There’s a time and place for switching things up, and generally speaking, Thanksgiving isn’t one of them. It comes but once a year, making it difficult to tire of the traditional family recipes we eat over and over. 

But here at Milk Street, since we’re on a mission to change the way you cook, we see Thanksgiving not as a time to forgo tradition, but simply a time to improve upon it. Try one new dish or technique each year—or, OK, maybe a couple. Stick to those family recipes for the most part, but throw in a side or two that might surprise the table. Or reconsider the way you approach a certain recipe. (Bye-bye, brine.)

Instead of laboring over stuffing this year, for example, skip the prep by following our easy-bake herb stuffing recipe. Or add some flair to your mashed potatoes by using this smart Indian cooking technique. And when it comes to sweet potato casserole, try it our way.

Let’s face it: Sweet potato casserole, often cloyingly sweet, is a classic that could use some work. That’s why we’ve developed not one but three alternatives to the marshmallow-laden dish of yore, with options that will work during the meal or afterwards for dessert. (Save the marshmallows for their true place in life: toasted and sandwiched with chocolate between two graham crackers.)

Sweet Potato and Shallot Casserole with Fennel Seed

Sweet Potato and Shallot Casserole

The combination of shallots, thyme, fennel seed and mustard is the perfect counterbalance to naturally sweet potatoes, drizzled with honey or sorghum. Your casserole is all grown up. 

Sweet Potato Gratin with Vanilla Bean and Bay Leaves

Sweet Potato Casserole with Vanilla Bean and Bay Leaves

For a sweeter take that channels those marshmallows with greater nuance, use cream infused with vanilla bean and bay leaf, and dust the dish with black pepper. 

Savory Sweet Potato Gratin

Savory Sweet Potato Gratin

And for something altogether less sweet, pack this classic with umami by adding miso, ginger and soy sauce.

For more ways to rethink tradition, check out these seven sides that make subtle upgrades on the classics.