19 Main Course Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving

Pomegranate-Glazed Salmon with Oranges, Olives, and Herbs
Photo: Antonis Achilleos

Turkey is a classic main course for Thanksgiving dinner, but that certainly doesn't mean you have to serve it. We've rounded up plenty of alternative Thanksgiving dinner ideas that can take center stage at your table, including Pomegranate-Glazed Salmon with Oranges, Olives, and Herbs, Crackling Coppa Roast with Fennel and Onions, and Garlic-Butter Rib 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.

01 of 19

Beef Chuck Eye Roast with Paprika-Herb Rub

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.

02 of 19

Honey-and-Lemon-Glazed Roast Chicken

Honey-and-Lemon-Glazed Roast Chicken. Photo © Fredrika Stjärne
© Fredrika Stjärne

Inspired by the 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.

03 of 19

Pork Loin Braised with Mushrooms and Wine

Pork Loin Braised with Mushrooms and Wine Recipe
Greg DuPree

Fistfuls of fresh herbs, fragrant strips of orange peel, and plenty of garlic perfume in this comforting Corsican dish. The jus is vibrant and richly seasoned; ladle extra over the polenta on each plate.

04 of 19

Buttermilk-Marinated Quail with Herbed Raita and Blood Oranges

Buttermilk Marinated Quail

"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.

05 of 19

Roasted Lamb Chops with Brown Sugar-Rum Glaze

Roasted Lamb Chops with Brown Sugar Rum Glaze
Kelly Marshall

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.

06 of 19

Crackling Coppa Roast with Fennel and Onions

Crackling Coppa Roast with Fennel and Onions
Erin Kunkel

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.

07 of 19

Herb-Roasted King Salmon with Pinot Noir Sauce

Herb-Roasted King Salmon with Pinot Noir Sauce Recipe
Justin Walker

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.

08 of 19

King Oyster Mushroom Steaks with Pesto and Almond Aillade

King Oyster Mushroom Steaks
Photo by David Malosh / Prop Styling by Amy Wilson / Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero

Chef Julia Sullivan employs a duo of cast-iron skillets to prepare these tender, crispy-edged mushroom steaks; 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 in this rustic French sauce.

09 of 19

Spiced Brown Sugar Ham with Apple Jus

Spiced Brown Sugar Ham with Apple Jus
© Marcus Nilsson

The secret to this super-tender ham is keeping it wrapped in foil while it's cooking and resting, letting it reabsorb any moisture released during the cooking process. "If you can't pick up the foil-wrapped ham without burning yourself, then it's not done resting!" says pork pro Kevin Gillespie, chef at Revival in Decatur.

10 of 19

Greens-and-Cheese-Stuffed Cinderella Pumpkin

Greens-and-Cheese Stuffed Cinderella Pumpkin
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Inspired by Cassie Piuma's squash spanakopita at her restaurant, Sarma, in Somerville, Massachusetts, this stuffed pumpkin is filled with a nutty, creamy blend of Gruyère and feta cheeses; sweet, anise-scented fennel; and hearty green lacinato kale for a stunning vegetarian main dish fit for any holiday table.

11 of 19

Roasted Cornish Game Hens

Cornish Game Hen
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

These Cornish hens are flavor-packed with aromatic herbs, fresh lemons, and garlic. Coated in a lemon-garlic-herb puree, stuffed with garlic and lemon wedges, and neatly trussed, the hens are roasted on top of a bed of fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs. The roasted birds are drizzled with butter-fortified pan juices just before serving.

12 of 19

Banana Leaf-Wrapped Lamb Shank Tamales with Morita Chile Salsa

Banana Leaf Wrapped Lamb Shank Tamales with Morita Chile Salsa
DYLAN + JENI

These smoky braised-lamb tamales, a favorite at event producer Paola Briseño González's holiday tamale parties, get a pop of freshness from bright cilantro-onion relish, while a wrapper of banana leaves perfumes the masa with a softly sweet aroma as they steam. The banana leaf wrappers also yield tamales with a dense, custard-like texture. The rich, slow-cooked flavor of lamb shanks is the perfect partner for the intense smokiness of Morita chiles; substitute chipotles in a pinch.

13 of 19

Buttermilk Macaroni and Cheese with Baby Kale

Buttermilk Macaroni and Cheese with Baby Kale
Kelly Marshall

A quick sauté renders baby kale leaves perfectly tender, allowing them to almost melt into the buttermilk-enriched béchamel in chef and cookbook author Alexander Smalls' version of mac and cheese. For a smooth sauce, make sure all of the dairy is at room temperature.

14 of 19

Pork Chop au Poivre with Red Wine–Shallot Sauce

Pork Chop au Poivre with Red Wine Shallot Sauce
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Steak who? This bone-in pork chop riff on the classic French au poivre preparation is so good, we may never go back to beef. Using a blend of peppercorns, not just classic black, adds notes of floral and vegetal spice to this simple dish. Splurge on the Pierre Poivre N.7 from La Boîte master spice blender Lior Lev Sercarz, or grind your own. Be sure to grind the peppercorns just before cooking to release the fresh aroma.

15 of 19

Garlic-Butter Rib Roast

Garlic butter prime rib
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

This impressive, flavor-packed rib roast is perfect for a celebration. The secret? A compound butter made with garlic, anchovies, herbs, and shallot. Half of it is slathered all over the roast before it goes into the oven; the other half is rolled up into a log, chilled, and then sliced into medallions to serve with each slice of beef. Special order the rib roast from a local butcher, asking for one with nice marbling and an even fat cap.

16 of 19

Leg of Lamb with Fingerling Potatoes and Leeks

leg of lamb
Photo by Greg DuPree / Prop Styling by Missie Crawford / Food Styling by Ali Ramee

Incredibly easy to prepare, this bone-in leg of lamb is coated with an herby, pleasantly salty crust before marinating in the refrigerator for about eight hours. The dry brine results in a juicy, tender, and deliciously garlicky lamb roast.

17 of 19

Braised Duck Legs with Spaetzle and Mushroom Ragout

Braised Duck Legs with Spaetzle and Mushroom Ragout
David Malosh

Inspired by German celebratory harvest meals from centuries past, this comforting braised dish trades the traditional goose leg quarters for easier-to-source duck, served on a bed of buttery-crisp spaetzle and saucy mushrooms. A beurre manié—a quick mash of softened butter and flour—is the key to thickening the delicious sauce in this braise.

18 of 19

Pomegranate-Glazed Salmon with Oranges, Olives, and Herbs

Pomegranate-Glazed Salmon with Oranges, Olives, and Herbs
Antonis Achilleos

"Tart and just barely sweet, the pomegranate molasses cuts through the richness of the fish while creating a gorgeous, shimmering glaze; the olives balance the bright flavors of the salad with their soft salinity and luxe butteriness," Andrea Slonecker says. "One good pairing for wild salmon is Oregon Pinot Noir, but here, a dry or slightly off-dry Oregon Riesling is perfect. Replete with zingy acidity, it perfectly counterbalances the richness of the fatty, flavorsome fish and stands up to the bright salad and tart, fruity glaze."

19 of 19

Roasted Broccoli Steaks with Tomato Butter and Tapenade

Roasted Broccoli Steaks with Tomato Butter and Tapenade
Photo by David Malosh / Prop Styling by Amy Wilson / Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero

Here, chef Greg Vernick treats broccoli like a steak, roasting it at a high temperature on a preheated pan to achieve a lightly charred crust. Cooked on the same pan, umami-packed tomatoes blend up into a super-quick sauce enriched with just the right amount of butter.

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