15 Alternative Thanksgiving Meals (That Just Might Be Better Than Turkey)
You know us—we’re all about rankings. So when it comes to Thanksgiving, stuffing tops our list. No questions asked. Turkey, however? Ehh, it’s a bit further down. If you are like us and would rather skip the “star” in favor of another serving of sweet potato casserole, then this roundup is for you. Here, alternative Thanksgiving meals that are so good you’ll forget all about the traditional bird.
1. Spicy Orange-Honey Glazed Ham
Yes, it really is as delicious as it sounds. With just eight ingredients, this recipe is basically foolproof. And did we mention the amazing sandwiches you can make with the leftovers?
2. Rosemary-Glazed Cornish Hens
Here’s a thought: Go mini. Cornish hens retain all the comforts of a classic Thanksgiving table, but their size is perfect if you’re just making a meal for two. Try grilling them with onion and a rosemary glaze.
3. Pomegranate-Maple Glazed Lamb Chops
The secret here? Glazing the chops with pomegranate molasses to add flavor and ensure deep caramelization. This aromatic dish is served alongside a pomegranate-mint relish. Oh, you fancy.
4. Braised Lamb Chops with Cranberry-Harissa Chutney
Not nearly as overwhelming as a 16-pound turkey, these little guys make for perfect Thanksgiving portions. As in, you’ll still have room for pumpkin pie (and every other dessert).
5. Skillet Roast Chicken with Shmaltzy Potatoes
Don’t let this one fool you. It may look like a small turkey, but it most definitely doesn’t taste like one. Served on a bed of crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside potatoes, this dish is pretty enough to serve as your Thanksgiving centerpiece.
6. Brussels Sprout Mushroom Pizza
We’d invite ourselves over to any house serving pizza at their holiday table. The dough is covered with sweet apple butter, while the crispy prosciutto and cheese add the right amount of salty and savory flavor.
7. Vegetarian Spinach Pumpkin Lasagna
You didn’t think we’d make this whole list without at least one pumpkin dish, did ya? Ideal for vegetarians (or simply anyone who enjoys flavor), this lasagna packs a punch with its smooth and creamy filling. If you’re serving this for dinner, don’t count on leftovers.
8. Foolproof Cheater’s Confit
Slow-cooked in fat and then browned, these duck (or chicken) legs are super crispy yet fall-off-the-bone tender. Pair them with a refreshingly bitter endive salad to offset all the richness. And to top it off, a simple lemon-mustard dressing. Yes, please.
9. Butternut, Apple and Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
This stuffed pork tenderloin is essentially your entire Thanksgiving meal wrapped in one. It’s filled with wild rice, butternut squash, bacon, spinach, sage and goat cheese. All that’s missing is the mashed potatoes and gravy.
10. Stuffed Butternut Squash
We don’t know about you, but this sounds like heaven to us. Not to mention, it’s healthy and hearty, so you won’t feel guilty about going back for a second helping.
11. Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Leeks
Risotto is comforting and luxurious, even when plain. This version adds pureed butternut squash in the cooking process to infuse every grain of rice with creamy, autumnal flavor. And that crispy leek garnish? Swoon.
12. French Onion Brisket
Tons and tons of caramelized onions provide the same sweetness as the tomatoes in a more traditional brisket recipe, and a glug of sherry wine adds the acidity you need to cut through the richness of the meat.
13. Spatchcocked Roast Chicken with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Bacon
A bed of hearty, rich, bacon-laced shredded Brussels sprouts makes this roast chicken worthy of a special occasion. The spatchcocking technique—where the bird is flattened before cooking—ensures it’s ready in no time.
14. Pistachio-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Escarole Salad
Forget everything you know about pork. This recipe makes for tender, delicate and buttery slices that practically melt in your mouth. A crust of bright-green ground pistachios and spices adds a special, festive touch.
15. Winter Squash Galette with Caramelized Onions and Gruyère
We made this savory pie with Kabocha squash, but any varietal would work. The squash is pre-roasted so it’s ultra-tender, then paired with savory caramelized onions, melty cheese and an impossibly flaky crust.