Nov 15, 2022

12 Thanksgiving Mains That Aren’t Turkey

I’m sharing 12 ideas for a star Thanksgiving centerpiece if making a Turkey just isn’t your thing (including a vegan option!).
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I have recipes whether you don’t want to shell out for a turkey or you want an intimate gathering. My list also contains recipes if you want something with a faster cook time. If you prefer a different option for a main dish, you can check my list, too! According to the Department of Agriculture, frozen turkey prices have increased by 28% per pound this year. This has been due to inflation as well as a bout of avian flu. The cost or labor may deter some from making a turkey. There are plenty of delicious alternatives for a Thanksgiving feast.

Don’t worry ff you are having a more intimate dinner but still want to get a taste of turkey. I recommend giving this Apple Cider Brined Turkey Breast for Two a try. If turkey just isn’t your thing then I’ve assembled a list. It includes my favorite chicken, duck, pork, seafood and vegan options. Check out the list below that can shine as a centerpiece to make instead. 

12 Thanksgiving Mains That Aren’t Turkey

Dry-Brined Herb Roasted Chicken for thanksgiving mains that aren't turkey
Dry-Brined Herb Roasted Chicken 

A simple roast chicken is a great alternative to a large turkey for a smaller group and is less intimidating to make. Its smaller size also cuts down on cooking time for anyone short on time. Pair with the classics like cranberry sauce, gravy and green beans.

Faux Peking Duck

I love roast duck as a centerpiece for a meal. This faux Peking duck is spiced with Chinese five spice which is made from Chinese cinnamon, fennel seed, star anise, Sichuan peppercorn and cloves as well as soy sauce and brown sugar. Serve the duck carved with sides or with Mandarin-style pancakes.

Faux Peking Duck for thanksgiving mains that aren't turkey
Homemade Porchetta for thanksgiving mains that aren't turkey
Homemade Porchetta

This is a simplified recipe for homemade porchetta made with skin-on pork belly wrapped around a pork loin stuffed with a blend of Italian herbs and spices. Because this recipe is made over the course of two days it can easily be prepped in advance and roasted the day of Thanksgiving. The bright flavors of the spices and orange pair well with mashed sweet potatoes.

Lemon and Garlic Spatchcocked Chicken

This chicken is flavored with a simple combination of garlic and lemon slices. Making a spatchcocked chicken allows the meat to cook evenly and 25% faster than if you left the chicken whole. There is also maximum skin exposure since it lies flat, meaning more crispy, golden brown skin!

Lemon and Garlic Spatchcocked Chicken for thanksgiving mains that aren't turkey
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Stuffed Acorn Squash

Just because you aren’t eating meat it doesn’t mean you have to rely solely on sides. This vegan entree is made with roasted acorn squash stuffed with a flavorful and hearty filling of kale, wild rice, mushrooms and spiced chopped walnuts.

Pan-Seared White Fish

Whether you are catering towards pescatarians or prefer seafood for special occasions this easy pan-seared white fish is a great option. It’s simple enough that it pairs well with just about any sides and flavorful enough to still be the star of the meal.

Pan-Seared White Fish
Crispy Salmon with Beurre Blanc and Sautéed Fennel
Crispy Salmon with Beurre Blanc and Sautéed Fennel

This salmon dish is one of my favorites to make when entertaining. The rich butter sauce elevates the simple crispy salmon. I prefer this recipe if you are planning a dinner with more simple sides like this roasted squash salad or this shaved brussels sprouts salad.

Maple Bourbon Braised Short Ribs

This beef short rib recipe is full of savory fall flavors. The meat is cooked at a low temperature over a long period of time until the meat is falling off the bone. While I serve it over caramelized shallot and black pepper mashed potatoes, you can pair it with your favorite recipe of other side dishes like roasted carrots.

Maple Bourbon Braised Short Ribs thanksgiving mains that aren't turkey
duck confit for thanksgiving mains that aren't turkey
Duck Confit 

This recipe for traditional French duck confit is luxurious and is actually best made in advance. The duck sits in the fat as it cures over time. It can be taken out and seared until crispy for easy serving along with your favorite seasonal side dishes.

Butter Basted Steak Au Poivre with Brandy Pan Sauce

I make the classic French dish in a cast iron pan and baste the steak with butter to add flavor and keep it moist. This steak dish is elevated with a pan sauce created from the drippings left in the pan from searing the steak, and beef broth, a bit of brandy, and thickened with crème fraîche.

Butter Basted Steak Au Poivre with Brandy Pan Sauce for thanksgiving mains that aren't turkey
Crab Stuffed Salmon Pinwheels
Crab Stuffed Salmon Pinwheels

Thin portions of salmon filet are paired with crab meat stuffing similar to crab cakes. Then, rolled into a pinwheel shape before they’re baked. Easily scale this recipe up to serve more people.

Herb Roast Beef Tenderloin 

This dish is a family favorite for Christmas dinner so it can seamlessly transition to Thanksgiving dinner. While this recipe takes two days to make, it cooks much quicker than turkey and is a largely hands off recipe that can still feed a larger group.

Herb Roast Beef Tenderloin 

For more Thanksgiving recipes, check out my full roundup with sample menus here!

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