Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving: 15 Delicious Dinner Ideas

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Do you really love the side dishes of Thanksgiving but feel indifferent towards the turkey? Although it’s tradition, there is no reason to make a turkey if you don’t really enjoy it. If you’re looking for alternatives to turkey for Thanksgiving this year, you’re not alone!

Here are 15 delicious recipes to choose from if turkey did not earn a place on your Thanksgiving menu.

thanksgiving place setting with wine glass and pumpkin

15 Delicious Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

The traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, and all the trimmings is not for everyone. Plenty of people are searching for non traditional Thanksgiving dinner ideas, as turkey has fallen out of favor for many people, some grocery stores are experiencing a turkey shortage and more people decide they’d just rather have something else! 

There are all sorts of delicious alternatives for your Thanksgiving dinner! If you’re looking for a new idea for Thanksgiving this year, consider a culturally inspired meal or any of the more traditional, aka fancy recipes, linked below!

Indian Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

My family loves Indian cuisine..  It’s easy to take the traditional United States Thanksgiving menu and create an Indian-inspired menu from it.  Simply adding Indian spices to the dishes results in a delicious Thanksgiving feast.  Indian food also incorporates a lot of vegetarian dishes.  This makes it easier to accommodate different diets of your guests.  Indian Thanksgiving recipes might include:

  • Whole tandoori chicken
  • Butternut squash
  • Cranberry chutney
  • Palak Paneer
  • Vegan Shami Kebabs
  • Green beans poriyal
  • Naan
  • Rice Pilaf
Chinese food on a table for thanksgiving

Chinese Feast for Thanksgiving

Who doesn’t love Chinese food? Our favorite Chinese dishes are relatively simple and easy to make.  It’s the perfect alterantive to turkey when you don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen.  My family would definitely enjoy creating homemade Chinese food for a non-traditional thanksgiving dinner.  A Chinese Thanksgiving menu might incorporate: 

 I’m hungry just thinking about it. 

Italian food on a table for thanksgiving

Italian Buffet Makes a Great Alternative to Turkey for Thanksgiving

If you’re thinking of what else to make besides turkey, try an Italian buffet or homestyle meal.  Use homemade tomato sauce and dried herbs from your garden for a more authentic flavor.  Traditional Italian recipes are always a hit. Stick to your family’s favorites. My Italian Thanksgiving menu would look like this:

mexican food spread as an alternative to turkey for thanksgiving

Tacos Instead of Turkey: Mexican-Inspired Thanksgiving Ideas

We eat tacos all the time at our house because it’s one menu everyone loves.  For a national holiday, I spice it up a bit and make my standard taco bar a bit fancier.  I also add in other side dishes such as corn bread or corn casserole.  You can add Mexican desserts or stick to the traditional pumpkin and pecan pies of Thanksgiving. A Mexican themed Thanksgiving menu would include:

All delicious items to serve on a Mexican themed table.

Other Popular Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving

Once I let go of the holiday season expectations, I found that I love making Thanksgiving dishes with a twist.  I start with the traditional Thanksgiving menu:

  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Turkey
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • dinner rolls

and then I simply add a different spin to my Thanksgiving dinner dishes.  Sometimes my holiday menu has small tweaks to the classic dishes.  Other times, I take inspiration from other cuisines and create a whole new menu such as the Indian Thanksgiving menu above.   if you love the standard side dishes of Thanksgiving and just want main dishes besides turkey, try these other cuts of meat: 

If sweet potato casserole and green beans are not your thing, try mixing and matching other Thanksgiving side dishes.  You could even group several vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes for side dishes together for a complete meal. 

  • Spaghetti squash
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Apples
  • Pineapple

Whatever you choose to eat for Thanksgiving this year, make sure to grab my printable Thanksgiving Planner to you plan and execute an amazing holiday meal!

Delicious Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving

Here are 15 main dish alternatives to turkey your family will ask for year after year!

What do you plan to serve this year?

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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