If you’re seeking that perfect 8-pound, free-range, organic, Ivy-educated holiday bird this year, it might be tough turkey. All signs point to a serious turkey shortage for Thanksgiving 2022 thanks to supply chain issues and an outbreak of bird flu, and experts predict turkey will be hard to find, especially specialty turkeys and birds in specific sizes. But, hey, nowhere is it written that this polarizing Thanksgiving main has to be the star of the show, anyhow. Yes, there are several turkey stand-ins that will keep the group just as happy and well-fed, and this year might be as good as any to change things up. 

Turkey, we’ll miss thee. But not all that much, to be honest

There’s no shortage of discourse around turkey and if it’s worth the hassle, even for Thanksgiving. Turkey is famously hard to cook without drying out, mostly thanks to its size and abundance of lean white meat. Turkeys also take forever to cook, typically several hours. And the big ones are darn near impossible to store in the fridge freezer. In short, there’s a reason most people don’t cook whole turkeys the rest of the year. 

The best turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving 

If you’ve decided to forgo the turkey amid this year’s shortage, your options are truly endless. Other popular poultry candidates include rich and fatty duck or roasted chicken, both of which will stand in seamlessly and pair perfectly with traditional Thanksgiving sides. There are also cuts of beef to consider such as prime rib, beef tenderloin, brisket or pot roast. If beef isn’t your jam, a leg of lamb will also serve as an unexpected substitute for turkey. 

And then there’s the option of ditching the meat altogether and serving up one of the many excellent plant-based turkey substitutes or entrees. I know what you’re thinking, but vegan “meats” have come a long way since you choked down that Tofurky at your hippie aunts in the ’90s. 

If it is a turkey you’re after, the sooner your order it the better. We’ve rounded up the best places to buy turkey online ahead of Thanksgiving. Otherwise, these are the best meats to serve for Thanksgiving that aren’t turkey.

Best turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving

Rastelli’s

Some slices of rare prime rib with mashed potatoes and stuffing. Now we’re talking. This 4- to 4.5-pound prime beef roast is wet-aged and hand-trimmed with lots of marbling for a tasty finish. 

D’Artagnan

Roast duck is a natural alternative to turkey when they’re hard to come by. D’Artagnan is one of our favorite online butchers and sells rich and fatty Pekin ducks starting at $35. 

Porter Road

Brisket takes a little longer to cook but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze. Find a good recipe and execute it well and you’ll be pulling the meat apart with a fork. We love Porter Road’s cuts and the online butcher has a 5- to 6-pound brisket flat with great marbling for $63 or nab the whole 9-pound brisket for $105.

Goldbelly

OK, admittedly so this turkey substitute still has turkey but it’s also stuffed with a duck and a chicken. I tried one last year and I’m finding it hard to serve anything else this year. The duck keeps the turkey incredibly moist as it cooks and the Cajun stuffing has just enough kick. See how my turducken experience went in this full write-up. 

Goldbelly has a range of preassembled turducken options available, and you can schedule the delivery for the week of Thanksgiving. 

Cooks Venture

If you’re going to keep it simple with roast chicken in place of turkey for Thanksgiving, be sure get yourself a good bird (or two). Cook’s Venture raises heritage birds that are bred for taste and not just size the way factory farms do it. Snag a bundle of chickens and roast a few for the big day. 

D’Artagnan

Lamb is gamier than beef and poultry but when cooked properly is darn delicious. This 6-pound Australian leg of lamb should be plenty to feed a group of at least eight people. Just don’t forget the mint jelly.

Best plant-based turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving

Purple Carrot

There are plenty of delicious vegan Thanksgiving foods and Purple Carrot, our favorite plant-based meal kit service, is offering a Thanksgiving Box. The fully stocked meal kit costs $75 and is good for four “generous” servings.

The menu includes:

  • Cashew cheese stuffed sweet potatoes with pecan parsley salsa
  • Rustic ciabatta stuffing with root vegetables and herb sausage
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts with oyster mushrooms and garlic kimchi butter
  • Pear cranberry crisp with walnut crumble 
  • Classic gravy and cranberry sauce

Field Roast

Field Roast makes some of the best vegan meat alternatives including sausages and frankfurters. The plant-based brand has a holiday roast fit for your Thanksgiving table complete with stuffing and mushroom gravy. The meatless entree is available online or in select stores and serves about six to eight people. There’s also a garlic and sage version of the plant-based holiday roast.

No Evil Foods

We tested this plant-based holiday roast in 2020 and it got a rave review. This vegan roast might be a little trickier to find online but use the brand’s store locator to find one near you.

More meaty recommendations for the holidays