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Thanksgiving Ham Dinner: How to Serve

Looking for new Thanksgiving dinner ideas? Want to know what to serve with ham? We’ll take you beyond the traditional turkey meal with a much easier-to-serve Thanksgiving ham dinner menu.

For many people, what to make for Thanksgiving dinner isn’t much of a dilemma. Each family has its own traditional Thanksgiving menu—typically involving turkey—and deviating from it can be frowned upon. On the other hand, some families look forward more to seeing the same beloved faces gathered around the table each year, and are open to a little variety when it comes to what they eat together. And—let’s face it—some of us get a little tired of turkey every year. If you’re in the mood to change things up and find the turkey alternative, consider the Thanksgiving ham dinner.

Honey glazed spiral ham and red cranberries displayed on a chopping block.

When you think about it, ham isn’t really all that non-traditional. In fact, many sources speculate that turkey wasn’t even on the table when the Pilgrims and Wampanoags celebrated the first Thanksgiving dinner. Most likely, the meat was deer brought by the native Americans and wildfowl contributed by the English. Turkey showed up on traditional Thanksgiving menus in cookbooks many years later, usually one of several types of meat, including cooked ham.

Today ham remains a popular entrée for Thanksgiving and other holidays (primarily Christmas and Easter). It’s a great choice for smaller families who can’t put away a huge turkey and don’t want to eat leftovers for days, and is also used by many large families to supplement the traditional turkey. Plus, some people simply prefer ham; it’s lower maintenance and easier to bake properly, takes up less oven space, is easier to carve, and is moister than turkey breast. And its hardwood smoke and sweet brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey glaze are perfect with the flavors of fall side dishes. So this Thanksgiving, let’s take a break from what everyone else does and make ham the centerpiece of the celebration.

Honey glazed spiral ham and asparagus spears displayed on a chopping block.

What is the Best Type of Ham for Thanksgiving?

There are a variety of types of ham to consider buying for your Thanksgiving dinner. There is everything from Bone-In to Boneless, spiral-cut, city hams and country hams. It really comes down to personal preferences and how you wish to serve it.

If you are unsure what type of ham to buy, check out the article below to learn more.

Side Dishes for Thanksgiving Ham

Naturally, it all starts with the entrée…in this case, ham. And to complete the meal, we’re going to need side dishes and a dessert or two. Perhaps a nice wine. So if we’ve changed the entrée from turkey to ham, what does that do to our traditional Thanksgiving side dishes? What about Mom’s stuffing?

Not surprisingly, other foods often paired with turkey also have an affinity for holiday ham. Classic fall sides like Brussels sprouts or other roasted vegetables, green beans—especially green bean casserole—baked squash (savory with garlic and Parmesan or sweet with brown sugar and cinnamon), mashed potatoes (or mashed sweet potatoes), and cranberry sauce are naturals with your sugar glazed ham. For a real favorite, add a twice-baked potato dish that is heavy on the garlic and butter.

Boneless spiral ham and slices served on a white platter with grapes and sliced citrus fruit as garnish.

Some people like to attach pineapple slices to the ham with a cherry in the middle of each hole. They will also cook down the pineapple juice with brown sugar and spices to make a pineapple glaze.

The only thing that will almost certainly be different from a turkey dinner is the dressing (or stuffing). A ham can’t be stuffed as a turkey can…and, truthfully, many health professionals recommend that dressing not be baked inside the turkey anyway because of possible undercooking of the bird and bacterial transfer to the dressing. So you can still make your family’s favorite dressing (minus the giblets, unless you have some stashed in the freezer). One type of dressing that is especially good with Thanksgiving ham dinner is a Southern-style cornbread dressing.

But what about the gravy? No worries! If you’ve never had ham gravy, you’re in for a treat. TV’s The Pioneer Woman has an excellent recipe — and as an added bonus, it’s perfect for serving over biscuits the next day. Now that’s an easy recipe for breakfast!

What to Wine to Serve with Thanksgiving Ham

Fear not. As with side dishes, what goes with turkey generally also goes with ham. The best wines for turkey, according to wine professionals, are pinot noir (if you prefer red) and riesling (if white is your thing). And guess what? Those are exactly the wines these same professionals typically recommend with ham. But, don’t hesitate to pair it with your favorite zinfandel, moscato, or even a cabernet.

Boneless spiral sliced ham, mixed veggies and potatoes served with a glass of red wine and fresh grapes.

Thanksgiving Ham Recipes

One of the great things about ham is that you really don’t need a recipe. Most hams are sold pre-cooked, so they need only be brought up to temperature in the oven, and some hams even come with their own rich glaze already baked in. You can find fantastic baked hams in traditional bone-in form, easy-to-carve spiral-sliced, or the super-convenient boneless spiral-sliced.

Our Easter Ham article has easy tips on how to bake a ham and how to carve a ham…but again, it’s a very simple process that’s easier and quicker than roasting and carving a turkey.

ham and swiss cheese on a white plate

One of the best things about ham is the wide variety of dishes you can make with the leftovers. Leftover game recipes will keep your family happy for days. Ham bone soup is a classic, of course, and is one of many ham leftover recipes to be found on Don’t forget the Swiss cheese for those incredible ham sandwiches! White or wheat bread is ideal for a ham sandwich, but don’t hesitate to mix it up with a sourdough or rye bread, or create a terrific sub sandwich using a French baguette!

Sliced Ham with mustard sauce

A glazed Sliced Ham next to a round of Baby Swiss Cheese, cut to show the holes, with slices on a platterA glazed Sliced Ham next to a round of Baby Swiss Cheese, cut to show the holes, with slices on a platterSave

Comments (5)

My friend sent me a ham from Swiss colony! It lasted me for about a week and made many absolutely scrumptious meals! It was one of the best ham I’ve ever had in my life. I tried to buy one this evening and the price of the ham was reasonable but I could not afford the price of him and an additional $30 for shipping as I live on a fixed income. That said if one can afford the $90 for one of these hams it is well well worth it. Thanks for allowing me to share!! 🙏

I ordered this as a gift but it will be really nice if you can also give us sides to go along with it as well for those who may not want to do any cooking 🙏🏾🙏🏽🥰😍

Loved all the suggestions.

Love many of your ideas, both in foods and gifts.

I love it and my family and friends to for the holidays now

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