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Lightened up Southern Thanksgiving menu

Gina is the author of the food blog, Running to the Kitchen where she shares healthy, whole food recipes in a fun, approachable way. She works full time as a consultant in higher education. When not in the kitchen, she enjoys CrossFit, r...

Lightening up the classics

There's no arguing Southern food is delicious, but there's always plenty of butter and sugar to thank for that signature taste. We've put together a lighter spin on some classic Southern Thanksgiving dishes so you can enjoy a healthier holiday this year.

Lightened up Southern Thanksgiving menu

Get all the flavors of a Southern-style Thanksgiving feast without feeling like you need to start your diet the next day!

1

Collard greens recipe

We're taking the ham hock and the long cooking time out of the collard greens this year and using bacon and olive oil instead. After a quick covered simmer, you get all the flavor with just a bit less guilt.

Lightened up Southern Thanksgiving menu

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch collard greens, washed, stems removed and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, onions, bacon and red pepper flakes.
  2. Saute for 5-7 minutes until the onions are softened and the bacon is cooked.
  3. Add the collard greens and toss using tongs to coat all the leaves in the olive oil and bacon fat.
  4. Once the greens have wilted, turn the heat down to medium and add the vinegar.
  5. Toss the greens in the vinegar until evaporated.
  6. Add the broth, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid after the 10 minutes and let some of the liquid cook off for another 2-3 minutes.
  8. Transfer the greens to a serving dish and serve warm.
2

Candied sweet potatoes recipe

Candied yams are a Southern staple. Instead of all sugar, we're using a combination of sugar, juice and spices to get that signature flavorful syrup that coats the potatoes.

Lightened up Southern Thanksgiving menu

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Chopped pecans (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a large saucepot and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Strain the potatoes from the sauce and transfer to a baking dish.
  4. Leave the remaining sauce in the pot and let it thicken a bit over medium-low heat for another 5 minutes.
  5. Pour the thickened sauce over the potatoes in the baking dish.
  6. Place the baking dish in a 375 degree F oven for 10 minutes.
  7. Top with chopped pecans if using and serve.
3

Cornbread dressing recipe

Cornbread dressing typically has half a pound of butter in it! We've kept all the tradition of this sweet sage-filled dressing just cut back on the butter a bit.

Lightened up Southern Thanksgiving menu

Serves 8-10

Cornbread (alternatively, you can use a store-bought loaf)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together the butter, eggs and milk and pour into the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix together with a spatula and transfer to a greased loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked through.
  6. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf cornbread, crumbled
  • 12 ounces bagged stuffing
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

Directions:

  1. Combine the crumbled cornbread and stuffing in a large bowl.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the onions and celery and saute for about 7 minutes until softened.
  4. Add the onions, celery and butter mixture to the large bowl and toss to combine everything.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the broth, eggs and olive oil.
  6. Pour the mixture into the large bowl. Add the sage and salt and pepper and toss to combine everything.
  7. Transfer the dressing to a greased baking dish and bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 35-40 minutes until set.
4

Whole wheat dinner rolls recipe

Every Thanksgiving table needs dinner rolls. Feel better about slathering the butter on these healthier whole wheat rolls.

Whole wheat dinner rolls

Yields 9 rolls

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 teaspoons active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water, divided
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
  • 1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, divided

Get the directions >>

5

Sweet tea cocktail recipe

To wash everything down, we've whipped up some simple spiked sweet tea. Using oranges for flavor means we can get away with a bit less sugar, too.

Lightened up Southern Thanksgiving menu

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 plus 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 4 black tea bags
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 6 ounces vodka
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 orange, sliced

Directions:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a tea kettle.
  2. Once boiling, add the tea bags and steep for desired length of time.
  3. Meanwhile, add the honey, the remaining 1/4 cup of water and the orange zest to a small sauce pan.
  4. Bring to a low simmer and let it thicken for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it cool for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add the tea to a pitcher, strain the honey syrup to remove the orange zest and pour into the pitcher. Add the vodka and stir to combine.
  6. Add the orange slices to the pitcher and refrigerate until chilled.
6

Mini sweet potato pie bites recipe

 Mini sweet potato pie bites

Don't forget dessert! These mini sweet potato pie bites let you indulge in dessert without overdoing it.

Yields about 24 bites

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large mini-muffin pan (24 count) or 2 small mini-muffin pans (12 count)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • Whipped cream and ground cinnamon for garnish (optional)

Get the directions >>

Get more Southern-inspired Thanksgiving dishes

Deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey
Classic Southern cornbread
Classic sweet potato pie

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