Many of us envision a huge roasted turkey surrounding by seemingly endless side dishes when we think of a holiday feast. While there’s nothing wrong with a delicious slice of turkey, some might want to mix up the Christmas dinner main after years and years of the same meat. And making a different entree doesn’t have to kick turkey off the table — the more main dishes the merrier!
For those in search of alternatives to Christmas turkey, this article will give you a full lineup of different holiday meat ideas that have made the nice list this year along with some alternative Christmas roast recipes. We’ve even included a meatless section for our vegetarian friends and family members. Keep reading to find holiday dinner entrees to suit anybody’s taste buds.
10 Main Course Alternatives to Turkey for Christmas
If you’ve been wondering “What can I have instead of turkey for Christmas,” check out our top 10 list of alternative Christmas dinner ideas:
Traditionally, goose was the original bird of choice for a Christmas feast. Because geese are at their fattest and ripest for eating toward the end of the year, they make for a perfect December meal. In fact, goose has been a centerpiece of winter solstice celebrations since people offered its meat to the gods in ancient Greece.
Geese also have the softest fat of any poultry, with goose fat liquefying at just 111 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes goose more moist and flavorful than most birds as the fat naturally bastes it. You can use this delicious fat to make incredible gravy and take roasted vegetables to the next level. Infusing your veggies with some goose fat will make them so good even the kids’ table will be coming back for seconds.
Although deboning a goose is fairly easy, it is quite time-consuming so be sure to ask your butcher to debone it. Because geese keep well in the freezer, you can purchase yours in advance of the holidays to save yourself from a last-minute grocery scramble. Just remember to take the goose out of the freezer the day before to give it ample time to thaw.
For a cozy holiday classic, try making a spiced roast goose by rubbing the bird with a mix of warm spices like cinnamon, anise, cloves and coriander. Fill the goose’s cavity with a few sprigs of rosemary and a citrus fruit to give it an extra flavor boost, then place the bird in the oven for about three hours. As a bonus, sprinkle some pomegranate seeds over the meat once it’s been sliced and surround the serving platter with roasted veggies.
Another festive bird that offers flavorsome fat is duck. The stronger, sweeter taste of duck makes it the preferred Christmas dinner main dish for many people. With an abundance of mouth-watering, melty fat, duck also allows you to make some delicious gravy and fat-infused roasted veggies or other side dishes.
Slow-roasting a duck will give you plenty of fall-off-the-bone meat for your dinner guests to enjoy. The key is to let the duck rest for about half an hour before serving, which allows the juices in the meat to evenly disperse throughout the bird and make the meat as tender as possible. Giving the juices time to settle after cooking will also make the duck meat easier to handle.
Because duck has such a rich flavor, its meat pairs well with festive spices like cinnamon and cloves. For a delicious Christmas entree, consider making a roast duck with a decadent cherry and red wine sauce. Simply rub the duck with a warm spice mixture and place it in the oven for a few hours while you prepare the glaze in the meantime. After cooking the duck a bit longer, brush it with the cherry-wine glaze and pop it back in the oven to crisp up the skin before slicing and serving.
While chicken might not be the fanciest bird around, it can be a real crowd-pleaser and simple to prepare in a pinch. And depending on how it was sourced, the humble chicken can quickly steal the show at a holiday feast. Finding a free-range chicken that was grown slowly will ensure you get a bird with a better breast-to-leg meat ratio than a common commercial chicken.
When preparing your Christmas chicken, be sure to give it some extra flavor and moisture by rubbing the bird with a butter mixture under its skin. You can also stuff the chicken before roasting it to infuse the meat with warm winter flavors. By stuffing lemon, thyme and bay leaves into the chicken’s cavity, you can get the citrus and spices to soak in to add more sophisticated layers of taste to the meat.
Another way to spruce up your holiday chicken is to serve it alongside a cranberry and apple chutney. Balancing the savory taste of the chicken with a sweeter chutney will give your Christmas entree a fuller flavor profile. And as a wintertime fruit, cranberries always taste like the holiday season and can take your roasted chicken up a notch in flavor and moisture.
Once you’ve finished your Christmas meal, make sure you don’t throw any of the chicken carcass away. Instead, keep the bones and vegetable peelings to make a stock for future soups and stews. If there’s any meat left over from the bird, you can save it to create a delightful risotto, chicken pot pie or sandwich.
Nothing declares a dinner to be a festive celebration quite like an impressive roast beef. Roast beef makes a statement and is as tasty as it is visually stunning. So if you’re looking to show off your culinary skills a bit this holiday season, consider serving your guests a nice succulent piece of beef.
To achieve that “wow” factor when you present your roast to the table, purchase a cut of prime rib to prepare. The fat on a piece of prime rib makes the meat full of flavor, even with minimal seasonings. While both ends of a prime rib are packed with flavor, the smaller end has a bit more fat while the larger end tends to be leaner.
Because the meat already contains so much natural flavor, a prime rib rub can be quite simple. A basic blend of thyme, garlic and rosemary can be enough to elevate the taste of your roast beef. However, adding a garlic herb butter and red wine sauce can take your prime rib roast to the next level.
Another popular cut of beef to serve at the holidays is the tenderloin. Beef tenderloin is relatively easy to cook, as the cut doesn’t include any bones or fat to deal with. Raw tenderloin can also be easily slit to infuse the meat with more seasonings or to stuff the cut with other delicious ingredients like breadcrumbs, mushrooms and gorgonzola cheese.
One of the most well-known roast beef dishes is beef Wellington. Named for the Duke of Wellington in 1851, beef Wellington is a rich slab of beef wrapped in pastry to create a crisp, flaky outer shell for the moist meat. Although this classy dish may seem daunting, it can be rather simple to prepare if you use puff pastry and wrap the beef and mushrooms in a thin layer of prosciutto to shield the pastry from moisture.
If you’re looking for mouth-wateringly tender entree meats to spice up your holiday dinner party, lamb is the answer you’ve been searching for. Switch up your traditional Christmas roast with a moist lamb shoulder joint that’s bursting with flavor. When prepared with the right blend of bright spices and seasonings, a lamb roast can be a bold and balanced entree.
Although there are as many cuts of lamb as there are any other meat like beef or pork, the most common portions of the lamb to prepare for a group are the leg or the ribs. The leg can serve as a large, striking cut of meat for a festive gathering when prepared whole, while the rib is where some of the other most impressive cuts of meat come from like the rack of lamb.
Lamb is often served with a mint sauce because the refreshing taste of mint perfectly complements the rich, strong savory flavors of lamb meat. However, a leg of lamb prepared with rosemary, orange and cranberry stuffing may be a bit more fitting for the holiday season. By using a boneless leg of lamb, you can fill the meat with breadcrumbs and wintry seasonings like rosemary, parsley and dried cranberries to make the perfect holiday entree.
Depending on the cut of lamb you get, you can cook it using dry heat or with moist heat. Regardless of how you choose to cook your lamb, let it rest covered in tin foil before serving to give the meat a chance to continue cooking and solidify its flavor. To save yourself some trouble, make sure you use an extra sharp carving knife to slice the lamb.
Venison is the tender meat that comes from deer. In general, venison has a lovely bold flavor that adds a sense of depth to a dish. No need to worry if you’re not a hunter — there are plenty of specialty wild game meat shops where customers can pick up fresh cuts of venison.
Along with being delicious and nutritious, venison is fairly simple to prepare for a festive dinner. You can treat venison similarly to beef in the sense that you can roast it, make venison steaks or even a venison Wellington. The way you choose to prepare your venison will depend on what cut of meat you get and how strong you want the gamey flavor to be.
If you want to make a perfect venison roast that will be sure to impress your holiday guests, try wrapping the slab of venison with fatty, crispy prosciutto to protect it as it cooks then dousing it in a creamy savory sauce. Add delightful pops of flavor to your venison by incorporating surprising ingredients like coffee beans and dark chocolate to make your holidays all the merrier.
Seafood is an often overlooked dinner party star. Although many of us might not think of fish as a traditional Christmas main, some cultures treasure fish as a holiday staple. In fact, American-Italian culture features the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, which involves serving guests seven or more fish dishes over the course of the evening.
While there are many types of fish that would make your holiday dinner a success, some of the best kinds of fish for special occasions include salmon, swordfish and sea bass. These three varieties of fish tend to be meatier than other fish, which makes them less “fishy” and more flavorful. They are delicious when grilled, baked in the oven, sizzled in a skillet or even cooked inside of a flaky pastry covering.
If you decide to roast your salmon, place it skin side down on the pan to ensure the pink side of the fish gets evenly cooked. Whenever serving whole pieces of fish, make certain your guests are aware to watch out for bones.
Fish is also a much lighter dish so you can include more tasty sides alongside your holiday entree. Feel free to embrace the seafood theme and serve appetizers like a shrimp cocktail, cheesy crab dip or lobster bisque.
With such a wide range of dishes to choose from, serving seafood this holiday season can make your Christmas dinner memorable for all the right reasons. As a bonus, fish typically takes far less time to prepare than a traditional roast, so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the holiday with friends and family.
Pork is a great, hearty meat for any holiday celebration. Referring to meat that comes from a pig, pork is a tender and succulent main dish option for your Christmas dinner. From a sturdy pot roast pork to a stuffed pork loin or smoked pork chop, there are many ways that serving pork can make your holidays brighter and tastier.
Different cuts of pork are useful for different types of entrees. For example, pork shoulder is excellent for cooking low and slow — it can even be slow-roasted overnight — while pork tenderloin is prime for stuffing. If you do decide you’d like to stuff your pork tenderloin with a festive filling, make sure you ask your butcher to butterfly the meat.
Cooking pork as a pot roast is a classic technique for keeping the meat juicy and soft. All you need to do to prepare a mouthwatering pork pot roast is roll the meat in seasonings, put it in a deep pan, scatter some onions and figs around it, pour some wine over the meat and place it in the oven. Remember to add more wine and mix the meat in the juices about halfway through the cooking process.
No matter how you cook your pork, take advantage of the blank canvas it offers to create a perfectly balanced sweet and savory masterpiece. Thanks to its salty flavoring, pork pairs extremely well with sweeter seasonings like cinnamon, figs, pears and apples. Just remember to keep pieces of fruit tucked snugly beneath the meat when roasting it to prevent them from burning.
Although ham is technically pork, this particular cut of pig is such a holiday staple that we had to devote a separate section to it. A tantalizingly sweet and salty ham is enough to be a showstopper at your Christmas table, and it is relatively easy to carve at the table so you can show off your hosting skills even more. Along with being tasty and visually appealing, ham is a satisfying main dish that will keep your guests full and happy.
When it comes to choosing a Christmas ham, you have options. You can select a bone-in ham, which provides more flavor from the bone, or a boneless ham that will make carving the meat easier. You could also purchase a smoked ham that will come with a beautiful smoky flavor already infused into it.
Regardless of which type of ham you choose, make sure you get one that is “shankless,” which means the ham has already been fully trimmed for you. With a trimmed ham, all you have to do is whip up a delicious golden glaze for the meat. Anything from a sophisticated coriander cranberry glaze to a simple apple butter spread can serve as a sweet, sticky coating for the juicy ham.
You can save yourself precious time and stress this holiday season by ordering your holiday ham in advance so all you have to do is pop it in the oven on the big day.
Not all of us are meat lovers, and that’s all right! There are plenty of delicious vegetarian entree options that will satisfy and amaze your holiday dinner party guests just as much as a giant roast. Whether you’re a longtime vegetarian or need a few dishes to feed some vegetarian guests, you have an extensive amount of veggie-centered holiday dishes to pick from.
With so many delicious winter root vegetables and squashes, the holidays are the perfect time to start exploring new vegetarian dishes. You can choose a dish that imitates a more traditional holiday main, such as a cauliflower roast or a chestnut and butter bean Wellington, or an entree that’s all its own like a stuffed acorn squash. Other types of squash like butternut squash are prime for filling with stuffings of grains, seeds and diced fruit as well.
Along with wintry vegetables, another great vegetarian Christmas dinner option is pasta. From layers of delicious meatless lasagna to warming pumpkin ravioli, pasta offers a wide variety of vegetarian possibilities. As Christmas is the time for childlike wonder, you can channel your inner-child with comfort food like macaroni and cheese or a vegetarian pizza.
Don’t forget to provide enough protein for vegetarian diners by including dishes with ingredients like tofu, seitan and tempeh. These plant-based alternatives are perfect substitutes for the meat used in traditional main courses. Beans are another great source of vegetarian protein and can be easily made into a delicious soup when you use a convenient mix.
Have fun exploring your vegetarian options and experimenting in the kitchen this holiday season. Just be sure to make extra — your vegetarian dishes will be so delicious that your meat-eating guests won’t be able to resist!
Order Your Holiday Meats From S. Clyde Weaver
If you want to make your Christmas dinner truly memorable, purchase your main meat from S. Clyde Weaver. With over 100 years of experience making smoked meats, we know how to bring the perfect flavors to your holiday table.
Located in Lancaster County, Weaver’s knows the meaning of fresh, farm-to-table food. We use high-quality, locally sourced ingredients so no matter where you are, you can experience the taste of home this holiday season. Along with various meats smoked in our own smoker, we offer a selection of Lancaster favorites that are full of flavor and nostalgia.
Whether you’re a Lancaster local or have moved elsewhere, order your holiday ham online from S. Clyde Weaver to make this Christmas all the more merry and bright.