How to Do Thanksgiving Without the Turkey 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Family Enjoying Dinner Above View
Traditionally, a beautifully-cooked turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving dinner table. But each year, a lot of people opt to skip the big bird and serve something more flavorful – or just more fun – when their family and friends gather for the holiday. This switch could be spurred by a desire to go meatless, create a new family tradition, or just not wanting to feel tied to an oven for hours, basting and checking for the pop-up timer or thermometer to signal dinner is ready. Whatever your reason, here are some ways to do Thanksgiving without the turkey.
An estimated 85% of Americans are expected to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, making it one of the most popular holidays in this country. While some people will stick to smaller gatherings, others find this is the perfect holiday to get together with larger groups of relatives, friends and neighbors. This means it is a great time to try a holiday meal that feels a little more festive and relaxed. 
Set up a taco bar. It’s hard to find people who don’t like delicious tacos. This versatile idea lets you select from beef, bean, chicken or pork fillings and lets people customize their own tacos with a big variety of toppings. Here are some things you might want to stock up on:
  • Offer shredded lettuce, but also thinly sliced raw red or green cabbage for extra crunch.
  • Black, green and kalamata olives all add flavor.
  • Shredded cheese is a must, but also offer crumbly, tangy feta.
  • A melted queso dip can be used for an appetizer, but make extra to spoon onto tacos.
  • Make a spot for chunky red and green salsas, smooth picante sauce and bottles of hot sauce.
  • Refried beans are great, but so are whole, cooked pinto beans simmered in a little Tex-Mex seasoning.
A side dish potluck buffet. So many yummy Thanksgiving memories are tied to the side dishes, not the actual turkey. Whether you love your aunt’s fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy, or your cousin’s macaroni and cheese casserole, pay homage to these stars and more by asking each guest to bring their favorite side dish to share. You’ll be so busy sampling all these great dishes that no one will miss the bird. If you have a large number of people gathering, this buffet menu might take a little coordination. You don’t want to end up with four people bringing their grandmother’s famous stuffing and no vegetables to pass.
A charcuterie spread. Replacing the turkey with a big, savory charcuterie board means no one will be squabbling over who gets a leg – they’ll all be enjoying plates loaded with gourmet goodies. Charcuterie arrangements – typically meats, cheeses and crackers – have become a common sight at parties, tailgates and as appetizers. But you can push those boundaries and go all out for a holiday feast. Add a few side dishes and desserts, and watch your guests graze until it’s all gone. Here are some things you may want to include:
  • Thin-sliced rare roast beef
  • Salami
  • Prosciutto
  • Smoked fish
  • Assorted hard cheeses, sliced or in wedges
  • A soft cheese, like a brie or chevre
  • Big crumbles of blue cheese, chunks of parmesan
Accompanied by
  • Slices of crusty bread
  • Crackers
  • Whole almonds, walnuts or cashews
  • Olives
  • Small pickles or cornichons
  • Dried apricots or cranberries
  • Sliced fresh apples or pears
  • A dish of whole-grain mustard
  • Honey
Photo credit: Getty Images

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