Modernizing Thanksgiving

October 04th 2018

Modernizing Thanksgiving

Faces of Food Science

Modernizing Thanksgiving


If hearing the word “Thanksgiving” puts thoughts of turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce in your head, you’re far from alone! There has been very little change to the traditional holiday feast over the past 150 years.

When it comes to family feasts, there’s nothing quite like a traditional Thanksgiving spread. Of course, “traditional” means different things to different people. In fact, for many newer Canadians, Thanksgiving isn’t a tradition at all, it’s an entirely new concept. This opens up the opportunity not just for people to adopt the holiday, but also to adapt it to their culinary preferences.

If you love memorable flavours and delicious food, the idea of bringing new ideas to the classic Thanksgiving dinner is an exciting one! And no one loves it more than the Product Development team at McCormick Canada, led by Christine Rush, the Product Development Director for Canada Flavour Solutions. Christine took some time to talk to her team, and several of them reported back with their twists on Thanksgiving. What they had to say has our mouths watering!

Let’s break it down into components and have a look.


Although many Thanksgiving dinners just skip right to the main meal, it’s nice to have appetizer options for an extended party.

One of the team members, Margarita, likes to infuse her dishes with some Middle Eastern flair. That’s a great choice, not only for flavour but also for trendiness. Her idea for baked brie with pomegranate and barberries sounds divine! Not only is it a great blend of textures, but the sweet and sour flavours of the fruit will contrast nicely with the earthy, yet buttery taste of the cheese.

Margarita also plans to serve black garlic labneh dip with pita. Labneh is a perfect better-for-you replacement for cream cheese, and it’s also a great dip if you don’t thicken it too much. The sweetened, rich umami flavour of black garlic will keep dippers coming back again and again.

Side Dishes

For many, the side dishes are actually more important than the main course! Probably many of you have enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner with so many sides, you’ve forgotten to take a slice of turkey or ham. With a line up like this one, you’d be forgiven for the oversight!


Continuing with Margarita, Brussels sprouts with apples in maple mustard and cider dressing would be a unique blend of sweet and savoury that uses many of the great harvest season flavours. Roasted Sweet potato drizzled with hot honey could practically be a dessert, with the zing of spiced honey (100% on trend) adding the zing that is often missing in a typical Thanksgiving meal. Harissa and honey roasted carrots take an old favourite and give them a modern twist with the popular spicy seasoning from North Africa.

Not to be outdone, Donna chimes in with her plan for a bold take on stuffing. “I would replace the traditional stuffing mix of vegetable chunks, with fresh herbs like rosemary,” Donna tells us, “and season with any barbecue mix.” Sounds like a great way to really up the flavour level with familiar ingredients used in an unexpected way.


Also riding the rosemary bandwagon is Christine herself, with a sensational idea for roasted potatoes, sweet onions & jackfruit seasoned with rosemary and black garlic salt. Although she tells us, “My background is Irish, so in my family you can’t stray too far from those traditional mashed potatoes,” it looks like she’s going to try and slip some new flavours in, anyway. Using jackfruit opens up the opportunity to create a meat-like dish for vegetarians, and the black garlic will provide an umami kick.

In addition, Christine is making rosemary, sage, and ancho chili stuffing. What a great way to add pleasant heat to classic savoury spices!


Behnaz seems intent on taking the flavours to all new places with an epic stuffing. (There can never be too much stuffing!) Her incredible recipe mixes onion, garlic, prunes, green apples, dried apricots, and raisins all blended with salt and pepper, fresh lemon juice, walnuts, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, and delicate saffron. Combining the goodness of real fruits and warm seasonings will make a great seasonal dish with wellness and trend appeal.


You can’t have Thanksgiving dinner without sauces and gravies! Fortunately, Christine’s team has us, and our food, covered.


Both Christine and Margarita built on a classic cranberry sauce base to create something new. Margarita went with a cranberry and pomegranate sauce. Pomegranates are a superfruit high in antioxidants and always look great on a label. In the sauce, they’ll balance the tartness of cranberries with natural sweetness, reducing the need for added or artificial sweeteners.

Christine opted for a tropical approach with a cranberry and pineapple salsa. If you do grilled ham in place of turkey, this would be the perfect sweet-tart accompaniment. Meanwhile, Behnaz chose a straight-up pomegranate sauce to go with her sweet and sour stuffing.


Are you ready for the main event?


Margarita stuck with her North African favourite, harissa, for a roasted turkey with added heat. Meanwhile, Donna suggests rubbing the turkey with barbecue seasoning, or go all in and glaze it with your favourite style of BBQ sauce.

Not a turkey fan? Behnaz suggests swapping it out for a roasted chicken - a great idea for smaller families.


Mike has a non-poultry suggestion: hickory smoked beef brisket with a brown sugar/BBQ rub served with caramelized onions. Brisket is an incredibly tender and succulent cut, and so flavourful when it’s smoked to perfection. The sweet and tangy rub will practically turn it into candy! And, of course, caramelized onions are delicious with just about anything.  

You could even take a meatless approach. Remember Christine’s potato and jackfruit dish? Jackfruit, done with traditional seasonings like thyme, parsley and sage, with some umami flavour added in (from mushrooms, or black garlic) would make a terrific stand-in for turkey.


Pumpkin pie, or anything pumpkin spice-flavoured, is maybe the most traditional Thanksgiving dessert there is. Christine, however, has something both traditional and trendy up her sleeve. Matcha green tea cupcakes with brown butter icing combine the colour, flavour, and social media appeal of matcha (which is powdered green tea) and an uber-classic, go-anywhere icing.


Inevitably, there are Thanksgiving leftovers. In fact, some people probably look forward to leftovers as much if not more than the main meal!

Turkey soup is one of the easiest post-celebration recipes, and it has enormous nostalgia and wellness appeal. Donna, however, has another idea.

I like brothy vegetable noodle soup, like Vietnamese pho, with udon or rice noodles, bok choy and bean sprouts, mushrooms, chicken broth, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, cilantro, sriracha, and sliced turkey,” she tells us. Sounds amazing, Donna! Could turkey pho be the next chicken noodle soup?


We also love Margarita’s idea for a turkey and kimchi bao. We can almost taste the sour and savoury combo! Plus, anything handheld and reheatable is excellent for busy, grab-and-go lives. This one has millennial lunch written all over it.

We are so happy the McCormick product development team took the time to share their Modern Thanksgiving flavour ideas with us. With an ever-increasing market of new Canadians, coupled with the millennial desire to try new things, there should be huge sales potential for updated tried-and-true holiday recipes. And, if the McCormick team is doing this for their families at home, just imagine what they could be doing for your business!

Stop imagining, get in touch today, and let’s talk turkey. And appetizers, sides, sauces, and leftovers.