5 Great Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving

If the thought of Thanksgiving is driving you nuts simply because you don’t like to make the turkey – well then, don’t! Little pilgrim girl with pet turkey wants other food for thanksgiving Simple elegance can be had in many other ways. And in reality, you probably aren’t breaking the true tradition of the holiday, as many historians think the first Thanksgiving meal probably consisted of seafood and deer meat (venison) more than anything else.

Here are five fantastic alternative to turkey for you to try:

1. Go With the Duck

Roasted Duck with Orange Sauce | Foodal.com
Roasted Duck with Orange Sauce

In my household growing up, we always went to my grandmother’s home for the Thanksgiving holiday and she cooked a turkey for the masses… and a duck for my grandfather.

Both dishes were always a big hit.

You can serve it with a nice orange sauce and any of a variety of complimentary side dishes to create an aura of celebration at your dinner table, such as wild rice, roasted vegetables, or some form of baking or sweet potato.

2.  Go Out on a Limb and Serve Lamb

Roasted Lam with Plumbs | Foodal.com
Roasted Lam with Plumbs

Lamb is another dish that is served infrequently in many homes, so trying it for a special holiday like Thanksgiving can be a great alternative to serving turkey. You can serve it as a roast (rib, rack, or loin), lamb chops, leg of lamb, and so on.

Some really great side dishes for lamb are lentils, a savory-flavored risotto, couscous, or any variety of rice.

3. Seal the Deal with Veal

Wiener Schnitzel with Crispy Fried Potatoes Garnished with a Slice of Lemon | Foodal.com
Wiener Schnitzel with Crispy Fried Potatoes Garnished with a Slice of Lemon

Veal can be a great alternative to turkey as well. You can make it on its own by serving cutlets, or you can create an entire dish, such as Veal Scallopini, Wiener Schnitzel, Veal Parmegiana, Veal Marsala, or even serve stuffed cutlets.

You can serve pasta as a side dish, or maybe some nice potato croquettes, any variety of rice, hot buttered noodles, or risotto.

Some great selections for a bit of green are asparagus, braised endive, salad (shiitake or another type of wild mushroom salad or a spinach salad with mandarin oranges and pine nuts works great with veal!), or even fresh green beans.

4. Ham it Up with a Pork Roast

Pork Crown Roast with Onion Soup Based Sauce | Foodal.com
Pork Crown Roast with Onion Soup Based Sauce

A pork crown roast almost always elicits oohs and ahhs from the dinner crowd. There is just something about the way it smells when it’s cooking, the flavor it holds when you bite into it, and the overall appearance of it that really appeals to eager diners.

They take quite awhile to cook, so as an alternative to turkey, if you are looking for all of the tradition of the holiday (i.e. working hard to create a delicious meal), this could be the perfect route to take.

A nice onion-based dressing is recommended to serve along with this dish, as well as any type of vegetable you find appealing, and a nice, crisp salad.

5. Try Some Seafood Like Salmon

Salmon Steak with Roasted Herbed Potatoes | Foodal.com
Salmon Steak with Herb-Roasted Potatoes

For the seafood lover, a nice, thick cut of roasted salmon fillet is a fantastic alternative. Not all that hard to make, and delicious with a side of roasted herbed potatoes and vegetables with lime wedges, this dish is sure to please.

For a different taste you can try making it with a nice dill sauce or using cedar planks to cook it.

You can make the dinner as elegant or relaxed as you want the atmosphere to be, and even use tips to stretch your Thanksgiving dinner, (or even how to survive it in one whole piece) getting the most out of your dishes. Just let everyone who has confirmed attendance be aware of the menu prior to the big day so there are no surprises.

My guess is there will not be much fussing when you tell them what’s for dinner. After all, the true spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday is to enjoy life and those around you with a spirit of thanks.

For those who really miss the turkey, you can volunteer them to make one for Christmas. Happy eating to all!

Photo credit: Shutterstock.

About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

15 thoughts on “5 Great Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving”

  1. I have never really thought about having an alternative to turkey for Thanks Giving. But the options above look really good! I might be able to convince my family to try an alternative this year.

  2. Wow, these are wonderful options Lynn!!! My family would flip if I didn’t serve turkey for Thanksgiving. We have a whole tradition / ritual for cutting the turkey. But this year, I would like to add an alternative protein to the mix. The last couple of years, i’ve seen that some of the kids and in-laws are not as into turkey as we are. So, i think something like “duck a l’orange” would be a great side option. It even sounds fancy 😉 That should impress a few. LOL!

  3. I am not one to get hung up on traditional foods. In fact, my family rarely does turkey for Thanksgiving. There are tons of delicious dishes that we rarely have because they are either expensive, labor intensive, or complicated to prepare. For a day that practically revolves around food, why waste it on turkey, which tastes just like chicken, and has a tendency to be very dry? We prefer to leave our options open, and plan to have the things we really want. I love salmon, but it is usually too expensive where we live. So a special occasion like Thanksgiving is a great way to give ourselves a little treat.

  4. I’m so use to having turkey during the festive times of the year that I don’t know if I’d be ready to try alternatives. A few of the ones listed here are quite new to me. I wonder if my family and I would be sacrificing the great taste, joy and quality of the turkey to have a substitute like that on the table. But it wouldn’t hurt to have some of these as side dishes though.

  5. I must say I do get tired of turkey during the holiday season. Switching things up a bit sounds like a great idea. In my house I don’t think it would go over well. Turkey is on the menu weather I like it or not.

    I opt for ham a nice juicy honey glazed slice of heaven. I absolutely love it, and not to mention the sandwiches the day after. I’ve made myself hungry can’t wait until Thanksgiving.

  6. Thanks for all the suggestions!

    This Thanksgiving I’m trying some different: Making a turducken! Granted, there’s still turkey inside that though. I’m tempted to try a roast lamb leg dish next year, that dish looks amazing!

  7. Thank you for these options, Lynn! I’ve never been one for turkey and have been pushing for a Thanksgiving duck all my life (I guess I’m a black sheep in my family, haha) but to no avail. Maybe if I show my family these photos I’ll be able to convince them 😉 A great thing about these options is that most are smaller than a turkey, which means fewer days of eating nothing but leftovers! Certainly a win in my household!

  8. I’ve always been somewhat of a stickler when it comes to following Thanksgiving menu traditions. Perhaps this year could be the year for me to spice things up. We typically have duck for our Christmas dinner, but this post sure is making me consider moving it up to Thanksgiving and having something else for Christmas. These alternatives work for Christmas as well! I think the lamb would be a good choice for our Christmas dinner. Thank you so much for ideas!

  9. This Thanksgiving I intend to do exactly what I did last year: Turkey breasts & Lamb. It worked out perfectly for those who couldn’t go without having some form of turkey on ‘turkey’ day & for myself not having to slave over a stove for umpteen hours on end.

  10. There is a potential for turkey shortages this year, due to the Avian Flu, so it’s a good time to start thinking about alternatives for Thanksgiving, just in case. I do love a nice turkey, but have scaled back over the past few years, and often cook a turkey breast, instead of the entire bird. Lamb is looking like a great alternative, and since I’ve never cooked a goose, that’s another possibility.

  11. Everyone of these ideas really makes me drool! Well, most of them I’m not sure I can stomach Veal or Lamb. Its mostly religious related. I didn’t know what Veal is and search it up – not the best idea. Yeah, that’s not going to get on my thanksgiving dinner table any time soon. However, I love your salmon and pork ideas. Do you happen to have a really good recipe for the roasted pork?

  12. These dishes look yummy, but in my world, there is NO substitute for turkey on Thanksgiving. LOL My family doesn’t always agree with me on that, so one Thanksgiving, we had broiled salmon in addition to the turkey. They were happy, and so was I. I may try the roast pork this year, along with my turkey, of course.

  13. I love the idea of serving something other than turkey for the main course. Duck is a great idea, my husband and I both love it. Though, we would never do veal or lamb (I feel bad enough about eating meat, let alone a baby animal). Other good options could be: mutton (instead of lamb), goat (we like it better than beef), rabbit, goose, or a veggie based main dish. I usually stick to vegetarian and vegan dishes, saving meats for the occasional meal here and there, so we’ll most likely have a vegetarian thanksgiving dinner here. I would love to get my hands on some goose or rabbit, if I could find them, for something extra special.

  14. Haha, I am used to it and you can never go wrong with duck. Interestingly my grandfather used to love it and taught me to appreciate it. If it was up to me I would go with duck and maybe lamb, but my family will need some convincing for sure. Seconding the rabbit idea also, it’s very tasty but not a lot of people are keen on eating bunnies.

  15. These are really good alternatives, even though I’m not sure what veal is. I know that turkey is the traditional thing but this is an ever changing world. And sometimes you just want to have something different during the holidays for once.


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