Beyond Turkey: Our Very Best Thanksgiving Main Dishes
Not every single Thanksgiving dinner features a massive roasted turkey—after all, a roasted bird may be off the menu for guests with dietary restrictions, or you may simply be too pressed for time to prepare a heritage turkey in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Some may be hosting for the first year ever, and the thought of roasting a turkey may seem too challenging. After all, even the most advanced home cooks will admit they have had trouble pulling off a Thanksgiving turkey if they're unexpectedly missing certain ingredients or supplies. Whatever the reason, if you've realized that a Thanksgiving turkey isn't possible for you this year, don't fret! There are plenty of other showstopping entrées that you can make in half the time and that guests will love just as much as the traditional feast.
Thinking outside of the box for Thanksgiving is rather easy when you realize how many fantastic options are at your fingertips. Treat your guests to a stellar menu that'll please everyone at the table by focusing on an entrée that incorporates fresh beef, pork, or even another form of poultry; roasted chicken won't feel like it's out of place for those who simply adore turkey. You don't need nearly as many seasonings or extra brine to keep a roasted chicken as moist as it should be; our ultimate roasted chicken can be brined for as little as 12 hours before Thanksgiving. And two kitchen staples—onions and lemons—can elevate the tender flavor profile of chicken breasts, wings, and thighs.
And who said fish is off the menu? Pescatarians and non-meat lovers alike will be thrilled to sit down to a whole roasted salmon or one of our more flavorful pasta dishes created specifically to please even the pickiest dinner crowds. These 20 entrée ideas will help Thanksgiving feel much more like a celebration of delicious seasonal eats rather than an ode to plain roasted turkey.
Slow-Roasted Pork with Kumquats
This delicious meal is tender and crispy at the same time. A bit of forewarning: It might have only 30 minutes of prep time, but this slow-roasted pork takes 19 hours from start to finish.
Cranberry-Stuffed Cornish Game Hens
These individual-serving-size Cornish game hens are paired with a flavorful rye bread stuffing seasoned with fresh herbs and dried cranberries. A hen on each plate drizzled with a luscious Port-wine pan sauce makes an impressive presentation for Thanksgiving dinner.
Jumbo pasta shells are filled with a mixture of mozzarella, ricotta, and prosciutto. This crowd-pleasing dish can be made ahead and frozen, saving you time during the busy days leading up to Thanksgiving.
Sage- and Garlic-Crusted Pork Tenderloin
A mixture of chopped garlic, fresh sage, and olive oil makes a quick, flavorful rub for pork tenderloin. In sharp contrast to the hours-long roasting time of the typical Thanksgiving turkey, this juicy roast pork is ready in just 40 minutes.
Perfect Roast Chicken
Classic roast chicken has universal appeal any time of year, and will be right at home on the Thanksgiving menu. The cavity of this plump six-pound roasting chicken is stuffed with a lemon, garlic cloves, and fresh thyme, creating an aroma that will permeate the meat as it roasts.
Classic Cheese Lasagna
Whether you have vegetarian guests coming to Thanksgiving dinner or your family simply loves lasagna, this version, made with fresh lasagna sheets and stuffed with ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses, will be a knockout. As an added bonus, it can be made a month in advance and stored in the freezer, tightly wrapped.
Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy
Rosemary-seasoned carrots and shallots roast alongside a juicy pork loin for an easy Thanksgiving main dish that's ready in just one hour. A simple white-wine-and-mustard pan gravy accompanies the roast to the table.
Prime Rib and Oven-Roasted Potatoes with Bay Leaves and Sage
Dried bay leaves, fresh sage, and orange zest give this roast prime rib amazing aroma and earthy flavor. Rub the herb mixture over the roast the day before Thanksgiving and refrigerate overnight so the flavor permeates the meat. For best results, buy a new container of bay leaves for this recipe so their fragrance is at its height.
Roast Pork Loin with Pancetta and Sage
The perfect pairing of pancetta and sage brings big flavor to this roast pork loin. Tying the sage leaves and pancetta slices onto the roast with butcher's twine ensures they remain intact for a presentation that will impress Thanksgiving guests.
Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney
Try duck for a sophisticated Thanksgiving alternative to turkey. These duck breasts are glazed with a crimson cherry syrup and roasted to medium-rare, then served with a chutney of cherries, golden raisins, and tarragon. This recipe uses canned Bing cherries rather than fresh.
Pork Roast with Lady Apples and Seckel Pears
Roasting apples and pears alongside this herb-rubbed pork roast results in a sweet, seasonal side dish. To complete the Thanksgiving meal, the pork is served with a white-wine-and-apple-cider gravy made from the pan juices.
Roasted Chicken with Chestnuts
Sauteed chestnuts and shallots roast inside two small chickens, creating a flavorful Thanksgiving main course. Roasting the chickens breast-down for the first 20 minutes and then turning them over ensures moist, evenly cooked meat.
Fresh lasagna noodles are layered with sage-flecked butternut squash and creamy ricotta in a Thanksgiving main dish that will delight vegetarian guests. This dish freezes well, so you can get a head start on preparing the holiday feast.
Cornish Hens with Pomegranate-Molasses Glaze
Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Pears
Caramelized pears and fresh thyme give this pork tenderloin a fragrant allure. With only five ingredients, this easy, budget-friendly Thanksgiving main course will keep your stress level low.
Roasted Duck Breasts with Wild Mushroom Stuffing and Red Wine Sauce
Duck breasts are sandwiched together with a celery-root-and-wild-mushroom stuffing, pan-seared, and then roasted until the meat is medium-rare and the skin is crisp. The stuffed duck breasts are sliced before serving and drizzled with a simple yet elegant red-wine sauce. Just as with Thanksgiving turkey, any remaining stuffing can be baked separately.
Madeira-glazed mushrooms and garlic-sauteed spinach add layers of flavor to this meatless lasagna. Serve in place of Thanksgiving turkey or as a vegetarian alternative.
Roast Beef with Caramelized Shallots
This recipe for rib-eye roast of beef makes enough for a Thanksgiving gathering of family and friends. The meat is served with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar-glazed shallots and a red wine pan sauce.
Whole Roasted Salmon with Orange Butter Glaze
A whole salmon is stuffed with cilantro, orange, and onion to create a flavorful main course. Roasting a whole fish is easier than it looks, and this recipe is an impressive alternative to Thanksgiving turkey.
Pork with Persimmons and Mustard Greens
A Thanksgiving entrée that’s completed in an hour is a rare find. This tasty option is perfect if you’re trying to minimize time in the kitchen.