35 Thanksgiving Mains That’ll Make You Forget All About Turkey

updated Oct 24, 2023
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

It’s often assumed that turkey will be sitting front and center as the main course on Thanksgiving. Sure, it’s traditional, and the homemade turkey stock that follows cannot be beat, but it’s just one of so many great holiday options.

If you’re forgoing the large celebration in favor of something smaller this year, a big turkey might be far too much food. Or maybe it feels like more work than you can muster, or you’re ready for a new tradition.

Ready to skip the turkey? From glazed ham to braised short ribs to hearty vegetarian pot pie, here are 20 alternatives to Thanksgiving turkey that make for a totally special holiday dinner.

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Mustard and Wine-Braised Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Shallots
Thanks to ample hands-off cook time and a totally luxurious result, this braised chicken is the ultimate dinner party main.
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Balsamic Roasted Chicken Thighs with Acorn Squash and Sage
This easy sheet pan dinner is full of fall flavors, thanks to thick wedges of acorn squash, crispy sage leaves, and a honey-mustard balsamic glaze.
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Roast Chicken
Absolutely anyone can roast a chicken, and it’s arguably more delicious than the classic Thanksgiving bird.
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Cranberry Chicken

Cranberry chicken is a festive holiday dish that you can absolutely make again all year round.

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Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkin
Whether you're vegetarian or not, this stuffed pumpkin is guaranteed to be the star of the table. The center bakes up like a bread pudding; it's mixed with cornbread, mushroom, greens, and herbs, and topped off with a layer of melted Gruyère.
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Slow Cooker Honey-Glazed Ham
If you're game to change up the traditional turkey, but still want to bring a big cut of meat to the table, look no further than a honey-glazed ham. This meaty main is made in the slow cooker and is great for feeding a crowd.
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Juicy & Tender Roasted Pork Loin
When you don’t want deja vu turkey for another holiday dinner, hit the reset button with an easy-yet-stunning juicy roast pork loin. You won’t believe how succulent and savory a slice of roasted pork can be with just a simple garlic paste and sprinkle of pepper.
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Slow Cooker Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
Few things can compare to a luxurious dinner of fall-off-the-bone short ribs swimming in a savory broth, made deeper and richer thanks to several glugs of Cabernet. After steadily simmering all day long, these short ribs are as tender and flavorful as can be.
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Mushroom Wellington
This vegetarian version of the classic beef Wellington will please everyone at the table, thanks to three kinds of earthy mushrooms and plenty of savory herbs.
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Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
This recipe comes together quickly and easily, yet the vinegar-spiked honey glaze leaves it feeling refined and elegant — like you put in a whole lot of effort into the whole affair.
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One-Pan Chicken & Potatoes
Make this cozy skillet dinner with crispy-skinned chicken thighs, creamy potatoes, and tangy feta.
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Vegetarian Thanksgiving Lasagna
With a double dose of roasted squash (butternut and pumpkin), fall-friendly aromatics like sage and nutmeg, and a luxurious crème fraîche sauce, this veggie-friendly layered pasta dish is definitely worthy of a place on your Thanksgiving table.
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Ina Garten's Chicken Marbella
Ina has a way with chicken, and this recipe, peppered with savory, sweet, and briny flavors, from her newest cookbook, has holiday dinner written all over it.
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Mayo Roast Chicken
During roasting, the mayonnaise plays a dual role by helping keep the meat tender and rendering the skin crisp.
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Vegetarian Skillet Pot Pie
An easy meatless pot pie filled with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and kale that's prepared and baked in a skillet.
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Flank Steak with Bourbon Cream Sauce
A simple, quick-cooking sauce, swirled with bourbon, a splash of stock, and some cream, instantly makes flank steak a holiday-worthy meal.
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Roast Leg of Lamb
Roast leg of lamb is a springtime classic, but that's no reason to leave it off the table for Thanksgiving. If you're after a meaty main and want to go beyond the bird, this is an easy cut to cook and makes for a wonderful holiday feast.
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Air Fryer Cornish Hen
A perfect Thanksgiving substitute for turkey for one or two.
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Garlic Butter Lamb Chops
If lamb chops aren't something you make very often, now's the perfect time. In this easy-to-make recipe the lamb chops are seared until golden and seasoned with an indulgent garlicky butter sauce.
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Sheet Pan Pork Loin with Herb Potatoes and Vegetables
A simple compound butter gives this one-pan dinner an elegant twist, making it a perfect fit for the holiday table.
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Vegan Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Shepherd's Pie
A plant-based alternative to a classic dish, this vegan version of shepherd’s pie boasts of a delicious filling of sweet potato, butternut squash, and "meat" crumbles.
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French Onion Stuffed Shells

These beautiful stuffed shells feature a caramelized onion ricotta filling, a Gruyère cheese sauce, and a cheesy breadcrumb topping.

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Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
This culinary arts-and-craft project is just as tasty as it is fun to make.
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Cioppino (Seafood Stew)
A seafood stew of briny abundance, Cioppino is a large bowl filled with a wide assortment of seafood swimming in hot broth, ideally shared among a crowd of people who love seafood.
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Baked Risotto with White Beans, Herbs, and Lemon
While most risottos are weighed down with cheese, this plant-based one is fresh and vibrant, with a crunchy panko topping.
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Rosemary Braised Lamb Shanks with Creamy Polenta
These braised lamb shanks are super tender and swimming in a rosemary-scented red wine sauce.
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Bourbon-Glazed Ham
Brushed with bourbon, brown sugar, and orange, then roasted until juicy and crispy, this ham is the centerpiece you want on your table while entertaining at the holidays or anytime that you want to serve a crowd.
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Slow Cooker Roast Beef
It's special enough to serve as a main during the holidays or a date night at home, yet totally doable for a mid-week family dinner.
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Lobster Risotto
A classic stovetop method for a creamy, rich, and decadent lobster risotto.
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Cornish Hen

Here's how to buy, prepare, roast, and serve Cornish hens at home — perfect for small holiday gatherings.

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Pomegranate Molasses-Roasted Skillet Chicken
Thick, tart pomegranate molasses makes an excellent foil for succulent chicken legs and crispy potatoes in this oven-roasted skillet dinner.
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32 / 35
Beef Wellington
A showstopper entrée of tender beef wrapped in mushroom paste and crispy, buttery puff pastry.
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Apple Cider-Glazed Chicken Thighs
Apple cider gives chicken thighs a caramel-spiced sheen in this one-skillet dinner you won't want to miss.
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Instant Pot Short Ribs
Fall-off-the-bone short ribs in less than two hours from start to finish, thanks to the Instant Pot.
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35 / 35
10-Shallot Braised Chicken Thighs

Generous amount of shallots, white wine, and bacon are paired with chicken thighs to create rich flavor with some slight sweetness.

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