fb-pixel Skip to main content

5 alternatives to turkey for your Thanksgiving table

Glazed ham is an easy, tasty, protein-packed alternative to turkey.Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe

The topic has been hotly debated: Is turkey overrated?

However you answer, we thought it’d be useful to offer readers alternative dishes for their Thanksgiving tables.

Here are five festive mains you can serve instead of the traditional turkey, or right alongside it.

Honey-Dijon glazed ham

In his anti-turkey argument, Christopher Muther says “just serve ham already.” If you take his advice, consider dressing it up with either a honey-Dijon glaze or a brown sugar bourbon crust. Either option will give it a subtle boost of flavor and a texture guests will surely appreciate. And there’s plenty for hosts to appreciate, too: ham takes a few hours to prepare — a welcome alternative to the multi-day process of prepping an entire turkey.


Glazed ham makes for a simple, flavorful turkey alternative.Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe

Beef tenderloin

Meltingly tender slices of beef, anyone? This popular protein often pops up around the holidays, and is a wise choice when you have a crowd to feed. Salt and pepper often suffice as seasonings, but adding herbs and a little garlic can really elevate the dish, and a tangy, tart horseradish make for a great accompaniment, as we learned in this recipe from the Globe archives. This meal is relatively easy to pull off, just make sure you have a reliable meat thermometer.

Beef tenderloin with herb potatoes and horseradish sauce.Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe

Peking or roasted duck

You know what else makes a fine holiday centerpiece? Duck. And there are plenty of ways to prepare it. This roast duck recipe includes the whole bird, but fear not: Duck doesn’t usually take nearly as long to cook as turkey does. Whip together a plum puree made with oranges, plum preserves, soy sauce, and rice wine to give the dish a sweet and salty kick.

And for good measure, we’re including this Peking duck recipe from allrecipes.com. This dish originated from Beijing and the emphasis is on the thin, crisp skin rather than the meat. We wouldn’t call this one easy (Peking duck is notoriously difficult to cook), but we’re throwing it out there for the pros in the kitchen looking for a challenge.


Roasted duck.Arturo Olmos/Photographer: Arturo Olmos/Bloom

Salmon with chimichurri sauce

One of the best things about salmon is it’s easy to cook. This recipe calls for about 3 pounds of the nutritious fish, which serves six, generously. Here, the salmon is roasted and served with a bright green chimichurri sauce — an Argentinean herb condiment made with chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, and oregano, that typically goes with grilled meats. If it’s a year where you’re looking for style and ease, this dish fits the bill.

Roast Salmon with Chimichurri.Sheryl Julian

Stuffed acorn squash with wild rice, farro, and cranberries

If you’re hosting a meatless Thanksgiving or have a vegetarian at your table, we think this stuffed acorn squash recipe will go over well. Packed with flavor and mounded with wild rice, farro, cranberries, and pecans, these artfully arranged squash halves taste just as good as they look. And for hosts hoping to get a few things done early, this dish can be made one day ahead and reheated for the main course.

Stuffed acorn squash with wild rice, farro, and cranberries.Sally Pasley Vargas

Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.