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German Side Dish Ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner

German Side Dish Ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner


When I was growing up, my mother never made the traditional American Thanksgiving meal of big roast Turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, etc.  We would have a German meal instead (which was fine by me, I’ll take a pork roast any day). Still, after being married to an American, I learned to make the American meal, and incorporate a few German side dish ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner. You may not get out of putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes (I still don’t care much for that), but you can bring some delicious German foods to the table that won’t look so strange (and will compliment the Turkey very well).

Win win…everyone is happy!

German Side Dish Ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner

It doesn’t have to be radical changes… just a few twists on the standards will make your traditional Thanksgiving Meal a little bit German.

Instead of Butternut Squash Soup- German Kurbis Suppe

To me, German Kurbissuppe or Pumpkin Cream Soup has a much milder flavor than the American counterpart. What makes this really international is the Hokkaido pumpkin (from Japan). Around the world in one soup! Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (a good one) if you want it to look fancy. Or maybe sprinkle it with a few roasted shelled pumpkin seeds.
English recipe for Kurbis Suppe
Watch it made here–

Or go ahead and take the short cut with this instant–> Kurbiscreme Suppe


Instead of Stuffing- Semmel Klöße

Semmel Klöße or Bread Dumplings are basically Stuffing or Dressing (Stuffing goes IN the Bird, Dressing is cooked SEPARATELY FROM the bird). Old bread is seasoned and softened… then shaped into balls and cooked until done. Now, a lot of people have serious stuffing/dressing issues, and you might not be allowed to make the substitution, but since everyone loves it so much, why not offer Semmel Knödel as an ADDITIONAL side dish. (The kids will love you, because there won’t be any of the “things” that people are always sneaking into stuffing… like celery).
Learn how to make them here-

Or take a short cut with a Pfanni Mix–> Pfanni Semmel Knödel

Instead of Green Bean Cassarole- Grüne Bohnen mit Speck und Zwiebeln

Green Beans mixed with canned Mushroom soup? Not when you can make them with BACON! The beans are fresh and tasty, and even kids won’t turn up their noses to green veggies if there is bacon involved. (FYI Speck in Germany isn’t quite the same as Bacon in the US, but you can use Bacon as a substitute in this recipe).
Find the recipe here–>German Speckbohnen Rezept
And in English (this recipe needs a bit of salt and pepper)–> Green Beans with Speck and Onion

Instead of Sweet Potatoes make Potato Croquettes

If you’ve never had them, think of Potato Croquettes as high end Tator Tots. Crisp fried, and super delicious… these will be the first to vanish from the table. Best of all, you can make them ahead of time and freeze until you are ready to cook them up. Croquettes are made with mashed potatoes, egg, seasoning, and some bread crumbs… shaped and fried up! YUM!
Find the Recipe here–> Recipe for Croquettes
or watch it made here–


Instead of Macaroni and Cheese- Käse Spätzle

Macaroni and Cheese is as American as Thomas Jefferson, but you can switch things up a little with Käse Spätzle! Instead of cheddar, Käse Spätzle uses Gruyere cheese. AND for those who really miss those fried onions from the American Green Bean Cassarole, they make a great topping here! Make the Spätzle yourself, you can even make them ahead of time… or use the ones from a bag (only your Oma will know the difference!).
Find the recipe here–> Käse Spätzle

Watch it made here–

Click to order a quick packet of Cheese Spätzle 

Other ideas for Germanizing your American Thanksgiving….

Rotkohl or Red Cabbage 

Rotkohl or Red Cabbage seems to be part of every German Celebration or Holiday meal, so why not make it for Thanksgiving? It’s a little sweet, a little sour, and pairs well most meat. I’m more used to Rotkohl that isn’t cooked so long.

thanksgiving side dish
This recipe, with less cooking time, is good–> Rotkohl
Or you can cheat, and buy the pre-made–> Red Cabbage

Schupfnudeln or Potato Noodles

You are appealing to kids with this recipe (and me). Think of them as longer friend Gnocci. And they are soooo delicious! You don’t even need gravy, but you will love them with gravy.
Find the recipe here–> Schupfnudeln

Rosenkohl or Brussels Sprouts

I’m going on record that I am NOT a fan of Rosenkohl. But I will eat them. HOWEVER, I have never in my life not eaten the food that was put in front of my by someone I love. My daughter roasts them (which isn’t tremendously German, but is good) and This recipe cooks them in Beer–>Bier Rosenkohl


And For Dessert?

Apfel Kuchen instead of Apple Pie!

You can go with the classic Vesunkener Apfelkuchen (Sunken Apple Cake) OR I suggest the Apfel Streusel Kuchen (Apple Streusel Cake!). It’s juicy and delicious. Travels well… and best of all, is covered in STREUSEL!
recipe for apple streusel cake

Find more German Recipes for a Perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas Meal HERE

The German Cookbook was written by Alfons Schuhbeck, a famous German chef. His recipes are easy to follow, and come out delicious. Culinaria Germany is broken up by region, so it’s easy to find that perfect recipe that goes along with your Oma’s heritage.

The German CookbookThe German CookbookThe German CookbookCulinaria Germany: A Celebration of Food and TraditionCulinaria Germany: A Celebration of Food and TraditionCulinaria Germany: A Celebration of Food and Tradition


  1. When I lived in Germany, I never heard of Thanksgiving. We of course have Ernte dank Fest. Its a church holiday. The farmers laid some of the products they grew on their Land, laid them in front of the Altar. Then a priest blessed the offerings. Never ate Turkey either. Like you Karen I’m not that fond of Turkey. I’m cooking a Ham tomorrow, and my children asked for a green Bean casserole. I make it the same way the Americans make it with cream of Mushroom soup with roasted garlic in the soup. While I was still living in Germany, my husband a American, brought home a Turkey. I couldn’t read English and had no clue what to do with it.. Didn’t knew the English temperature for the oven in German. Some of my family members were there. My mom, two of my sisters, and some American friends. I ended up having a total disaster cooked. In the first place, I didn’t take off the plastic that Turkey was wrapped up in, inside the foil the bird came in it. I put my German oven on 175 degree, stuck the Turkey in the oven. My husband was still stuck at the Base, so he couldn’t help me. I checked on the Turkey every hour. Never looked like it was being baked. 7 hours later everybody were very hungry and kept asking me, when is that bird going to be done. I had no answer, just kept checking every hour. Mind you I had put the Turkey into the oven at 10am. Its now 7pm and the Turkey didn’t looked much changed from when I put it in the oven. My husband came home around 8 or 9 pm. He hindered the oven heat, and we ended up eating at 10 that night. I was very embarrassed, because my husband had bragged about my cooking. Well yes, I always cooked German dishes. He translated the instruction on the Turkey into German for me. The next time I made a Turkey, I made it right. I’m now pretty good at making the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I make a dressing for the stuffing that is the best, so I been told. I also make one hell of a cranberry salad. Its not a salad, its a dessert, made with nuts, some mayo, whip cream and a few more ingredients. Americans also eat cranberry sauce, I don’t. What is cranberry called in German? Now to pumpkins. My family never cooked anything with pumpkins. It was unfamiliar to us. I do not like Pumpkin Pie. I also never ate sweet potato,s in Germany. Did we Germans ever ate them? I won’t eat them here either. My husband loved them with baked Marshmallows on top. Give me a real potato, and I could eat them every day. I certainly remember Advents Kalenders. As a child that was a exciting time for me. After you light the first candle on the Advent Kranz, 3 more and Christmas was here. On Dezember the 6th, St, Nikolas came and if you had been good, you got some Oranges, nuts, and some cookies. Christmas eve, the Christ child came and left some presents for you under the tree. My mom made me lay down for a bit. Then by 5 or 6 pm I heard the tinkle of a little bell. That was the sign that the Christ Child had flew by and left gifts. I could tell so much more about Christmas times in Germany. Over here its different. I miss the German Christmas so much. Wished I could turn the time back to when I was a child. My mom would still be there and I so felled the love she had for me. RIP Mutti. Hope you have forgiven me for leaving and going to America. I always loved you so much meine Mutti.


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