5 cheaper alternatives to a Thanksgiving turkey


Mia Taylor

Mia Taylor

Blog author Mia Taylor

Mia Taylor is an award-winning journalist with two decades of reporting experience. News organizations she has worked for as a staff member or contributor include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Westways Magazine, Vacation Agent Magazine, the San Diego Union-Tribune and The Boston Globe. She has an M.A. in Journalism and Media Studies and was a member of a team of reporters who received a Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2011.

Published November 6, 2018 | 3 min read

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Turkey may be the default choice for Thanksgiving but it’s not the only choice.

Between the growing number of vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian eaters in the world, and those who simply enjoy the opportunity to mix things up now and then, there are plenty of alternatives for your holiday meal.

Here are five options that not offer a break from the tried-and-true turkey centerpiece but can also be more budget friendly than our fine feathered friend.

1. Shepherd’s pie

For those who still want to have meat for the big feast, shepherd’s pie is a meat and potatoes dish that can be made inexpensively, said Tangela Walker-Craft, creator of the lifestyle site Simply Necessary Inc.

Traditionally, shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, said Walker-Craft. But there are variations.

“When beef is substituted for the lamb the dish is actually cottage pie,” she said. “However, many people in the United States refer to cottage pie as shepherd’s pie.”

The dish includes mixing onions and other vegetables with beef or lamb and then the entire thing with melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes. Shepherd’s Pie typically costs less than $20 to assemble, said Walker-Craft, and can make enough for 10 to 12 people.

2. Pumpkin pot pie

Google pumpkin pot pie and you’ll find countless variations for this popular vegetarian dish. The main recipe ingredients however are pumpkin (of course) and a handful of vegetables of your choice: typically celery, carrots, peas and onions. (Check out these nine ways to save money on fruits and vegetables.)

With pumpkins available this time of year for as little as $5 and the remainder of these ingredients also just a few dollars each, pumpkin pot pie is another budget-friendly alternative.

3. Rosemary lemon chicken

Another meat option for those who want to skip the turkey, rosemary lemon chicken is not only delicious, it’s also easy to cook, said Walker-Craft.

“What makes this recipe even better is that most of the prep work can be done ahead of time,” she said.

The chicken can be prepared as much as 24 hours in advance and then baked just in time for dinner. It’s also a recipe that works for dark or white meat.

Like shepherd’s pie, Walker-Craft said this dish is easily less than $20 and can be made to serve as many as 10 to 12 people.

4. Salmon

A favorite of pescatarians everywhere, countless salmon recipes can serve as an unforgettable main dish for your holiday gathering. With just one main ingredient and a few spices, this dish can also be a bargain depending on where you buy the salmon and what type you select.

5. Roasted butternut squash risotto

A vegan option that’s ideal for the season, this simple but delicious recipe relies on a few very basic and inexpensive ingredients.

There is of course, the main ingredient: butternut squash, which, depending on the recipe you choose, is combined with onions, rice and vegetable broth. Add some coconut milk and spices, and you’ve got all the needed ingredients.

Some recipes toss a few Brussels sprouts on top for added color and flavor.

Making Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd? Don't let it break your budget. Here are seven ways to keep your Thanksgiving feast under $100.

Images: skynesher