30 Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Just because tradition dictates that you eat turkey for Thanksgiving doesn't mean you have to do it every year! Try one of these delicious and different Thanksgiving main dishes to add some variety to your holiday feast.

Who says that Thanksgiving has to include turkey? If you’re hosting vegetarian guests, cooking a small dinner for two, or just don’t like turkey that much, these recipes will prove that it’s not mandatory to spend all day basting and carving. Below, find our favorite alternatives to a classic turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. And when you’re ready to start making Thanksgiving side dishes, we have a few new ideas for those too.

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This Italian roulade dish is so festive and comforting for the holidays. Serve it with old-fashioned green beans, mashed cauliflower or red roasted potatoes.
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Baked Spiral Ham

If you have any leftovers after the big feast, treat ham just like a turkey. Make Hawaiian pizza, split pea soup, cheesy ham omelettes and even more recipes using leftover ham all week long. You can even freeze it for up to two months!
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Pear and Pomegranate Lamb Tagine

D’Angou pears are available from November through late spring, so they’ll be readily available during the holidays. Want to make the dish even more elegant? Use fresh-squeezed orange juice instead of store-bought.
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Glazed Cornish Hens

If you’ve never cooked Cornish game hens at home, the idea might seem daunting. But it’s not that different from roasting a chicken—and whether you’re cooking for two or for a crowd, the dish is bound to be a showstopper.
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Chicken with Sugar Pumpkins & Apricots

Here’s a festive dish that doubles as a colorful centerpiece. If you can’t find Sugar Baby pumpkins at the grocery store, swap them for a 5- to 6-pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes.
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Spaghetti Squash Casserole

On Thanksgiving, oven space is at a premium. Pop the spaghetti squash in the microwave or slow cooker instead of baking it before adding it to the casserole. You can even make the whole dish in advance, then cover and refrigerate for three to four days.
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Cranberry-Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

This main can be made with fresh or frozen cranberries. But since they’re widely available at the grocery store during the holidays, finding fresh ones should be no problem. Serve this dish already plated to your guests for maximum “wow” factor.
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Slow-Cooker Baked Ziti

There’s no wrong time to eat baked ziti, and Thanksgiving is no exception. If your family would rather eat carbs and cheese than turkey, this filling, no-stress dish will be a winner.
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Moist Cranberry Pork Roast

Cranberry sauce, honey, orange zest, cloves and nutmeg come together for a tangy and colorful glaze that makes the meal extra special. While it might be tempting to slice into the roast as soon as it’s done, make sure to let it rest for 10 minutes for maximum tenderness.
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Sausage-Stuffed Shells

Time-saving tip: Cut the corner off a plastic resealable bag to create a “piping bag” to fill the stuffed shells. Just make sure the hole in the bag is large enough to keep the sausage crumbles from getting stuck.
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Roasted Pumpkin Lasagna

If you’re going meatless on Thanksgiving (or one of your dinner guests is), it doesn’t get more festive than this pumpkin lasagna, dressed up with fresh sage and nutmeg. Don’t skimp on the cheese!
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Warm Squash & Quinoa Salad

Salad on Thanksgiving? Hear us out. Everything about this hearty, warm grain bowl feels cozy and decadent, from the toasted pine nuts to the cumin-spiced quinoa.
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Grandma’s Roasted Duck

If you’re up for a challenge, impress your guests by cooking a roast duck. Serve it alongside cranberry wild rice or roasted root vegetables, which complement the slightly gamey flavor of the duck.
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Sheet-Pan Pork Supper

This Asian-inspired meal cooks in one pan, so there’s practically no clean-up (which is much appreciated on Thanksgiving). Spend less time doing dishes and more time sipping wine and eating dessert.
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Louisiana Chicken

Meet your new secret weapon: An oven-roasting bag. Here, it keeps the bird moist and juicy. Just don’t forget the flour, which is essential to the process. The flour keeps the bag from bursting and absorbs excess moisture. Looking for slightly different flavoring? Try our roast chicken with veggies in a roasting bag.
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Honey-Maple Glazed Ham

There’s no need to wait for Easter. Glazed ham is right at home on the Thanksgiving table and pairs wonderfully with traditional sides like green bean casserole and mashed potatoes.
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Herb-Stuffed Roasted Cornish Hens

Thanksgiving for two? Pair these individual Cornish hens with rice pilaf, dinner rolls and glazed carrots for an intimate and elevated celebration.
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Easy Vegetable Lasagna

In our book, a good lasagna recipe is appropriate for every occasion, including Thanksgiving. This version isn’t as time-consuming as roasting a turkey, but it’s complex enough that it takes nearly an hour to prep and assemble.
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Easy London Broil

This no-frills main is about as straightforward as it gets. Onion, butter, lemon juice, oil and a few spices come together to make the top sirloin shine.
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Holiday Crown Pork Roast

Here’s an elegant holiday showstopper that looks tricky but is actually surprisingly simple to make. Just rub the pork crown roast with herbs, roast for two hours, then garnish with rosemary and sage.
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Citrus-Herb Roast Chicken

This one-pot meal is easy enough to cook anytime, but it looks fancy enough to be front and center at the Thanksgiving table. Best of all, it serves eight, so you’ll feed the whole family and maybe have leftovers to spare.
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Garlic Herbed Beef Tenderloin

Sometimes you just have to keep things simple. Here, a 3-pound beef tenderloin roast is seasoned with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, basil and…that’s it. Looking for more variations of beef tenderloin recipes? You know we have them!
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Cranberry-Orange Roast Ducklings

Soy sauce, ginger and orange marmalade really make this marinade something special. Use the leftover cranberries you have on hand to whip up a tasty cranberry sauce from scratch.
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California Roast Lamb

With fresh artichokes and lemon, this low-maintenance dish will impress your guests. Add fresh oregano and thyme for an extra touch of elegance.
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Sweet Potato Tortellini with Hazelnut Sauce

While making tortellini from scratch might sound time-consuming, this recipe has a secret weapon: store-bought wonton wrappers. Once you get the hang of folding them, you’ll be a pasta-making pro. If you do want to try your hand at homemade pasta dough, though, we’ve got you covered.
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Duck Breasts with Apricot Chutney

Dried apricots, cherries and golden raisins take this dish into “special occasion” territory. Plus, you’re going to want to drizzle the orange sauce (made with Marsala wine, orange zest and basil) on everything.
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Baked Salmon

We know a sheet-pan meal sounds more like a weeknight dish, but hear us out. It’s delicious, it feeds a crowd and aside from the sheet pan, there’s almost no clean up. Sounds like a Thanksgiving win to us.
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Tortellini with Sausage and Mascarpone

A pretty pasta dish on the table won’t make anyone complain. Don’t forget to reserve a cup of cooking water to complete the sauce. If you have extra mascarpone cheese, make one of these sweet mascarpone cheese desserts.
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Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Mushroom Sauce

It doesn’t get more festive (or delicious) than a tender rack of lamb. Serve with rice pilaf and lemon broccolini.
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Orange-Spiced Brisket

When the oven is packed, your trusty slow-cooker comes to the rescue. Thanks to this fragrant dish, the scent of cloves and cinnamon will fill the house just as your guests arrive.

Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.