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Turkey Free Thanksgiving Recipes

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More from Outdoor Living Newsletter November Outdoor Living Newsletter
Turkey with an Eat Ham sign hanging from its neck
Give the turkey a break this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day has long been synonymous with having a big, fat, juicy turkey on the table. There are no records to confirm whether the Pilgrims feasted on turkey on their first Thanksgiving Day, a celebration for a bountiful harvest, in 1621. One certain thing though is that, since Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving Day, turkey has been part of the American family's Thanksgiving tradition. The turkey has been the star of the Thanksgiving table for centuries past and according to the National Turkey Federation, around 90% of Americans observe Thanksgiving with that plump bird, prepared many different ways.

But, let's be honest here, do thoughts of having turkey, with or without the requisite cranberry jelly sauce, still excite you to celebrate Thanksgiving? Perhaps this year, instead of having yet another Turkey Day, we can cook up something different, yet still festive and delicious. Prepare any of these recipes we have for you, and your family and friends will surely thank you for it!

1.  Roast Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce (Source:

Unlike most poultry meat breasts that usually dry out, duck breasts are juicy, succulent and they easily absorb the juices and sauces cooked with it. The pomegranate-chile sauce in this recipe gives a wonderful interplay of sweet and spicy flavors that will tickle your guests' palate.

Serves 6
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 13 minutes



  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups refrigerated pomegranate juice (such as Pom)
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 4 large dried California chiles,* stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo**
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin (not toasted)
  • Coarse kosher salt


  • Eight 5 to 6 ounce boneless duck breast halves, skin and fat trimmed to size of breast
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Ground coriander
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds


For Sauce:

  1. 1.  Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until syrup is deep amber color, swirling pan occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  2. 2.  Add juice, broth, and California chiles. Boil until sauce is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat; cool.
  3. 3.  Puree in tightly covered blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Whisk in adobo sauce, vinegar, and cumin.
  4. 4.  Season to taste with generous amount of coarse salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm over low heat before using.

For Duck:

  1. 1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. 2.  Score skin of duck (don't cut into flesh) with 5 cuts in 1 direction; repeat in opposite direction, making diamond pattern.
  3. 3.  Sprinkle duck all over with coarse salt, pepper, and ground coriander.
  4. 4.  Place 2 large ovenproof skillets over medium-high heat.
  5. 5.  Add duck, skin side down, to skillets, dividing equally.
  6. 6.  Cook duck until skin is crisp and deep brown, about 7 minutes. Turn duck over; cook 1 minute.
  7. 7.  Pour off fat.
  8. 8.  Transfer skillets to oven.
  9. 9.  Roast duck until cooked to medium rare, about 5 minutes.
  10. 10.  Transfer duck to cutting board. Let rest 5 minutes.
  11. 11.  Thinly slice each breast crosswise on slight diagonal. Arrange slices on plates.
  12. 12.  Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds

* Available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.
** Dried, smoked jalapeños in a spicy tomato sauce called adobo; available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.

2.  Roast Stuffed Rabbit (Source:

Rabbit meat, with its rich and sweetish taste, is surprisingly lean and packed with protein. This recipe has a remarkable Oriental flavor that is a welcome deviation from the usual Western taste.

Serves 6
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 1.5 hours


  • 2 tsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp finely minced onion
  • 1/4 cup finely minced celery
  • 2 cups soft bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground dry ginger
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped water chestnuts
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth or rabbit stock
  • 1 rabbit, about 4 to 7 lbs (whole)
  • 1 tbsp soft butter
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp marmalade
  • 2 tsp bottled steak sauce


  1. 1.  Heat oil in a small skillet.
  2. 2.  Add onion and celery, sauté until soft.
  3. 3.  In a large bowl, mix onion, celery and next 7 ingredients.
  4. 4.  Spoon into cavity of rabbit, fasten with skewers. Blend butter and paprika, brush on surface of rabbit.
  5. 5.  Roast, covered, at (350°F) for 50 minutes after juices begin to sizzle.
  6. 6.  Mix marmalade and steak sauce, spoon over rabbit.
  7. 7.  Roast uncovered, 20 minutes longer.

3.  To Die for Crock Pot Roast (Source:

It may be presumptuous to label one's own recipe "To Die for Crock Pot Roast", but more than a thousand 5-star votes would tell you that the person behind the recipe knew what he/she was doing. Amazingly, the recipe calls for 5 minutes of preparation and 9 hours of cooking time - slow cooking at its finest!

Serves 4
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time : 9 hours


  • 1 (4 - 5 lb) beef roast, any kind
  • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) package brown gravy mix, dry
  • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) package dried Italian salad dressing mix
  • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) package ranch dressing mix, dry
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. 1.  Place beef roast in crock pot.
  2. 2.  Mix the dried mixes together in a bowl and sprinkle over the roast.
  3. 3.  Pour the water around the roast.
  4. 4.  Cook on low for 7-9 hours.

4.  Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Balsamic-Fig-Basil Sauce (Source:

Not only is lamb flavorful, it is also rich in protein (loaded with 8 essential amino acids), selenium and zinc. How's that for serving something really delectable and healthy this holiday? The playful mix of balsamic, fig and basil in the sauce adds a festive flavor to the meat.

Serves 6
Preparation time: 50 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour


  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped prunes
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 2 tablespoons creme de cassis liqueur
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (4 pound) boneless leg of lamb, rolled and tied
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 3 cloves garlic, cut into thirds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced, stemmed Calimyrna figs
  • 5 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
  • 6 leaves mint
  • 6 leaves basil


  1. 1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. 2.  Combine the chopped prunes and currants with the creme de cassis in a small bowl, and set aside.
  3. 3.  In another small bowl, combine the rosemary, thyme, coriander, salt, and pepper; set aside.
  4. 4.  Untie and unroll the lamb, lay it out flat on the work surface.
  5. 5.  Trim off excess fat, and cut any thick parts open so that it is evenly thick and somewhat rectangular in shape.
  6. 6.  Sprinkle half of the herb mixture over the lamb.
  7. 7.  Mix the almonds and chopped mint into the prune mixture; spread evenly over the lamb.
  8. 8.  Roll up starting at one of the short sides, and tie with kitchen twine in 1-inch intervals.
  9. 9.  Cut 9 slits about 1-inch deep into the top of the lamb, and insert a slice of garlic in each.
  10. 10.  Rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining herb mixture.
  11. 11.  Place lamb seam-side up on a rack set in a roasting pan.
  12. 12.  Roast in the preheated oven to desired doneness. For medium-rare, a thermometer inserted into the center will read 140 degrees F (60 degrees C).
  13. 13.  Remove lamb from the oven and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes while proceeding with the recipe.
  14. 14.  While the lamb is resting, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat.
  15. 15.  Boil until the vinegar has reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes.
  16. 16.  Once reduced, stir in the butter, honey, and sliced figs. Stir until the butter has melted, then remove from the heat, stir in the chopped basil and set aside.
  17. 17.  To serve, remove the twine from the lamb and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange on a warm serving platter and drizzle with the fig sauce, garnish with mint and basil leaves.

5.  The Ultimate Pork Crown Roast (Source:

Here's yet another recipe labeled in its superlative. Try this on Thanksgiving and have your family tell you what they think. The herbs (thyme and fresh sage) and garlic rubbed on the pork enhance the meat's flavor. And the apple pecan stuffing makes this pork crown roast the embodiment of a celebratory dish.

Serves 12-14
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Inactive time: 3 hours
Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes


  • 1/2 bunch thyme, leaves only
  • 1/2 bunch fresh sage, leaves only
  • 2 cloves garlic, gently smashed and paper removed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 pounds pork rib roast (about 12 to 14 ribs)
  • Apple Pecan Stuffing, can be made ahead of time
  • Gravy, recipe follows
  • Watercress, for garnish, optional
  • Special equipment: roasting pan fitted with roasting rack


  1. 1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Set rack on the bottom third of the oven so the roast will fit completely inside.
  2. 2.  In a small mixing bowl or mortar and pestle, combine thyme, sage, garlic, and salt and pepper, to taste, and mash to break up herbs and garlic. Add oil, about 1 cup, and combine with pestle.
  3. 3.  Take crown roast of pork and if your butcher hasn't already prepared it, clean the bones of meat with a boning knife (French them) and make a small cut into the meat in between each rib so you can wrap it into a circle easily; save the scraps.
  4. 4.  Rub the pork all over with the herb mixture. With the ribs on the outside, wrap the rack around onto itself so the ends meet and secure with kitchen twine so it holds its crown shape.
    *Cook's note: if you are doing this by yourself, using a skewer to help hold its shape while you wrap the kitchen twine around the roast.
  5. 5.  Place in a roasting pan.
  6. 6.  Add the scraps into the bottom of the pan alongside the roast. This will help add flavor to your sauce.
  7. 7.  Set aside to bring the pork to room temperature prior to cooking.
  8. 8.  Fill the cavity with Apple Pecan Stuffing.
  9. 9.  Cover the stuffing and the tips of the rib bones with foil then place the whole roast in the oven and bake for 2 hours and 20 minutes, an instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone should register 150 degrees F when done.
  10. 10.  About 30 to 45 minutes prior to doneness, remove the foil to brown the stuffing and create a crust.
  11. 11.  Remove from the oven, loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes before cutting.
  12. 12.  Serve with Apple Pecan Stuffing and Gravy. Garnish with watercress, if desired.

Apple Pecan Stuffing


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing
  • 1/2 bunch fresh sage
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups raw pecans
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 5 cups sourdough bread (crusts removed), hand-torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


  1. 1.  Set a large saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil, sage and thyme sprigs. As the oil heats up the herbs will crackle and fry, infusing the oil.
  2. 2.  Remove the sage and thyme and set aside on a paper towel to drain - these can be as a garnish, if desired.
  3. 3.  Add onions to the pan and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until caramelized.
  4. 4.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. 5.  Remove onions from pan and add apples.
  6. 6.  Crush the pecans and add to the pan. Add more oil, if needed and season with salt and pepper.
  7. 7.  Gently saute until pecans are lightly toasted and apples are just cooked slightly - about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. 8.  In a large mixing bowl whisk together egg, cream, chicken stock, and salt and pepper, to taste.
  9. 9.  Add torn sourdough, caramelized onions, apples, pecans and chopped parsley.
  10. 10.  Using a wooden spoon, mix the stuffing until well combined.

While it is perfectly fine to be loyal to tradition, we should also learn to shake things up from time to time. So this year, surprise your loved ones by bringing a new recipe to your Thanksgiving spread. Enjoy!

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