Thanksgiving Dinner: Non-Traditional Foods to Try Out This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner: Non-Traditional Foods to Try Out This Thanksgiving
(Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi)

Thanksgiving 2016 is just a few days away: it falls on Thursday, Nov. 24. Thanksgiving dinner often contains favorites like a stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy with mashed potatoes, and a pumpkin pie. That being said, your dinner may also include some healthy and non-traditional foods as well.

For instance, many people have food restrictions these days. Others have a no turkey Thanksgiving and opt for vegetarian dishes instead. Some Thanksgiving meals will honor a multicultural heritage with Mexican spices and veal, or ossobuco-style meat dishes. Other families will also implement non-traditional turkey meals with an unconventional stuffed turkey recipe.

Some restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina are even offering vegan menus for Thanksgiving Day. For instance, Fern is a vegetarian restaurant serving entrees like cashew and pepita crusted squash filets and beet and mushroom seitan steak medallions. The restaurant Nourish is also offering a apple-butter-glazed tempeh loaf with cauliflower mash and tamari-Dijon gravy.

Are you curious about an unconventional meat dish for Thanksgiving? The following are a few recipes you can try, including an alternative stuff turkey.

Sauteed Stuffed Turkey Breasts

Although some keep the stuffing and turkey separate, adding the stuffing to the turkey can really add to the flavor of the meal. Here is a recipe you can try for yourself:


For the turkey:

  • 2.5-pounds of turkey breast
  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 large bunch of Tuscan kale
  • 2 tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil, plus some extra
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the stuffing:

  • 2 tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pounds of Italian sausages with casing removed
  • 1/2 cup of porcini mushrooms, minced
  • 1/4 cup chestnuts
  • 1 handful of herbs like rosemary, marjoram, and thyme
  • Salt and fresh pepper to taste

For the topping:

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Gravy
  • Bay leaf


  • To prepare the stuffing, heat a large pan over a medium flame, and add extra-virgin olive oil and heat for 45 seconds. Add sausage, mushrooms, chestnuts, and herbs, and cook until it is fragrant. Keep warm in the oven.
  • For the turkey, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Pound each turkey breast before spreading a generous serving of stuffing across the meat. Sprinkle with pepper and salt, and roll the breast and fasten tightly with cooking twine. Heat in a large cast-iron pan, and sear each side of the turkey until lightly browned. Finish cooking the turkey in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Once finished, drain gravy and keep it warm.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and wrap each sweet potato loosely in aluminum foil, and cook for 45 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and letit sit for five to seven minutes. Peel each sweet potato and cut into large cubes.
  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil, and brown the sweet potato cubes. Keep warm in the oven.
  • Wash and tear the kale into large pieces, and dry thoroughly. In a large skillet, add two tablespoons of olive oil, and heat for 45 seconds. Add kale and cook until dark and wilted. Set it aside.
  • To serve, spoon the sautéed kale onto each plate, and slice turkey into two or three pieces and place on top. Add sweet potatoes and drizzle on the cranberry sauce. Finish with gravy and garnish with a bay leaf.

Maple Dijon Baked Chicken

You may not think about chicken for Thanksgiving, but have you considered trying it with a maple Dijon glaze?


  • 3 to 3 1/2 pound bone-in, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp. of maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. of olive oil or avocado oil
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. of Celtic sea salt
  • Zest of half a small lime
  • 2 tbsp. of finely chopped parsley, plus more for garnish


  • Finely chop a large handful parsley, and measure two tablespoons of parsley into a bowl and aside the rest for garnish. Combine mustard, oil, spices, lime zest, and maple syrup into a bowl with two tablespoons of parsley. Whisk together until it is well blended, and remove one to two tablespoons of marinade to separate a dish and set aside for later.
  • Add skinless chicken breasts to a large freezer bag with remaining marinade, seal the bag, and massage into the chicken until it is well coated. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until it is ready to cook. Overnight is best.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with tin foil. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the chicken breasts on the baking sheet, and allow a bit of space between each. Bake for 40 minutes, remove from oven, and set the oven to broil. Evenly brush the rest of the marinade over the chicken.
  • Broil for five minutes until browned, and serve with chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

Bone-In Holiday Ham

The thought of making a ham with the bone-in can be overwhelming for some people; however, it is a lot easier than you may think. Making a good ham requires a little patience. Try the following bone-in holiday ham recipe below:


  • 1 (18-20 pound) bone-in, whole ham
  • 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup of light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbsp. of crushed pineapple, drained
  • Garnish with pineapple chunks or rings, and maraschino cherries


  • For the glaze combine Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and crushed pineapple in a small bowl, and set aside until ready to use.
  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and remove any wrappings or coverings from the ham. Place the ham on a roasting rack with fat side up. The pan should be shallow and free from water at the bottom. It should be completely dry.
  • Score the ham before baking. It will look great, and allow any fat to render from the ham to let the glaze seep in. You will score the ham’s fat in diamonds, and go only a quarter-inch deep with a knife. Use a strip of heavy paper, 12 x 2 inches as a guide to cut perfectly parallel lines.
  • Insert the meat thermometer deep into the harm, and bake until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the oven and brush with glaze, and make sure to get into all the crevices made by scoring. Add pineapple chunks and cherries, and secure with toothpicks. Place the ham back into the oven until internal temperatures reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven and let the ham rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
  • Remove the ham from the roasting rack, and place it on a cutting board. A towel underneath the cutting board will help it not to slide across the counter. It is best to use a very sharp knife like a nine-inch carver, and a carving fork. Trim a couple of slices of the ham to its length. This allows the ham to rest flat while carving the rest of the meat.
  • While resting on its side use the carving fork to hold the ham firmly in place, and start cutting slices downward until you hit the bone. Make the slices as thin or thick as you like. Continue to carve until you have the amount of preferred slices.



Infanzon, V., “5 options for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner,” Charlotte web site, Nov. 17, 2016;

Rees, S., “3 Delicious, Non-traditional Takes on Thanksgiving Turkey,” Vogue web site, Nov. 16, 2016;

“Maple Dijon Chicken,” Everyday Maven web site, Feb. 22, 2013;

“How to Make and Carve the Juiciest Bone-In Whole Holiday Ham,” Noble Pig web site, Dec. 18, 2012;