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5 Thanksgiving turkey alternatives if poultry isn’t your thing

If you feel like mixing it up this year at Thanksgiving dinner, ditch the bird for one of these dishes

If turkey doesn’t get you gobbling, you’re not alone. There are plenty of reasons not to eat this enormous celebratory bird every time the festive season rolls around. Maybe you have a smaller gathering on Thanksgiving and such a huge main course doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps you do a big turkey dinner on Christmas and are looking to mix it up this year. Or it could be that this year in particular, turkeys may be hard to track down, be it in the forest or the grocery store. Due to this season’s turkey shortage, holiday tables everywhere may look a little different, but that’s just fine by us.

Whatever your reason for skipping the tryptophan crash this Thanksgiving, we’ve got you covered. You can still enjoy a beautiful feast without the bird with these outside-the-box Thanksgiving dinner ideas.

Prime rib

Prime rib
Tastes Better from Scratch

(From Tastes Better from Scratch)

Is there anything better than a thick, juicy, sinfully savory, melt-in-your-mouth, tender piece of prime rib? We’re thinking no. This celebratory roast will make just about everyone’s mouth water come Thanksgiving, and we promise, no one will be thinking about turkey.


  • 5 pounds beef prime rib
  • Sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Horseradish for serving (optional)


  1. Season prime rib on all sides with salt, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 500F and adjust the oven rack so the meat will cook in the center of the oven.
  3. Mix together 1 ½ teaspoons salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and olive oil, then set aside.
  4. Dry roast thoroughly with paper towels, removing all excess moisture, then rub seasoning into roast.
  5. Place bone-in roast with the bones down, inside a roasting pan cast iron pan. Place a boneless roast on a rack inside the pan.
  6. Bake at 500F for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Continue baking until desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to test the temperature.
  7. Remove from the oven and tent the dish with foil. Allow it to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Pork crown roast

pork crown roast
My Gourmet Connection

(From My Gourmet Connection)

We absolutely love this traditional roast. Not only is a crown pork roast a crowd-pleasing favorite, but it’s also the most frugal option on our list. We can all appreciate that, especially around the holidays. With the classic accents of fresh herbs and citrus, this gorgeous roast will shine as the star of your Thanksgiving table.


  • 8–9 pound crown roast of pork
  • 4 cloves of garlicpeeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 small orangecut into chunks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the rub:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlicfinely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sagechopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemarychopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh grated orange zest


  1. Bring pork roast to room temperature before cooking, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 450F and position the rack in the lower third of the oven.
  3. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, and orange zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Season the cavity of the pork with salt and pepper. Place the halved garlic, sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and orange in the cavity. Cover the ends of the ribs with small pieces of aluminum foil to prevent them from burning.
  5. Place the pork on a rack in a roasting pan and coat the entire surface of the meat with the rub mixture.
  6. Pour 1/2 of an inch to 1 inch of water in the bottom of the pan and place the pork in the oven. (The water adds moisture to the oven’s heat and helps keep spattering to a minimum during the first few minutes of roasting at high heat.)
  7. Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Continue roasting until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 145F.
  8. When the roast is done, cover it gently with foil and rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Crown roast of lamb

crown roast of lamb
Alton Brown

(From Alton Brown)

Much like a pork crown roast, this impressive piece of meat shines in its unique impressiveness. With the distinct crown-like shape like the pork, but the wonderful smokey gaminess that comes with lamb, this is the perfect main course to serve on Thanksgiving.


  • 2 (1 pound to 1 1/2 pound) racks of lamb, 6 to 8 ribs each, frenched
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cups cooked stuffing, such as rice pilaf


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Bend each rack into a semicircle (meat side in, fat side out) and tie ends together with kitchen twine. The rib ends should be pushed outward to create the look of a crown.
  3. Rub the lamb with oil. Combine the salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and coriander, and press the mixture all over the lamb.
  4. Place the lamb in a Bundt pan, with the center of the pan coming up through the middle of the roast.
  5. Roast until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 130F (30 to 35 minutes).
  6. Remove from the oven, transfer the roast to a cooling rack, cover with aluminum foil, and rest for 20 minutes.
  7. While the meat is resting, add the vinegar, mustard, and rosemary to the juices that accumulated in the pan while the roast was cooking. Stir to combine.
  8. Cut the string away from the roast and place cooked stuffing in the center, if desired.

Fennel-roasted whole salmon

fennel-roasted whole salmon
Williams Sonoma

(From Williams Sonoma)

If you’re looking for something unexpected but still classic on Thanksgiving, a roasted whole salmon is the way to go. This delicious and impressive fish stands up well to robust Thanksgiving side dishes yet still delights as the delicate and flakey fish that it is. Plus, its gorgeous color will make for a very pretty plate.


  • 1 whole salmon (68 pounds), cleaned
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 3 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, and cut crosswise into slices 1/2 inch thick, with a handful of fronds reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine


  1. Preheat the oven to 500F.
  2. Rub the cavity of the salmon with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the inside of the fish with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut the lemons crosswise into paper-thin slices. Lay half of the lemon slices inside the cavity of the fish. Scatter thyme leaves over the lemon slices. Rub the outside of the salmon with another tablespoon of olive oil and season with more salt and pepper.
  4. In a separate bowl, toss the fennel slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to coat thoroughly.
  5. Spread the fennel in an even layer on a large, deep, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a large roasting pan. Place the fish on top.
  6. Top the salmon with the remaining lemon slices and place the remaining thyme sprigs and fennel fronds over and around the fish.
  7. Roast approximately 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 425F. Pour the wine into the pan all around the fish and continue roasting until the flesh is opaque throughout and a thermometer registers 130F (3045 minutes).

Broiled lobster

broiled lobster
The Recipe Critic

(From The Recipe Critic)

We’ve saved the best for last because, well, duh. It’s lobster. If anyone complains about a missing bird while they’ve got a gorgeously broiled lobster tail on their plate, they don’t get pie. That’s the rule.

While lobster tails for every Thanksgiving guest may pull at the purse strings a bit, the flavor of this simple and delectable dish will be well worth the added cost.


  • 4 lobster tails
  • 1/4 cup butter melted
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, minced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to broil or 500 degrees.
  2. Using kitchen shears, cut down the center of the lobster tail to butterfly it. Pull the lobster meat upward, loosening it at the same time. Season the meat with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Whisk together the melted butter, garlic, paprika, thyme, rosemary, and parsley. Spread evenly on each lobster tail.
  4. Broil the lobster tails for about 810 minutes or until the meat is opaque and lightly browned on top. Serve with melted butter if desired.
Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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