Ah, Thanksgiving. The time of year for appreciation, family, and a major food coma has arrived once again. Imagine a prolific spread of family favorites, some passed on from generation to generation and some new additions, and at the center of it all, the turkey.
The oh-so-juicy turkey that is a staple for many American households. But what if you want (or need) to venture away from the traditional turkey? With inflation and the persistence of avian flu keeping the cost of turkeys at a high, you may opt for a different option. Keep these switch-up strategies in your back pocket for assurance that this Thanksgiving will be memorable nonetheless, for all the right reasons.
If a whole turkey may bust your budget, consider cooking turkey parts instead. You may be able to find turkey legs, turkey wings, or turkey breast, and we have recipes for all of those!
Or skip the turkey altogether. Some of our favorite Turkey Days have included zero turkey. Go vegetarian, or think of another meat to feature.
Check out our recipes below for more specific ideas, and may you enjoy a delicious and heart-warming Thanksgiving in exactly the way you want to.
Munni Pramanik joins Sara in compiling this list.
Roast Turkey Breast With Roasted Garlic Gravy
If you can only find big turkeys, consider a turkey breast instead of a smaller whole bird. This one is no-frills (no brining or stuffing) but sure to please.
Pressure Cooker Turkey With Dijon Gravy
An Instant Pot makes cooking turkey a breeze, though keep in mind the turkey drumsticks (or whatever other part you use—this is great for thighs, too) needs to fit decently in the cooker.
Smothered Turkey Wings
Turkey wings are a smart dark horse option for a smaller Thanksgiving table. Not only are they affordable, they may be in stock when the full birds are not. Look for them in the regular poultry section, not with the Thanksgiving turkeys, and find ones that are fresh versus smoked.
Glazed Baked Ham
I know lots of families who have huge annual gatherings that include turkey and ham. Hams come in lots of sizes, so peek at those if the stock of turkeys is underwhelming.Continue to 5 of 16 below.
Dry Brined Roast Chicken
Our contributor Karishma Pradhan enjoys a smaller family celebration, and the first Thanksgiving dinner she made featured roast chicken, since the scale fit their needs better.
How to Roast a Goose
Roasting a goose will make a memorable Thanksgiving for sure! Hank Shaw is a longtime hunter, and his method works for duck, too. He has you carve out the breasts mid-roast so you can sear them later on and serve them medium-rare. If that’s too daunting for you, try our Easy Duck Confit, which requires only duck legs, salt, and unattended hours in a low oven.
Cheesy Artichoke Pie
If you like a big stunning platter of something to set in the center of the table, vegetarian Thanksgiving mains can come up short. But not this beauty! Besides, it takes half an hour to assemble and 1-1/2 hours in the oven, which is a timeline you can run with.
Vegan Stuffed Squash with Mushrooms
This is what we’ll be sharing at my house this year. It’s celebratory and goes great with our Vegan Mushroom Gravy. You can make this dish 100 percent in advance! Roast the squash and make and season the filling (tip: REALLY season it—a little lemon zest and lemon juice makes it sing, plus don’t skimp on the salt). About 20 minutes before you plan to eat, stuff the squash and pop them in a 350-degree oven. Garnish with pomegranate seeds for a Thanksgiving upgrade.Continue to 9 of 16 below.
Easy Baked Salmon
Just because it’s called Easy Baked Salmon doesn’t mean it’s not special. Look how impressive a whole baked salmon filet is! You can serve it with tapenade, remoulade, or try patting it down with gremolata before baking. Keep the mashed potatoes, skip the gravy and try our Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce.
Roast Beef Tenderloin with Sautéed Mushrooms
For some reason, Christmas strikes me as a beefier holiday, but why not get some roast beast going on as a preview? This tenderloin serves four and is on the table in an hour. If you have a bigger group, consider Beef Roast Braised in Red Wine (“not your everyday pot roast!”) or Garlic Herb Butter Prime Rib.
Pork Crown Roast
A crown roast is more or less a bunch of connected bone-in pork rib chops reconfigured for maximum drama. This crown roast has a savory sausage and crusty bread stuffing that’s very Thanksgiving-adjacent, and it’ll go great with a gravy made from pan drippings. You may just wind up ditching the turkey next year, too.
Roasted Chicken with Carrots
Who doesn’t love roasted chicken? Stuffed with herbs for the perfect flavor throughout, this chicken recipe comes together in only 1 1/2 hours. A great time saver for a busy Thanksgiving day. Want to juzz it up? Elise Bauer, the creator of Simply Recipes, suggests improving the presentation by cooking it in an oven-proof skillet or a cast iron pan. (MP)Continue to 13 of 16 below.
Beef Brisket Pot Roast
Preparing to cook for the entire family can sometimes seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. This beef brisket recipe serves up to 12 people and is perfect for Thanksgivings in larger families! It does require 4 hours of cooking, so allow yourself ample time. Besides checking on it every hour, the brisket is pretty hands off, so you can focus your time on more important things—enjoying the company of your family. (MP)
Cranberry Apple Stuffed Pork Loin
Get the flavors of autumn from this pork loin recipe! Cranberry and apple are quintessential for Thanksgiving at my house, so why not incorporate them into the protein centerpiece. In this recipe, you get the tart and sweet flavors from the fruits paired nicely with the juicy pork loin, resulting in a dish your family will devour. Serve with our Sausage, Sage, and Cornbread Stuffing and our Perfect Mashed Potatoes for a well rounded plate. (MP)
Garlic Herb Butter Prime Rib
In the words of our contributor Bryce Coulton, “Prime Rib with a perfectly roasted exterior browned and glistening; its interior reflecting the rosy red of a movie star’s lipstick, and an aroma that pulls everyone to the table and beckons, ‘Let’s eat’.” This prime rib will have the family crowding around the oven, waiting for a peek even before this beauty hits the table! What’s even better: this recipe includes a gravy using the drippings, a true win for both the eyes and the stomach! (MP)
Roasted Cabbage Steaks with Garlic Breadcrumbs
Steak for Thanksgiving? Why not! These Roasted Cabbage Steaks are a great vegetarian option for the all-inclusive family spread. Both quick and easy, this only takes 35 minutes to make from start to finish. Follow the recipe exactly or customize it with toppings, this dish is a blank canvas awaiting your culinary creativity. A huge plus, this recipe can be made in advance and reheated at 350F prior to serving. Serve it with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Classic Glazed Carrots for a delicious vegetarian plate. (MP)