Statewide NewsCelebrating Thanksgiving the Lone Star Way: Texans Share Iconic Dishes and Traditions

To celebrate Turkey Day, we asked Texans who subscribe and read The Texan to share their favorite Thanksgiving dishes and traditions.
November 28, 2019
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Pecan pie, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, and maybe even tamales, brisket, or queso (because all Texans know there’s never an inappropriate time for queso).

These are just a few of the dishes one will find on many Texas Thanksgiving tables, as Texans and their out-of-state friends and kin gather together to share a meal, watch the Cowboys, and dive into those traditional family recipes that taste like the holidays.

Some Texans even say the first Thanksgiving actually has origins in Texas dating back to 1598 Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate, who led an expedition of 500 people across the Chihuahuan Desert.

After surviving the grueling desert conditions during the fifty-day journey, Oñate ordered a day of thanksgiving to include a feast celebrating the survival of the expedition.

Officially dubbed a national holiday in 1863, many Texans continue to celebrate the holiday’s Texas roots, claiming the first Thanksgiving occurred in El Paso in 1598 rather than Plymouth in 1621.

The Texan Mug

While Thanksgiving is primarily a day to celebrate being together with friends and family, it also is undoubtedly about the food. 

From turkey and gravy to mashed potatoes and rolls, the food, for many, is what the holiday is really about. 

There is, however, one age-old question that has the potential to spark debate and even possibly food flinging across the Thanksgiving dinner table depending on where one was raised. 

Is it “stuffing” or “dressing?”

According to Southern Living, dressing is more commonly used to refer to the bread-based side in the South, while stuffing is the more frequently used term in the North. 

While exceptions apply, Texas appears to be a state that lands somewhere in the middle with both phrases used relatively interchangeably with a slight favoring towards dressing over stuffing.

What this really means is that if debates ensue over what the bread-based side dish is called, it’s up to Texans at the table to keep the peace.

These Thanksgiving statistics were further born out by our subscribers and readers at The Texan, who were kind enough to share their family Thanksgiving traditions and some of the iconic dishes they serve every year. 

Of those who listed stuffing or dressing as an iconic dish served at their Thanksgiving feast, 64 percent said they refer to the bready side-dish as dressing, while only 36 percent said they call it stuffing. 

In addition to cornbread dressing, according to our readers, some of the other most common dishes served around the Texas Thanksgiving table include sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and of course, pecan pie.

Photo by Joe Hakim

Honorable mention goes to Aaron from Plano, who brings a little Texas flair to his Thanksgiving meal by serving fajitas, and to John from Austin, who says his family serves up tamale dressing as part of their Thanksgiving feast.

It was also clear from the results of our readers that, although sweet potato casserole is one of the most iconic dishes across the country, Texans not only love their sweet potatoes but love finding creative ways to serve them.

Photo by Laura Blankenship

From casseroles with chopped pecans and marshmallows to those served in the form of a pie, sweet potatoes in one way or another appear to be an iconic dish on the Texas Thanksgiving table. 

However, the real star of the Thanksgiving show remains the turkey. 

Some Texans serve ham, sausage, or even brisket to accompany their favorite side dishes, but the overwhelming consensus from our readers was that not much can beat the taste of a big, juicy turkey roasted, smoked, or fried to perfection. 

While James from Arlington says he and his family grill their turkey every year, the vast majority of those surveyed said they prepare their turkey in a way that makes State Fair go-ers proud: fried. 

No matter how the turkey, brisket, or other food is prepared, everybody at the table is likely to enjoy the carb-induced nap that is sure to follow when the feasting is through. 

Of course, for many Texans, no Thanksgiving would be complete without watching and talking a little football as well.

No matter the traditions or food that’s served, Thanksgiving in the Lone Star state is about sharing a meal, relaxing, and celebrating being together. 

If all else fails, however, and the turkey gets burned, great-grandma asks one too many questions about the status of one’s love life, or the inevitable uncomfortable political soapbox is plopped onto the middle of the table, it’s important to remember that Waffle House, Denny’s, and Cracker Barrel are all open on Thanksgiving Day as a measure of last resort.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.

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