Alternative Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas For People Who Hate Thanksgiving Food

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We’ve been celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday since 1862. Not me personally, but “we” as Americans, as a culture, and as a whole bunch of really hungry people. In that time, we’ve developed traditions around the foods that we eat. There’s always turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

And you’ve got to have sweet potatoes, sweet corn, rolls, veggies, and a whole lot of pumpkin pie. It’s tradition. That’s why you’ll also see the stores barraged right now as everyone scrambles to get all the fixings for that HUGE Thanksgiving meal.  

The thing is, a lot of us really hate quite a few of those Thanksgiving staples. Some 65% of Americans would love something OTHER than turkey on the table, and the other fixings are similarly on quite a few lists of MOST HATED FOODS. So, what can you do? 

Go a bit off the rails and include some Thanksgiving dishes that you and your family will really love!

Here are some ideas.

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What About Cornish Hens? Almost A Turkey… But Not Quite

Thank you Food Network for the recipe!

There are lots of reasons why you might prefer Cornish hens for your Thanksgiving dinner table. The big one is that they’re smaller, easier to prepare, and don’t leave so many leftovers. It’s also fun because each person gets their own Cornish hen on their plate. 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried basil 

  • 2 tablespoons lemon-pepper 

  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning 

  • 1 tablespoon salt 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 

  • 6 Cornish game hens, about 1 1/2 pounds each, rinsed and dried thoroughly 

  • 1 green bell pepper, large dice 

  • 2 stalks celery, large dice 

  • 1 onion, large dice

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 °F.  

  2. Combine the basil, lemon-pepper, poultry seasoning, and salt.

  3. Rub the olive oil on the hens.  

  4. Season the hens.  

  5. Place them on a baking sheet.  

  6. Stuff the hens with bell pepper, celery and onion.  

  7. Roast them in your preheated oven for one hour (165 °F). 

If you’re looking for something a bit more traditional (feeling), you can always use cranberry stuffing. Either way, they’re flavorful and juicy. Whichever recipe you pick, they might just be the perfect way for you to avoid that Thanksgiving hate-fest of food. 


What About The Roast (AND Bacon)?

Thank you Great Grub, Delicious Treats for the recipe!

bacon wrapped rib eye thanksgiving recipe

I know lots of people who just prefer beef for most of their dinner-type meals. Why should Thanksgiving be any different? Well, you may want to dress it up a little to make it feel a bit more festive. Here’s a recipe that’s been a popular fav (my boys love it). 

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless prime rib eye roast of beef, about 10 pounds after boning 

  • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste 

  • Bacon 

Directions

  1. Start with your rib eye roast. 

  2. Layer 4 slices of bacon on the top. 

  3. Layer 4 slices of bacon in the opposite direction. 

  4. Weave the bacon in and out. 

  5. Continue to weave bacon around the sides (the edges should remain uncovered).  

  6. Sprinkle seasoning.  

  7. Place a cast-iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 475 °F.  

  8. Remove skillet from oven and place the roast on the skillet (bacon facing up). 

  9. Place the skillet in the oven, and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. 

  10. Lower the temperature to 325 °F and cook for 2 hours.  

  11. Let it sit for 1 1/2 hours (leave the oven door closed).  

  12. Heat the oven to 325 °F and cook for one hour (130-135 °F for rare; 140-145 °F for medium; 150-155 °F for medium well). 

  13. Let it cool for 15-20 before slicing. 

If you love roasts, but just don’t love the idea of combining it with bacon, there are LOTS of other options for festive roast recipes. You’ll get the chance to try out a bunch of delicious recipes with the leftovers over the next few days too! 


What About The Ham?

Thank you Life Made Sweet for the recipe!

My son has decided that he wants to eat grilled ham for Thanksgiving. As you probably already know, ham is one of the go-to alternate dishes if you don’t want to have turkey for Thanksgiving. Lots of the recipes include pineapple, and one of my kids is allergic; so, we tend to be a bit selective. But, there are so many recipe options. There’s even a salty root-beer glazed ham

Here’s one quick ham recipe for my Instant Pot. My family loves it: 

Ingredients

  • Spiral-cut ham – 4lbs fits perfectly in my 6-Quart Instant Pot 

  • Butter (alternative: ghee) 

  • Golden monk fruit (alternative: coconut sugar or brown sugar if not paleo / keto) 

  • Dijon mustard 

  • Minced garlic

Directions

  1. Combine butter and sweetener in a pan or microwave safe bowl. 

  2. Add mustard and garlic.  

  3. Add water and insert the trivet.  

  4. Place the ham on the trivet, cut side down.  

  5. Use a brush to coat the ham with glaze.  

  6. Press “Manual” or “Pressure Cook.” 

  7. Set the timer for 9 minutes.  

  8. When the ham is cooked, the Instant Pot releases the pressure.  

  9. Open the top (carefully) and move the ham to the cutting board.  

  10. Slice ham and use glaze as preferred. 

There are so many ham recipes! But, then, that just goes to show how popular ham is for festive holiday meals. I also love how fast and easy it is to prepare in my Instant Pot.


What About The Duck? Or Goose?

Thank you Julia’s Album for the delicious recipe!

It could be a duck or goose or poussin (young chicken). There are so many options for poultry alternatives for Thanksgiving. Duck really is a popular option, and your family will love it. 

Ingredients

  • 6 lb whole duck 

  • Salt 

  • 5 Garlic cloves chopped 

  • 1 Lemon small or medium (chopped) 

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 

  • 1 lemon (about 4 Tablespoons – just the juice) 

  • 1/4 cup honey

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 °F.  

  2. Remove the giblets from inside the duck.  

  3. Rinse the duck with cold water. (Don’t forget to get inside too.) 

  4. Pat dry with paper towels. 

  5. Score the duck’s skin (diamond pattern). 

  6. Use a knife to poke the fatty areas (to ensure fat release).  

  7. Season the duck (inside too).  

  8. Position the duck with the breast side up.  

  9. Stuff the duck with the garlic cloves and lemon slices. 

  10. Use twine to tie the legs together.  

  11. Place the duck on a rack in a roasting pan (breast side up). 

  12. After one hour, flip the bird.  

  13. Roast for 40 minutes.  

  14. Remove the duck from the oven. 

  15. Pour off the duck grease into a (heat-safe) bowl.  

  16. Position the duck with the breast side up.  

  17. Combine the honey, vinegar, and lemon juice in a bowl.  

  18. Brush the mixture on the duck.  

  19. Cook for 40 minutes (take it out every 10 minutes to brush more of your vinegar and lemon mixture on the duck).  

  20. Remove the duck from the over. Cool for 15 minutes.  

  21. Remove the stuffing and discard.

Duck is a popular meal for Chinese New Year, because it promises a healthy, happy, and more prosperous year. With that kind of promise, it sure seems the perfect dish to usher in our most festive occasions all year long. 


What About The Meatless Options?

Thank you Cook Your Dream for this recipe!

If you’re looking for a vegan or vegetarian main (or side) dish for Thanksgiving, there are lots of options! In fact, one of the reasons that people say they don’t like turkey for Thanksgiving is because they don’t relish the thought of all those turkeys and how they come to be in the frozen food aisle at our local supermarket. So, if that’s you, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s just one recipe you can enjoy! Roasted Vegetable Galette

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 250g whole meal flour 

  • ¼ tsp salt 

  • 115 g chilled unsalted butter, diced 

  • ¼ cup crème fraiche 

  • 2 tsp lemon juice 

  • ¼ cup cold water 

  • 1 spring of fresh thyme, leaves chopped

Vegetable filling:

  • 5 small carrots (or 3 medium), peeled and diced 

  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced 

  • 350g butternut squash, peeled and diced 

  • 2 medium red onion, peeled and quartered 

  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves chopped 

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves chopped 

  • 3 tbsp olive oil 

  • 1 head of garlic, outer layers peeled 

  • salt and freshly ground pepper 

  • creamy goat cheese, crumbled

Directions

To make the crust:

  1. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl.  

  2. Add the butter.  

  3. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal.  

  4. Whisk together the crème fraiche, lemon juice and cold water in a small bowl.  

  5. Add the mixture to the flour mixture. 

  6. Blend the mixture with a fork.  

  7. Stir in chopped thyme. (Do not knead the dough.)  

  8. Form balls of dough.  

  9. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap. Flatten.  

  10. Refrigerate ~ one hour. 

  11. Preheat oven to 350 °F.  

  12. Put all the vegetables onto a tray.  

  13. Drizzle with olive oil. 

  14. Sprinkle with herbs. 

  15. Season with salt and pepper and toss until the veggies are evenly coated.  

  16. Cut off the top of the garlic head.  

  17. Drizzle olive oil on top. Wrap in foil.  

  18. Place the garlic on the roasting tray with the vegetables.  

  19. Roast the vegetables ~ 20-30 minutes, with infrequent turning.  

  20. Squeeze the garlic into a large bowl. Mash the garlic with a fork.  

  21. Add the roasted vegetables and half of the cheese. Toss gently.

To make the galette:

  1. Increase oven temperature to 400 °F.  

  2. Unwrap the dough. Press the dough to remove cracks.  

  3. Dust flour on parchment paper.  

  4. Roll out the dough into a 30cm circle, 0.5cm thick.  

  5. Transfer the dough on the parchment paper to a baking sheet.  

  6. Arrange the vegetables on the dough. Be sure to leave a 5cm border.  

  7. Scatter the remaining goat cheese. 

  8. Fold the edges over the veggies.  

  9. Bake for ~35-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  

  10. Cool for ~10 minutes before serving. 

This Roasted Vegetable Galette is such a wonderful way to celebrate being together as a family. You can also serve it as a side dish for those who still prefer their turkey dinner. 


What About Lasagna? Hey, Why Not?

Thanks to The Kitchn for this alternative thanksgiving dinner recipe!

I know that pasta is not usually on the menu for some of our most festive get-togethers, but it’s a popular dish in my family. And it’s also a great, wholesome meal for family festivities. If you’ve never included lasagna in your more festive holiday events, perhaps this year is the perfect time to start! 

Here’s a quick Vegetarian Thanksgiving Lasagna recipe: 

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray 

  • 1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds) 

  • 1 (10-ounce) package no-boil or oven-ready lasagna noodles 

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling) 

  • 1 cup crème fraîche 

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 

  • 1 teaspoon dried sage 

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning 

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

  • 1 ounce baby arugula (about 2 cups lightly packed) 

  • 1 pound grated Fontina cheese 

  • 12 whole fresh sage leaves 

  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

To make the filling:

  1. Preheat to 375°F.  

  2. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. 

  3. Peel the squash and slice it into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (crosswise).  

  4. Remove the seeds with a spoon.  

  5. Season with salt. 

  6. Place the squash rings on baking sheets.  

  7. Bake the squash until the rings are tender, about 20 minutes. 

  8. Combine and whisk the crème fraîche, egg, nutmeg, pumpkin purée, salt, and sage in a large bowl.

To build the lasagna:

  1. Spread a thin layer of the 1/4 cup of pumpkin sauce in the baking dish.  

  2. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles, a layer of squash, 1/2 cup of sauce, 1/2 of the arugula, and 1/3 of the Fontina.  

  3. Repeat layering with noodles, squash, 1/2 cup of sauce, the remaining arugula, and 1/3 of the Fontina.  

  4. Top with the remaining noodles, pumpkin sauce, and Fontina. 

  5. Top with the sage and Parmesan. 

  6. Bake until the cheese is golden-brown, noodles are tender, and the sauce is bubbly. It should be ~40 to 45 minutes. 

  7. Cool for ~ 15 minutes before serving.

Of course, that pumpkin sauce could be a deal-breaker. If you’re more of a traditionalist, check out the MANY other lasagna options. If you love the idea of lasagna, but can’t bear to see it on your Thanksgiving plate, don’t forget about all those LEFTOVERS. Yes, you can make Turkey Lasagna too! 


Not Into Stuffing? What About A Mac And Cheese Alternative?

Thank you Eat This, Not That for this recipe!

Not all stuffings are created equal. It’s true. I have had some stuffing that was almost edible. But, given the choice, I’d prefer to avoid stuffing. Fortunately, there are lots of other options. 

Here’s a Mac and Cheese Cups recipe that typically fits the bill.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

  • 8 oz veggie elbow macaroni

  • 3 Tbsp butter, divided

  • 2 Tbsp flour

  • 1 cup 2% milk

  • 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs

  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 12 paper muffin liners

  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. 

  2. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

  3. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

  4. Cook macaroni following the directions on the package.

  5. Drain the noodles and set them aside.

  6. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan, medium heat. 

  7. Add flour, pepper, and salt. 

  8. Cook 1-2 minutes as it thickens. 

  9. Whisk in milk. 

  10. Heat to boiling, stirring frequently. 

  11. Remove from heat. 

  12. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese. 

  13. Stir in cooked macaroni. 

  14. Divide mixture evenly among cups.

  15. Microwave 1 tablespoon butter ~30-45 seconds, until melted. 

  16. Stir in breadcrumbs and parsley. 

  17. Spoon the mixture on top of the macaroni mixture. 

  18. Gently press the mac and cheese into the muffin cups.  

  19. Sprinkle the remaining 1⁄4 cup cheese.

  20. Bake ~18-22 minutes, until golden brown. 

  21. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

It’s tough to really go wrong when it’s anything to do with mac and cheese. It’s the perfect comfort food. Plus, you can add bacon bits on top to give it that extra.


What About Applesauce Instead of Cranberry Sauce?

Thanks Pioneer Woman for this recipe!

When you talk about hating Thanksgiving food, are you really talking about the cranberries? Some 50% of Americans say it’s disgusting. So, canned cranberries are NOT on the top of any of our favorite foods list any time of the year, I’m guessing. (Part of that could be the nasty side effects that nobody really talks about.) 

But, hey, if you hate it. You hate it. So, why not try some alternatives? Chutney is a popular choice. So is bacon jam. But, we prefer homemade applesauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider or juice

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 6 pounds honeycrisp apples

  • 1 lemon

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/2 cup of water

  • Optional: allspice, maple syrup, nutmeg

Directions

  1. Peel and core the apples. 

  2. Melt the butter on low heat.

  3. Add the remainder of the ingredients over medium heat ~25 minutes. 

  4. Mash the soft apples with a potato masher or fork. 

  5. Puree in a blender or food processor if preferred.

You can also make homemade applesauce in your Instant Pot.


What About Jalapeño Peppers Instead of Green Bean Casserole?

Thank you Eat This, Not That for another delicious recipe!

Not EVERYONE hates green bean casserole, but it’s not usually a favorite for your Thanksgiving meal. It’s been called a “jiffy” casserole, because it’s inexpensive and simple to make. If you want to look at the stats, though, green bean casserole is the second most HATED Thanksgiving food. Quite an honor, I’d say. Yikes. 

Give me a good ole garden salad, mixed veggies, grilled corn on the cob, or roasted veggies. Or, there’s always stuffed jalapeño peppers to leave a truly memorable impression. (Of course, here in New Mexico, I substitute Hatch green chiles.)

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2  cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

  • 1⁄2  cup whipped cream cheese

  • 1 cup cremini or button mushrooms, diced

  • 1⁄2  onion, minced

  • 12 jalapeño peppers

  • Salt and black pepper to taste

  • Optional: bacon or fresh Mexican-style chorizo

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 °F.

  2. Cook the chorizo or bacon in a skillet, medium heat.

  3. Remove from the meat. 

  4. Drain off all but a thin layer of fat. 

  5. Add the mushrooms and onion to the pan.

  6. Cook ~3 minutes. The onion should be translucent. The mushrooms should be lightly browned.

  7. Stir back in the chorizo or bacon.

  8. Combine the chorizo or bacon mixture, with cheese, and cream cheese, along with salt and pepper.

  9. Cut the jalapeños in half, vertically. (Scrape out the seeds and white membranes.)

  10. Stuff each pepper with the cheese mixture.

  11. Place the peppers on a baking sheet. 

  12. Bake for ~15 minutes. The peppers should and the cheese should brown and bubble.

These Jalapeño Peppers are fast and easy to make. If you want something a bit tamer, you can also make it bell Peppers instead of jalapeños (or green chiles). And, there’s also  Cheddar Jalapeño Corn Muffins!


What About A Pumpkin Pie Alternative?

Thanks to The Blond Cook for this recipe!

Just because everyone else says that you need to include pumpkin pie as a dessert doesn’t mean you have to. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to them. Instead, explore options you and your family will love. You might go with something like Better Than Anything Cake, or Caramel Apple Trifles. One of my favorites is Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie.

Here’s the Apple Pie Bites recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 small honeycrisp apple, cored and sliced into 8 slices

  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 1¼ teaspoon apple pie spice

  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans

  • 1 (8 ounce) tube Pillsbury Original crescent rolls

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. 

  2. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet

  3. Combine apple pie spice and brown sugar. Set aside.

  4. Melt butter.

  5. Coat/toss apple slices in butter, set aside.

  6. Arrange crescent roll triangles on baking sheet. 

  7. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture onto each triangle (evenly).

  8. Sprinkle the chopped pecans onto each triangle.

  9. Place an apple slice on the wide end of each triangle. 

  10. Wrap the dough around each apple.

  11. Brush the butter onto each roll. 

  12. Sprinkle apple pie spice on top.

  13. Bake for ~10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. 

  14. Cool for 5 minutes.

With so many delectable dessert options to choose from, you don’t have to settle for just one. Try a BUNCH. I’d love to hear which one(s) are really wonderful!


What If You Just Hate The High Calories? Or Have Dietary Requirements?

The reason for your Thanksgiving angst may have nothing to do with the foods themselves though. It could be that you just hate the idea of stuffing all that food into your mouth. Or the foods just don’t jive with your dietary needs and requirements.

Here are a few quick tips to help make those Thanksgiving recipes a bit healthier:

  • Nix The Skin: Turkey is relatively low-calorie without the skin. 

  • Avoid The Drippings: Gravy is healthier if you avoid the drippings.  

  • Rethink The Stuffing: Alternative favs include sticky rice, quinoa, or even a cornbread stuffing.  

  • Shave Off The Butter: Consider skim milk, broth, or even sour cream to give the potatoes more flavor.  

There are lots of ways to substitute foods and still make Thanksgiving taste great!

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What are your favorite Thanksgiving alternatives? We’d love to hear how you avoid your most hated Thanksgiving foods. 


Looking For More Alternative Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas? Read These:

Bored With Your Usual Spinach Recipes? Here’s How To Jazz Up This Healthy Green

These Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes Will Literally Make Your Mouth Water

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