Turkey Alternatives That Won’t Break the Thanksgiving Budget

Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives

No one thinks turkey alternatives when they think of Thanksgiving, but many hosts and hostesses think just that. Let’s face it; Thanksgiving is expensive and it is time consuming. I don’t even want to tell you what I just spent on a turkey to feed 15 people, and I certainly don’t even want to think about what I’ll spend this weekend when I head to the supermarket to pick up all the sides (and all the wine). By the time I finish paying for Thanksgiving dinner, it seems that a night out at a nice restaurant would be more affordable and a lot less hassle.

Of course, I say that like I’m going to actually consider turkey alternatives this Thanksgiving. I am not, but only because while I host the holiday at my home and make dessert for everyone, my mother actually does the cooking. She comes over very early in the morning and she makes the turkey, starts on the sides and she does all the things that need doing so that we have a wonderful, traditional Thanksgiving dinner. She loves it – because she no longer has to buy all the food and make a mess in her home.

Turkey and all the fixings remind us every Thanksgiving why we only have this meal twice a year (Christmas, too, in our home). Waking up early in the morning to start cooking dinner, spending the entire day in the kitchen and cleaning about a million and a half dishes is not really anyone’s idea of fun. However, the sound of the kids laughing with their cousins, the taste of a glass of nice cold sauvignon blanc, the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven; it’s all worth it. This is a day that’s about family and making memories, and we love that. That’s why we have some turkey alternatives you can consider when it comes to prepping this holiday season if you’d rather spend more time enjoying your family than watching them from the kitchen.

If you’re like me, you aren’t even reading this anymore. There is no such thing as Thanksgiving without turkey and turkey alternatives sound like something that should be made illegal. However, we forget that not everyone likes turkey, can even eat it or even eats any kind of meat. We also forget that not everyone is home all day long to cook an entire turkey that spends all day in the oven and requires ample attention on Thanksgiving. For those people, we have some turkey alternatives that won’t make the budget turn into a problem and that also taste good.

Some of our turkey alternatives are things you might eat regularly, but when served with the different Thanksgiving trimmings and sides we all love so much, they become something a little more special and a little more exciting. Don’t just assume that Thanksgiving requires a turkey when it does not. You can enjoy the holiday with some of these decadent and delicious turkey alternatives anytime you want. It’s just a matter of getting creative and thinking outside the box.

Rotisserie Chicken

Listen, I love a good rotisserie chicken. In fact, I love it so much it’s usually our dinner once a week. We are big fans of picking up this kind of turkey alternative from the supermarket, already cooked, every week and either making some fresh veggies and a salad to go with or just tossing it into a salad of its own to enjoy for dinner. If you love the idea of a rotisserie bird for Thanksgiving, why not just pick up three or four of these and enjoy them with the rest of the family as your turkey alternative? You won’t have to worry at all about being in the kitchen all day long, and clean up is going to be a breeze.

These are around $8 a bird at the local supermarket, so you can pick up several of them to make your own without breaking the bank. This is just one of a number of turkey alternatives – and keep it moist by putting it in a warmer with a little chicken broth so you don’t dry it out while you’re waiting on it to warm back up after you take it out of the fridge.


Not everyone eats turkey on Thanksgiving to begin with, you know. I know, it sounds strange, but I heard this a few years ago and I was shocked. Some people choose to eat ham, instead. It’s a nice turkey alternative, even if it’s not in my vision of what Thanksgiving should look like. This is going to be a very simple meal to make on Thanksgiving if you can pick up a bone-in ham and you have either an oven or a crock pot (or two depending on how much you need to make). This is a great alternative to turkey on Thanksgiving evening. There are so many ways to cook a ham, too, that you can make several and have different flavors and different options available for your Thanksgiving guests.

Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast

This is for my vegan-loving Thanksgiving eaters. I’m not a Vegan, but I do know that Trader Joe’s has a great Turkey-less stuffed roast that makes it easy for you to enjoy something on Thanksgiving dinner instead of turkey and the other turkey alternatives that are on the list. I’m going to say that it sounds pretty awful, but my vegan friends do love this and swear by it. It’s a loaf of soy with ancient grains, veggies and vegan stuffing on the inside. It contains absolutely nothing that comes even remotely close to being from an animal, and it’s good for those who like to enjoy that sort of thing.

On that note, you might want to call your local Trader Joe’s to see if they have one you can reserve on Thanksgiving since it is something that might sell out pretty quickly. If you do not live near a Trader Joe’s, don’t worry; you can probably call around to your local supermarkets and specialty stores to ask if someone has anything like this for you to pick up to enjoy when you celebrate your Thanksgiving.


Ignore the fact that this is something that people eat all the time and focus on the fact that this falls into the category of turkey alternatives you can make some other way than the way you have it all the time. A slow roasted Brisket is going to make for quite the flavorful meal on Thanksgiving, working well as a turkey alternative. What’s good about it, too, is that it’s affordable. When you add slow roasting veggies to the mix, you will find that you can make your own meal out of this piece of meat in one pan without the need to worry about making other sides to go with it when it’s time to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Crock Pot Whole Chicken

Here is something that you might not have considered as a turkey alternative. We love the concept of a crock pot whole chicken as it applies to Thanksgiving. It’s so much like a turkey, but so much simpler. Depending on how many people you’d like to feed, you’ll need a few of these. The best way to make this meal, my favorite way, is to pick up a raw whole chicken and stuff it with your favorite stuffing mix (I like mine from a box, which is why I’m not in charge of Thanksgiving dinner at my own house). You can fill the bird with this and then either bake it in the oven or put in the crock pot. If you are putting it in the crock pot, I’d just bake the stuffing to make it a little crisp and delicious on the outside, since it’s not all that good when it’s been stuffed in a chicken in a crock pot becoming moister and moister all day long.

What we love about this meal is that you have the power to season it and create it as you see fit, which opens up a whole new world of creativity and style. Make it simple or go a little more complex with this turkey alternative. The best news is that this is a very affordable turkey alternative on Thanksgiving, which means you might be able to relax a little and enjoy the holiday a bit more now that you know this is on the menu.

Photos by Getty Images


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