Alternative Thanksgiving Main Dishes

Pepper and Herb Crusted Sirloin Strip Roast

The Spruce / Qi Ai

Turkey may take center stage on the traditional Thanksgiving table, but there are plenty of other options to serve as your main dish instead of, or in addition to, the traditional oven-roasted gobbler. If a turkey isn't your family's favorite or you just like a bigger spread with options for everyone, you're sure to find a festive recipe in our collection that will satisfy. Our recipes are organized by type of meat.

Prep ahead when you can and write down the oven requirements for each dish so you can cook two dishes at the same time or carefully schedule a day-long oven process to have everything ready for the big meal.

  • 01 of 05


    Iron skillet roast chicken

    The Spruce

    Chicken is cheap, healthy and easy on the palates of adults and kids alike. These two chicken recipes are wonderful for a Thanksgiving meal and need less cooking time than the traditional turkey:

    • Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken: This bird is a good option for a smaller family, but you can double or triple the amounts for a bigger spread. Lemon, parsley, rosemary, and thyme perfume the meat, and a butter-based basting mixture coats the chicken to give it an extra crispy golden skin. Bake for roughly 20 minutes per pound of chicken, or approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes for a 5-pound chicken.
    • Iron Skillet Roast Chicken: If you're pressed for time or have a last-minute guest who doesn't like turkey, this quick recipe will save the day. It's ready in under 1 hour and you can cut the cooking time by an extra 15 minutes if you butterfly the chicken. While you heat up a cast-iron skillet in the oven, cover your chicken inside and out with a delicious blend of spices and bake.
  • 02 of 05


    honey ham hero shot

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    Ham usually makes an appearance during Christmas celebrations, but this type of meat is so easy to make and takes on so many wonderful flavors that you should definitely welcome it onto your Thanksgiving table following one of our recommended preparations:

    • Honey Butter Ham: This is a delicious and simple way to turn a plain cooked ham into something special. Make sure that the ham you buy is labeled "fully cooked". You can add more ingredients to this simple glaze if you'd like. Some sautéed onions or crushed garlic would be good or use herbs such as thyme or marjoram in place of the whole cloves. 
    • Glazed Spiral Ham: Our recipe for the glaze perfectly complements the salty-sweet flavor of the ham. Taste is important but so often, foods like spiral, pre-sliced hams so easily get dried out when you reheat them. This method, however, will keep your ham succulent and moist.
    • Jack Daniel's Glazed Baked Ham: If you need a recipe to free your time to do other things, this ham is a breeze to make. Bake a 4-to-6 pound smoked ham for 20 minutes per pound, and after 1 hour and 40 minutes make the glaze with Jack Daniel's spices and sugar. Coat the ham and bake until ready for a wonderfully flavored meat, so tender and juicy that you'll keep making it year after year.
    • Baked Ham with Sugar-Mustard Glaze: This sweet-and-savory glaze coats a smoked ham, providing a chewy and flavorful outside to a remarkably juicy smoked ham. Use sugar, mustard, cinnamon, and vinegar to make a glaze that you'll use during the final moments in the oven. Bake 20 minutes per pound of ham and have this beauty at your table in approximately 4 hours.
    • Sweet Bourbon-Mustard Glazed Baked Ham: For this ham, you'll make a sauce with bourbon, mustard, honey, and spices to coat the ham. The sweetness of the basting sauce pairs well with the smokiness of the meat and creates a great combination of flavors that's enjoyable served hot or cold. Bake your ham, baste it regularly, and use the drippings to serve as a side sauce.
    • Ham with Beer Glaze: Choose the beer of your liking and pour it over a large ham before baking it 20 minutes per pound. Make a mustard, vinegar, and sugar glaze with additional beer and give the ham fantastic flavor and texture. Use the pan drippings to make a sauce by blending them and straining them before serving in a saucer.
  • 03 of 05


    brown sugar pork loin, slow cooker
    The Spruce

    Pork is a wonderful alternative for the centerpiece of your holiday meal. Both leaner and fattier cuts make the most delicious dishes that can also be remarkably beautiful to present. Our suggested pork mains cover from roasts to pork loin to ribs:

    • Stuffed Crown Roast of Pork: Impressive and tasty, this roast is quite easy to prepare. Before you start, make sure your supermarket or butcher can provide this cut, or order it in advance. Make a flavorful stuffing with apples, celery, onions, cranberries and spices, and stuff the crown before baking it for an average of 3 hours (2.5 to 3.5 depending on size). If you have the time, buy paper frills to decorate the tips for an even more beautiful presentation.
    • Pork Rib Roast with Vegetables: With this quick and easy dish, you get two-for-one – a main course with vegetables – in less than 90 minutes. A variety of fall vegetables make a bed where the meat is going to roast. Sautée the veggies, rub the spices on the pork, and place the meat on top. Bake for approximately 1 hour.
    • Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin: Our decadent bacon-wrapped loin is so flavorful and filling that you don't need a lot to feel satisfied. Rub a pork loin with a mixture of dry spices and cover it in bacon strips. Roast for 2 hours before adding a mustard-and-sugar glaze. Use the sweet drippings for a side sauce or the pre-glaze drippings to make a savory gravy. Depending on the size of this loin, it's ready in 1 to 2 hours.
    • Slow Cooker Pork Loin: For a busy kitchen, use alternative cooking methods like your crockpot. This loin cooks in 9 hours and is so simple and delicious that you'll keep making it for non-holiday dinner parties. Simply season and coat your loin in sugar and mustard, cook for 9 hours on low, drain the juices, and add a mixture of sugar and cinnamon on top before cooking for an extra hour. This delicious loin requires very little attention and is a great main for any celebratory meal.
    • Mustard Pork Roast: For this roast, you just need to rub the meat with a mixture of mustard and spices and bake it for approximately 2.5 hours. The aromatic herbs and the tanginess of the mustard make a savory coating that chars in the oven giving the pork a beautiful color.
  • 04 of 05


    Pepper and Herb Crusted Sirloin Strip Roast

    The Spruce / Qi Ai

    Beef might seem an unorthodox Thanksgiving main but don't discount it just yet. Beef cuts are delicious and varied, some cook in no-time, and they can be served in an elegant and beautiful way to be carved or cut at the table:

    • Herb Crusted Sirloin Strip: This juicy sirloin strip is covered in an herby, aromatic blend and ready in the oven in approximately 2 hours. This cut is beautiful when served whole and can be easily sliced at the table.
    • Round Roast with Pepper and Garlic: Round roast is a budget-friendly cut of meat, but also requires a sound cooking method to transform a potentially tough and chewy cut into a tender and juicy meat. Our unconventional cooking method will blow your mind and make this a go-to dish for when you don't have the time to stand in front of the stove: make a mixture of spices and oil and coat your roast, bake at 500 F for 6 minutes per pound, then turn off the oven and do not open the oven door for the next 2.5 hours. The meat will cook slowly and will turn into a beautiful and flavorful cut.
    • Roast Beef Tenderloin: Our recipe for roast beef is quick and easy – prep and serve this dish in 1 hour. Season and rub the tenderloin with spices and place in the oven until your preferred doneness. A flavorful and silky sauce of Pinot Noir and beef broth accompanies the beef.
    • Herb and Spice Beef Tenderloin: Rosemary, thyme, garlic, tarragon, nutmeg, and allspice are the base of the mixture that covers this tenderloin while it roasts in the oven. Simple and flavorful, it just needs to be seasoned and placed in the oven until your preferred doneness, approximately 1 hour.
    • Rib Eye Roast: This thick and fatty cut is so flavorful by itself that you barely have to add anything else to make it a stellar main dish. Season and rub with spices and roast for an average of 2 hours. The simplest ingredients make a wonderful dish whenever you have a prime cut of beef.
    • Prime Rib with Red Wine: Prime rib is an expensive and flavorful cut of meat. You need to order it at your butcher shop because they might not carry it on a daily basis. Our recipe uses simple ingredients to make a red wine sauce that enhances the already fantastic flavor of this cut of beef. Marinate for up to 4 hours and cook in the oven for 2 for an 8-pound cut.
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05


    Lamb with red wine sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Lamb makes a beautiful presentation and a delicious alternative to turkey when it comes to the holidays. Lamb also makes great leftovers in salads and sandwiches, so you won't miss the day-after treats that you're used to having when eating whole birds:

    Herb and Garlic Leg of Lamb: A lamb leg is always a festive and impressive cut of meat to serve at holiday dinners. Our recipe is flavorful and easy to make: it requires little preparation but an extended time in the oven. An average of 30 minutes per pound of lamb is required for a safe-to-eat doneness. For a 5-pound leg, you'll need 2 hours in the oven. Simply rub herbs and spices on the leg and insert slivers of garlic in the meat before bringing the roasting pan to the oven.

    Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Sauce: Racks of lamb always make festive main dishes. For our recipe, you need 2, which you have to sear and get into the oven for about 30 minutes. A sauce of red wine, fresh herbs, shallots, butter, and beef broth is the perfect companion for this juicy and tender cut.