Thanksgiving foods you didn’t know were staples in other parts of the US

Key lime pie, Florida’s official state pie. iStock / Getty Images Plus

  • In regions with large immigrant populations, Thanksgiving menus can often include international flavours: Mexican twists on classics, German side dishes, and Italian appetizers.
  • Even the turkey is cooked differently depending on which state you’re in (and if you’re in Texas, it’s most likely deep fried).
  • Pie flavours reflect their locale as well, from key lime pie in Florida to derby pie in Kentucky.

On November 22, millions of families will gather to give thanks around a table laden with plump turkeys, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and browned-to-perfection pumpkin pies, but not all Thanksgiving spreads will be the same.

Depending on where you are in the country, your menu could also feature wild rice casserole, derby pie, Jell-O salad, or a platter of pumpkin empanadas, too.

With all the butter, cream, and cheese that goes into those classic carb-heavy treats, one person’s Thanksgiving feast can add up, on average, to 3,150 calories for the meal and 159 grams of fat, according to the Calorie Control Council. But what goes into this fatty feast is largely dependent on where you eat it.

From corn stuffing in the south to oyster stuffing in the north and the healthier California-style sourdough stuffing with kale and turkey sausage out west, no two regions’ Turkey Day fare is exactly the same.

Here’s how Thanksgiving dinners differ throughout the US.

Turkey cooking methods

Cooking up a bird is a Thanksgiving tradition that has withstood centuries. Although it isn’t clear exactly which kind of bird the pilgrims cooked at the first Thanksgiving in November 1621, one of its attendants wrote that the governor “sent four men on fowling” and they “killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week,” according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Today, turkey is a signature staple in the Thanksgiving smorgasbord. About 6 billion pounds of it were produced for the holiday last year, according to the USDA.

While many Americans will fire up the oven at 5 a.m. to slow roast their birds, Hawaiians might cook theirs with pineapple in a traditional underground steam cooker called an imu. Meanwhile, those in the South may instead opt for the fast and often dangerous method of deep frying, according to Texas Monthly.

International Influences

Sauerkraut. iStock / Getty Images Plus

For some, turkey isn’t actually the centrepiece of Turkey Day. For regions with large immigrant populations, international flavours give Thanksgiving fare more flair.

In the southwest, for instance, pumpkin empanadas, poblano gravy, and sweet potato tamales might steal the show, according to Sunset. Just as Thanksgiving menus in New Mexico and parts of Texas are no stranger to Mexican spices like chilli and chipotle, sauerkraut is a permanent fixture in Maryland’s holiday buffet due to the state’s German influence, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Boasting the largest Italian-American population in the nation, New York is a different story. Those with Italian roots might serve up their own traditional Thanksgiving fare, including antipasto, manicotti, and tiramisu, according to Mashable.

It’s all about the sides

Sweet potato casserole. iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you’re from the west or southwest, your favourite side dish might be grandma’s frog eye salad. This sweet concoction, according to The Daily Meal, is a mixture of maraschino cherries, marshmallows, mandarin oranges, and orzo pasta.

At the other end of the country, in the Pacific Northwest, wild mushrooms are so abundant that they have crept into a handful of savoury Thanksgiving favourites, but most notably, the region’s vegetarian-friendly mushroom gravy, according to The Daily Meal.

Meanwhile in the midwest, rarely is a Turkey Day spread without an abundance of casseroles, according to Delish, from creamy green beans topped with French fried onions to wild rice casserole. And while Californians might celebrate with macaroni and cheese, southerners prefer their potatoes in the form of a sweet potato casserole. Of course, no southern feast is complete without collard greens, and this foodie holiday is no exception.

Dessert preferences

Derby Pie. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Then, there’s the dessert table, with each corner of the country offering up a different array of pies, cookies, and cakes. Pumpkin pie is almost as much of a Thanksgiving staple as turkey is, but according to Delish, South Carolinians are partial to sweet potato pie instead.

According to Lonely Planet, Kentuckians wash down their turkey with a slice of derby pie, a chocolate pie with walnuts that’s rooted in horse racing traditions. Floridians, on the other hand, celebrate their year-round sunshine with a lighter, fruitier key lime pie, their official state pie. And, according to Sauveur, New Englanders opt for the ultra-heavy Indian pudding, a cinnamon and ginger cornmeal porridge oozing with molasses.