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9 Best Turkey Alternatives to Serve for Thanksgiving

Turkey doesn't actually need to grace your Thanksgiving table. There are other meats and plant-based alternatives worth your attention.

There's no shortage of discourse around turkey and whether it's worth the hassle, even for Thanksgiving. Whole turkeys are famously hard to cook, mostly due to their size and abundance of lean white meat. They take several hours to roast and can still end up with both dried-out and undercooked parts. And the biggest ones engulf your entire freezer or refrigerator. 

In short, there's a reason most people don't cook whole turkeys the rest of the year. 

Nowhere is it written that turkey must be the star of your Thanksgiving dinner, though. There are several turkey stand-ins that can keep guests just as happy and well-fed. 

The best turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving 

If you've decided to forgo the turkey amid this year's shortage, your options are truly endless. Other popular poultry candidates include rich and fatty duck or roasted chicken, both of which will stand in seamlessly and pair perfectly with traditional Thanksgiving sides. There are also cuts of beef to consider such as prime rib, beef tenderloin, brisket or pot roast. If beef isn't your jam, a leg of lamb will also serve as an unexpected substitute for turkey. 

And then there's the option of ditching the meat altogether and serving up one of the many excellent plant-based turkey substitutes or entrees. I know what you're thinking, but vegan "meats" have come a long way since you choked down that Tofurky at your hippie aunt's meal in the '90s. 

If it is a turkey you're after, the sooner your order it the better. We've rounded up the best places to buy turkey online ahead of Thanksgiving. Otherwise, these are the best meats to serve for Thanksgiving that aren't turkey.

Best turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving

Rastelli's

Some slices of rare prime rib with mashed potatoes and stuffing. Now we're talking. This 4- to 4.5-pound prime beef roast is wet-aged and hand-trimmed with lots of marbling for a tasty finish. 

D'Artagnan

Roast duck is a natural alternative to turkey when they're hard to come by. D'Artagnan is one of our favorite online butchers and sells rich and fatty Pekin ducks starting at $37. 

Porter Road

Brisket takes a little longer to cook but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze. Find a good recipe and execute it well and you'll be pulling the meat apart with a fork. We love Porter Road's cuts and the online butcher has a 5- to 6-pound brisket flat with great marbling for $63 or nab the whole 9-pound brisket for $115.

Goldbelly

OK, admittedly so this turkey substitute still has turkey but it's also stuffed with a duck and a chicken. I tried one last year and I'm finding it hard to serve anything else this year. The duck keeps the turkey incredibly moist as it cooks and the Cajun stuffing has just enough kick. See how my turducken experience went in this full write-up

Goldbelly has a range of preassembled turducken options available, and you can schedule the delivery for the week of Thanksgiving. 

Cooks Venture

If you're going to keep it simple with roast chicken in place of turkey for Thanksgiving, be sure get yourself a good bird (or two). Cook's Venture raises heritage birds that are bred for taste and not just size the way factory farms do it. Snag a bundle of chickens and roast a few for the big day. 

D'Artagnan

Lamb is gamier than beef and poultry but when cooked properly is darn delicious. This 6-pound Australian leg of lamb should be plenty to feed a group of at least eight people. Just don't forget the mint jelly.

Best plant-based turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving

Purple Carrot

There are plenty of delicious vegan Thanksgiving foods and Purple Carrot, our favorite plant-based meal kit service, is offering a Thanksgiving Box. The fully stocked meal kit costs $75 and is good for four "generous" servings.

The menu includes:

  • Cashew cheese stuffed sweet potatoes with pecan parsley salsa
  • Rustic ciabatta stuffing with root vegetables and herb sausage
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts with oyster mushrooms and garlic kimchi butter
  • Pear cranberry crisp with walnut crumble 
  • Classic gravy and cranberry sauce
Field Roast

Field Roast makes some of the best vegan meat alternatives including sausages and frankfurters. The plant-based brand has a holiday roast fit for your Thanksgiving table complete with stuffing and mushroom gravy. The meatless entree is available online or in select stores and serves about six to eight people. There's also a garlic and sage version of the plant-based holiday roast.

No Evil Foods

We tested this plant-based holiday roast in 2020 and it got a rave review. This vegan roast might be a little trickier to find online but use the brand's store locator to find one near you.

More meaty recommendations for the holidays