Alternatives to Turkey for Turkey Day

Story By: Marck Parra

A Thanksgiving turkey cooking in the oven offers an unparalleled aroma as it enriches a household with festive goodness. But let’s face it, not everyone likes the taste of turkey.

Often criticized for being too dry or tasting too bland, a traditional Thanksgiving turkey is being tossed to the wayside in favor of other protein substitutes and cultural cuisine that offer fresh alternatives to the holiday bird.

Below are just a few of these alternatives to turkey offered by students at Long Beach State.

Ham Takes Center Stage

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The most common and streamlined substitute to turkey for a Thanksgiving meal is ham. Ham is an easy call to make as it is already present in most Thanksgiving meals and offers a richer flavor that turkey can only dream of.

Lots of students offered this as an alternative to turkey, including sociology major Michelle Castro.

“Ham all the way,” says Castro. “I don’t know why more people don’t go the ham route as the main course for Thanksgiving — it just tastes better.”

Ham does offer a familiarity factor and if you make a honey-glazed ham the focal point of your Thanksgiving meal, chances are, you will not be disappointed.

Cultural Cuisine

Cooking a turkey is very rarely used year-round in meals and seems to only make an appearence as we get closer to the holiday season.

Hispanic households are no different. They use turkey during Thanksgiving meals frequently too, but also add many other alternatives.

A lot of hispanic households -- specifically Mexican -- relay on cultural staples such as tamales instead of turkey to bring the family together for a feast during Thanksgiving.

International studies major Kevin Garcia does just that.

“No, we don’t eat turkey at my household at all,” says Garcia. “My mom instead makes so many tamales that they last until Christmas time.”

Go with the cultural direction if you are looking to add a new spice of flavor to your traditional Thanksgiving meal.

New-Age Diets



Paul Fairley, an acting major, is a pescatarian and for his Thanksgiving meal, salmon and pasta reign supreme.

For Fairley, turkey, a white meat, is unthinkable so a succulent lemon herb, garlic salmon dish with all the fixings will do the trick.  

“Salmon without a doubt,” says Fairley. “I still eat most of the traditional sides: mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, stuffing — especially stuffing — but for protein, I go with salmon.”

Go the pescatarian route for a healthier, lighter feast for this year’s Thanksgiving.

If turkey is not your favorite dish this holiday season, be certain that there are many other options out there instead.

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