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25 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 turkey in favor of Brussels sprout mushroom pizza, cheater's "confit" or French onion brisket, then this roundup is for you. Here, alternative Thanksgiving meals that are so good you’ll forget all about the traditional bird.

alternative thanksgiving recipes: Spicy Orange-Honey Glazed Ham ideas
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

1. Spicy Orange-Honey Glazed Ham

  • Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, gluten free, high protein
  • Serves: 20 to 25

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?

alternate thanksgiving dinner recipes: Rosemary-Glazed Cornish Hens
nicolesy/Getty Images

2. Rosemary-Glazed Cornish Hens

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients
  • Serves: 4

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

  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd pleaser, gluten free
  • Serves: 4 to 6

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

  • Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion-worthy
  • Serves: 4 to 6

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

  • Time: 5 hours, 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: one pan, gluten free
  • Serves: 4 to 6

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

  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, one pan
  • Serves: 4

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

  • Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, kid-friendly, crowd pleaser
  • Serves: 12

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

  • Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion-worthy
  • Serves: 4

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

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: gluten free
  • Serves: 4

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.

purewow stuffed butternut squash
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

10. Stuffed Butternut Squash

  • Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, gluten free
  • Serves: 4

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

  • Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, special occassion-worthy
  • Serves: 6

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

  • Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd pleaser, beginner-friendly
  • Serves: 8

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

  • Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: dairy free, whole30, gluten free
  • Serves: 6

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

  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten free
  • Serves: 4

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

  • Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, crowd pleaser
  • Serves: 8

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.

alternate thanksgiving dinner recipes: vegetarian quinoa bake
What's Gabby Cooking

16. Vegetarian Quinoa Bake

  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: one pan, vegetarian, crowd pleaser
  • Serves: 6

We promise even your meat-obsessed uncle will love this.

alternate thanksgiving dinner ideas: white turkey chili with avocado
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

17. White Turkey Chili with Avocado

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: crowd pleaser, gluten free, paleo
  • Serves: 8

Yes, turkey is still involved in this tasty alternative Thanksgiving dinner recipe, adding spice and beans into the mix.

easy christmas dinner recipes: Vegetable Wellington with Mushrooms and Spinach
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

18. Vegetable Wellington with Mushrooms and Spinach

  • Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, crowd pleaser
  • Serves: 6

Yet another veggie-friendly turkey alternative that won't leave you missing the meat.

alternate thanksgiving recipe ideas: brussels sprouts and bacon orecchiette
Katherine Gillen

19. 30-Minute Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Orecchiette

  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, crowd pleaser
  • Serves: 4

Though pasta might not normally make it to the Thanksgiving dinner table, this might be a keeper in the realm of holiday traditions, for the foreseeable future.

low carb dinners: chicken and snap pea stir fry
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

20. Chicken and Snap Pea Stir Fry

  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, beginner-friendly
  • Serves: 4

In a pinch? Add protein to your lineup with this simple number.

alternate thanksgiving dinner recipes: piri piri chicken
Donna Griffith/The Primal Cookbook

21. Piri Piri Chicken

  • Time: 4 hours, 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, low sugar, paleo
  • Serves: 4

This alternative Thanksgiving dinner recipe spices things up with southeast African piri piri peppers, in case your drunk uncle can't make it this year.

smoked sausage apple sheet pan
Yellow Bliss Road

22. Smoked Sausage and Apple Sheet Pan Dinner

  • Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: one pan, beginner-friendly
  • Serves: 6

We love a sheet pan meal... bonus if you recently went apple picking, and can use the apples from that.

fancy appetizers: Split Pea Soup with Bacon and Beer
Photo/Styling: Katherine Gillen

23. Split Pea Soup with Bacon and Beer

  • Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd pleaser, beginner-friendly, dairy free
  • Serves: 6 to 8

Bacon and beer? Drool.

alternate thanksgiving dinner recipes: Carrot Gnocchi
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

24. Carrot Gnocchi

  • Time: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, special occasion-worthy
  • Serves: 4

Everyone and their mother will be floored that you made your own festive pasta for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

25. Cheater’s Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon

  • Time: 8 hours, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, slow cooker recipe, high protein, make ahead
  • Serves: 6

On a cold fall night, this will keep you feeling cozy until it's time for pie.


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Rachel Gulmi

Operations Director, Branded Content

Rachel joined PureWow in 2016 and is the Operations Director of Branded Content where she oversees the editorial production of sponsored content campaigns. In addition to...
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Lizzy Rosenberg

Freelance PureWow Editor

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