The 9 most gorgeous dishes to serve on Thanksgiving, according to designers

Virtual Thanksgiving means visual eye candy is on the menu this year.

The 9 most gorgeous dishes to serve on Thanksgiving, according to designers
[Source Image: AlexLMX/iStock]

While Zoom is great for conference calls, it’s no Smell-O-Vision. That means your virtual Thanksgiving guests won’t get to experience all the sensory pleasures of your meal. But there’s a silver lining for design aficionados: Those who love a beautifully curated dish, now is your time to shine. With digital Thanksgivings about to be in full swing, I think it’s safe to say there has never been a more apt moment to make it for the ‘gram.


We asked top designers and creative directors around the country for their prettiest go-to recipes, ranging from fluorescent jello to ombré pie to delicate Pommes Duchesse. These recipes don’t just taste good. They’re a feast for the eyes.

Here are their most design-worthy dishes, in their own words.

Award-worthy appetizers

My favorite recipes for Thanksgiving are actually appetizers. Bite-sized goodness that adds color to the table.


First up: Cranberry and Ricotta Crostini. It’s nice to see raw cranberries spared from only appearing in cooked and canned sauces on the Thanksgiving table. The almost-candy-cane color palette gives the dish a recognizable seasonal look. The splash of piercing red and pink against the ricotta’s stark white provides a well-received pop of vibrancy from all the brown and beige foods usually crowding our dinner plates.

[Photo: Ockra/iStock]
Next: French Piped Potatoes–Pommes Duchesse. These little guys are so cute. Perfectly proportioned and easy to eat. Golden. This dish brings a whole new level of elegance to such a traditional ingredient. It’s super simple to make, and there’s a very straightforward design intervention here that makes the dish stand out. Mash, throw in a few extra elements, push through a piping bag, and the potato is transformed physically into something that not only looks spectacular but is tasty too.
—Rinat Aruh, cofounder, Aruliden

Veggie deviled eggs

My family is into variations of super traditional fare. One of our favorite appetizers (that we snack on all day while preparing other dishes) is deviled eggs. While I can’t find a photo of the beautiful deviled eggs my sister has piped out over the years, I found this recipe that uses pureed veggies in the filling. Something we’ve tried a few times when we’re having fun.
—Raja Schaar, program director and assistant professor of product design, Drexel University

[Photo: Lilechka75/iStock]


Being married to a Swede, I learned about the art of the smörgåstårta or “sandwich cake.” Even though they are relatively easy to make, the true challenge is in their design. They are great to bring as a potluck dish that always sparks conversations, and they can be easily adapted to all kinds of dietary restrictions. While there are many recipes online, my favorite is smoked salmon, shrimp, and cream cheese spread garnished with dill and lemon slices.
—August de los Reyes, chief design officer, Varo Bank

[Photo: courtesy August de los Reyes]

Hasselback butternut squash

This Hasselback-style recipe gives me flashbacks of laser-cut topo models from my architecture school days. The thin slices make for lots of crispy edges while trapping the maple butter into the soft and creamy center. So functional!
—Alda Ly, founder, Alda Ly Architecture & Design

[Photo: Lilechka75/iStock]

Roasted cranberry sauce

I make this dish because it is the most beautiful, tasty savory thing ever. It looks like Christmas in a bowl. This year I am making cassoulet, which looks like barf when dished out, so all the other stuff needs to be pretty.
—Alicia Kuna, executive design producer, Wieden+Kennedy


Fluorescent jello

For those unable to make it to bioluminescent waters anytime soon, I suggest a neon-blue dessert that approximates the fine work of plankton and algae. Fluorescent G&T jello will bring a vibrant surprise to the otherwise expected autumnal palette of Thanksgiving standards. The quinine within tonic water glows when exposed to UV fluorescent light, and the recipe can be adjusted for all-ages consumption. This memorable recipe was originally discovered in Stefan Gates’s The Extraordinary Cookbook: How to Make Meals Your Friends Will Never Forget and reprinted in The Splendid Table.
—Forest Young, chief creative officer, Wolff Olins

Cranberry lime pie with gingersnap crust

The bright red color of the pie brings the holidays alive and complements the hearty earth tones of most holiday spreads. Topped with cranberries and bottomed with a gingersnap crust, the sweet-tart filling wakes up the palette just in time for some backyard football.
—Brett Lovelady, founder of Astro Studios

[Photo: Suzanne LaBarre]

Ombré apple pie

This is my go-to recipe for showing off at Thanksgiving, even though I have zero skills in the kitchen. The ombré pattern is so pretty, no one notices that I used store-bought crust.
—Suzanne LaBarre, editor, Co.Design


About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.