If you’re new to the van lifestyle during the holidays, you might think you have to sacrifice traditional favorites. We’re happy to inform you that you don’t have to sacrifice a thing! While it might take more ingenuity, workarounds, and alternative strategies and cooking vessels than an at-home Thanksgiving dinner, it’s doable and worth it. Once you get the turkey and sides cooked and on the table, you’ll enjoy a new dimension of thankfulness.
If you’re stuck on ideas about what to cook for your Thanksgiving dinner in your camper van at your campground, we’re here for you! With Thanksgiving three days away, today we are sharing turkey cooking strategies and ten easy, delicious side dishes you’ll love. Check out the details below!
Quick Tips to Cook Your Turkey
You might wonder how you can cook your turkey without a full oven. Where there’s a will and plenty of nifty cooking gadgets, there’s a way. You can’t give up on the main course for Thanksgiving, so here are some top ways you can have your turkey on the big day:
- Pack an electric roaster oven.
- Roast your turkey on a spit over the campfire or grill.
- Pick up a cooked turkey at the supermarket.
10 Easy and Delicious Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Even if preparing your turkey is tricky or something you decide to skip altogether, Thanksgiving side dishes are much more forgiving at a campground. You can make all your favorites with simple, smaller kitchen equipment or by the campfire. Whether you have a small burner in your recreational campervan or plan to do it all over the campfire, you can bring classic favorites to your camping chairs and folding table.
So, if you aren’t sure what you can make for your campground Thanksgiving feast, we want to share 10 of our favorite easy and delicious Thanksgiving side dishes!
1. Roasted Corn on the Cob
For this simple classic dish, you’ll need the number of ears of corn you want to eat and share with your guests. Ingredients used for roasted corn on the cob include butter and salt. Take out a sheet of aluminum foil for each ear of corn. Remove the husk and silk, then let your corn soak to remove debris. Slather the corn in butter and salt, then fold the foil around the corn. Let it roast over the campfire embers or the campsite grill coals for around 30 minutes.
2. Roasted Veggies
You might roast your vegetables with your turkey during a traditional, at-home dinner. And you can still enjoy your roasted vegetables by the campfire. Pull out your trusted cast iron or another camping-safe skillet, then chop up your carrots, potatoes, and onions.
Here is a broth base that we love that’s a perfect substitute for the full experience of cooking your turkey and vegetables together:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup chicken or turkey broth
- 4 minced cloves of garlic
- 1-1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
You can cook this dish on your propane burner, campfire grill, or over the campfire for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have melded.
3. Sweet Potatoes and Marshmallows
If you need your sweet fix with this beloved Thanksgiving side dish, you can do it at your campsite. Once again, you’ll need aluminum foil to wrap your sweet potatoes and the following ingredients:
- The number of sweet potatoes for you and your fellow feasters
- 1 Tbsp. butter for each sweet potato
Wash and prepare your sweet potatoes by poking ventilation holes with a fork. Wrap the sweet potatoes in the foil and cook over the fire coals or wood embers for about 30 minutes. Once tender, dress them in marshmallows, butter, cinnamon, and salt.
4. Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Mushrooms
This side could easily stand in as the main dish if you aren’t making a turkey. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 10 large fresh mushrooms, stems removed
- 1/2 lb sliced bacon, cut in half
- 1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 5 bamboo skewers
Mix your softened cream cheese and green onions, then stuff them into your mushrooms. Wrap your stuffed mushrooms with bacon slices, place two mushrooms on a skewer, and set them on the grill grate over your campfire for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is cooked completely.
5. Balsamic Roasted Bacon and Brussels Sprouts
There is nothing like the smell of roasted Brussels sprouts, so we feel it’s a must for your side dish collection. Here’s how to make them:
- 1 lb Brussels sprouts
- 1/2 pound chopped bacon pieces
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place your coated sprouts and bacon in a cast iron skillet or baking pan as evenly as possible, then roast them over your campfire for 30-35 minutes until the Brussels sprouts are tender.
6. Mashed Potatoes
What’s Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes? Unless you eat a ketogenic diet, let’s pretend you don’t. Here’s our favorite mashed potato recipe:
- 3-5 pounds of your favorite potatoes
- 2 large cloves of minced garlic
- 6 Tbsps. butter
- 3/4-to-1 cup whole milk, depending on the number of potatoes used
- 4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
- Salt to taste
- Recommended toppings: shredded cheddar cheese or your cheese choice, chopped green onions or chives, and freshly-cracked black pepper
Clean and boil your potatoes over the campfire until soft and ready to mash with your hand potato masher. Then add your milk, cream cheese, butter, and seasoning. Once ready to serve, bring out the toppings for everyone to dress their potatoes.
7. Sausage Stuffing in a Crockpot
While a roasting pan takes up a lot of space for a single-use item, a crackpot makes perfect sense for Thanksgiving and daily cooking. Similar to mashed potatoes, no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without stuffing. Here’s a one-of-a-kind recipe you’ll love.
- 16 oz box of instant stuffing crumbles
- 1 diced onion
- 5 stalks diced celery
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 12-16 oz breakfast sausage – you might try a spicy version
- 1 Tbsp. thyme
- 1 Tbsp. sage
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cup chicken broth, divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
Start the process by browning your sausage. Remove the browned sausage, then add butter to the same skillet to cook your diced celery and onion until softened and slightly caramelized. Add your seasonings and half of your broth. Add your sausage, egg, and stuffing crumbles when everything comes to a boil. Once everything is well-blended, add it to an aluminum-foil-lined slow cooker to let the flavors meld for four to five hours.
8. Fresh Cranberry Relish with Pecans
We love a delicious but simple recipe like this one that requires no cooking. You’ll need to bring a food processor or blender, but otherwise, this one is low-key. Here are the ingredients:
- 1 lb fresh cranberries
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1 orange
- 1/4-1/2 cup sugar or to taste
- 1/4 cup pecans or hazelnuts
Wash and puree your fresh cranberries, chop your apple and orange, then blend in your sugar and nuts. After that, chill until it’s time to serve.
9. Spicy Acorn Squash with Feta
We like this because it’s a traditional squash dish with a spicy feta flair. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 3 medium acorn squash, halved, seed, and sliced
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. dried sage
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Mix your olive oil and spices together, then liberally baste your squash slices with them before laying them out on a foil-lined pan. Cover them with foil, and let them bake over the campfire for 30-35 minutes. Unwrap the squash slices, and sprinkle them with feta.
10. Green Beans with Bacon and Almonds
Any green bean variation is one we love making in the slow cooker because that makes it a deliciously simple dish. Here are the ingredients:
- 1 lb green beans, rinsed and trimmed
- 1/2 pound chopped bacon pieces
- 5 Tbsps. unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Add everything except the almonds to the slow cooker, and toast the almonds in 1 tablespoon of butter. When the green beans are ready after three to four hours, serve the green beans, drizzled with the slow cooker juices, with the toasted almonds.
We’ve learned and developed many ways to cook our favorites while camping during any season, and we hope these Thanksgiving side dishes sound so scrumptiously simple you’re adding them to your holiday list.
Regardless of what you decide to do this Thanksgiving, we wish you a happy holiday!