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7 Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas If You Don’t Like Turkey

November 15, 2023
Courtesy of Beautiful Eats and Things

Thanksgiving is the time to catch up with family members, watch football, get ready for holiday shopping, and of course, eat. Food is undoubtedly at the center of the holiday season, and preparing a great meal is an ideal way to bond with family and friends. But, not everyone eats or enjoys the “traditional” foods associated with this foodie holiday — such as turkey and stuffing. So having a few non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner ideas on hand may be a good idea this year.

Maybe your first cousin decided to go vegan recently or your sister is trying to stay healthy and avoid deep-fried turkey meat. Whatever the case may be, as you gear up for Thanksgiving this year, diversify your dinner table with non-traditional dinner ideas. The below alternatives are inspired by both ethnic and non-ethnic dishes to spice up your spread and expose your guests to novel flavor profiles and provide them with a wide range of possibilities over the cliched turkey.

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1. Apple Roasted Herb Chicken

apple roasted chicken in a skillet with veggies

Courtesy of Beautiful Eats and Things

Not a fan of turkey, but still love the idea of serving a roasted bird? The combination of apples and herbs will transform this unremarkable chicken dish into a delectable non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner in just under an hour and a half. Though apples are often associated with sweet desserts, pairing them with herbs, onions and spices will create a chicken dish that your family will want all year round. Plus, this dish can be prepared in a single large cast iron skillet, so that avoids the extra clean-up time too.

Try the recipe from Beautiful Eats and Things.

2. Lamb Chops with Quinoa and Cucumber Salad

Lamb lollipops

There are some people who have planned every aspect of their Thanksgiving meal weeks in advance (we’re talking appetizers, entrees, drinks, salads, and everything in between), and then there are others who simply wing it. If you are in the latter group and looking for a quick, but satisfying meal, then this lamb chop recipe is your best friend. Cooked and prepared in only 40 minutes, this recipe is one of our favorite go-to non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner ideas. The lamb recipe calls for easy preparation and two healthy sides, though feel free to get into the Thanksgiving mood and switch those up.

Try our recipe on Clean Plates.

3. Palak (Spinach) Paneer

saag panner in a skillet

Courtesy of Healthy Nibbles and Bits

Growing up in a South Asian household, our Thanksgiving was always split: there was turkey and all the fixings for my cousins who ate meat, as well as varied Indian curries, rice, and sides for the non-meat eaters like me and my immediate family. One of our annual staples is palak paneer, a popular North Indian dish of Indian-style cottage cheese mixed with a creamy, spicy spinach base. Paneer is a valuable source of protein and a healthy alternative to meat. This 45-minute recipe is brimming with flavor and for those guests who are unfamiliar with Indian food, this will be a pleasant surprise to their palettes.

Try the recipe from Healthy Nibbles and Bits.

4. Tofu Tikka Masala

tofu tikka masala in a bowl with rice and pita

Courtesy of Well Plated

Vegetarians and vegans appreciate the nutritional benefits of tofu, and now they’ll also love this Tofu Tikka Masala dish as a unique addition to their Thanksgiving meal. A spin on the traditional “paneer” tikka masala, this recipe is perfect for the holidays and cold weather because of the warm spices and rich texture. Best served with hot brown rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa, the dish pairs well with the main entree and will keep guests full without any of that post-Thanksgiving meal bloat. Tofu is that it is a highly versatile ingredient, so feel free to experiment with what spices and flavors you want to add.

Try the recipe from Well Plated.

5. Coconut Curry Salmon

coconut curry salmon in a bowl with rice and limes

Courtesy of Pinch of Yum

So maybe fish isn’t analogous to your preconceived notions of a typical Thanksgiving meal, but why not experiment and try something new this year? Many Asian households cook seafood-heavy dishes during major holidays, so Thanksgiving shouldn’t be any different. Not only is fish a beneficial source of lean protein, but this curry is also fast and easy to cook, a comfort dish, and includes lots of good fats – just in case you needed a justification on why you deserve that second serving of pecan pie for dessert.

Try the recipe from Pinch of Yum.

6. Shrimp Creole

seafood creole recipe

Courtesy of Meal Planning Magic

Speaking of fish, add some Louisiana influence to this shrimp dish and show your loved ones how cultured your palette has become. Shrimp creole is a dish of Louisiana creole origin, consisting of tomatoes, onions, celery, bell peppers, hot pepper sauce, and cayenne-based seasonings. You likely have the bulk of these ingredients already in your refrigerator, so throw them together in this simply prepared dish packed with complex, cajun flavors. It will spice up your spread (all puns intended).

Try the recipe from Meal Planning Magic.

7. Cauliflower Walnut Vegetarian Taco

cauliflower walnut vegetarian tacos

Courtesy of Pinch of Yum

Contrary to common opinion, tacos are a standalone entree. Not only are they fun to eat, but they are customizable based on dietary restrictions and individual preferences. That’s why these cauliflower walnut vegetarian tacos will be a showstopper this Thanksgiving. Suitable for the meatless consumers in the crowd, the trifecta of the “meat”, walnuts, and sauce make this a seasonal choice and a more interesting alternative to turkey.

Try the recipe from Pinch of Yum.

Read next: 9 No-Oven Thanksgiving Recipes To Cook While Turkey Is Roasting

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