10 Unique Thanksgiving Foods Families Share Instead of Classics

10 Unique Thanksgiving Foods Families Share Instead of Classics

There’s no law that says turkey and mashed potatoes must be served on Thanksgiving.


By: Marisa Torrieri Bloom

For so many Americans, Thanksgiving Day conjures images of oven-roasted turkey, a vat of stuffing, and side dishes like green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. But not everyone serves these traditional dishes on Thanksgiving.

Many families swap in more unique dishes, whether they’re trying to incorporate ethnic foods, have picky kids or dietary restrictions, or simply don’t enjoy the classics. My own mother used to make eggplant parmesan and salmon for me because I never enjoyed Thanksgiving food all that much.

Here, 10 moms share what they’ll be serving their families on Thanksgiving -- in addition to or in lieu of turkey and popular sides like cranberry sauce -- and why they’re serving it:

1. “I’m a [pescatarian], so I cook non-traditional things like butternut squash soup and smoked salmon, as well as modify traditional things: I make stuffing without meat, but with raisins and cranberries.” -- Brenda M., 31, mom of two, Danbury, Connecticut

2. “My Greek mother-in-law makes spanakopita and pastichio, and of course, the feta cheese and olive oil we use is imported from her village in Kalamata, Greece.” -- Erica G., 38, mom of one, New York City

3. “Since my family is Italian, we never miss a chance to eat pasta. We still eat traditional food for Thanksgiving, but we add a course and have pasta as a ‘primi' before the turkey and sides. My husband is not Italian but loves it and asked me to make a lasagna this year to bring to his parents.” -- Brittany M., 30, mom of one, Westport, Connecticut

4. “My family has a side dish and a main that is not traditional. The side is called ‘sticky buns’ -- it's like monkey bread, but it's a family recipe that has been started before I was born and my family has continued it. We still prepare a whole turkey, but now we also make a gluten-free quiche because my brother's girlfriend has celiac disease. One more item that we now have every year is white rice because my in-laws are Chinese, and it is a cultural staple to include in their meals.” -- Elyse T., 30, mom of one, Fairfield, Connecticut

5. “My almost-7-year-old daughter is very picky and won't eat Thanksgiving dinner. This year, she said her Turkey Day dinner should be chicken nuggets, French fries, and coffee cake, so that's what we will be doing. When I asked my other daughter, who is 5 and a half, she said, 'I love everything,' so she'll eat everything traditional.” -- Amanda G., 37, mom of three, Norton, Massachusetts

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6. “Our Thanksgivings are always vegan, but we’ve always done different things. One year my mom served a five-course Chinese meal that started at 11 a.m. and included moo shu pancakes, vegetable stir fry, and lotus seed buns. This year, we’re doing more traditional Thanksgiving fare but with a healthy twist. In addition to [tofu turkey], I’ll be roasting winter squash that I grew. We’ll have green beans sautéed with sesame oil. In addition to eating, we’ll be sharing what we’re thankful for and talking about where the food is grown and where it’s from. In a city it’s so easy to be disconnected to your food sources.” -- Elsa S., 40, mom of two, Charlottesville, Virginia

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7. “Instead of mashed potatoes, I make a fennel, orange, and cranberry salad for the holidays. It’s so fun, colorful, and healthy. Every year I try and add a different flavoring. This year I will add pink peppercorns, pink salt, and apple cider vinegar.” -- Sharissa R., 48, mom of one, New York City

8. “Our Thanksgivings are created from recipes that are collected from favorite magazines and books, and always served vegan. I always marvel in how satisfied everyone is with alternative takes on very traditional dishes such as sweet potatoes in an agave brown sugar sauce, pineapple-cranberry relish, string beans with garlic, roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots in ginger sauce, and, of course, a small mushroom-cranberry roast.” -- Natalie E., 42, mom of two, Mechanicsville, Maryland

9. “We usually cook a ham with pineapple and brown sugar. Mostly because my husband and father-in-law are obsessed with ham. And now we've done it enough times that it’s tradition.” -- Kasandra M., 30, mom of one, Fairfield, Connecticut

10. “Instead of turkey or even [tofu turkey], we serve a lentil loaf because it’s healthy and actually really yummy!” -- Kat N., 49, mom of one, San Diego, California


Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a freelance writer and guitar teacher who lives with her husband and two young sons in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Image ©iStock.com/chapin31


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