Spicegiving: How to Spice up Your Thanksgiving Feast

Food & Drink

Ah, Thanksgiving, that most wonderfully over-indulgent of holidays. A day when you can dig in, loosen your waistband and eat until you pass out and no one will make fun of you. Well, they will, but you won’t care, thanks to your massive tryptophan high. This year, why not go wild instead of mild by celebrating Thanksgiving, spicy style? Just imagine, all of your holiday favorites, but with the heat cranked up a bit. We give you Spicegiving! We’ve got a bunch of spiced-up versions of your traditional Thanksgiving favorites. This Thanksgiving feast is designed to tip the Scoville scale more than your bathroom scale. Though you’ll still probably tip that one, too. Gobble, gobble.

Spice up your life
Ever notice how the pilgrims always looked so serious and stoic? Sure, they were fleeing persecution, they overshot their original destination and they lived in harsh conditions. But don’t you think that if they’d had a little adobo in their diet, they might’ve smiled more often? While no historian has ever proven this hypothesis, they also haven’t not proven it, so we can probably move forward with it as fact.

Still not convinced that a spicy Thanksgiving is the way to go? Chew on this: The turkey was first domesticated in Mexico and turkeys eaten in the U.S. descended from a Mexican species. The South Mexican wild turkey, M. pallopavo pallopavo, is the ancestor of all modern domestic turkeys. This bird was meant to be packed with poblanos, covered in cumin, heaped in jalapeños. Don’t fight nature. It’s time to turn up the heat.

Stuff it
Is it stuffing? Is it dressing? (Learning time: dressing disciples likely cook it separately from the turkey and live in the South of the U.S., while stuffing supporters cook it in the turkey.) This universally loved Thanksgiving menu item is fantastic in its original form, but with this version and its Anaheim pepper boost, you won’t have to worry what to call it because your mouth will be too full to talk.

What to use

  • 9 cups (1 lb.) day-old white bread torn into 1-in. cubes
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 apples, cored and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Anaheim peppers, roasted, chopped, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth, divided
  • 3⁄4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3⁄4 tsp. black pepper, with more to taste
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp. chopped scallions
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten

How to use it
Heat oven to 250°F. Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until dried out (about 1 hour). Let cool and transfer to a bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and cook about 5 mins. Add apples, garlic and pepper and cook until apples are tender, about 10 mins. Add cumin, pepper, parsley, chives and salt and cook about 2 mins. Transfer mixture to a bowl with bread cubes and gently stir until combined. Drizzle in 1 ¼ cups broth and gently toss. Let cool for 10 mins. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk eggs and 1 ¼ cups broth in a small bowl, then add to bread mixture and fold gently until combined and season with salt and pepper. Transfer stuffing to buttered baking dish and bake about 40 mins. (until thermometer reads 160°F). Makes 8–10 servings.

One hot bird
Don’t let your turkey’s life have been taken in vain. Do him proud by making him the tastiest bird this side of whatever major natural border you happen to live near. This recipe will allow your turkey to live up to his flavor potential and then some. Your guests will just gobble it up.

What to use

  • 1 12-lb. turkey, patted dry
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 tbsp. cayenne
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil

How to use it
Season turkey lightly outside and in with salt and pepper. Blend onion powder, cayenne, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl, then apply to turkey and massage into the skin. Set a rack inside a large, heavy roasting pan. Place turkey, breast side down, in pan and refrigerate uncovered overnight. The next day, remove turkey from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix celery and onion in a medium bowl and fill turkey cavity with vegetables. Any veggies that don’t fit in the turkey can be dropped in the bottom of roasting pan. Brush turkey with oil. Roast, basting occasionally, for 1 hour. Flip the bird, ahem, and roast, basting occasionally, about 1–1 ½ hours more until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh registers 165°F. Transfer to a platter and let rest for at least 20 mins. before carving. Serves 10-12.

PRO-TIP: Cooking turkey is hard. It takes time and patience and if you do it wrong you will, in fact, ruin Thanksgiving. If all that makes you nervous and you’d rather keep your holiday extremely low key and easy, turn to your old friend jerky, which will never let you down. A Spicy Jerkygram has all the meat and heat you can ask for with no threat of undercooked turkey food poisoning.

Cornbread caliente
People love to call cornbread a humble dish. And while it may have more modest beginnings than other menu items, this version is anything but humble. It’s hot and cheesy and it may just cause a fight if you run out of it, so maybe you want to make two.

What to use

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for baking dish
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 3⁄4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1 ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1⁄4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 jalapeños, minced
  • ⅓ cup chopped scallions

How to use it
Lightly grease an 8-in. baking dish and set aside. Heat oven to 400°F. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda, chili powder, salt and cumin in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter and eggs, stir in cheese, cilantro, jalapeños and scallions. Whisk mixture into cornmeal mixture and pour into baking dish. Bake for 25 mins. or so, until top is golden brown and tester inserted into middle comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 mins. before serving. Serves 8.

Hot potato!
Have you ever wondered about the history of mashed potatoes and where they were first made? Neither have we. It’s not often that something tasty comes out of boiling ingredients, but such is not the case for the potato, a boiling pot of water’s dear friend. But sometimes hot water just isn’t enough. This zippy little recipe will take your potatoes places boiled water can only dream of going.

What to use

  • 3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cayenne

How to use it
Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 20-25 mins. Drain the potatoes in a large colander, then place them back into the dry pot and put the pot back on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat and allow all the steam to escape. Turn off heat before adding butter, heavy cream and spices. Mash to combine and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 8 servings.

It’s all gravy
Despite the way it sounds, fowl drippings do in fact make for good food. Spicy fowl drippings? Get ready to lose your mind.

What to use

  • Reserved turkey pan drippings
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth, divided
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped, and 3 tbsp. adobo sauce

How to use it
Pour pan drippings through a strainer into a large measuring cup, discard solids and add broth to liquid to equal 3 cups. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, 10-12 mins. or until smooth and light brown. Add chipotles and gradually whisk in drippings/broth mixture. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 5 mins. Add more broth—up to ½ cup—to reach desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 6 cups.

PRO-TIP: Looking for something a little more daring than chipotles in adobo? The Hot and Spicy Crate has plenty of seriously hot and spicy options to make your gravy adventure seriously exciting.

Cayenne I have some cranberry sauce?
It’s not Thanksgiving until you get at least one good dad joke in. This recipe makes that task easy, since it’s got the word cayenne in it. It just writes itself. Oh, and it also tastes good.

What to use

  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 whole allspice berries
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. salt

How to use it
Bring cranberries, sugar, allspice, and ⅓ cup water in a medium saucepan to a simmer. Cook about 10 mins., so berries burst and mixture becomes syrupy. Mix in lemon juice and cayenne and add salt to taste. Makes about 6 servings.

Spicy sprouts for the win
Brussels sprouts can have kind of a bad reputation. Like the kids in gym class who “think” they’re athletic, they can get bitter if they’re not picked at the right time. And like Belgium’s other greatest export, Jean Claude van Damme, Brussels sprouts can also get stinky if they’re cooked for too long. And while adding spice to Jean Claude may not help matters, adding a little heat to the sprouts (and, of course, cooking them properly) can really let this veggie shine like a 1980s martial arts superstar.      

What to use

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
  • 4 large smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. homemade hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp. honey

How to use it
Heat oven to 400°F. Trim bottom of sprouts off and cut them in half. Heat oil in a skillet until shimmering. Add garlic, Brussels sprouts (cut side down) and red pepper flakes and cook over high heat, undisturbed until sprouts begin to brown on bottom. Transfer to oven and roast, shaking the pan every 5 mins. or so, and cook about 15 mins., until sprouts are tender. In the meantime, mix honey and hot sauce together in a small bowl until combined. Place sprouts in a bowl. Drizzle with hot honey mixture and toss until well coated. Makes 4 servings.

Spiced and soused pecan pie
Dessert is good food. Drunken dessert is even better food. Spicy drunken dessert—well, you get the picture.

What to use


  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup corn syrup
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp. bourbon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cup spicy nuts, chopped
  • 1 9-in. unbaked pie crust

Spicy nuts

  • 1 lb. pecan halves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. cayenne
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water

How to use it
Start by making the spicy nuts. Mix salt, cumin, cayenne, allspice and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside. Place nuts in a skillet over medium heat and cook about 4–5 mins. Add butter and stir until it melts, then add spice mixture and combine. Next add sugar and water and stir so mixture thickens and coats nuts. Transfer to a parchment-covered pan, separate and let completely cool before using. Heat the oven to 350°F. Whisk eggs, sugar, syrup, butter, bourbon, vanilla and salt until combined. Set aside. Line spicy nuts in the crust and pour filling on top. Bake for at least 30 mins. or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on rack to room temperature before serving.

Whiskey zing
For those located in the colder portions of the country, Thanksgiving heralds the beginning of some serious arctic conditions. There’s only one thing that can combat such frigid conditions. Besides a heater, that is. Well, and sweaters. And long johns. But we’re talking about booze, the best of all the warming things. This drink combines booze with some jalapeño for an extra kick of heat. Good news! This thing is tasty enough that if you happen to live in sunnier climes, it’s still worth drinking.  

What to use

  • 1 jalapeño
  • ½ oz. agave
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 2 oz. orange juice

How to use it
Cut top off the jalapeño and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and set seeds aside. Cut each half of the jalapeño into half-moon slices. Put about 6 half-moons and about 5 seeds into shaker, add agave and muddle. Squeeze lemon juice into shaker and add bourbon and orange juice. Throw a few ice cubes in and stir. Strain into a glass (don’t get seeds into drink), add ice and then garnish with jalapeño and lemon slices.

There will be leftovers
The Thanksgiving frenzy has subsided, you’ve had a good night’s rest and a new day has dawned. If you’ve done your celebrating right, you have a sufficient amount of leftovers to carry you through the next day, so you might as well dive in first thing. Even if you don’t have a turkey hangover, you’ll probably want to down one (or five) Spicy Bloody Marys—it’s the perfect accompaniment for a Brussels sprouts omelette or turkey eggs benny or just eating everything straight out of the Tupperware.

What to use

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 4 oz. tomato juice
  • 3 dashes Tabasco
  • 2 tsp. horseradish
  • 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pinch celery salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • Bacon Rimshot
  • Lemon wedges
  • Lime wedges

How to use it
Rub a lemon wedge along the lip of a pint glass and roll edge of the glass in Bacon Rimshot until coated. Fill with ice and set aside. Squeeze lemon and lime wedges into shaker. Add remaining ingredients, fill with ice and shake gently. Pour into prepared glass and garnish with celery stalk and lime wedge.

Have a Happy, Peppery Thanksgiving!