Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: An eclectic group of friends raise their glasses over the Thanksgiving table

The turkey is trimmed, the stuffing is set, and the pumpkin pie is fresh out the oven. As much as you love a traditional Thanksgiving meal, sometimes you want to try something new. But you might wonder where to begin.

Well, look no further than this selection of fantastic non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner ideas. From creative themes to unique (and healthy) recipes for your feast, you’ll have everything you need for a truly unforgettable Thanksgiving holiday.

5 Creative and Unconventional Thanksgiving ThemesNon-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Turkey-shaped pancakes with sliced apples

Before you outline your Thanksgiving menu, consider what sort of theme you’d like. Then, send out Thanksgiving invitations that you can customize to suit whatever type of celebration you cook up. Here’s a handful of Thanksgiving themes to point you in a fun and unexpected direction.

  1. Thanks-living: Who says you need turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner? Forgo the bird and bring on the tofurkey with a plant-based Thanks-living celebration. Vegans and vegetarians will love this meal, and it’s easier on the planet.
  2. Thanksgiving brunch: Turn the tables on the traditional dinnertime feast and gather your nearest and dearest for a mid-morning get-together brimming with brunchy takes on Turkey Day fare. Think ham-and-leek quiche, cornbread breakfast muffins, pumpkin pancakes, and citrus salad with Prosecco.
  3. Friendsgiving: They say friends are the family you choose, and this popular Thanksgiving theme proves it’s true. Invite your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and whoever might not be able to spend the holiday with family. Often, Friendsgiving occurs before the actual Thanksgiving holiday, but you can celebrate whenever you and your friends choose.
  4. Thanksgiving potluck: Instead of trying to do it all yourself, encourage everyone to participate by bringing their favorite dish. You can provide the main dish and drinks while guests can contribute everything from appetizers and salads to side dishes and dessert.
  5. Around-the-world Thanksgiving: For an international change of pace, create a feast that focuses on one or multiple cuisines. Try a Korean-centric menu with dishes such as mashed potato spring rolls, spicy Brussels sprouts, soy-glazed veggies, or cucumber kimchi. Or, consider an Italian-inspired dinner featuring Parmesan polenta, pumpkin gnocchi, and classic arancini.

4 Recipes for Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to whip, whisk, fry, bake, and saute your way into a fantastic meal. Get creative with your Thanksgiving menu and give these main courses a try.

1. Adobo Turkey With Red Chile Gravy

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Adobo turkey with red chile gravy

Photo: Ditte Isager

Roast turkey is a classic, but when you feel like spicing things up, you can’t go wrong with this adobo turkey with red chile gravy. The key is marinating the bird in toasted guajillo and ancho chiles and a fragrant mix of seasonings that includes cumin, cinnamon, and allspice. The result is a rich, complex, and savory turkey with gravy that’ll send your taste buds soaring.

2. Quinoa Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Quinoa mushroom stuffed acorn squash

Photo: Kathryn Pfeffer-Scanlan

No need for meat with this flavorful, fragrant, and filling entrée that’s ready in just 40 minutes — much faster than cooking turkey. Vegan and grain-free, this stuffed acorn squash recipe packs plenty of nutrients and satisfying textures thanks to sauteed shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, dried cranberries, baked acorn squash, and fluffy quinoa. To save more time, prepare the quinoa ahead of time or buy it pre-cooked.

3. Baked Ham With Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Baked ham with brown sugar mustard glaze

Photo: Diana Rattray

Turkey gets all the attention on Thanksgiving, but don’t dismiss the power of pork. For this baked ham dish, you don’t need much more than a smoked, ready-to-cook ham and a DIY glaze. The sweet-and-sour combo is a win-win, so don’t expect any leftovers.

4. Pear and Pomegranate Lamb Tagine

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Pear and pomegranate lamb tagine

Photo: Taste of Home

This colorful Middle Eastern-inspired tagine is a feast for all the senses. You’ll need a slow-cooker for the lamb, which will simmer with orange juice, pomegranate juice, honey, seasonings, and shallots. The liquid offers a sweet counterpoint to the strong flavor of the lamb. While the recipe recommends serving the tagine over couscous, polenta, or mashed cauliflower, it would also go well with most of the side dishes mentioned next on this list.

6 Recipes for Inventive Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Main dishes are the anchor of any Thanksgiving meal, but the sides make the meal shine. Let’s take a look at some exciting side dish recipes.

1. Cauliflower Rice Stuffing

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Cauliflower rice stuffing

Photo: The Healthy Maven

You’ll be extra thankful for this healthy cauliflower rice stuffing that’s low-carb and full of flavor. Ready in only 20 minutes, all you need is cauliflower and a handful of other ingredients including olive oil, onion, garlic, celery, mushrooms, pecans, and seasonings. While the recipe offers guidance on how to create cauliflower rice yourself, you can also buy pre-packaged cauliflower rice at your local grocery store.

2. Maple Harissa Sweet Potato Gratin

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Maple harissa sweet potato gratin

Photo: Snixy Kitchen

Give the old sweet potatoes and marshmallows recipe a rest with this spicy upgrade for your favorite root veggie. Instead of scarfing down spoonfuls of sugar, you’ll indulge in a healthier (yet no less decadent) sweet potato gratin. The finishing touch is dukkah, a wonderfully fragrant blend of nuts, seeds, and spices that originated in Egypt.

3. Sparkling Cranberries

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Sparkling cranberries

Photo: Fountain Avenue Kitchen

For a truly unexpected take on cranberry sauce, give these sparkling cranberries a spin. You only need three ingredients: fresh cranberries, sugar, and water. The result is a pretty-as-a-picture treat that’s both sweet and tangy. Bonus: You can also spear the cranberries on a toothpick and use them to garnish your holiday cocktails. Cheers.

4. Healthy Green Bean Casserole

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Healthy green bean casserole

Photo: Lucy Baier

No Thanksgiving table is complete without a green bean casserole, and this gluten-free version doesn’t disappoint. Instead of using high-sodium and high-calorie cans of crispy onions and cream of mushroom, this recipe offers easy DIY tips to keep the dish healthy and oh-so-tasty.

5. Creamy Garlic Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Creamy, garlic dairy-free mashed potatoes

Photo: Brooklyn Farm Girl

No dairy? No problem. This clever recipe for vegan mashed potatoes doesn’t have a trace of buttermilk or butter. Instead, you’ll use vegetable broth and olive oil. Once you boil and drain the potatoes, mix in the broth and oil along with minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Smash until smooth and creamy for the ultimate Thanksgiving side.

6. Low-Carb Keto Apple Pie

Non-traditional thanksgiving dinner ideas: Low-carb keto apple pie

Photo: Wholesome Yum

Just when you thought an apple pie could never surprise you, along comes this low-carb, keto apple pie recipe. While the almond flour crust and sugar-free sweetener might be a little unconventional, the real shocker is there are no apples. Instead, this creative dessert uses yellow squash as the main ingredient. It sounds strange, but you’ll swear you’re eating the real deal.

Freshen up Your Holidays With Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with the special people in your life is a time-honored tradition worth keeping. But you can still keep traditions fresh by changing things up every now and again. With less expected menu items, you can create new annual favorites and holiday memories.

Just remember that between the party planning and cooking, you have enough on your plate. So, give yourself a break and send online invitations. You’ll save time and money, and you’ll have the best Thanksgiving ever. That’s something to be grateful for.