24 Main Course Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving
Turkey is a classic main course for Thanksgiving dinner, but that certainly doesn’t mean you have to serve it. There are plenty of other show-stopping dishes that can take center-stage at your table, including herb-roasted king salmon with Pinot Noir sauce, crackling coppa roast with fennel and onions, and creamed spinach–stuffed filet roast. Need something meatless? We’ve got veggie “steak” options for that, too. Read on for those recipes, and even more alternatives to turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
The sweet, sticky glaze on this juicy ham is subtly spiced with fennel, coriander, and star anise.
Beef Chuck Eye Roast with Paprika-Herb Rub
This simple, flavorful beef roast—rubbed with thyme, paprika and cumin—is made with chuck eye, a cut from the chuck portion of the rib-eye muscle.
Cannelloni with Walnuts and Fried Sage
For his outstanding cannelloni, chef Matthew Accarrino stuffs homemade pasta with tender braised beef and bakes it in a creamy sauce.
Roast Chicken with Cranberry-Apple-Raisin Chutney
Cranberries may call the holidays to mind, but this combination tastes great any time of year. You can serve the chutney warm or at room temperature; if there's any left over, use it to light up a chicken, turkey, or ham sandwich.
Dry-Aged Duck Breasts with Golden Beet Panzanella
Chef Paul Kahan has a great trick for heightening the flavor of duck breasts: He ages them on the bone in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Boneless duck breasts can be aged using the same method, although the results won’t be as dramatic; if you're short on time, use unaged duck.
Roasted Capon with Fig-and-Prosciutto Stuffing
Capon is like chicken’s richer cousin. It's tender, flavorful and—most importantly—much more forgiving to cook than turkey.
Honey-and-Lemon-Glazed Roast Chicken
Inspired by beautifully browned Peking duck, Piero Incisa della Rocchetta brushes chickens with a mixture of soy sauce and honey from the beehives in his Patagonia vineyards.
Zinfandel-Braised Lamb Chops with Dried Fruit
A jammy Zinfandel and dried fruit lend a ton of flavor to lamb-shoulder chops.
Pasta with Roasted Squash, Sausage and Pecans
Emeril Lagasse tosses pasta with sausage, butternut squash, sage and pecans for a terrific, hearty dish.
Pork Loin Braised with Mushrooms and Wine
Fistfuls of fresh herbs, fragrant strips of orange peel, and plenty of garlic perfume this comforting Corsican comfort dish. The jus is vibrant and richly seasoned; ladle extra over the polenta on each plate.
For entertaining, Carla Hall glazes a spiral-cut ham with apple cider, brown sugar, mustard, bourbon and sweet spices.
Roast Chicken with Lemons
“If this were a still life its title could be ‘Chicken with Two Lemons,’” an excerpt from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking reads. “That is all that there is in it. No fat to cook with, no basting to do, no stuffing to prepare, no condiments except for salt and pepper. After you put the chicken in the oven you turn it just once. The bird, with its two lemons, and the oven do all the rest. Again and again, through the years, I meet people who come up to me to say, ‘I have made your chicken with two lemons and it is the most amazingly simple recipe, the juiciest, best-tasting chicken I have ever had.’ And you know, it is perfectly true.”
Buttermilk-Marinated Quail with Herbed Raita and Blood Oranges
“What I love about this recipe, in terms of the ingredients and method, is that the mint and charred flavors are reminiscent of summertime despite the chill of winter,” Maneet Chauhan says.
Roast Pork with Acorn Squash Romesco Puree
Romesco, a traditional Catalonian sauce with almonds and red bell pepper, is the inspiration for Mike Lata’s squash puree, which does double duty as a side dish and a flavorful sauce for the pork.
Roasted Lamb Chops with Brown Sugar-Rum Glaze
With plenty of garlic and rubbed sage to brighten savory, gamey lamb, these roasted chops are bold and balanced. If the glaze begins to set before serving, gently warm it over low heat. Chef and cookbook author Alexander Smalls serves these lamb chops at his epic dinner parties at his apartment in Harlem.
Crackling Coppa Roast with Fennel and Onions
Ask your butcher for pork shoulder with an untrimmed fat cap (about 3/4 inch thick) for this recipe; the fat renders as the pork roasts, simultaneously getting crispy while basting the meat with its flavorful juices. The fennel cooks down into a rich and jammy condiment that complements every bite. Chef Timothy Wastell often makes this centerpiece roast for the harvest dinner at Big Table Farm, a winery in Gaston, Oregon.
Herb-Roasted King Salmon with Pinot Noir Sauce
Originally served at Seattle’s Hotel Sorrento by chef David Pisegna, this throwback salmon dish stands the test of time. We simplified the original recipe, but didn’t change a thing about the velvety, wine-blushed beurre blanc; keep it warm and serve it immediately for the best results.
Creamed Spinach–Stuffed Filet Roast
Ultratender filet of beef gets rolled around creamed spinach in this fun and delicious play on a classic steakhouse pairing.
Standing Beef Rib Roast with Pimentón
It’s hard to believe that this showstopping roast is so incredibly simple. Be sure to use freshly ground pink peppercorns and a high-quality, crunchy pink salt, as those are the main components of this roast. Also, ask your butcher to keep the long frenched rib bones on for a truly jaw-dropping presentation.
King Oyster Mushroom Steaks with Pesto and Almond Aillade
Chef Julia Sullivan employs a duo of cast-iron skillets to prepare the tender, crispy-edged mushroom steaks at Henrietta Red in Nashville; one for cooking the mushrooms, the other for pressing them flat so they cook evenly. Buttery roasted almonds balance the sharper notes of garlic and lemon this rustic French sauce.
Confit Lamb Shoulder with Polenta and Brussels Sprouts
Braising lamb shoulder in garlic-infused oil yields a super-tender, falling-off-the-bone bite of meat. Drizzle leftover braising oil on each plate for a delicious garnish. If the polenta begins to clump as it sits, simply vigorously whisk it back to a smooth and creamy texture.
Roasted Side of Salmon
Jaw-dropping centerpiece salmon requires two essentials: salt and time. Pre-seasoning is the simplest thing you can do to make a good piece of seafood great.
Sausage-Spiced Cauliflower Steaks
A quick spice blend of roasted fennel seeds, black pepper, and orange zest lend a sausage-like flavor to these roasted cauliflower steaks—without the meat. Browning the cauliflower before adding the toppings and melting the cheese ensures a tender, sweet, and nutty bite.