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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Emi Boscamp

What would the turkey be without its Thanksgiving side dishes? A movie star without his or her supporting actors? A rock star without a stellar backup band?

A turkey would just be a lonesome bird without anyone to interact with and, quite frankly, bland without stuffing, gravy and the plethora of vegetable-based dishes to enhance its flavor.

Isn't it time to find a better word to describe side dishes on Thanksgiving? Maybe instead of "side" dishes, they could be called "guide" dishes, since they really steer the direction of the entire meal. Maybe they should be referred to as the main dishes and the turkey is just, well, turkey.

To that end, here are 14 delicious Thanksgiving side dishes that will make friends and family say, "What turkey?"

Chestnut and Sausage Stuffing

Go beyond classic sausage stuffing with this flavor-packed side. Instead of pulling out a pre-packaged stuffing mix, chop up a loaf of buttery brioche bread and combine it with sauteed breakfast sausage. Then, give the Thanksgiving stuffing a dose of earthiness with chestnuts and a touch of sweetness with apples.

Marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving dinner staple, but chef Michael Lomonaco has elevated the homey dish and turned it into an elegant feature. First, he creates a velvety layer of buttery mashed sweet potatoes. That gets topped with an airy layer of marshmallow cream. Then comes the really fun part: a moment under a blowtorch turns this dish into toasted perfection.

Creamed Spinach with Fried Cheese Curds

Creamed spinach is known for being made with a lot of, well, cream. But this version of the popular comfort food is extra decadent because it's made with cheese, too. It's not just any cheese, either. Fried cheese curds turn the already luxe dish into an over-the-top Thanksgiving side.

Green bean casserole is a great way to introduce some green vegetables into the sea of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, casseroles and macaroni gratins that lovingly litter the holiday table — especially one with a twist, like this dish. Plus, it's all cooked right on the stovetop so the oven can cook the turkey in peace.

Acorn Squash with Brown Butter and Honey

Take a break from butternut and try mashed acorn squash with garlic and sweet potatoes this year. They're so creamy and velvety that everyone will want to just take a dive right into them.

Never served macaroni and cheese at a Thanksgiving dinner? This is the year to go ahead and make it happen. A classic version always works, but just a few additions can make this all-around favorite even more worthy of being on the Thanksgiving table. Bring some complexity and depth of flavor to the classic comfort dish with mushrooms, Dijon mustard, thyme and two types of cheese: fontina and Parmesan.

Quinoa, Cornbread and Cranberry Stuffing

Surprise! Healthy and satisfying stuffing does exist. This vegan version gets its body from the cornbread, depth from the mushrooms and celery, texture from the pecans and quinoa, and sweetness from the dried cranberries.

This crowd-pleasing side dish utilizes the whole carrot, including the tops, which are made into a chimichurri sauce that would also be wonderful with any type of poultry or grilled meats. A dish in which nothing goes to waste is perfect for the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Kale Salad with Crispy Bread Crumbs

"Carson and I have a date night at the restaurant Love & Salt whenever we're in Los Angeles, and this is one of our favorite salads on the menu so I love trying to recreate it at home," Siri Daly told TODAY Food. "It's full of unique flavors and textures, and would be a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table."

Scalloped potatoes are always a crowd-pleasing dish during the holidays. Although some people wait until Christmas to serve them, there's absolutely no reason they can't co-exist with mashed potatoes on the Thanksgiving table. Chef Michael White has perfected his potato gratin by using two types of cheese, thyme and nutmeg. Ooey, gooey, bubbly and decadent, this is way more than just a side dish.

Oyster Dressing Grandmère

In the North, it's called stuffing. But in the South, don't even try to call it anything but dressing. Go old school with this famous Louisiana dressing recipe that's made with lots of butter, chunks of bacon, a heavy sprinkling of cayenne and paprika and, of course, a heaping portion of fresh oysters.

Katie Lee's green bean casserole recipe is a classic rendition of the Thanksgiving fave. Here, she makes it with fresh ingredients instead of canned green beans and cream of mushroom soup. It's not necessary to make every part of it from scratch, though. When it comes to the canned french fried onions, she doesn't mess with tried-and-true perfection.

 Bacon Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Chips

What could possibly make crispy sweet potatoes better? How about a topping of candied bacon (aka "pig candy")? Simply coat smoked bacon strips with brown sugar. Then bake them until they're super crispy and golden. Now, try to save some of that pig candy for the taters!

Sheinelle's Brussels Sprouts

Getting an adult to try Brussels sprouts may take a little cajoling, but getting a child interested is almost impossible — except if you're TODAY's Sheinelle Jones. "The kids eat these Brussels sprouts like popcorn," she told TODAY Food. "They taste amazing and they're so easy to make."