November 24, 2015
A baked salmon can be an unconventional, yet delicious, main course for Thanksgiving.

A baked salmon can be an unconventional, yet delicious, main course for Thanksgiving.

It may seem that turkey is an inevitable main course for Thanksgiving. However, if you are setting out to learn cooking online, you should consider experimenting with some alternatives to the traditional bird. There are countless other dishes that can serve as the focal point for a feast, including delicious vegetarian or vegan options. Read below for some ideas on how to break free from poultry at your Thanksgiving dinner:

1. Soy turkey
If you are expecting any vegetarian or vegan guests this holiday, a soy substitute can be a tasty and protein-packed option. There are a variety of soy turkeys on the market, with a wide range of flavors, textures and appearances. Some turkey substitutes even look much like a real, full-sized bird, allowing vegans and vegetarians to fit in among omnivorous relatives and feel like they are participating in holiday traditions. Explore a few possibilities before it’s time for your holiday meal. If you prefer to prepare your own vegan turkey substitute, Culinate suggested crafting a loaf of seitan, a meat-like dish made from wheat gluten.

2. Ham
Ham is more often associated with Christmas dinner, but there is no reason it cannot be served for Thanksgiving. In addition to providing a departure from the traditional bird, ham can be much easier to prepare. This is especially true if it comes precooked, as is often the case, by being baked, smoked or cured. A precooked ham will require only reheating and perhaps some added sauce or seasoning. Place the ham in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit and focus on assembling your side dishes. As Serious Eats explained, you can also enhance your ham with a glaze, making it appear moist and shiny as well as adding flavor. A glaze made with a mixture of sweetener and spices works well for ham, so consider combinations like pineapple or apricot with mustard and honey with cloves.

3. Fish
Seafood will work especially well for a smaller gathering when a huge bird might be overkill, so build your meal around baked cod or whitefish, or even crab or lobster, to give the holiday a welcome twist. In some ways, seafood is the most traditional of Thanksgiving dishes, having served as the cornerstone of the original feast in 1621 at Plymouth. However, you are certainly not limited to the fare available in 17th century New England. Find out what fresh fish or other seafood are readily available in your area during the autumn and plan ahead. For one idea, Martha Stewart recommended roasting a whole salmon with an orange butter glaze as a bold replacement for turkey.

4. Lasagna
Lasagna is always crowd-pleasing, great for sharing and thoroughly satisfying, making it perfect for a holiday meal. Consider the needs and preferences of your dining companions when choosing the ingredients to be sandwiched between layers of cheese and pasta. For many, a blend of ricotta, mozzarella and Romano cheeses with beef, pork or both might be ideal on a chilly autumn day. However, you can keep your feast vegetarian-friendly by using green pepper and mushroom or a seasonal vegetable like butternut squash in the place of meat. For vegans, choose a non-dairy cheese substitute, such as a vegan cream cheese.

5. Vegetable tart
As a main dish, a savory vegetable tart is welcoming to vegetarian or vegan friends and family, pleasing to look at and full of seasonally appropriate flavors. You can select from a variety of great taste combinations to fill your pie crust. Fine Cooking offered ideas like roasted butternut squash, parsnips and Brussels sprouts or shiitake mushrooms and roasted red pepper. Even better, prepare more than one variety and let your guests choose their favorites.