Thanksgiving Recipes with Immigrant Flair

Pumpkin Sesame Pancakes; photo: Kian Lam Kho

Thanksgiving is a time when families across the U.S. get together to eat good food. For immigrants and those with immigrant parents, the holiday foods they prepare are often influenced by flavors from their home countries.

In a piece I produced for Colorlines, chefs with diverse backgrounds share recipes they’ve developed using ingredients, techniques, and references to history that reflect their personal heritage and politics around food. Below are recipes for Chinese, Caribbean, and Puerto Rican side dishes you might want to consider for your own Thanksgiving table. You can find additional recipes Colorlines.

Sesame Coated Pumpkin Pancakes by Chef Kian Lam Kho

Kho, who hails from Singapore, sends this recipe from China where he is researching an upcoming cookbook.

I offer this pumpkin recipe that I think would be interesting as a side dish for an Asian Thanksgiving dinner.”



  • 8 ounces of pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch cubes.
  • 2 cups of glutinous rice flour (mochi flour)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of sesame seeds (white, black or combination of both)
  • Vegetable oil for frying


    1. Place the pumpkin on a plate and steam over boiling water for 20 minutes or until it is completely soft.
    2. Remove from the stove and drain any excess water from the plate.
    3. Place the pumpkin in a medium mixing bowl and add the glutinous rice flour and sugar while it’s still hot.
    4. Mix the ingredients together well until a smooth dough is formed.
    5. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and press down to form a disk of about three inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick.
    6. In a shallow bowl spread the sesame seeds. Coat the pumpkin pancakes completely with sesame seeds by patting the dough down onto the seeds.
    7. Heat about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat.
    8. When the oil reaches about 300 F place eight of the pancakes into the frying pan and fry for three to four minutes or until the side is golden brown. Flip each pancake and brown the other side for three or four minutes. Remove the pancakes from the pan and place them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
    9. Repeat the frying with the rest of the pancakes. Serve the pancakes while they are still hot.

Apple-Cranberry Sauce by Chef Bryant Terry

Although this is an old recipe, I have been exploring the interconnection, change, and growth of Afro-diasporic food in most of my work,” says Terry, a food justice advocate and author. “My new book Afro Vegan focuses squarely on that subject. This recipe is a nod to the from-scratch cooking traditions of the African diaspora, and uses fresh cranberries, apples–local preferred–and tangerine juice. It’s so naturally sweet and yummy you could even eat it as dessert.”



  • 1 cup of fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup of peeled and diced sweet-tart apples such as Braeburn, Early Crisp or Gala
  • 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed tangerine juice (or fresh orange juice)
  • 2 tablespoons of raw cane sugar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon


    1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.
    2. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until soft with some chunks remaining, stirring every two minutes.
    3. Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Serve cool.

Huevos al Nido
(Eggs in a Nest) by Chef Ana Sofia Palaez

Palaez is a Cuban chef and food writer who explores and blends Latin-American ingredients and flavors from across the region. Palaez adapted this recipe by Puerto Rican chef Carmen Aboy Valldejuli, tweaking a Thanksgiving staple–mashed potatoes.

With everyone flying home for the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought Valldejuli’s huevos al nido, a combination of baked eggs layered with mashed potatoes, was a fitting recipe,” she says.



  • 1 pound of potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk
  • 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


    1. In a heavy pot, bring potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cover and simmer until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
    2. Drain the potatoes and set aside until just cool enough to handle. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
    3. Peel potatoes and pass through a food mill or ricer. Add butter, milk and salt. Grease ramekins.
    4. Fill half of each ramekin with layer of mashed potatoes. Carefully break an egg over potatoes and sprinkle with teaspoon of cheese and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover with final layer of mashed potatoes and sprinkle with more cheese.
    5. Bake until eggs are set to taste,about 20 to 30 minutes.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation and the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation.

AboutVon Diaz
Von Diaz is a writer and radio producer based in New York City. She is a self-taught cook who explores Puerto Rican food, culture, and identity through memoir and multimedia. Her work has been featured on NPR, American Public Media, StoryCorps, WNYC, PRI’s The World, BuzzFeed, Colorlines, and Feet in 2 Worlds. Von has an M.A. in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies from New York University. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she earned a B.A. in Women’s Studies and focused her research on women in Latin America. She is a currently a producer at StoryCorps, and previously worked in community advocacy and communications for nonprofits focused on women, children, art, and Latino culture.