What are the alternative Thanksgiving meals?

Who wants alternatives to turkey for Thanksgiving?

We all know a traditional Thanksgiving calls for turkey, so just to refresh your memory, you can quickly check this facts about turkeys, if you want to impress your host or guests, depending on the role you’ll be in on next celebration of this popular American holiday.

To make even a step further, you can explore some history behind Thanskgiving, where you’ll easily find some surprising information about the menu before a turkey became a standard. Today more than 80 percent of Americans eat it, but this also means the rest eat something else. So how they celebrate Thanksgiving? What are the possible alternatives on the menu?

But don’t expect recipes, look at this article just as kind of inspirational journey in the land of alternative Thanksgiving meals!

If you are just bored by turkey and you can live with the the essentially the same bird, but with a twist, first option to explore is definitely a turducken, sometimes called tur-duc-hen (made of turkey, duck and hen).

(By the way: all used images are public domain and come from Wikipedia and Pixabay – thank you, contributors!)

Let’s take a look:


So what is a turducken?

This is boneless turkey stuffed with boneless duck, which is stuffed with boneless chicken. On the photo above you can see the result which is appropriately cut to show the internal stuffing (cornbread, chicken and duck in layers), but this recipe also has several variations, among some include pig, goose, hot dog(s), tofu and other imaginative contributions to healthy heavy dinner menus of America. Well, there is even a variation which includes 40 birds (12 different species) inside the turkey!

Well, you can still keep things simple, break the turkey tradition while still staying in the range of poultry. A duck, a goose or chicken are all good options and it is up to you how far you want to go with stuffing and flavors. Don’t forget the wishbone!

Dungeness crabs as another alternative idea for Thanksgiving recipe

picture of dungeness crab

Dungeness crabs are popular alternative for turkey in California and other states on the West Coast, where the Dungeness crab season starts just in time for Thanksgiving. You should of course calculate the number of crabs required to satisfy the appetite of your guests, but in general think about grilled version with chili, garlic and thyme. Very interesting addition to the mixture of spices are funnel seeds.

If crabs are not your thing, but still prefer to stay in the water, a halibut can make a lasting impression, if it’s treated with right herbs. Lemon, garlic, thyme and parsley are classics, while only the sky is the limit. Another lovely option is salmon or his cousin trout.

Pork for Thanksgiving?

Turkey may be traditional central figure of this Holiday, but a pork is still one of tastiest alternatives. It may obviously serve the main purpose as the roast or pork loin, but there are also delicious recipes for ribs and of course we should not forget the ham – with or without a bone. To add the holiday feel, we should only use the right spices and maybe a pinch of creativity. Think about honey or maple syrup, almonds or pecans, cherries or cranberries, garlic or mustard, … And the best part? All variations can make great match to mashed potatoes and squash!

pork roast free photo

Need further inspiration? What about the stuffing in decadent combinations as walnut-rhubarb, apple-onion-sage, mushrooms-bread-parsley, …? When you already look for turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving you can explore interesting variations in other areas of traditional Thanksgiving dinner as well.

How about lamb?

Its tender meat is already loaded with flavors which can be further emphasized in a direction of your choice. While marinade is definitely one of the options, you can also go with stuffing or rubbing the meat (make several one or two inch cuts) with herbs and spices chosen by your mood.


Her are few ideas to get your creative juices flow (just don’t drool, please): garlic, lemon, ginger, chili and onion, or minth, cumin, black pepper and yogurt, or rosemary, thyme, honey and balsamic vinegar, or mustard, garlic, rosemary and cranberries, … See? We already have a Thanksgiving feel!

Who wants beef for Thanksgiving?

Apparently every beef lover and every lover of slow cooking as well. Majority of chefs treat the beef as the best sort of meat, so what can be better alternative to turkey for a festive event like Thanksgiving dinner definitely is? Beef comes in wide variety of versions, so you are definitely not limited to roast only. Well, if you make it right and serve with madeira sauce, expect completely different set of words.


Short ribs, brisket, prime rib and other tasty parts of cows are great candidates to charm your guests around the holiday table. They are all good friends with wine and all sorts of vegetables, but to stay faithful to Thanksgiving theme, try to include butternut squash or roasted brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes or green bean or … You know any tasty combination which comes to your mind. Yes, cranberry sauce counts too.

More turkey alternatives for meat lovers

Although a huge piece of meat on the table looks like an inevitable part of tradition, you can stay in more moderate area with still hearty and tasty dishes like different sorts of pies or maybe a pumpkin, stuffed with minced meat (use your imagination), apple and onion, or even a casserole (the fourth Thursday in November can be pretty cold in several parts of the world after all).

meat pie

Vegetarian thanksgiving dinner, anybody?

To recreate the impression of the classic Thanksgiving main dish, you can go bold with a pumpkin stuffed with boiled eggs and cheese and cream and all kinds of roasted vegetables. Stuffing made of onion, mushroom, wild rice and quinoa also sounds intriguing. Or whole wheat and black bean. Or you can decide for something more casual like macaroni and cheese or lasagne with creative additions like hot chili and garlic and roasted pumpkin seeds.

thanksgiving apple pie

To go vegan, you need to skip eggs and dairy products as well. Pies stuffed with pumpkin, different nuts and fruit are already classics, but you can make interesting twists with addition of oatmeal, beans, mushrooms, soy, tempeh, or tofu.


As you can see the spirit of Thanksgiving is not necessary inseparable from the turkey. It is a holiday about family, friendship and all the important thing we tend to forget too often in the hectic times we are living.

So enjoy in creative twists of the recipes with turkey alternatives and have a Happy Thanksgiving!