11 Insta-Worthy Thanksgiving Recipes to Feast Your Eyes On

Published October 12, 2022
Hand taking photos of thanksgiving dinner with a smartphone

From a beautiful dish of cranberry sauce to the perfect roasted turkey, certain Thanksgiving recipes are especially photogenic. Knowing how to cook these delicious dishes and then style them in just the right way means you'll get plenty of likes when you share them online and lots of oohs and ahhs from those around your turkey day dinner table.

World's Most Photogenic Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner starts with a turkey. Making one that's beautiful is all about getting the beautiful mahogany skin and adding an impressive garnish. Oh - and it needs to taste good! This recipe will help you cook a turkey that is moist and tasty, too.

Ingredients

  • Turkey, thawed and rinsed with the giblets removed
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bunches fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 yellow onion, halved
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans of chicken broth
  • 3 apples, any kind

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F.
  2. Zest the lemon and juice it. Melt the butter and stir in the juice and zest.
  3. Pat the turkey dry and place it in a roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with the onion, the juiced lemon, a bunch of thyme, and one bunch of sage.
  4. Pour both cans of chicken broth into the pan with the turkey, taking care to pour some broth into the cavity.
  5. Rub the turkey with the lemon and butter mixture, coating the skin carefully. Sprinkle with salt. Tie the legs with string and tuck the wings in.
  6. Cover the turkey in a tent of well-sealed foil, tying to keep the foil above the turkey and not touching the skin.
  7. Roast the turkey for about ⅔ of the recommended time for its size. Remove the foil and complete cooking, watching to make sure the skin doesn't get too dark.
  8. Remove the turkey when an instant-read thermometer registers 180°F and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Styling Tips

To get the best picture of a roasted turkey like this, you need great lighting and pretty garnishes. These tips can help.

  • Put the turkey on a simple platter that won't detract from its beauty.
  • Surround it with lightly roasted apples, the other bunch of sage, and anything else you think will look nice. Group the apple garnishes in three spots around it.
  • For the best roasted turkey pictures, place the platter in natural window light on a tablecloth. You can add twinkle lights in the background for extra interest.
  • Turn off your lamps and overhead lights, which can shine off the top of the turkey and detract from the texture.
  • Take the picture from about turkey level on the table, making sure you're close to the bird so it fills the whole frame.

Colorful Sweet Potatoes and Kale

Thanksgiving Sweet Potato and Kale Close Up

Make vegetarian dishes worthy of your Insta feed with a few simple styling tricks. Vegetable-based food can be colorful and photogenic, especially if you mix complementary shades. This recipe makes four servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic minced garlic cloves, divided
  • Dash salt
  • 1 large bunch of kale
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt, or vegan yogurt if desired
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds

Instructions

  1. Cut the sweet potatoes into quarters lengthwise and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove, and a dash of salt. Roast in the oven on a baking sheet at 400°F for 25 to 35 minutes, until the potato is cooked through.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, wash the kale and tear it into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over low heat and let the remaining minced garlic clove cook in the oil for about a minute. Add the kale and sprinkle with lemon juice. Toss gently until the kale is wilted.
  4. Serve on a bed of yogurt, layering the kale and sweet potatoes on top and sprinkling with fresh mint, nutmeg, and pomegranate seeds.

Styling Tips

The key to making this an Instagram-worthy dish is good presentation and lighting.

  • Spread ¼ cup of the yogurt in a perfect circle on a plate using a spoon. Clean up the edges with a paper towel.
  • Use a simple, dark-colored plate to contrast with the yogurt.
  • Spread the kale evenly and add the sweet potatoes in a casual, overlapping pair on top.
  • Garnish with complementary colors like the green in mint and the red in the pomegranate seeds.
  • Use window light instead of artificial light to take the photos, since warmer colored light can make the food look less appetizing.
  • Use an editing app on your phone or computer to make the dark tones of the image even darker.

Super Fluffy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Creamy puree of potatoes sprinkled with parsley in a silver pot on a black table

Mashed potatoes aren't necessarily the prettiest food on their own, but they can be lovely with the right garnishes and styling. This classic Thanksgiving dish is easy, too. This recipe makes four servings.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pounds of russet potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
  • 1 head of garlic, split into cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup whole milk or vegan almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter or vegan substitute
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprig of fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the peeled and cut-up potatoes in a pot of water and boil over medium heat until the potatoes are tender, usually about 20 minutes.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, toss the garlic cloves with olive oil and roast on a cookies sheet in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Drain the potatoes and allow some of the water to evaporate from them.
  5. Add the butter and let it start to melt. Begin mashing using an electric mixer or hand masher.
  6. Gradually add the milk, mashing until the potatoes are smooth and creamy.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and top with garlic cloves.

Styling Tips

You can take your standard mashed potatoes to the next level by styling them attractively.

  • Use a dark-colored serving bowl, which will contrast with the pale color of the potatoes.
  • Garnish with a sprig of parsley. You can also add a sprinkle of black pepper if you like.
  • Place the potatoes in natural light, ideally by a window. Let the light shine on them from the front and photograph them from a slight angle to show their texture.

Ruby Red Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is as pretty as it is tasty, and you can make it even lovelier with your styling. Its glossy, ruby-red surface really shines in photos. This recipe makes eight servings.

Ingredients

  • Juice and zest from three oranges
  • 1¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag of cranberries

Instructions

  1. Place the orange juice, orange zest, and sugar in a medium-sized pan and heat on medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir constantly.
  2. Add the cranberries and continue to stir. Cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. When the cranberries are cooked, remove them from the heat to allow the sauce to cool and thicken.

Styling Tips

Help your cranberry sauce look its best in photos.

  • Serve the sauce in a silver or pewter dish or a crystal bowl. Neutral and metallic tones will help show it off.
  • Place a spoon in the dish so the sauce looks ready to dish up.
  • Use soft, natural light, making sure you turn off any overhead lights. Cranberry sauce is shiny, so overhead lights can reflect and distract from the beauty.
  • Add candles or a few scattered cranberries on the table around the sauce to complete the look.
  • Consider a garnish like strips of orange zest.

Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Charred sprouts with spicy herb butter and fine chopped hazelnuts

Brussels sprouts are a wonderful fall vegetable and make a standout option on the Thanksgiving table. You can lightly roast them in the oven while you're making other side dishes, and they will look absolutely beautiful in photos. This recipe makes six servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the Brussels sprouts in a resealable plastic bag along with the olive oil and garlic. Seal the bag and shake it to coat everything in oil.
  3. Dump the bag on a sheet pan and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until they are tender.
  4. Add salt and pepper before serving.

Style Tips

To make your Brussels sprouts look their best, try these ideas.

  • Serve in a simple, light-colored bowl.
  • Top with herbs, lemon zest, or pistachios for added beauty.
  • Photograph with a dark background and natural light. You can do this by placing a table under a window.
  • To tell a story with your photo, include some of the ingredients next to the Brussels sprouts.

Better-Than-Mom's Apple Pie

Apple pie in cast iron skillet on rustic table

Your mom might have made a beautiful apple pie, but it probably wasn't this rustically pretty. An egg wash and crust vents in the shape of apple seeds make this pie the loveliest you'll ever photograph.

Ingredients

  • 2 pie crusts, either standard or vegan recipes
  • 8-10 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin slices
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F.
  2. Place one pie crust in a deep dish pie pan.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the sliced apples, lemon juice, brown sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir well.
  4. Dump the apple mixture into the pie pan, making sure it's even.
  5. Use a sharp knife to cut an apple seed star shape in the center of the second pie crust. Lay it over the top of the pie and crimp the edges.
  6. Combine the beaten egg and milk in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to smooth the top crust and brush on the egg wash.
  7. Place aluminum foil around the edges of the crust.
  8. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Styling Tips

Use these tips to make your apple pie extra gorgeous in photos.

  • Use a dark background for the pie. Because it's light colored, the contrast will make it stand out.
  • Place whole apples around it for a sweet display.
  • Light the pie from above and one side to help show off its golden color and texture.
  • Shoot straight down from above so you can display the apple star shape of the vent.

More Shareable Thanksgiving Food

These are just a few of the pretty turkey day dishes you can photograph and share online. You can also take great photos of your traditional favorites, using garnishes and your photo skills to make them look extra special.

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup makes a great Thanksgiving starter or main course for those who don't eat meat. Make it Insta-ready with croutons, pumpkin seeds, and herbs. Style it on a dark background in white or off-white dishes that show off its color. It's especially pretty when shot straight from above.

Herbed Stuffing

Herbed Stuffing

Although Thanksgiving stuffing might not be the most naturally photogenic food, there are lots of ways to make it gorgeous. One fun idea is to place it in a simple bowl with a serving spoon but have some of the stuffing spill out onto the table. People will be able to look at it and almost taste the savory goodness.

Stuffed Squash or Pumpkin

Stuffed Squash

A wonderful vegan alternative to turkey is a stuffed squash or pumpkin. This dish can look absolutely amazing in photos too. Photograph it from the side against a dark background, using natural light. A sprinkling of herbs makes it look even more beautiful.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

While it might not be as naturally photogenic as apple pie, pumpkin pie can still be pretty in photos. Make a simple pumpkin pie, but then take a photo that's a story. Have the pie in someone's hands and use a pretty background, like a fall dress or a plaid shirt. The photo will be super share-worthy.

Turkey Leftovers

Turkey Leftovers

Don't stop taking Thanksgiving food photos when the day is over; make your turkey leftovers into lovely images too. Create the ultimate turkey sandwich and take some pictures that will have everyone drooling. One way to do this is to style the sandwich on a rustic cutting board and take a picture that shows a cross-section of the delicious goodness inside.

Post the Best Thanksgiving Food Photos on Instagram

Instagram is filled with food photos, especially during the holidays. Making yours stand out isn't just about posting a photo of the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. The key is turning your photo into something people connect with on an emotional level. Tell the story of your turkey day get-together or include a happy Thanksgiving quote with your picture. A beautiful recipe, some nice lighting and garnishes, and a few heart-warming words will help you share your feast with friends far and wide.

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11 Insta-Worthy Thanksgiving Recipes to Feast Your Eyes On