I confess, I am a terrible person: When I heard about a turkey shortage this year, I grinned. I’m sure I bore an unflattering resemblance to the Grinch when he decided to steal all the presents in Whoville.
I don’t love turkey. It’s only within the past few years that I even started to like it. I make one for Thanksgiving because my family demands turkey.
The anticipated turkey shortage led to a fun discussion among the Chef’s Corner Store team, and we started brainstorming Thanksgiving turkey alternatives. Don’t let a turkey shortage “fowl” up your Thanksgiving plans. We came up with a bunch of delicious ideas, and we’re excited to share them!
Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives: Prime Rib
There are not many main dishes that steal the show quite like prime rib -- the tender, flavorful roast cut from the center of a steer’s rib section. At well over $10 a pound, prime rib is definitely a meat saved for special occasions.
Prime rib is best served with a crispy brown crust surrounding a tender, medium-rare interior. Preparing this prime cut can be a bit intimidating. I recommend checking out these expert tips from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt on Serious Eats for a perfectly cooked prime rib.
Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives: Ham
We’ve discussed how to cook ham before. While ham may be more commonly associated with Easter or Christmas, I don’t see any reason not to serve it on Thanksgiving. The Swiss Colony -- that classic specialty food catalog -- agrees: Ham is a smart option for smaller families that can’t devour a huge turkey. You can also serve it in addition to turkey. Add leftover ham to bean soup, or slice it for sandwiches.
If you’re still worried about how non-traditional ham is for Thanksgiving, I assure you its salty deliciousness will pair nicely with several classic Thanksgiving sides.
Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives: Duck
The main issue I have with turkey is that it can be bland. Other birds like duck, pheasant, and partridge are all packed with flavor.
Duck is a perfectly forgiving protein -- all dark meat with a layer of fat -- so you are less likely to overcook it than turkey, where it can be a struggle to get the dark meat cooked through before the white meat dries out. This recipe for roast duck, courtesy of Mark Bittman for the New York Times, sounds as delicious as it does easy. I especially love the suggestion to line the bottom of the roasting pan with potatoes to catch the drippings. Genius!
Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives: Vegetarian
What if your Thanksgiving table will include one or more vegetarian guests? While an entirely meatless Thanksgiving may be even more non-traditional than serving ham or duck, we think a hearty vegetarian entree could be welcome at any celebration.
I thought the butternut squash lasagna described by Samin Nosrat sounded so delicious I had to try it myself. As Samin recommends, I combined the Martha Stewart and Bon Appetit recipes, and added lots of lemon zest, parmesan, browned butter, fresh sage, and goat cheese to the mashed butternut squash. This lasagna is a fantastic Fall dinner, just as I’d hoped. While there may not be room for it on my Thanksgiving menu this year, I will absolutely make it again.
To put everyone’s mind at ease, the turkey shortage of 2021 appears to be exaggerated. According to several sources there will be plenty of turkeys to go around. If you are able to talk your family out of a turkey this year, I applaud you, and would love to live vicariously through your Thanksgiving experience! I will be serving turkey, spatchcocked and brined in buttermilk and salt.
Amy is our CFO -- Chief Foodie Officer -- and resident expert on baking. We're grateful to her for sharing her Thanksgiving expertise!