40+ Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives (Also For Christmas)

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If cooking or serving a whole turkey seems like an overwhelming task this Thanksgiving or Christmas, or if you are simply too busy to organise the bird ahead of time, then these delicious and healthy turkey alternatives for the holiday season might just be the better options. I cover everything from beef, chicken and fish to vegetarian-friendly options.

Thanksgiving turkey alternatives

The holiday season is just around the corner, so I’ve decided to dedicate this post to some amazing, non-turkey-based edible centrepieces for your festive table. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in for juicy roast turkey but it’s oh-so-predictable and let’s face it…a slightly time-consuming main. Why not try something different this year?

Below is a list of healthy Christmas and Thanksgiving turkey alternatives, including a few vegetarian options, that will be the focus of attention at your dinner party. These are equally perfect for a family dinner or lunch.


Poultry Mains

Other types of poultry like chicken is an obvious choice after turkey, and although roasted chicken is always a crowd-pleaser, I wanted to include other types of poultry in this category.

Roast Chicken with Inside-Out Stuffing 

This is one of my favourite festive ways to serve whole chicken and my stuffing is all sorts of awesome. If you’re hosting a small gathering or cooking for two, try my Greek-style lemon and garlic roast chicken.

Thanksgiving roast chicken with inside out stuffing

Slow Roasted Duck A Lorange with Lingonberry Port Gravy

This impressive dish from Eat In My Kitchen makes my mouth water. You can use any other port or fruits to replicate this recipe.

Slow Roasted Duck For Thanksgiving

 Spicy Roast Chicken With Curry Sauce & Potatoes

East meets West in this main roast dinner dish from Isle of Flora. You can use any root vegetables in place of potatoes and I think pumpkin or any type of winter squash would work really well with the curry sauce.

Spicy chicken for paleo Thanksgiving

Whole Roasted Lavender Duck

I love the sound of this dish from The Saffron Girl as well. Aromatic herbs and spices go really well with duck meat.

Roasted lavender duck for Thanksgiving

Georgian Chicken Chkmeruli

This juicy fried chicken with dairy-free creamy garlic sauce is inspired by the famous Georgian chkmeruli recipe. This dish is dairy-free, paleo and Whole30 friendly and would be amazing on a festive table.

Georgian Garlic Chicken (Chkmeruli or Shkmeruli)

Puerto Rican Pasteles

Amanda from The Curious Coconut shows us how to make her family’s Thanksgiving tradition – chicken pasteles. This dish is paleo and AIP-friendly.

Puerto Rican Pasteles (paleo, AIP)

Garlic & Basil Roasted Chicken with Squash from Anya’s Eats

Apple & Herb Roast Chicken from Real Food With Danna

Roasted Chicken Thighs With Garlic & Oregano


Fish & Seafood Mains

Whole Baked Trout with Onion & Herb Salsa

This dish would make a great main dish for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. You can use any whole fish in this recipe or multiple fillets.

Whole Baked Trout With Herb Salsa & Lemon

Sweet Potato Salmon Fish Pie

A tasty, family-friendly sweet potato fish pie is made with delicious salmon, prawns and parsley sauce. Sweet potato is a healthier, more nutritious alternative to regular potato. Great for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.

Sweet potato fish pie

Half Shell Scallops

These scallops from Well Nourished are not only delicious (cooked with garlic, parsley and slivered almonds) but they also look sensational, and even though they are on the lighter side, they would be a great platter to have on your dinner table.

Scallops for Thanksgiving

For something more adventurous you could learn How To Boil A Dungeness Crab from Paleo Flourish and serve it with some garlic butter sauce.

Roasted Sea Bass Provencal from Relish


Lamb Thanksgiving Dishes

Macadamia-crusted Rack Of Lambs With Roasted Tomatoes

Crusted lamb rack

Roasted Leg of Lamb

This recipe from The Domestic Man is absolutely sensational and would be great as a centrepiece dish.

Roasted leg of lamb for Thanksgiving

Lamb Loin Chops with Tarragon Sauce

Lamb loin chops with tarragon sauce

Jalapeno-Pesto Minty Rack of Lamb from Cavegirl Cuisine

Italian Stuffed Leg of Lamb from Gutsy By Nature


Thanksgiving Beef Mains

Oven-Cooked Brisket With Caramelised Reduction

Slow-roast a whole beef brisket in the oven with a delicious, caramelised balsamic and Worcestershire reduction, onions and garlic. This oven-cooked brisket is braised in the broth that is then caramelised and the meat is browned during the roasting process, resulting in the most succulent meat full of flavour.

Braised brisket with roasted finish with balsamic reduction

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Thanksgiving is all about comfort food and you certainly can’t go past a good Shepherd’s pie. It’s a great opportunity to combine two festive dishes – sweet potato casserole and a meat pie – in one family-friendly dish. You can make individual pies or bake a couple of larger casserole dishes to serve on the table. 

Sweet potato shepherd's pie

Whole Beef Brisket Pot Roast

Beef brisket cooked as a pot roast couldn’t be easier. Just sear and then cook it in the oven with onions and garlic all afternoon until it becomes fall-apart tender. The leftovers freeze beautifully, too! Recipe from Simply Recipes.

Beef brisket for Thanksgiving

Pomegranate Habanero Shredded Beef

This recipe from Steph Gaudreau looks like a real family affair and the best part – it’s super easy. Paleo and Whole30.

Paleo Shredded Beef

Beef Stuffed Acorn Squash

These adorable little ground beef stuffed acorn squash pumpkins are so delicious! They make the perfect fall main and are healthy and affordable. You can use any type of pumpkin to stuff with the meat filling. Beef stuffed acorn squash pumpkin


Festive Pork Mains

Pork Tenderloin With Mushrooms & Balsamic Onions

Pork tenderloin with balsamic onions

Crispy Pork Belly

Pork belly roasted

Or you can try this Pork Belly Roasted with Garlic & Cider from Comfort Bites. And learn how to make the perfect pork crackling every time from The Sistermixin.

 Glazed Smoked Ham

And who doesn’t love a good glazed ham!?! Learn how to cook an amazing-looking, paleo-friendly Thanksgiving ham from Everyday Maven.

Thanksgiving glazed ham

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Mains

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Inspired by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours, these quinoa stuffed peppers are filled with delicious vegetables, spices, nuts and dried cranberries. It’s a nutritious meal that is vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Baked Sweet Potatoes With Walnut & Parsley Crumbs

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Mushroom Nut Roast

Nut Roast Vegan & Paleo

Living in the UK, I got obsessed with nut roasts. I wanted to make a homemade recipe that is both vegan and paleo-friendly. This recipe is made with lots of mushrooms, veggies and mixed nuts, plus a few secret seasonings that make it irresistible. It’s egg-free, dairy-free, legume-free and grain-free. 

Vegetarian No-Meat-Loaf (Nut-Roast)

This vegetarian meatloaf from A Couple of Cooks is made entirely of nuts, rice, mushrooms, onions, herbs, and cheese. Somehow, it all melds into an appearance and texture just like a meatloaf. And it tastes AMAZING. Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Sunday roast and more

Thanksgiving Vegetarian 'meatloaf' nut roast

Whole Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower

You can use this fabulous Thanksgiving cauliflower recipe from My New Roots as a template really. She uses homemade Tandoori spice using pretty accessible pantry staples but you could inspiration from other cuisines.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Mushrooms with Thyme from Paleo Leap

Seed & Carrot Roast Loaf from Trinity’s Kitchen

Sesame Roasted Sweet Potatoes from Pinch of Yum


Turkey Recipes With A Twist

Want to stick with the tradition of serving up turkey but with an added a twist? Try one of these variations.

Perfect Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey

Turkey Breast In A Crockpot

Crockpot turkey breast

Turkey & Cranberry Stuffed Squash

Stuffed Squash Vegetarian

Smoke Roast Turkey Breast 

Smoked Roast Turkey Breast Recipe

Cranberry Glazed Turkey Meatballs from Plaid & Paleo

Stuffed Turkey Breast from The Saffron Girl

Do you have a favourite alternative to roast turkey or a traditional family dish you serve up for Thanksgiving? Have a question? Leave a comment below. 


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40 Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives (or For Christmas)
Irena Macri
By Irena Macri

About the author: Hi, I’m Irena Macri. I share easy, delicious recipes with a healthy twist. I’ve been food blogging for over 10 years and have a Diploma in Nutrition & Weight Management. I believe in a balanced diet with an occasional cookie and cheesy pasta. More about me here. Sign-up for my newsletter and subscriber freebies.

PS. Some posts contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission for purchases made through these links.

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  1. Wow you list is so overwhelming. It took me a lot of thinking before choosing what to prepare. I know that thanks giving is over so I notice Roasted Leg of Lamb recipe. I’ll be preparing this for Christmas dinner.

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