Swap Your Holiday Turkey With These Delicious Alternatives

It is believed that turkey could have been one of the dishes served on the initial Thanksgiving feast, and turkey eventually became a major part of fall and winter holiday festivities. The big bird is always the most expected part of the meal, and regardless of the surplus of other dishes, it always takes the central stage.

Because of its iconic status, this idea may sound blasphemous, but we wanted to propose a different holiday meal, one not ruled by the massive bird. Honestly, turkey is often overly dry, and it isn't easy to pull out a successful version in home kitchens. And though no one can argue about its strong symbolism and the fact that it agrees well with other dishes, perhaps you'd like to ditch the traditionalists' idea and swap holiday turkey with less-expected and more adventurous options. We are not talking about burgers and fries, but decadent and nutritious dishes worthy of this grand celebration.

This list collects dishes from various authors to create a beautiful kaleidoscope of recipes that will fit into the festive atmosphere. Many feature meat as the core ingredient, but you will also find an excellent selection of vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes that can be a great alternative to the turkey or play a supporting role for your guests with various dietary restrictions and preferences.

Broiled Sweet Chili Salmon

If you want a quick and easy dish to impress your guests, this broiled salmon recipe should be your go-to option. Salmon is dressed up with a zesty sauce that combines chili, lime juice, soy sauce, and garlic. As it broils, the wonderful combination of spice and umami will caramelize and keep the fish juicy and tender.

This dish whips up quickly and calls for an equally simple side dish. Rice and steamed or roasted veggies would make excellent partners, but a refreshing salad could also work.

Recipe: Broiled Sweet Chili Salmon

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken And Balsamic Peaches

This wonderful combination of perfectly roasted chicken and baked peaches is a creative option for those who want to step away from tradition. Spatchcock chicken is first flavored with a buttery marinade and then baked with balsamic-flavored peaches.

The result is a fabulous combination of flavors and a stunning dish worthy of any festive table. You can always go with mashed or roasted potatoes as a side dish, but roasted or steamed veggies would also complement it nicely.

Recipe: Roasted Spatchcock Chicken And Balsamic Peaches

Whole-Roasted Duck

If you need a smaller and perhaps juicier alternative to the whole roasted turkey, and you think chicken is not festive enough, use this recipe as an inspiration and swap it with roasted duck. This fairly simple recipe uses the whole duck that is generously coated with compound butter and then roasted until golden.

Treat the duck like any poultry dish when it comes to side dishes. It can work with rice, potatoes, or any vegetable option. Carve and slice as you would classic turkey or whole chicken.

Recipe: Whole-Roasted Duck

Garlic And Black Pepper Tri Tip Roast

This recipe uses a tri-tip roast as the star of the dish. This marbled cut is suitable for various techniques but really shines when roasted or grilled. In this version, it is garnished with a garlic and pepper marinade for an extra zing. You'll need to give the meat a couple of hours to soak up the juices before it goes in the oven.

Let the steak rest after roasting, and serve it with classic side dishes. Like any good roast, it would pair well with mashed potatoes.

Recipe: Garlic And Black Pepper Tri Tip Roast

Moroccan-Inspired Whole-Roasted Branzino

For the perfect fish recipe to serve as the main course, look no further than this branzino recipe. Branzino is a great fish to serve as the main dish because of its tender meat. It is also a breeze to clean, and the whole recipe takes only half an hour to assemble. The fish finds its perfect partner in Moroccan-inspired seasoning that blends olive oil, cumin, coriander, and garlic with an additional zing from preserved lemons.

To stay in the Moroccan theme, serve the dish with couscous.

Recipe: Moroccan-Inspired Whole-Roasted Branzino

Low And Slow Pork Butt Roast

This pork recipe derives inspiration from Cuban mojo and gets elevated by a hearty spice blend, citrus juices, garlic, and olive oil. Bone-in pork shoulder is the most suitable choice for this recipe, resulting in a juicy, tender roast. You can cut the meat into larger chunks or turn it into shredded pork.

This recipe calls for low and slow cooking, so think of it as an ideal option to prep ahead and leave in the oven while you assemble other holiday treats.

Recipe: Low And Slow Pork Butt Roast

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Another pork recipe plays with tenderloin as the star ingredient. The meat is seasoned with salt and pepper and then generously coated with a compound butter that combines softened buttered, minced garlic, and chopped Italian parsley. This buttery coating will act as a perfect flavor booster and a great barrier that will protect the meat from drying out.

The tenderloin will take approximately an hour in the oven. Make sure to serve it sliced and pair it with potatoes, veggies, or salads.

Recipe: Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Whole-Roasted Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout gets a perfect buttery makeover in this recipe. The fish needs to be gutted and thoroughly cleaned as it will be stuffed with garlic, parsley, and lemon slices — a technique that will allow the aroma to get evenly distributed. All that is left is to drizzle the fish with olive oil and season it with salt and pepper before putting it in the oven. Once the fish is roasted, it is served doused in buttery pecan sauce.

To keep the dish light, pair the trout with salads or simple roasted veggies.

Recipe: Whole-Roasted Rainbow Trout

Ribeye Roast

Like any good roast, this ribeye version does not require many ingredients or complicated techniques. You'll need a nice piece of boneless ribeye that you will generously coat with Dijon mustard and then rub with salt, pepper, and thyme. All that is left to do is brush the pan with oil, and the meat is ready for the oven where it will shortly roast on high heat. You'll need to rest the meat before slicing it, as you do not want all those juices to run out.

This is a versatile and neutral main course that you can pair with various accompaniments.

Recipe: Ribeye Roast

Tender Rump Roast

Roast beef is always a good idea to serve as the main course for any festivity. In this recipe, the rump roast goes classic with salt, pepper, beef broth, butter, onion, and rosemary. Naturally, it requires a splash of dry red wine. The meat is seared and then roasted with rosemary and onions. As the meat requires some time to rest, you'll get enough time to use the pan juices to make the accompanying sauce.

This is a dish that pairs well with any side dish of choice.

Recipe: Tender Rump Roast

Slow-Cooker Leg Of Lamb

Put your slow cooker to good use this holiday, and use this recipe to create a succulent main course that everyone will love. This recipe is assembled in no time, and as the cooker does all of the work, it leaves you plenty of time to attend other courses.

The lamb is first seasoned and then cooked with onions, carrots, and garlic until tender. As it sets, all the flavorful juice is quickly turned into a sauce or gravy you will serve on the side, preferably accompanied by mashed potatoes.

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Leg Of Lamb

Braised Pork And Apple Casserole

Pork and apples are a match made in heaven. In this recipe, pork shoulder gets uplifted with the juicy tartness of the apples, and the whole dish is rounded with an aromatic blend of carrots, shallots, garlic, Dijon mustard, and sage. Beef broth gives the dish complexity and helps to create a warm, comforting base for pork and apples.

Ideally, you would spoon this hearty casserole over mashed potatoes, but anything creamy and light — think of pasta and polenta — would go well. For more balance, you can go with roasted veggies.

Recipe: Braised Pork And Apple Casserole

Beef And Butternut Squash Skillet

This colorful dish pairs several ingredients with contrasting characters that result in a flavor-packed and harmonious blend. Ground beef provides a sturdy backbone complemented by the sweet and earthy flavors delivered by kale, squash, and pepper, while soy sauce, garlic, and tomato paste deliver complexity and a touch of appetizing umami.

This recipe relies solely on the skillet, so think of it as a fantastic one-pot wonder that will make a delicious main course, perfect for any occasion. Serve it with salads, polenta, or mashed potatoes.

Recipe: Beef And Butternut Squash Skillet

Red Wine And Truffle Chopped Steak

If you are looking for a decadent and luxurious dish to serve as the main course, this take on classic Salisbury steak should do the trick. You'll first have to sear beef patties and then assemble the rich, buttery sauce where shallots, mushrooms, red wine, and truffle oil create a wonderfully aromatic blend. Beef patties are then simmered to cook through and soak up some of those aromas.

This potent dish requires a lighter side, so think of steamed green veggies or go classic with creamy mashed potatoes.

Recipe: Red Wine And Truffle Chopped Steak

Spiral-Sliced Honey-Glazed Ham

Ham always makes an attractive centerpiece and is suitable for festive occasions. This recipe calls for homemade honey glaze, which is surprisingly easy to assemble and will always be better than any store-bought option. As the ham goes through its initial bake, you will mix Dijon mustard, honey, and brown sugar to make the glaze that will get smothered over the surface and inside the slices.

Your ham will come out of the oven with a shiny glaze and incredible flavor. Serve it with classic side dishes, and make sure to use all the leftovers.

Recipe: Spiral-Sliced Honey-Glazed Ham

Jazzed-Up Grilled BBQ Tofu

For vegan-friendly alternatives, tofu is always a great idea. This simple ingredient is easily tweaked to transform into a great main course that will look good on every occasion. In this recipe, the author couples firm tofu with BBQ sauce to create a dish that will earn praise even with meat-obsessed guests. The sauce gets an extra kick from harissa — a spicy chili mix — and cumin, while the barbecue imparts it with wonderful smoky notes.

To get the best intensity, brush the sauce before and after grilling. Serve the tofu with rice or grilled veggies.

Recipe: Jazzed-Up Grilled BBQ Tofu

Vegan Lentil Lasagna

Another vegan option to serve as the main course is casserole-like lentil lasagna, which does not include meat or dairy. Along with brown lentils, the dish packs veggies, spices, and condiments that help build up flavors and aromas, turning this lasagna into a flavorsome and comforting option for all guests. To deliver the same lasagna-like texture, it also includes a white, vegan-friendly sauce.

Finish the dish with shredded vegan cheese and chopped parsley, and serve warm, ideally with veggies, salad, or bread on the side.

Recipe: Vegan Lentil Lasagna

Roasted Butternut Squash And Goat Cheese Quiche

This is the perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving celebration, as the ingredients create a medley of hearty flavors ideal for the fall season. This quiche follows the traditional method and starts with a flaky pastry shell stacked with buttery roasted squash, chunks of pungent goat cheese, and creamy egg mix. The pie bakes into a delicious dish with a crispy crust and tender filling brimming with flavor.

Though this quiche can work on its own, it would pair wonderfully with a zesty salad.

Recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash And Goat Cheese Quiche

Baked Eggplant Rollatini

If you are a fan of eggplant parm, think of this recipe as an upgraded version. The dish starts with roasted eggplant slices that get jam-packed with creamy ricotta and Parmesan mix with an added kick of spinach, garlic, basil, and oregano. The classic marinara sauce makes the base for cheesy eggplant rolls, and the whole dish gets a lovely finishing touch with a heap of grated cheese.

Top the dish with more marinara sauce and bake until the cheese is warm and gooey. Serve warm, and garnish with fresh basil.

Recipe: Baked Eggplant Rollatini

Vegetarian Mushroom Stroganoff

This dish tackles classic beef stroganoff to create a vegan-friendly version that mimics similar flavors and textures. The dish gains most of its character from a mix of mushrooms that will deliver complexity and a distinctive umami kick, but sautéed onions, paprika, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce will also act as nice building blocks. Though the recipe relies on button, cremini, shiitake, and chanterelle mushrooms, you can always adapt it to taste and availability.

Like the classic stroganoff, this creamy sauce works best with pasta.

Recipe: Vegetarian Mushroom Stroganoff

Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

If you are looking for a foolproof recipe for a classic eggplant Parmesan, this could be the solution. As it skips the tiresome pan-frying step, it is also a great time-saving option. Eggplant is first coated in egg wash, flour, and breadcrumbs and goes in the oven until the slices crisp up. The same pan is then used to build up the dish with marinara sauce, heaps of grated mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan, which is added as a savory finishing touch.

Bake until the cheese softens and melts, and serve immediately.

Recipe: Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

Easy Ratatouille

Ratatouille is one of the French classics popularized by an eponymous Disney cartoon. An array of colorful vegetables are the headliners in this dish, and you will have to slice them up thinly so they can be arranged into a multicolored swirl. This recipe relies on eggplant, potatoes, peppers, and zucchini, but you can easily adapt it to your taste. Assemble the veggies on top of tomato sauce flavored with garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and drizzle with aromatic olive oil.

Bake until the veggies cook through, and serve the dish as a vegetarian main course.

Recipe: Easy Ratatouille

Vegan Mushroom Risotto

This creamy mushroom risotto is a wholesome, umami-packed dish that can easily act as the main course. The dish is enriched with leeks and white wine, and gets most of its flavor from a mix of mushrooms that are flavored with aromatic miso butter.

Make sure to use arborio rice as it has the best qualities, and preferably finish the dish with nutritional yeast and a drizzle of lemon juice. When served, top with grated vegan Parmesan and fresh parsley.

Recipe: Vegan Mushroom Risotto