Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Meals
Are you tired of the same turkey and dressing recipes every year? Want to try something different for the big meal? Choosing non-traditional meal plans for Thanksgiving can be a fun way to create new family traditions. I’ve compiled a list of some delicious ideas if you want to mix it up this year.
Crawfish Shrimp Boil
A crawfish boil is a delicious Louisiana staple. It’s an enormous feast that your whole family will love digging into. It can be quite a messy meal, but that’s part of the fun!
1 pound of purple, red, and white fingerling potatoes
½ cup of Creole seasoning, plus more for serving
10 thyme sprigs, separated
4 fresh bay leaves
2 heads of garlic, tough outer skins removed and halved lengthwise
2 lemons, halved
1 bag of crawfish, shrimp, or crab boil seasonings
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 pound of andouille sausage, cut into one-inch slices on the bias
2 ears of yellow or white corn, cut into thirds
2 pounds of live crawfish, rinsed
1 pound of Gulf white shrimp, peel on and deveined
- Combine the potatoes, Creole seasoning, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, lemons, boil seasonings bag, and onion with six quarts of cold water in a 14-quart or larger pot with a colander insert. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the andouille and corn to the pot. Cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
- Add the crawfish and cover again. Cook for 10 more minutes.
- Add the shrimp and stir to combine. Cover and cook for four to five more minutes.
- Carefully strain the seafood, sausage, and vegetables and serve on a large table covered with newspaper. Season with salt or additional Creole seasoning.
An Italian Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Meal
Another fun feast idea is an Italian one. Many delicious Italian recipes are perfect for large groups. I’ve included some ideas below to start your brainstorming for this meal.
An antipasto salad is a delicious mix of meat, cheese, and vegetables. It makes a perfect appetizer or side dish for your Italian Thanksgiving meal.
8 ounces of Genoa salami, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces of soppressata or other hard salami, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces of provolone cheese, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
14 ounces of canned artichokes, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces
12 ounces of jarred roasted red peppers
½ cup of pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup of pitted and chopped green olives
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup of fresh basil leaves
- Combine the Genoa and soppressata salamis, provolone, mozzarella, tomatoes, and artichokes into a bowl. Slice the roasted red peppers and add them to the bowl with about three tablespoons of juice from the jar. Mix in the chopped olives.
- Drizzle olive oil over the salami mixture, followed by red wine vinegar. Season with pepper and mix thoroughly. Store in the fridge until serving time.
- Before serving, tear the fresh basil leaves into bite-sized pieces and fold them into the salad.
1 pound of lean ground beef
32 ounces of marinara sauce
32 ounces of cottage cheese
3 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons of dried parsley
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
9 lasagna noodles
½ cup of water
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir the ground beef in the hot skillet until browned and crumbly, about eight to 10 minutes. Drain and discard the grease. Stir in the marinara sauce and simmer for five minutes.
- Combine cottage cheese, two cups of mozzarella cheese, eggs, half of the grated parmesan cheese, dried parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
- Spread ¾ cup of the sauce mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover with three uncooked lasagna noodles, 1 ¾ cups of the cheese mixture, and ¼ cup of sauce. Repeat the layers. Top with the remaining three noodles, sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. Pour half of a cup of water along the edges of the dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
12-ounce package of jumbo pasta shells
32 ounces of ricotta cheese
1 pound of shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
8 ounces of grated parmesan cheese, divided
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
1 teaspoon of salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon of black pepper
28 ounces of pasta sauce
8 ounces of sliced fresh mushrooms
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender yet firm to the bite, about eight to 10 minutes. Drain.
- While the pasta is cooking, mix the ricotta cheese, half of the mozzarella, half of the parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until well combined.
- Combine pasta sauce and mushrooms in a medium bowl. Add the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Stir until well combined.
- Stuff the shells with the ricotta mixture and place them in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Pour the pasta mixture over the shells.
- Bake until the edges are bubbly, and the shells are slightly set, 35 to 60 minutes.
Another Non-Traditional Thanksgiving with a Chicken Enchilada Meal
If you’re looking for a Mexican-style dish to serve as your main entrée, chicken enchiladas are perfect. You can choose from many different meats, sauces, and seasonings to personalize a recipe to your family’s taste. The recipe below is for authentic chicken enchiladas.
For the chicken
3 boneless chicken breasts, about 2 ½ pounds
5 cups of water
Salt to taste
For the enchilada sauce
6 ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
4 New Mexico peppers or guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
4 chile de arbol peppers, optional
2 Roma tomatoes, halved
½ a white onion, quartered
3 cloves of garlic
Water to cover
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ½ to 4 cups of chicken broth from poaching the chicken
2 tablespoons of masa harina
1/3 cup of water
You’ll also need:
16 to 20 corn tortillas
8 ounces of Monterey jack cheese or any melting cheese of your choice, shredded
6 ounces of queso fresco, crumbled
Thin tomato wedges
Green onion or diced white onion
Mexican crema or sour cream
For the chicken
- Add the chicken to a saucepan and cover with five cups of water.
- Season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and poach for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender.
- Remove the chicken and shred while still warm. Cover and set aside. Strain the broth and reserve for enchilada sauce.
For the sauce
- Combine the dried chiles, tomato, onion, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until the tomatoes are tender, and the peppers are soft. Drain all the cooking liquid and transfer the mixture to a blender.
- Add cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and about two cups of the reserved chicken broth. Blend on high until smooth and salt to taste. Strain the sauce through a wire strainer and pour the remaining 1 ½ cups of chicken broth through to help the strain.
- Transfer the sauce back to the pan and heat to a simmer. Whisk the masa harina into the 1/3 cup of water until smooth. Whisk this into the simmering sauce until well combined. Cook for five more minutes, then keep warm on low.
To make the enchiladas
- In a 9×13-inch pan, spread one cup of enchilada sauce evenly to cover the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
- Heat a frying pan to medium heat. Brush both sides of the corn tortillas with olive oil. When the pan is hot, warm the tortillas to soften them, just a few seconds on each side. Stack on a plate, cover, and set aside.
- Combine the shredded chicken breast in a bowl with half a cup of enchilada sauce. Stir well to combine.
- Take one tortilla and fill it with about two tablespoons of chicken. Roll shut to resemble a flute.
- Lay the enchiladas in the baking pan with the sauce layer. Once you have filled and rolled them all, top with the remaining sauce and both cheeses. Bake for 25 minutes. Garnish and serve with your favorite toppings.
An English Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie Meal
Shepherd’s pie is a deliciously filling meal from the United Kingdom, specifically Ireland. It’s a baked mixture of meat, veggies, mashed potatoes, and more that will satisfy your whole family. A traditional Irish pie includes ground lamb, but you can use ground beef instead if you prefer.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup of chopped yellow onion
1 pound of 90% lean ground beef or ground lamb
2 teaspoons of dried parsley leaves
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon of dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup of beef broth
1 cup of mixed peas and carrots, fresh or frozen
½ cup of corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 ½ to 2 pounds of russet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes), peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/3 cup of half & half
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of black pepper
¼ cup of parmesan cheese
- Add the oil to a large skillet and place it over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the onions. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the ground beef or lamb to the skillet and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Cook for six to eight minutes or until the meat is browned, stirring occasionally.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Stir to combine. Cook for one minute.
- Add the flour and tomato paste. Stir until well incorporated and no clumps of tomato paste remain.
- Add the broth, peas, carrots, and corn. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Set the meat mixture aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with water. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander. Return the potatoes to the hot pot. Let the potatoes rest in the hot pot for one minute to evaporate any remaining liquid.
- Add the butter, half & half, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes and stir until all the ingredients are mixed together.
- Add the parmesan cheese to the potatoes. Stir until well combined.
Assemble the casserole
- Pour the meat mixture into a 9×9 (or 7×11) inch baking dish. Spread it out into an even layer. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the meat. Carefully spread into an even layer.
- If the baking dish looks very full, place it on a rimmed baking sheet so the filling doesn’t bubble over in the oven. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Thanksgiving from an Immigrant’s Perspective
Whether you’re looking for a non-traditional meal because you don’t like traditional Thanksgiving dishes or want to honor another culture, there are plenty of options. As you plan your Thanksgiving meal, whichever cuisine you choose, remember the meaning behind this holiday.
I am very thankful for our American farm and the ability to live in this country. It’s easy to take our freedoms for granted if it’s all we know, though. Our friend, Daniela, moved here from a communist country and was kind enough to share her view of this memorable holiday.
Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what you have and showing it through your traditions, whatever they look like.
Are you traveling to the middle Tennessee area to visit with family this holiday season? We have an Airbnb we would love for you to stay at if so! It’s located just 14 miles outside of Nashville and is the perfect place to relax when visiting the area. We’d love to host you.
In closing, we wish you safe travel and good food this Thanksgiving Holiday!