In my family, it’s not Thanksgiving without carrot mash. What is carrot mash, you ask? Let me start off by saying carrot mash is exceedingly difficult to describe. Words don’t really do it justice. You just have to taste it. But essentially, it’s a dish of mashed carrots with mint, a little butter, heavy cream, and olive oil (the holy trinity), a bit of orange zest, a dash of Tabasco, and that’s literally it. There’s a multitude of recipes for carrot mash adjacent dishes on the internet, but in my house, this is the only correct one.

You may think carrot mash sounds a bit like baby food, and I can see how you’d come to that conclusion. But that’s exactly what makes carrot mash so special. No one expects this humble orange paste to be so delicious, so complex, so incredibly perfect. And I do think it’s perfect.

Carrot mash is the ideal Thanksgiving side dish. It’s lighter, tangier, zestier than mashed potatoes, but just as comforting. It pairs perfectly with stuffing. You may forget you’re eating vegetables. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make. And the leftovers? Chef’s kiss.

Moriah House

My family began our carrot mash tradition in 2013, and it’s been going strong ever since. This year, my parents are visiting me at college for Thanksgiving. But never fear, they will be driving the carrot mash eight hours from our home. Luckily, it travels well. In fact, its durability makes it the perfect dish to bring to Friendsgiving.

My affection for carrot mash goes beyond taste. (Although as we’ve established, it tastes divine.) I always loved helping my mom peel the carrots, chop them up, and once everything is cooked, mash them like crazy. Carrot mash is the perfect dish for kids to help prepare. It’s easy, repetitive, not stressful or time sensitive. You can laugh, and talk, and listen to Thanksgiving specials on the radio. The melting butter and mint fills the house with the scent of something delicious. And the mashing is just plain fun.

My family doesn’t have a lot of traditional rules around Thanksgiving. We usually eschew turkey in favor of salmon, and this year we’re considering key lime pie instead of pumpkin. We aren’t invested in mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce is hardly worth the bother. Last year, my plate consisted of salmon, stuffing, brussel sprouts, and carrot mash (obviously followed by pie). It was an utterly perfect Thanksgiving plate, for me.

Moriah House

It probably won’t be perfect for you. You probably have your own set of special traditions, your own required dish. You might think salmon on Thanksgiving is a travesty. And that’s fine. Everyone’s perfect Thanksgiving plate is different, and that’s what makes Thanksgiving so special.

Not to get all sappy, but the memories, stories, and love behind the food are what really matters on Thanksgiving. I’d rather eat my carrot mash on Thanksgiving than the finest of fine dining. But I don’t even need the carrot mash, as long as I am lucky enough to enjoy a meal with the people I care about.

I once asked my mom why we only make carrot mash on Thanksgiving. It’s so easy and tasty, and it makes wonderful leftovers. Why don’t we eat it year-round? She couldn’t really say, she’d just never considered it. But I think it’s because only having it at Thanksgiving makes it all the more special. It’s tied to so many warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving memories, and we don’t want to tarnish it with everyday life. This is overdramatic and frankly ridiculous, but it’s the way it is. Carrot mash is a stellar dish by any measure, but the memories associated with it make it truly exceptional.

If you’re looking for a new tradition, or just an easy and delicious way to add vegetables to your Thanksgiving table, consider carrot mash. You won’t regret it. But if your Thanksgiving setup is already just perfect, that’s fine too.