These salads add crunch, color, and variety to your Thanksgiving menu. They also free up your oven on its busiest day of the year.

Red Pear Salad with Lemon Parmesan Dressing
Victor Protasio

Thanksgiving is a big, heavy meal. There’s a reason why a long nap is a classic post-Thanksgiving activity. Between the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and desserts upon desserts, there’s usually not much in the way of lightness on the table. At least not without the inclusion of a good salad.

Salads are a great way to introduce lighter, more delicate flavors that likely won’t be very present throughout the rest of the meal and, depending on the ingredients you include, can advertise some of the dishes and flavors to come. Salads also offer incredible room for creativity. With so many fall greens, herbs, and fruits to choose from, the combinations are near endless.

Most of these combinations will still steer you toward the classic foundation of a big bowl of greens, but the added ingredients are where you can let your innovation show, adding nuts for some additional flavor and crunch, choosing different cheeses for different levels of creaminess, and different aftertastes, and of course the all-important dressing, tying all the ingredients together with the shared flavor of the glaze.

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You can also step away from tradition, preparing a salad served warm with sauteed mushrooms and a sauce, or with a salad that’s just Belgian endive spears adorned with crumbled blue cheese and a shallot vinaigrette.

While the salad’s difference from the rest of the Thanksgiving dishes means opportunities for different flavors and ingredients, as always with a first dish, it’s got to be done well. Not to worry though, these recipes are sure to set you up for success.

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