These turkey substitutes are perfect for an untraditional Thanksgiving.

By Dakota Kim
November 16, 2020
Juicy Roasted Chicken

Shhh. If you don't like Thanksgiving turkey and always take the smallest piece possible, don't shout it from the rooftops. Just bring one of these delicious mains instead to the shindig, from a hearty vegetable lasagna that'll sneak some beta carotene into the kids, to a fatty, decadent roasted duck with some duck fat fries on the side. If you need even more ideas, check out our treasure trove of Thanksgiving recipes.

Hearty Lasagna

Hearty Vegetable Lasagna
Credit: *Sherri*

Don't let the vegetarian at your table gaze forlornly at the table or head to get a veggie burger after your feast. Make this Hearty Vegetable Lasagna with mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, and your veggie friend will be satisfied by meal's end. Of course, if you're meat eaters, you can always opt for the World's Best Lasagna, featuring both sweet Italian sausage and ground beef.

Roasted Duck (with Duck Fat Fries)

Roasted Duck
Credit: Trish the Dish

There's a reason why Duck Fat Fries became a thing — ducks are fatty and delicious. Yes, they're fattier than turkeys, but they make fantastic roasts. Try this Roasted Duck that honestly requires very little prep — though the recipe says 10 minutes to prep, it may not take you that long to season it with salt, pepper, and paprika. From then on, it's just 2 hours in the oven, basting with butter, and roasting the bird. If you can't get enough duck, check out our 14 Favorite Duck Recipes for Special Dinners.

Chicken, Whether Roasted, Under a Brick, or On a Beer Can

Juicy Roasted Chicken

You may not think a roasted chicken can be exciting enough for Halloween, but that's where you're wrong. Even if you've made it a hundred times, our Juicy Roasted Chicken Recipe delights every time. From one German grandma's kitchen straight to yours, the secret's in the celery (and the margarine). You can even make two, adding different spices to each. If roasting isn't your bag, try time-honored recipes like Chef John's Chicken Under a Brick, and our Beer Can Chicken recipes — both are guaranteed to come out moist and be gobbled up faster than you can say, "Turkey!"

Quiche, Both Vegetarian and Not

Clarke's Quiche
Credit: NeonDial

Let us talk about quiche, that main dish poorly relegated to brunch. Not only is it hearty and fulfilling, but it makes for a great main presentation. It's also easy to make one vegetarian and one meaty with this Clark's Quiche recipe that provides for two nine-inch pies. You can substitute bacon and ham with vegan meats, more cheese, or even veggies — or go with a Loaded Vegetarian Quiche, Spinach Quiche or Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche. Check out our full Quiche section to get all the recipes, and get fancy for Thanksgiving with some microgreens, edible flowers, or neatly-arranged sauteed mushrooms centered on top of your pie.

Shepherd's Pie

vegan shepherd's pie slice
Credit: Tisha

This Traditional Style Vegan Shepherd's Pie is the ideal vegetarian complement, employing soy milk, vegetarian cream cheese, and vegan ground meat to achieve a hearty helping at Thanksgiving dinner. Peas, celery, carrots, and onions give you all the veggies you need, and mashed potato with all the fixings fills you up. If meaty shepherd's pie is more your speed, check out our wealth of Shepherd's pie recipes.

Stuffed Squash

Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash on a red plate
Credit: linda2d

Squash is the perfect vehicle for stuffing as a main dish, whether it's Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash or Squasage (Sausage-Stuffed Squash). The key is roasting the squash until it's tender and any fillings until they're toasty, crispy, and golden-brown. What you choose to fill it with is up to you, but you can also treat squash like a Thanksgiving bird, and add one of our fantastic stuffing recipes to the cavity.

Ravioli Bake

Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli with Chive Butter Sauce
Credit: NavaCr

Why not make it an Italian-themed Thanksgiving with a ravioli bake? This Alfredo Ravioli Bake is versatile — you can experiment with using different sauces and different flavors of ravioli, but it's all store-bought, so it's super easy. Just purchase your sauce and your ravioli, cook your chicken, layer with cheese like a lasagna, and bake. If you prefer to make your own ravioli from scratch, try this vegetarian Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli with Chive Butter Sauce.


Spiral-sliced ham topped with pineapple rings on a platter
Photo by TTV78
| Credit: TTV78

There's nothing like a ham for Christmas or Easter, so why not for Thanksgiving? This Tangy Honey Glazed Ham is a hit on our site, with over 700 ratings giving it 5 stars. With its sweet, flavorful formula of pineapple juice, honey, sugar, orange juice and zest, cloves, and Dijon mustard, that's no surprise. But if you're looking for something truly simple, go for this two-ingredient Slow Cooker Ham, which heaps on the brown sugar for a luscious, mouthwatering main course that'll leave the turkey in the corner sulking.

Pot Pie

a top-down view of a two-crust pie with a slice cut out
Credit: Allrecipes

The lovely thing about this Veggie Pot Pie is that you can just purchase your pie crust from the grocery store and call it a day. Fill it with mushrooms, garlic, onions, carrot, celery, cauliflower, and green beans, as well as a gravy-like sauce made of cornstarch, soy sauce and water, and you're all ready to bake. It's a quick and delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving option, but if it's a meaty pot pie you want, you'll want to make the much-loved Chicken Pot Pie IX.


Chef John's Baby Porchetta
Credit: Chef John

If you've never had porchetta, it's an experience to be thankful for. Beautiful, easy to serve and incredibly flavorful, it's always the center of any feast. The key to making the specialty meat dish is slicing it, rubbing the surface with spices and letting those spices permeate, and then rolling it up and letting it rest overnight before roasting it at high heat in the oven so that the skin becomes crackly. There are two simplified recipes to try: Chef John's Porchetta (2.5 pounds) or Chef John's Baby Porchetta (1.5 pounds). Though it's usually made with a special butcher's cut of the belly attached to the loin, you can make a similar dish with a variety of cuts.

Cuban Pork Roast

Cuban Pork Roast I
Credit: NOZOMI

The other pork roast to try this Thanksgiving is a succulent Cuban Pork. The sour citrus juices and sherry do a wonderful job of marinating the pork, but for an extra flavor boost, try slathering some Guava Barbecue Sauce on the meat or mixing it with the citrus juice marinade before putting the Cuban Pork Roast in the oven — the result is magical. Serve with black beans and rice, plus a salad of orange slices, red onion, and arugula dressed with a tangy cilantro vinaigrette. The author suggests making Medianoche sandwiches, the middle-of-the-night snack made with ham, pork, cheese, and pickles.