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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vegetarian Main Dish
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!)
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.
Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Walnut and Bacon
This gratin allows the spaghetti squash to really shine as a gourd of its own, you know?
Elbow Macaroni with Comté and Spinach
A grownup(ish) version of mac ‘n cheese, with an extra serving of greens.
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.
This creamy French classic features thinly sliced potatoes and the special trick that promotes even cooking and tip top browning.
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
I know, I know. Everybody claims to have the key to perfect mashed potatoes. Just trust me on this one.
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?
Roasted Savoy Cabbage
Winter vegetables just beg to be roasted, and Savoy cabbage is no exception!
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.
Chicken Family Green Beans
Inspired by my favorite (sadly defunct) rôtisserie in Paris, these green beans eschew fried onions in favor of fresh.
Zucchini and Mushroom Crumble
The combo of tender vegetables and crisp top is the perfect side for any and all.
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.
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.
This impressive loaf will be oh-so picturesque on your dining room table. Also: turkey sandwiches!
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.
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.)
Easy Tart Tatin
Turn your apple pie upside down — literally — with this classic French 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.
Melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Cake
If you have qualms about chocolate cake not being a super traditional Thanksgiving dessert, just add pecans.
Individually plated desserts add an extra dash of elegance to any meal, and this cute French dessert is easy to make ahead as well.
Looking for more French recipes for Thanksgiving?
I enjoyed these dish selections from SAVEUR and Epicurious.