Thanksgiving Foods Ranked


Amy Luo, Features Writer

Reflecting back on this year’s Thanksgiving, many expressed gratitude, reconnected with loved ones, and devoured traditional Thanksgiving foods. The Thanksgiving dinner table is full of diverse dishes, ranging from cozy fall flavors to scrumptious savory combinations. To discover the most loved Thanksgiving dish according to high school students, I conducted a survey of about 20 individuals to rank traditional Thanksgiving foods. When averaging out the scores, I came to these conclusions: 

  1. Cranberry sauce – average ranking of 7.21 out of 10

(31.6% ranked Cranberry Sauce as the worst food)

On the Thanksgiving table, there tends to be two different variations of cranberry sauce: canned and homemade. As a native berry to the New England region, the tradition of cranberries at Thanksgiving has been around since the beginning. Despite its long history, cranberry sauce is a largely unpopular side. 

  1. Stuffing – average ranking of 7.053 out of 10

Stuffing is a hit or miss side dish. The reason it is ranked low may be because many families make it poorly, however, it could be the greatest dish at the table if you use the right recipe. Stuffing is almost always going to be at the table, but the question is whether it is made well or simply tastes like a lackluster combination of bread and vegetables.

  1. Green beans – average ranking of 5.684 out of 10

Green beans, or green bean casserole more specifically, is the Thanksgiving dish that Americans have gobbled since the 50’s. Typically made with canned cream of mushroom soup, green beans, and onions, many families spice up this traditional recipe by adding a variety of spices and cooking the dish differently. When I asked what green bean dishes they had at the table, some respondents had sautéed green beans instead. 

  1. Pumpkin pie – average ranking of 5.631 out of 10

(Tied with cornbread and turkey)

When French and English settlers came to North America, they brought diseases and plague, but also their flavorful pie recipes. The custard filling of pumpkin pie was made in New English around the 16th to 17th century in New England. Native pumpkins + European pie traditions = pumpkin pie! 

  1. Turkey – average ranking of 5.631 out of 10

(Tied with cornbread and pumpkin pie)

Why is the main course solidly in the middle of the list? Turkeys are birds native to the Americas; even Ben Franklin thought they should be the national bird instead of the bald eagle. As with most Thanksgiving dishes, people have shared experiences of the turkey being served overcooked and bland. But if done right, which can be quite tricky, it is utterly delicious! 

  1. Cornbread – average ranking of 5.631 out of 10

(Tied with turkey and pumpkin pie)

It was almost inevitable that cornbread would become a Thanksgiving tradition, after all, corn has remained the staple crop in America for centuries now. Slightly sweet and crumbly, it is no wonder that this Southern dish is favored more than most. 

  1. Gravy – average ranking of 5.579 out of 10

Gravy is usually made from broth, meat juices, starch, and water. Although it does not sound terribly appealing, it is a wonderful sauce to pair with turkey and mashed potatoes. When the turkey is dry and the mashed potatoes are bland, gravy swoops in and saves the day!

  1. Sweet potatoes – average ranking of 5.578 out of 10

Sweet potatoes offer endless possibilities for Thanksgiving dinner. They can be roasted, candied, baked, thrown in a casserole, or even cut into fries. Sweet potato casserole (which consists of baked sweet potatoes and gooey marshmallows) was popular in many articles online, but many respondents had never heard of it before. The combination is relatively new, so maybe we will see it more in the future.

  1. Corn on the cob – average ranking of 5.315 out of 10

 (most answers clustered around 2nd, 3rd, 4th)

Corn on the cob is ranked higher than cornbread, possibly because people prefer the savory, whole corn on the cob over the sweet, cakey variation. Native Americans have been growing corn for centuries, long before settlers stepped into the Americas. Maize comes in different colors and sizes, but the golden yellow color at the Thanksgiving table has overwhelmed other varieties. 

  1. Mac and cheese – average ranking of 4.736 out of 10

(26.3% ranked at #10, 21.0% ranked at #1)

Mac and cheese could originally be from western Europe, possibly England, or an evolution from Italian pastas after arriving in the Americans. While it is not from the Americas, mac and cheese has a long and deep history in our Thanksgiving meals and other historical menues, especially in Southern Black and Caribbean history

  1. Mashed Potatoes– average ranking of 4.42 out of 10

(26.3% ranked 1st)

Mashed potatoes: a simple, hard-to-mess-up side dish that is an instant crowd pleaser! This dish is an all-around favorite and necessity at every Thanksgiving table; it goes well with nearly any other food. Fun fact: mashed potatoes were invented by a French man named Antoine Parmentier, and not invented in the Americas, where potatoes are native to.


Just like the endless varieties in green bean and sweet potato dishes, people are going to have different experiences with different Thanksgiving foods. Keep in mind that because this is a ranking calculated by averages of the data, it probably will not align with actual rankings from the participants. Regardless of your personal preference, most can agree that Thanksgiving is home to some of the most comforting classics, and this year was no exception. Personally, I am excited to see the dishes which emerge, or grow more popular still, in the Thanksgivings to come.