Nov 23, 2021 - Food and Drink

Atlanta chefs share their most creative Thanksgiving side dishes

hand spooning spinach rice dip

Credit: Deborah VanTrece

Time is tight, and smaller turkeys are in short supply. You need some help brainstorming interesting side dishes to impress your in-laws at the family dinner or best buddies at Friendsgiving.

We’ve all been there — and some of us are there again as we type — so we reached out to some of Atlanta’s most creative chefs for their go-to Thanksgiving dishes.

Maricela Vega of Chico

Hibiscus Jam (a cranberry replacement)

What she says: “There are still some hibiscus pods looming around this time of year grown by some Georgia farms (usually you can plan a month ahead by finding them in abundance at the farmers markets).”

Estimated cooking time: Roughly one hour


  • 2 cups of packed fresh hibiscus (core removed)
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 pod cardamom
  • ½ stick cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cup of water


Put everything in a pot and slow cook on low heat for about an hour. Hydrating lightly as needed until the pods are dissolved. Season with a pinch of salt.

Steven Satterfield of Miller Union

Cornbread Dressing

What he says: "Rather than cutting hunks out of a casserole dish I wanted to serve individual portions, baked in a muffin tin, that would give each diner the perfect balance of crusty edge to moist center. I added chopped pecans and dried fruit for crunch and tang."

Estimated cooking time: 35-40 minutes


  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing tins
  • 8 cups of crumbled cornbread (note: Steven has a recipe in Root to Leaf)
  • ¾ cups coarsely chopped dried sour cherries
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken of vegetable stock
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oven to 325℉. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin with butter; set aside. Crumble the cornbread into medium-fine pieces into a large bowl. Add the cherries and pecans and set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, shallot, sage and thyme, and cook until the onion is translucent, about five minutes. Add the stock and let simmer for five minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture over the cornbread and mix to combine; let cool slightly. Stir in the eggs and season with salt and pepper.

Using your hands or a large spoon, place the heaping mound of the cornbread mixture in each muffin cup. Gently press and pat each mound into a domed shape. Keep in mind this batter does not rise. Bake until set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool, then remove from the muffin tins. To reheat, wrap each muffin individually in aluminum foil and return to the oven until hot.

Deborah VanTrece of Twisted Soul

Grandma Lue's Spinach Rice

What she says: "This delicious rice is named after my grandmother. She devised it as a way to make me eat spinach, and it worked! Over the years, I added some of my favorite flavors — vinegary artichokes, the combination of cheeses — until the result becomes like the best spinach and artichoke dip you ever had, but with rice, and I love anything with rice."

Estimated cooking time: 30 minutes


  • 3 cups cooked white rice, chilled 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped celery
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped red bell pepper 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 4 pounds fresh baby spinach
  • washed and trimmed
  • 1 cup chopped marinated
  • artichokes
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly cracked
  • black pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a deep casserole or 13 by 9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, stir together the cold rice and beaten eggs.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, peppers, onions and spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, for two to three minutes, until the onions are translucent and the spinach is wilted. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan and garlic.

Cook for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally until the cream cheese has melted and all of the ingredients are well combined.

Add the spinach-cheese mixture to the rice. With a wooden spoon, stir in the black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and salt.

Pour into the prepared casserole, and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.


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