How to Weave Classic Fall Flavors into Your Thanksgiving Feast

October 29, 2021 | Food Lion
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Autumn is all about warmth and comfort: snuggly movie nights, hot cocoa by the fire pit and joyous holiday gatherings. Fall flavors echo those cozy feelings — think the earthy sweetness of pumpkin, the crisp snap of an orchard-fresh apple and a homey hint of baking spices. We wait all year long for the hearty flavors that arrive when fall is in season, and there’s no better place to let those flavors shine than at Thanksgiving dinner.

Incorporating essential fall flavors into Thanksgiving dishes is a cinch, whether you take those flavors in traditional or unexpected directions — or, both! This special meal is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the fall flavors that speak to the bounty of the harvest season.

Here are a some tasty and creative ways to weave fall flavors into your family’s Thanksgiving dinner:


Pumpkin hummus top down view with cut cucumber, carrots, and green peppers, cutting board of fresh cucumbers and carrots, white wood table background

It seems like everyone starts craving pumpkin the moment the temperature drops! From the family fun of carving pumpkins to tucking into a slice of Pumpkin Pie, these cheerful orange gourds are the stars of the season.

If your family enjoys a happy hour or snack before your holiday dinner, Pumpkin Hummus and Pumpkin Bacon Dip use the creamy sweetness of this fall fruit to create lovely, textural dishes. Baked Pumpkin Cheese Dip is another delicious option when served with an array of crackers, breads and fresh veggies.

Pumpkins are used in all kinds of holiday desserts, and while you can’t go wrong with a pie (with extra whipped cream, of course!), it can be fun to think outside the box. Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cheesecake takes a modern approach, borrowing flavors from the popular coffee drink, and Instant Pot Pumpkin Cheesecake uses a pressure cooker, one of our go-to appliances for saving time without sacrificing flavor. For a grown-up treat, serve up a round of Hard Cider Pumpkin Floats plus Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate for the kids.

Don’t forget about the iconic duo of pumpkin and chocolate! Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are a crowd-pleasing dessert, and Fall Butter Cups are a decadent delight.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Bowl with fresh vegetables

Versatile and packed with nutrients, sweet potatoes are a welcome guest in many dishes. A simple sweet potato mash or Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Carrots bring color and rustic elegance to a Thanksgiving meal, but there are plenty of other ways to call upon these fall favorites!

Sweet potatoes lend lovely tenderness to baked goods. A basket of Virginia Sweet Potato Muffins with a pad of cinnamon butter is a great addition to your holiday spread, and Cinnamon Swirl Sweet Potato Bundt Cake deserves a place at dessert. For a healthy, vibrant side dish, Roasted Sweet Potato Salad can’t be beat (and omitting the goat cheese makes it vegan).

A blanket of marshmallows atop sweet potatoes is a tried-and-true Thanksgiving dish, and gets a clever remix in single-serving Sweet Potato Casserole Bites. Take the sweet-on-sweet combo to the next level at dessert with Sweet Potato Marshmallow Bars, bite-sized treats that can win over any sweet potato skeptic!

Of course, sweet potatoes work incredibly well in soups, giving a rich, luscious texture when pureed. For some Southwestern flair, make a batch of Creamy Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup, or keep it classic with Creamy Sweet Potato, Apple and Bacon Soup.

If you find yourself with leftover sweet potatoes, use them up at weekend breakfast with Instant Pot Sweet Potato Oatmeal


Apple Skillet pie top down view

Autumn is the time for all-apple-everything because there are so many varieties to enjoy during the harvest season! Generally, tart apples like Granny Smith are best for baking, softer types like McIntosh and Golden Delicious work well for homemade applesauce and crunchy, sweet apples, like Honeycrisp and Pink Lady, are ideal for eating out-of-hand or using in salads.

Apple cider is a real treat during this time of year, and makes a great drink served chilled or warmed. You can also use it as an ingredient in adult drinks to enjoy before or after Thanksgiving dinner, like Apple Cider Mimosas, or cinnamon and ginger spiced Apple Pie Moscow Mules.

A fresh batch of Fluffy Apple Cheddar Biscuits with homemade Apple Butter can be a hearty snack or a nice substitution for a regular bread basket at dinner. If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving side packed with flavors and textures, try Creamy Apple Broccoli Salad, which is easy to make ahead.

Dessert enables apples to really show off their honeyed sweetness. A Skillet Apple Pie makes an impressive centerpiece (using store-bought pie crust really cuts down on the time), though there are plenty of other ways to use apples without making a pie. An Apple Cinnamon Roll Bake, Apple Turnovers and Black Walnut Apple Cake are all enticing treats that everyone will love.


Cranberry jalapeno dip in serving dish with crackers, pink napkin in corner

Cranberries’ tart sharpness is beloved at the Thanksgiving table as the popular Cranberry Sauce, which offsets the richness of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and other holiday favorites. But you can use these winter fruits for so much more!

Kick up your happy hour a notch with a tangy, creamy shareable snack, like Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip or a Bacon Cranberry Cheese Ball. For a bit of heat, try Cranberry Jalapeño Dip with Cream Cheese, which makes an excellent sweet-and-spicy appetizer. 

If you aren’t making a whole turkey this year, a Cranberry Roasted Turkey Breast is the perfect way to still share all the Thanksgiving flavors — with beautiful pops of color from the cranberries. Serve it with Sausage, Cranberry and Walnut Stuffing on the side for an extra-autumnal touch.

Cranberries’ acidic tartness makes a nice counterpoint to apple dessert dishes, like Cranberry Stuffed Apples, Apple Cranberry Crisp or Cranberry Apple Bake. Or, whip up a batch of Sugared Cranberries and serve them over ice cream for a fancy (but super simple) confection. 

There are so many ways to incorporate fabulous fall flavors into your Thanksgiving feast! When you holiday the Food Lion way, there are always easy, fresh & affordable ingredients (and time saving shortcuts) to help you prepare memorable holiday meals. Stop by your neighborhood Food Lion to discover quality produce, delicious baked goods, must-have pantry staples and everything else you need for this year’s Thanksgiving preparations.

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