9 spectacular festive alternatives to turkey

by Great British Chefs19 December 2022

Millions of families will tuck into turkey this Christmas, but it’s not everyone’s favourite. Try something new with our guide to show-stopping festive alternatives.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Turkey has long been a firm fixture on the Christmas dinner table, in a tradition which dates back as far as Henry VIII's reign. For centuries since, families have chosen it as the highlight of their Christmas meal, with its popularity gaining pace during the mid 1800s. And it’s easy to see why – a golden, roasted bird makes quite the impression and, when done right, crispy skin and beautifully tender meat are hard to top. Plus, it makes a delicious gravy and pairs perfectly with all the traditional trimmings (you can find more festive turkey inspiration in our recipe collection).

But times are changing, and more of us are looking elsewhere for our Christmas table centrepiece (around 40% of us opted for a turkey alternative in 2019, one survey found), whether that’s because we’re trying to eat less meat, explore new flavours or simply mix up our festive menus. Thankfully, there are plenty of fantastic options to choose from which will keep all your guests happy and guarantee a Christmas Day to remember.

So, if you’re not a fan of turkey or are simply on the look-out for fresh festive ideas, use our guide to Christmas alternatives before you make your final decision. From indulgent lobster to a show-stopping pithivier and crowd-pleasing beef to unforgettable roast duck, here are nine spectacular Christmas alternatives for this year’s celebration.

Porchetta with smoked garlic and lemon

Porchetta
Porchetta

Our porchetta recipe is the perfect fit for both an Italian feast and your Christmas dinner table. Simplified for the home cook, this version is flavoured with fennel seeds, smoked garlic, lemon and wine – the combination of crispy crackling and meltingly tender meat makes for a special dinner your family is unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Braised pheasant with sloe gin and chestnuts

Louise Robinson’s braised pheasants are a feast fit for any Christmas dinner table. The birds are browned, before being slow-cooked with aromatic sloe gin, chestnuts and bacon, for a festive dish which is simple to prepare but packed with seasonal flavour. The pheasants stay moist and tender, gently steaming as they cook.

Salt-baked salmon

Galton Blackiston recommends making this salt-baked salmon recipe a centrepiece of your meal, and cracking it open in front of your guests. The salt crust will keep the fish moist as it cooks. A delicious, lighter option that is sure to impress. 

Vegan mushroom, chestnut and thyme pithivier

Filled with chestnuts, mushrooms and thyme, Karen Burns-Booth's pithivier is a great option if you’re catering for vegans this Christmas. With shallots, garlic and Madeira also in the filling, it's a decadent, flavour-packed pie which is simple to prepare but still a show-stopper. It's guaranteed to catch the eye of even the meat-eaters at the table!

Ultimate Christmas goose

Charlie Hibbert's mouth-watering goose recipe makes use of every part of the bird – the legs are incorporated into the sprouts, the fat makes the perfect roast potatoes and the carcass creates a rich, unctuous gravy. Though turkey has become more common, the Christmas tradition of eating goose dates back centuries, and we can see why.

Lobster and caviar gratin

If you’re looking to steer clear of meat but want to deliver the wow factor, you won’t go wrong with this indulgent dish from Will Holland. Creamy gratin, lobster meat and luxurious caviar – it’s a lavish dish which looks as beautiful as it tastes.

Veggie Wellington

This sumptuous vegetarian Wellington recipe from Andy Waters is a brilliant main event for vegetarians at Christmas. The puff pastry parcel is packed with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, kale and spinach, plus some festive chestnuts. A fantastic meat-free option which pairs perfectly with all the Yuletide trimmings.

Sirloin of beef with mushrooms and brandy

A British classic, roast beef is hard to beat. Marcus Wareing elevates the beloved dish with a creamy mushroom and brandy sauce, flavoured with tarragon, thyme and red wine. Serve it with crispy roast potatoes and all the festive sides for a winter warmer of a Christmas dinner.

Honey mustard glazed roast ham

While a glazed ham might already be on your Boxing Day menu, why not make it the star of the show this year? Josh Eggleton’s roast ham is served with seasonal vegetables, parsley sauce and topped off with a gluten-free bread sauce – perfect if you’re catering for gluten-intolerant guests.

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