At its heart, Thanksgiving is about tradition—a time to gather and reconnect with family and friends over a special meal. And the dishes that fill our table are a part of that tradition. Whether it’s a classic dish from the past, like Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie, or something new created in the host’s kitchen, each recipe has its own story and significance.
We asked locals to share their most treasured Thanksgiving recipes and the stories behind them.
Jorge Aguirre shares his family’s stuffing recipe. “Thanksgiving was a HUGE holiday in my family in Columbus, Ohio, which is ironic because my parents grew up in Colombia and didn’t celebrate it before moving to the U.S. At some point in the 1980s, my mom saw a winning stuffing recipe in the Columbus Dispatch newspaper that won a $12,000 dollar grand prize.” From that moment on, this stuffing became a fixture at the Aguirre’s Thanksgiving table, a tradition upheld by Jorge and his three sisters even after their mother’s passing.
$12,000 Grand Prize Recipe (the Columbus Dispatch), aka Mami’s Yummy Thanksgiving Stuffing
- 1 8 oz. package Brownberry Stuffing
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 4 medium onions, finely chopped (about 1.5 cups)
- 6 stalks of celery, finely chopped (about 2.3 cups)
- 1 lb roll package (Bob Evans—mild or spicy) country pork sausage, panfried and drained
- 1 can (8 oz) jellied cranberry sauce, beaten until thin
- 1-2 cups apple juice
Mix the stuffing mix, cooked sausage, chopped onion and celery, eggs, and cranberry sauce. Add apple juice, a little at a time, until the entire mixture is dampened but not mushy. For less moist stuffing, use less apple juice. Bake stuffing in covered casserole for 30 minutes at 350. Taste the stuffing to see if you need to add more stuffing mix or juice, etc.
Roberta Baldwin, Principal of Roberta Baldwin Homes, has been making this cranberry sauce since back in her Brooklyn days when she became a mom and took up the Thanksgiving cooking mantle from her mother. “Some years, I’ve had as many as 30 guests; other years, just six or eight. But I always make everything from scratch!” says Baldwin, who adds that she now shares responsibilities with her daughter. “My daughter and I now collaborate. She always makes the green bean casserole. I always make the cranberry sauce. We share all the other preparations.”
Baldwin’s Festive Cranberry Sauce
- 1 12 oz package (about 3 cups) of fresh cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup dark cane sugar
- 1/2 cup regular cane sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice
- or 1/4 of a navel orange chopped up into small pieces – or both!
- Orange zest garnish (not required)
- Rinse cranberries, pour them into a 3 1/2-quart pot, add water and bring to a quick rolling boil while thoroughly stirring in both the dark and light sugar.
- Continue gently boiling for about 10 minutes until the liquid has thickened and the cranberries have burst, mixing periodically, making sure the liquid doesn’t stick or burn.
- Mix in orange juice/chopped orange and cinnamon. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl and refrigerate so that the sauce will solidify further. Apply orange zest as a light garnish.
Kiahna Malloy, the owner of Kreme & Krumbs, says that her family has traditional items on the table for a holiday—a turkey, mac and cheese, string beans, candied yams and more. But as the first entrepreneur in the family, she always has to shake things up to keep them on their toes! She loves seafood, which is not usually on a Thanksgiving table, so she created a stuffing recipe that is full of her favorites. And now, it’s become a favorite at her family table.
Kiahna’s Seafood Stuffing
- 2 cups Lump Crab shredded
- 3 lobster tails—removed from shell and sliced
- 1 lb of shrimp—peeled and deveined
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- 2 to 3 sleeves of Ritz or Toll House crackers
- 1.5 tbsp dijon or spiced brown mustard
- 1/2 green pepper chopped
- 1/2 red pepper chopped
- 2 tsp seafood seasoning
- 1/2 lemon for its juice (optional)
- 1 stick of butter
- Additional seasonings (season to taste): Garlic powder, Black pepper.
- Pre-heat oven to 400°
- Melt 1/2 of the stick of butter in a large baking pan or foil pan 13×9
- Lightly cook the chopped green and red peppers until softened. Remove from pan and let it slightly cool.
- In the same pan, melt the second 1/2 of the stick of butter. Lightly sprinkle the pan with garlic powder and black pepper.
- Place shrimp and lobster meat in the pan and lightly cook/sear on both sides until pink, then remove from heat. Let it slightly cool.
- In a bowl, place mayo and mustard and sprinkle the seafood seasoning over it. Then add the cooked chopped peppers, crab meat, lobster meat, and shrimp, and squeeze lemon juice on the seafood.
- Crush the crackers over the seafood mix, then fold everything together in the bowl. Make sure everything is mixed well.
- Place seafood mixture in baking pan. Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. If needed, place the stuffing under the broiler and boil for another 2 to 3 minutes to brown it.
- Serve the seafood stuffing with melted butter, if desired.
Growing up in Brazil, Ilson Goncalves, the chef and owner of Samba Montclair, enjoyed his family’s cherished recipe for coconut rice on special occasions like Christmas and New Year’s Day. After moving to the U.S., when he celebrated his first Thanksgiving in 2004, he decided to include the rice dish in the feast. He fondly recalls being astonished at the sight of the massive American turkey, “I was in shock the first time I saw an American turkey, it was so huge!” Today, he and his friends and family observe Thanksgiving as a potluck, where everyone brings something to share. Along with the customary turkey, the table is adorned with a variety of Brazilian side dishes, including this delicious Coconut Rice.
Ilson’s Coconut Rice
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
- 2 white cups rice
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
- Place the coconut milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
- Simmer the coconut milk, uncovered, until the liquid has evaporated and the coconut solids start to separate from the oil. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the coconut solids have turned a dark golden brown color.
- Stir the rice and the raisins into the pot with the coconut milk. Add the water, the salt, and the sugar, and mix well.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the rice, covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice remain on the stove for another 5 to 10 minutes, covered.
- Fluff the rice and serve.
Joseph Sergentakis, chef of Boschetto, grew up in a family of foodies. His father was a chef, his grandfather was a butcher, and most of his family worked in the food industry. So, it’s no surprise that his Thanksgiving table is filled with elevated classics. He created this Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe while working at a former restaurant, and it now has a place at his family’s holiday table.
Spiced Graham Crust
- 410 g graham crumbs
- 70 g dark brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp allspice
- 190 g melted butter
Whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in butter and combine well. Distribute crumbs in the bottom of the ring mold lined with foil. Press firmly to form a crust. Bake at 325°F for 7-8 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before pouring in cheesecake.
- 700 g cream cheese
- 1200 g mascarpone
- 1000 g pumpkin puree
- 600 g sugar
- 16 eggs
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground nutmeg
Mix all ingredients with a hand blender. Strain it through a chinois or fine mesh sieve. Pour on top of baked crusts. Bake 280°F in a water bath until the cheesecake is firm and no longer jiggles in the center. Garnish with whipped cream, pomegranate seeds, etc.
Tom Hall hosts Thanksgiving dinner every year. “We host, usually for a group of dear friends, sometimes for family, but I always cook. There are records playing on the turntable, my Detroit Lions playing on the TV (no sound), and a glass of wine in hand. But it is tiring, and by the time Friday comes around, I do not want to repeat the workload of the previous day with a big, complicated, synchronized dinner. So, I created ‘Leftovers Pie,’ which has proven to become its own Friday night tradition.”
(Makes 2 pies)
- 4 12” pie crusts, store-bought (I use rollable Pillsbury Pie Crusts in the red box), enough for 2 pies. (Note: You can make your own crust– I love the cream cheese crust in the Pie & Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum–but it can defeat the purpose of making this an easy, relaxing dinner to prepare as it is labor intensive).
- Leftover Mashed Potatoes
- Leftover Sweet Potatoes, mashed
- Leftover Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Green Vegetable
- Leftover Turkey, diced or in hand-torn pieces, no skin
- Leftover Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Leftover Stuffing
- Leftover Gravy, at least 4 cups
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 Tbs Water
- Dash of salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 425F
- Place one 12” pie crust in an ungreased glass pie pan and gently press into the bottom and sides of the pan
- Spoon a layer of Mashed Potatoes to completely cover the bottom of the crust and gently press into the crust, top with a thin layer of gravy, followed by a layer of turkey meat
- Spoon a layer of mashed sweet potatoes to cover the turkey and top with a thin layer of gravy
- Spoon a layer of roasted Brussels Sprouts on top of sweet potatoes
- Top Brussels Sprouts with another layer of turkey meat
- Spoon a layer of Stuffing to completely cover the turkey, top with a thin layer of gravy and turkey meat
- Top with a layer of Cranberry Sauce
- Place the second pie crust over the top, seal the sides, crimp and create four vents on top
- Repeat for the second pie
- Combine 2 beaten eggs, 1 Tbs of water, salt and pepper, then brush egg wash on pie crusts
- Bake at 425° for 45 minutes
- At 20 minutes, use a foil ring on the crust edges to prevent burning
- Remove and let rest for 5 minutes
- Reheat the remaining gravy in a pan
- Slice pie, plate, and spoon warm gravy over the top to taste.
Serve with a salad with a bright, acidic dressing and a nice, semi-sweet, chilled white wine (like Gewurtztraminer or Grüner Veltliner) that can cut through the heaviness of the pie.