10 Unconventional Thanksgiving Dinner Options

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Thanksgiving is a time of tradition. Family and friends gather to feast on a carefully prepared turkey, brimming with stuffing, and surrounded by cranberry sauce, buttery corn, mashed potatoes, and gravy. But if you're looking to shake things up this holiday season, you'll appreciate these twists on classic turkey day recipes.

1. Thanksgiving Ramen


You might have thought you've seen every which way to cope with holiday leftovers, but one clever chef in Brooklyn has stewed up something stellar. At Talde, chef Dale Talde has created a seasonal ramen dish that combines roasted turkey slices, a stuffing roulade, creamed spinach-stuffed dumplings, pickled cranberries, and a mushroom-soy gravy over the traditional noodles. He told Gothamist, "I just wanted to do something a little different than a sandwich and I love ramen." Us too! 

2. Pumpkin Pie Pops


Okay. There's actually no pumpkin in this recipe, but combining vanilla pudding with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and cardamom makes for a flavor profile that's similar to pumpkin pie. And after spending all day working over a hot stove, this frozen treat would be a bit more inviting than that heavy old school pastry. 

3. Bacon-Wrapped Gator Turducken


The turkey stuffed with a duck that's stuffed with a chicken has become a bit of a modern Thanksgiving staple. But—perhaps inspired by one man's crazy successful fundraiser to make potato salad—Portland resident Marc Anthony dared to dream of a turducken that was then stuffed inside a pig, stuffed inside a gator, then wrapped in candied bacon. His Kickstarter campaign attracted only $14 of the $5000 he needed to fund this culinary fantasy. But imagine the deliciousness that could have been: a chicken in Thai coconut marinade, the duck in red hot, a Bahn Mi stuffing, and a gator spiced with Cajun seasonings, all swaddled in bacon. Candied bacon. 

4. Turkey And Cranberry Cupcake

Yummy Cupcakes

Los Angeles's Yummy Cupcakes prides itself on coming up with fresh and fun flavors for its customers—and in 2012, they dug in on Thanksgiving with the premiere of this unexpected cupcake. No chunks of turkey are used, but the savory cake is made of turkey gravy to get that distinctive flavor. It's stuffed with cranberry relish; then a cranberry cream cheese icing is delicately layered on top. They also have a marshmallow yam cupcake made with real yams, and a pumpkin pie cupcake stuffed with whipped cream. Basically, you can make a full meal of these treats.

5. Popcorn


Corn is a safe and standard Thanksgiving side dish, but give it a pop and it’s a delightful snack to munch through parades and football games alike. Popcorn is a great base ingredient that can go savory, sweet, or both. Mix plain popcorn with sage leaves, salt, and butter for a taste that'll complement your meal. Or drape it in caramel or chocolate, with a bit of salt for bite, to make an addictive dessert. 

6. Left Over Sushi Roll

Okay, the name could use some work, but the actual dish from Idaho's Bonsai Bistro is a playful take on Thanksgiving leftovers. Smoked turkey breast is wrapped in seaweed and rice along with stuffing, green beans, cream cheese and dried cranberries, then tempura battered and fried. Even the side spices get a holiday makeover: The wasabi is infused with cranberries, and the standard soy sauce is substituted with a red wine soy demi-glace.

7. Mussels

It might seem strange to bring this salty sea life into your Thanksgiving spread. But actually, this shellfish is believed to have been served at the very first Thanksgiving, thanks to its prevalence in New England. Oysters, which likely also were a pioneering Thanksgiving dish, have had a comeback of late with recipes for salads and stuffing. But somehow mussels have been largely left out, even though they are utterly delectable in butter and garlic.

8. Butternut Old-Fashioned

If you want something tastier than your typical cocktail to imbibe on Thanksgiving, try this bourbon drink from Los Angeles's Little Dom's. But be warned: it takes longer to prepare than your turkey will. For a full week, Eagle Rare Bourbon Whiskey is infused with butternut squash that has been roasted with cinnamon and sugar. From there, a bit of maple syrup, a splash of Urban Moonshine Maple Bitters, Fee Brothers Barrel Aged Bitters, and an orange peel garnish makes for a sophisticated and intoxicating way to eat your vegetables. 

9. All-In-One Cake


If you don't shy away from having your foods touch, combine the best of conventional Thanksgiving dishes in a very unusual way. Clever chef Amy Wisniewski transformed the ultimate holiday meal into a towering and tasty layer cake. The layers are made of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey, while the "frosting" is mashed sweet potatoes topped with browned marshmallows. Sure, it's weird, but also kind of wonderful.

10. Leftover Pizza

The Daily Meal

Technically, this dish—created by Krescendo's of Brooklyn—is for leftovers, but using this as the main meal will surely surprise and thrill your guests. The pie is topped with sweet potatoes, thinly-sliced ham, potatoes au-gratin, goat cheese, and an egg. Here's the recipe.