Maybe you’re having a smaller gathering or going the Friendsgiving route. Or perhaps your holiday meal is so epic it calls for a bevy of showstoppers. There’s also the chance you’re cooking for vegans, vegetarians, or someone who just doesn’t think turkey’s worth the hype (trust us, you’re not alone). That’s when it’s time to think out of the box for Thanksgiving and choose one of the many other tasty celebratory options. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.
Poultry, Beef & More Meaty Mains
You could think of it as downsizing, but this member of the poultry family arguably has the most to offer when it comes to flavor. Your average 4–5 lb. whole chicken is big enough for up to four guests (or two very hungry ones). Or you could go the personal route and give each diner their very own petite Cornish hen. Roasting either of these will take a fraction of the time needed to do a whole turkey.
Season your chicken with salt, pepper, and a few fresh herbs for the epitome of sophisticated simplicity. Or you could try a fun new marinade or rub (we’ve even got a few pre-marinated options to make things extra effortless). This might also be a great opportunity to upgrade from your usual poultry and try a flavorful heritage bird. And if you’re just trying to use Thanksgiving day to chillax, no one is ever going to raise an eye at a delicious rotisserie chicken.
Nothing says luxury quite like a good piece of beef. And in most cases, it doesn’t need any more than the most basic seasonings. For a grand centerpiece, a standing rib roast is about as regal as it gets. There many other great whole beef cuts to choose from—chuck roasts are a favorite if you’re trying to stick to a budget, while a filet mignon roast is great if you prefer something lean.
You could also go with steaks, especially if you’re feeding a smaller crowd. For celebratory occasions, well-marbled cuts like rib-eyes and strip steaks are classic go-tos, along with highly tender options like filet mignon and top sirloin.
Like beef, you can either opt for one grand roast or a few more petite chops when you’re serving lamb for a feast. A rack of lamb or a lamb leg roast is your best bet when you’re looking to turn heads, or rib chops are great for treating just a few people to one of the most flavorful and tender cuts of all. You could also go in a totally different direction by making a hearty braised lamb shank, which is one of the most comforting dishes you could ask for when the weather is starting to get cold.
There are so many ways to go decadent with pork, from whole loins to racks of ribs to shoulder and butt roasts. When it comes to celebratory meals, however, ham might just be the king of them all. You may think of it as Christmas fare, but that hardly matters once you get a taste of its incredible marriage of salty, sweet, and savory flavors. Plus, it’s hard to beat if your favorite part is the leftovers.
If you’re pre-gaming or having a Friendsgiving party before the main Thanksgiving meal, a seafood-centric spread will kick off the holiday in style. You’ll be sure to impress with a dazzling whole-roasted fish or a few trays of shellfish. Or use the special occasion to make that seafood recipe you’ve always wanted to try—there’s always room to create a new tradition!
Vegetarian & Vegan Options
There will always be room for plant-based “roasts” at the table of any veggie-centric feasts, and they occupy a special place in the hearts of anyone who prefers to forgo the meat. But you might get more satisfaction and nutritional bang for your buck by focusing on dishes made with whole veggies. Plus, nothing will put you in a cozy mood quite like some carbs (lots and lots of carbs). Simply mix and match your faves, or have everyone bring a dish potluck style. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- No-Recipe Veggie Side Dishes For Thanksgiving
- Classic Green Bean Casserole
- Rich and Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Homestyle Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Cheesy Potato Gratin
- Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole
- Roasted Parmesan and Herb Sweet Potatoes
- Crunchy Thanksgiving Slaw
- Roasted Butternut Squash with Greek Yogurt
- Butternut Squash, Kale, and Apple Salad
- Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad
- Butternut Squash, Sage, and Garlic Gratin
- Apple Rosemary Couscous
- Easy Stuffed Artichokes