25 French Recipes for Thanksgiving

Gorgeous stove photo courtesy of La Cornue.

Thanksgiving isn’t a thing in my own very French family, but I have many American friends in Paris who do celebrate it.

They usually host their special meal on the Saturday following the actual Thanksgiving Thursday, since French companies and schools don’t consider it a holiday (obv.).

A few years ago, it was a real challenge to find a whole turkey to roast in Paris in November — easier around Christmas — but Parisian butchers have gotten the memo, and have started advertising turkeys to their American customers, in varying levels of English. Ordering in advance is a must. (If you’re nervous about this, read my tips on Paris butcher shops.)

Through my extended family and friends, I have been fortunate to partake in a few Thanksgiving meals over the years, on both sides of the Atlantic. The feeling of warmth and the amazing food are not soon forgotten.

And when I am invited, I like to contribute dishes that are both French in spirit, but fit nicely into the Thanksgiving traditions.

So here are my suggestions of French recipes for Thanksgiving, if you want to add a little Gallic flair to your all-American celebration. Did you know French settlers actually preceded the Mayflower Pilgrims by several decades in holding the first Thanksgiving service in the New World?

Roasted Bird

One of my favorite ways to roast any kind of poultry is to butterfly it (see: how to spatchcock a chicken), removing the backbone and flattening it. This method yields a perfectly roasted, moist bird, and takes less time than roasting it whole.

If you don’t quite feel up to roasting a turkey (I’m not a fan myself, and doubt one would fit in my oven anyway) I think heritage birds are just as festive, and pay homage to the original chickens brought in by the first Spanish explorers.

Here are my favorite French chicken recipes to feed a crowd:

Muriel’s Chicken

I love this recipe for its simple, foolproof method. All you need is a few quality ingredients and the patience to let them cook slowly.

Muriel's Chicken

Spatchcocked Chicken Under a Brick

One of my favorite spatchcocking methods, this recipe uses a heavy object placed on top of the chicken as it sears to create perfect crackly skin. The best part? It only takes 45 minutes total.

Spatchcocked Chicken

Salt-Crusted Chicken

The salt crust on this chicken allows it to cook in its own juices, and also offers some flexibility when it comes to cooking time — a must if you’re hosting a holiday meal.

Salt-Crusted Chicken

Chicken in a Bread Crust

Looking to truly make an impression? Try this two-in-one French recipe, perfect for Thanksgiving: the bird is tucked inside a bread crust, that you can then use to mop up all of the flavorful cooking juices.

Chicken in a bread crust

Vegetarian Main Dish

Greens and Walnut Quiche

Of course, modern-day Thanksgivings don’t require turkeys as much as they used to, and vegans and vegetarians can feast on more than just sides and Tofurkey. If you’re seeking a good vegetarian French recipe for Thanksgiving, quiches are very versatile and can be easily veganized (here are my vegan quiche filling recipe and my olive oil tart crust recipe.)

I love to make roasted onion quiche and greens and walnut quiche, and either option will be a lovely centerpiece on your plant-based Thanksgiving table.

(My book The French Market Cookbook also has many French vegetarian recipes that would work splendidly as a part of your menu. Check it out!)

Sides

As we all know, Thanksgiving meals are all about the sides. When does one ever get so many choices, so many colors, so many textures, all homemade with love?

Swiss Chard Gratin

With a creamy (and vegan) béchamel sauce, this Swiss chard gratin is easily adapted for other vegetables and has a luscious consistency, but it’s the subtle hint of nutmeg that seals the deal.

Swiss Chard Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Walnut and Bacon

This gratin allows the spaghetti squash to really shine as a gourd of its own, you know?

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Bacon and Walnuts

Elbow Macaroni with Comté and Spinach

A grownup(ish) version of mac ‘n cheese, with an extra serving of greens.

Elbow Macaroni with Comté Cheese and Baby Spinach

Potatoes

The comforting effect of potatoes, regular and sweet, can never be overstated, and no holiday meal can be without them.

40 Irresistible Sweet Potato Recipes

Is there even such a thing as a Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes? I didn’t think so. Here is a compilation of inventive and irresistible ways to prepare sweet potatoes — without a marshmallow in sight.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Almonds

Gratin Dauphinois

This creamy French classic features thinly sliced potatoes and the special trick that promotes even cooking and tip top browning.

French Scalloped Potatoes (Gratin Dauphinois)

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

I know, I know. Everybody claims to have the key to perfect mashed potatoes. Just trust me on this one.

Mashing Potatoes

Celeriac and Sweet Potato Soup

Perfect as an opener, or served with post-feast leftovers. It’s impossible to say no to a warming, nutrient-packed soup on a cold day, right?

Celeriac and Sweet Potato Soup

Vegetable Sides

Roasted Savoy Cabbage

Winter vegetables just beg to be roasted, and Savoy cabbage is no exception!

Roasted Savoy Cabbage

Saffron Roasted Cauliflower

This inspired pairing of cauliflower and saffron does just as well warm or at room temperature, making it an easy addition to your holiday spread.

Saffron-Roasted Cauliflower

Chicken Family Green Beans

Inspired by my favorite (sadly defunct) rôtisserie in Paris, these green beans eschew fried onions in favor of fresh.

Green Beans

Zucchini and Mushroom Crumble

The combo of tender vegetables and crisp top is the perfect side for any and all.

Zucchini Mushroom Crumble

Mâche Salad with Endives and Beets

This cold-weather salad is a great option for a lighter side full of color and flavor, or as a refreshing first course that won’t spoil your appetite.

Mâche Salad with Endives and Beets

Bread

If you happen to maintain a sourdough starter (and I mean, who doesn’t these days?), forgo the rolls and opt for a sourdough loaf or baguette that will (literally) sing with flavor. They can be made ahead and frozen, so you can bake them the weekend before and just refresh them in the oven when you’re ready, to revive the crust.

Sourdough Bread

This impressive loaf will be oh-so picturesque on your dining room table. Also: turkey sandwiches!

Pain au levain

Sourdough Baguettes

I can’t have a list of French recipes for Thanksgiving without a baguette, right? Skip the papery, oversized store-bought ones and whip this one up chez vous.

Baguette Recipe

Dessert

Caramelized Apple Tarte Fine

A truly truly easy twist on the classic American apple pie, featuring a delectable caramelized crust and thinly sliced seasonal apples. (And one of my most popular recipes on Chocolate & Zucchini by far! Find out what the fuss is about.)

Apple Tarte Fine

Easy Tart Tatin

Turn your apple pie upside down — literally — with this classic French tatin.

Tarte Tatin

Quince Almond Cake

A lovely fall cake that is moist enough to please at the end of the meal, or can be saved for your morning-after brunch.

Quince Almond Cake

Melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Cake

If you have qualms about chocolate cake not being a super traditional Thanksgiving dessert, just add pecans.

Melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Cake

Crème Caramel

Individually plated desserts add an extra dash of elegance to any meal, and this cute French dessert is easy to make ahead as well.

Crème Caramel

Looking for more French recipes for Thanksgiving?

I enjoyed these dish selections from SAVEUR and Epicurious.

  • Taste of France

    This is such a great collection. Bookmarking it!

  • Rio

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been quite the little francophile lately and can’t wait to try the spatchcocked chicken and the swiss chard gratin! Thanks for sharing!

  • Andreas

    Great post, Clothilde – so many wonderful dishes to choose from!! And I love your header picture, the stove is to die for!! :-)

    • Thank you Andreas! Having one of those (and the house around it!) is on my life list. :)

  • Cheryl

    Hi Clotilde, I just wanted to tell you that I make your spaghetti squash with walnuts as a regular staple — (although I often have to add the bacon on the side, as my kids are vegetarian). I also have brought your version of cauliflower gratin to many, many Thanksgiving dinners and I never get any leftovers. That was the one dish that I learned how to make when I lived in France, but your recipe is so much better that I switched. Finally, the Chicken in Bread recipe is similar to one I saw in a Hollywood Bowl cookbook that I bought years ago to support the youth orchestra here. While I am sure that would make a lovely Thanksgiving option, it is absolutely wonderful for taking on a picnic. Thanks so much for this post. And I live by your French Market Cookbook. I may have to buy a second copy because I’m dog-earring it so much.

    • Thank you so much, Cheryl, you made my day! It means so much to me that the recipes I share live on in other people’s kitchens. :)

  • Stacey Brown

    Hi Clotilde, What a great selection of dishes! I have another suggestion to add to the mix. Cornish game hens are a wonderful alternative to a large roasted turkey. They can be grilled or roasted, and they look spectacular on a holiday table. Great food photography! Great post!

  • rachelsloan79

    What a great list! I would only add that my standby vegetarian main is also French in inspiration – mushroom Wellington (which, despite the name, is essentially a vegetarian pâté en croûte)… a bit of a project but worth every minute of effort. (Your post also brought back memories of attempting to explain Thanksgiving to my students when I was an assistante d’anglais some years ago in Tours. They were on board with most of the meal but the mere idea of pumpkin pie was met with universal disgust! Oh well, I tried… I suppose if you didn’t grow up with it, it could well sound bizarre.)

  • Wohaa great recipes..Never seen such delicious post before…..

  • Emily @ Life on Food

    The swiss chard gratin has my mouth watering. All of these recipes look amazing.

  • Abigail Slater

    Wish I had seen this post before Thanksgiving! Well, I guess I’ll just have to try these next year (or host a Thanksgiving In March party).

    • I’m working on a French recipes for the holidays post, so you’ll have that as well! ;)

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