Chopped-Style Challenge

Kale Mashed Potatoes with Romesco Sauce


If your Friendsgiving is slated for after the actual holiday, host your friends and all their leftovers for the ultimate (friendly) culinary showdown. Have them bring their best reimagined dishes featuring traditional Thanksgiving components, or see what they can come up with last minute given Thanksgiving staples on hand. Need inspiration? Look to these Baked Eggs in Stuffing Cups, Kale and Potato Mash with Romesco Sauce, or the ultimate Thanksgiving Leftovers Club Sandwich.

Related Video: These Squash Tortellini are a Friendsgiving Must!

Header image by Chowhound.

Pamela Vachon is a freelance writer based in Astoria, NY whose work has also appeared on CNET, Cheese Professor, Alcohol Professor, and Diced. She is also a certified sommelier, voiceover artist, and an avid lover of all things pickled or fermented.
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