Try these recipes for a Central Coast twist on your traditional Thanksgiving meal. 

Most people think of creamy mashed potatoes and an oven-cooked turkey when they think of Thanksgiving—but here in Santa Maria Valley, our Thanksgiving dreams taste more like the unmistakable smoke of a red-oak fire than Aunt Susan’s mallow-topped sweet potatoes. If you’re ready to spice tradition up a bit and try Thanksgiving Santa Maria Style, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re talking our top tips for adding our Valley’s twist to Thanksgiving classics.

The main course: Grill your bird.

For a true Santa Maria Style Thanksgiving, you have to take the cooking outdoors. Instead of roasting your turkey in an oven all day, try slow-roasting it over the coals of a red oak fire (a tradition that started with rancheros in our Valley way back in the mid-19th century). The red oak is the key ingredient for achieving that iconic Santa Maria Style flavor—we recommend purchasing your red oak chips from Susie Q’s and then mixing some in with your coals. (Or, you can create a smoker pouch by wrapping some red oak chips in aluminum foil and then poking holes in the pouch and placing it directly on your grill rack—this will ultimately act as a smoker box and will allow the red-oak flavor to penetrate your turkey meat.)

Cooking your turkey over the coals of a red oak fire will give it that mellow sweet smokieness that’s common in Santa Maria Style barbecue. For specific cook times and safety precautions, you can read more about grilling your turkey to perfection here. (Psst…for a true Santa Maria style bird, you’ll want to rub it with some of our famous Santa Maria seasoning.)

The sides: Don’t forget the pinquito beans.

From mashed potatoes to classic stuffing, side dishes are often the best part of Thanksgiving dinner (save for the pie!). We love the idea, then, of adding a Santa Maria classic to your lineup of side dishes this year. After all, no Santa Maria style meal is complete without our Valley’s iconic pinquito beans. Pinquito beans are plump, firm beans that we soak overnight and then slow-cook (with ham, bacon, and tomato puree) to pure perfection. You can find the complete recipe for Santa Maria style pinquito beans here.

The dessert: Say yes to strawberries.

We don’t often see strawberries incorporated into Thanksgiving since they’re no longer in peak season—but, thanks to extended growing seasons and more hardy varieties, you just might be able to get your hands on some throughout November. In fact, our coastal climate means we’re actually able to grow them all year-round here in Santa Maria! If you can snag some ripe strawberries, we love the idea of working them into your one of your dessert dishes for a complete Santa Maria Style Thanksgiving. (Our Valley is known for its irresistibly sweet strawberries, after all.) Try baking a homemade strawberry pie or fresh strawberry cobbler. The warmth and flakiness of homemade pastry is the perfect way to add a winter touch to this sweet, summer berry.

Here in our Valley, we’re all mixing timeless tradition with unforgettable adventure—and we happen to think there’s no better way to combine the two than by spicing up your Thanksgiving meal than with a little something Santa Maria Style!

In Santa Maria Valley, there’s so much to do from here. Hit the road and explore it all with our 24 hiking trails, 34 tasting rooms, seven unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. There is no need to venture far if you are looking for sand dunes, cycling and authentic Santa Maria Style dining. You’ll find it’s the perfect home base, where you can eat, drink and do more for less.