The holidays are a perfect time to gather with those that are closest to you. But don’t settle for the same old thing if that’s not your jam. Whether you’re feeding a crowd or feeding two, be sure to celebrate the holidays with main dishes that you’ll enjoy. From close-to-traditional to pescatarian and vegetarian options, these 15+ Main Dishes for a Non-Traditional Holiday Dinner will give you plenty to choose from for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.
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I really love this time of the year a lot. I love gathering with family and friends and there always seems to be some sort of magic in the air. Even when I worked in restaurants, I still wanted to help families create memories through food this time of year.
“What do I make for Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner when it’s the two of us?” That’s a question that I’ve heard frequently from most newly married friends. I also had a friend confide in me, recently, that her husband can’t have turkey (I have no idea why exactly). So, I’ve had this idea in mind for a post for a while to help those in all different family circumstances, still have a memorable holiday season with delicious, and possibly, non-traditional recipes.
What to Make For a Holiday Dinner
All of these main dish holiday recipes can definitely be used for Thanksgiving or Christmas interchangeably but I figure I would still break them up into categories to help you out! For reference, here are the different categories:
- Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes
- Christmas Main Dishes
- Holiday Dinner Recipes for Two (or a Small Gathering)
- Pescetarian and Vegan Christmas Entrees
With that being said, let’s get you prepped for the main dishes of the holiday season.
Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes
I figured I would get this part out of the way to possibly help instill hope that turkey can be an exciting main dish for a Thanksgiving or even Christmas dinner. Here are a few delicious turkey recipes to restore your faith in this bird!
Instead of doing a whole turkey, which can take a whole lot of time to do, why not roast a turkey breast? It’s a super ideal option for those who are only feeding two or a small family. I like to roast a bone-in turkey breast, brined overnight and smothered in a compound butter.
A fun and delicious whole turkey alternative for Thanksgiving is a Bacon Wrapped Turkey Breast with Chorizo, Cranberries, and Little Potatoes from Salt and Lavender.
Creating a nutty crust on a turkey breast is a fun way to get the flavors on stuffing on your turkey! Check out this Hazelnut Crusted Turkey Breast from Renee Nicole’s Kitchen.
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Christmas Main Dishes
Christmas dinner is a big affair! However, I know that some families like to get most of their celebrating done Christmas Eve and just relax Christmas Day. In either case, these holiday main dishes would be perfect for celebrating the most wonderful time of the year!
If lamb is more of your style for holiday dinners, be sure to check out this tutorial on How to Roast a Leg of Lamb. Perfect with a mint pesto!
Seasoned Sprinkles created this gorgeous Christmas Stuffed Flank Steak that takes a rather tough piece of meat and makes it spectacular!
A Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin with a Honey Pomegranate Glaze from Neighbor Food Blog is a pork lover’s dream come true!
I was introduced to this particular roast when catering a holiday party in a ritzy part of town! A Simplified Stuffed Porchetta Roast is an Italian Christmas dinner staple!
Simply rubbing lamb with rosemary and garlic on lamb gives everyone the holiday feels. Be sure to check out this Rosemary and Garlic Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb from House of Nash Eats.
A frenched pork rack is the perfect roast that can be customized to fit the number of guests you need to feed! This Honey Mustard Glazed Roasted Rack of Pork is a perfect roast for your holiday dinner.
Prime Rib seems like an iconic Christmas dinner main dish staple. So if you can fork out the money for this satisfying roast, do it! And check out Neighbor Food Blog’s Garlic Rosemary Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream.
Duck is especially prominent in British Christmas dinners and it’s easy to see why! Easily feed 4-6 people with this Whole Roasted Duck with Pomegranate and Soy Glaze!
Another great recipe to check out for lamb is So Damn Delish Perfect Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb.
Holiday Dinner Recipes for Two (or a Small Gathering)
If you’re like me, and many others around the world, you might not be able to cook enough to feed a crowd simply because… it’s just you and your honey… and possibly a small child. There is no reason to throw a huge holiday dinner if you are going to be stuck eating leftovers for months. The following are fantastic recipes for a small Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
One suggestion that I gave to a friend, who asked me what she should make when it was just her and her husband for the holidays, was to do a small chicken. This Lemon Roast Chicken from Inside the Rustic Kitchen is perfect for a small non-turkey Thanksgiving dinner.
What Great Grandma Ate has a fantastic lamb option that is perfect for a small holiday dinner. Check out their Turmeric Garlic Pan Fried Lamb Chops.
Duck is a Christmas dinner staple in many parts of the world and this Blood Orange Chocolate Sauce on Sous Vide Duck Breasts from Beyond Mere Sustenance has me wanting more!
Adding some exotic spices to your entrée can make you feel like you’re traveling the world for the holidays. Check out this Roasted Five-Spice Peking Chicken from Pups With Chopsticks.
Slow Cooker Balsamic Braised Short Ribs from Away From the Box is a great way to have a fancy holiday dinner while leaving oven space for sides and other dishes.
If it’s just you and your sweetie for the holidays, make this romantic Pan Seared Filet Mignon Bordelaise from Garlic and Zest to double as a Christmas dinner and a date night dinner as well!
Pescetarian and Vegan Christmas Entrees
We all know someone who isn’t all on board for eating meat during the holidays, for whatever reason, so I was super lucky to get my hands on a few holiday recipe options so that they can feel included as well!
Grilled Shrimp with Cranberry Salsa from Cooking on the Front Burners is a festive way to celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank.
This Vegan Mushroom Wellington from Delicious Everyday is a perfect option to celebrate the holidays that even meat eaters would enjoy!
If you are feeling like you want to take your nontraditional holiday dinner up a couple of notches, be sure to check out Sprinkles and Sprouts Seared Scallops with Saffron Cream Sauce.
Tips for a Successful Holiday Dinner
Everyone stresses out about cooking their holiday dinner and I understand why. We essentially want to impress people with our food. There is no reason to worry, though, if you just follow a few tips first.
- Try out a new recipe beforehand. This helps tremendously! The worst time to try out an unfamiliar recipe is for a big event… and the holidays are HUGE! Give your recipe a trial run to see if 1) you even like it and 2) to familiarize yourself with the cooking techniques and timing.
- Prep and brine your meats a few days in advance. Brining takes at least 24 hours for a full effect but it doesn’t hurt to let your protein sit in a brining solution for a few days until you’re ready to cook.
- Find alternative ways to cook meat to free up oven space. Oven space is coveted during the holidays so find other ways to cook your meat, or find a quicker cooking meat, to free up space for other holiday recipes. Speaking of which, if you’re cooking a holiday dinner, you’ll be interested in some holiday side dishes. Be sure to check out this post of 20+ Unique and Gourmet Holiday Side Dishes. You’re welcome in advance.
- Double and triple check that you have all the necessary tools in order to pull off this dinner! I’ll talk more about tools down below but there is nothing worse than thinking you have a basting syringe, only to find out that you don’t.
- Be like Santa and make lists! Make prep lists, shopping lists, schedule lists, tool lists etc. in order to pull off a successful holiday dinner!
Essential Tools to Cook a Holiday Dinner
With all of these different options, I want to give you some essential tools that you’ll need in order to make your holiday dinner as successful as possible. Some might seem a little off the wall but I want to make sure that you’re set up for success!
First thing, a meat thermometer (affiliate). If there is nothing else that I want you to take away from this post, this is the only one!!! You need a meat thermometer to make sure that you don’t have undercooked meat. This also helps prevent your meat from overcooking, as it will let you know when your meat is done with cooking.
Roasting pan with a wire rack (affiliate). A lot of these posts are roasts and in order to get a nice, crispy, but moist roast, this is essential! I like this one (affiliate) because it has a roasting pan, a wire rack, roast lifters, AND a baster! This is a great package deal for the holidays!
Serving Platter (affiliate). This is almost a given but I want to make sure that you have a platter big enough to serve these beautiful entrees on.
A timer (affiliate). Yeah I know, I have a timer on my phone. You’re going to get distracted from texting while cooking and you’re going to forget to set it. OR you’re going to be cooking different things at the same time and need another timer. So here you go, get a timer!
This seems a little “no duh,” but it goes without saying, you’re going to need a great carving set (affiliate)! Don’t try to McGyver it with a small fork and a steak knife. Invest in a great set and your roasts will come out looking perfectly cut every time. I especially like this one (affiliate).
Take a deep breath, you got this! I hope that you found this post super helpful! The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and I hope that you find these recipes delicious and part of your holiday traditions. Let me know what you think down in the comments below!
If you are hosting a holiday party, you might need to feed your guests some appetizers while you’re waiting for the dinner to finish cooking! Check out 18+ Easy and Gourmet Holiday Party Appetizers!