Four Thanksgiving Menu Ideas For Thanksgiving Dinner 2020 + Grilled Pumpkin Pie Recipe

people eating thanksgiving dinner

Your Thanksgiving dinner might look a little different this year, as some family members might opt to stay home and social distance. A smaller Thanksgiving dinner can mean rethinking your menu and recipes, giving you an opportunity to try out new ideas and recipes. Or, you might be opting to cook your first Thanksgiving dinner for your family and hosting your first potluck Friendsgiving. Break tradition and go for dishes that lend themselves to an intimate Thanksgiving holiday, giving you more time to spend with your loved ones and more options to flex your culinary muscles with a break from the typical Thanksgiving dinner.

By Michelle Stansbury, Eat, Drink, Be San Diego

Your Thanksgiving dinner might look a little different this year, as some family members might opt to stay home and social distance. A smaller Thanksgiving dinner can mean rethinking your menu and recipes, giving you an opportunity to try out new ideas and recipes. Or, you might be opting to cook your first Thanksgiving dinner for your family and hosting your first potluck Friendsgiving. Break tradition and go for dishes that lend themselves to an intimate Thanksgiving holiday, giving you more time to spend with your loved ones and more options to flex your culinary muscles with a break from the typical Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey Alternatives for a Small Thanksgiving Dinner

With a smaller Thanksgiving crew this year, consider downsizing your main dish. A full turkey is impressive but will be way too much food for an intimate gathering. Instead, consider game hens, which have a similar flavor profile to turkey but weigh in at only one to two pounds – perfect for a small Thanksgiving dinner. The poultry still brings a Thanksgiving vibe but in a much more manageable size. Game hens are surprisingly easy to cook, taking less than an hour to roast. For the most accurate cook time, use a meat thermometer. Inserted in the thickest part of the thigh joint, you should be looking for a temperature of 165 F. Stuff the birds to keep the meat moist and to create a true Thanksgiving feel!

Another turkey alternative is a roast duck, which is traditional for the holidays and so offers a special occasion feel. Since duck is fattier than turkey, it’s at a lower risk of drying out, though can take just as long to roast, depending on the size. If you still want to keep turkey on the table, stuffed turkey breasts put a new twist on a traditional Thanksgiving main dish. You can sous vide your turkey breast for a perfectly tender bird or roast it, the breast filled with cranberry sauce and stuffing for a taste of Thanksgiving in every bite.

Full Turkey Alternatives:

  • Game Hens
  • Roasted Duck
  • Stuffed Turkey Breasts

Individual Portions for Thanksgiving Dinner

Instead of serving a big Thanksgiving feast buffet-style, consider individual dishes for your meal. Individual servings, in addition to offering a beautiful presentation, can also help keep food and serving utensils separate, if you are trying to create a socially distant Thanksgiving.

Try filling acorn squash with apples, raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar for a taste of fall. Roast bundles of green beans in a strip of bacon for an adorable and decadent take on Thanksgiving veggies. Stuffing muffins are an adorable way to present single servings of Thanksgiving stuffing. Continue the theme with sweet potato cupcakes, topped with a toasted marshmallow frosting.

Ideas for Individuals Portions:

  • Stuffed Acorn Squash
  • Bacon Bundles of Green Beans
  • Stuffing Muffins
  • Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Support Your Local Restaurants

If you view cooking as an obligation instead of a joy, this is the year to shrug it off! Restaurants have had a tough year with the COVID-related shutdowns, so support your local restaurateurs by eating out this Thanksgiving. Whether you decide to get take out or eat in, you can leave the cooking to the professionals this year. Check social media or your local newspapers to find out what Thanksgiving specials restaurants in your town are offering this year.

A Grill-Lover’s Thanksgiving Menu

This Thanksgiving, take your dinner outside! Especially if you live in a temperate climate, you’ll love the casual, fun atmosphere of a Thanksgiving dinner from the grill. Turkey is delicious from the grill, just make sure you have a meat thermometer to track the temperature! Set up a charcoal grill for indirect cooking and add in some soaked wood chips to your coals for a delicious smoky flavor. Cover the grill and rotate the turkey regularly until your meat thermometer gets to 160°F in the thigh meat, which should take between three and four hours.

The grill temperature should stay between 300°F and 350°F for optimal cooking. Or, if you’re willing to invest in a spinning rotisserie grill attachment, that will do much of the work for you! Make sure to catch all the drippings to use for a smoky gravy.

For your sides, sweet potatoes on the grill are easy, and then up the festive factor by opening them up, sprinkling with some cinnamon and brown sugar, and topping with a marshmallow which will get toasty by the flame of the grill. Grilled corn on the cob is a classic as well, or opt for Thanksgiving veggies grilled on skewers. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can even grill pie! (It’s true!)

What to Grill for Thanksgiving:

  • Grilled Turkey
  • Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Marshmallows
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Veggie Skewers
  • Grilled Pumpkin Pie

Grilled Pumpkin Pie Recipe

1 – 9 inch pie shell

Filling:

  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated, if you have it)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions: Thaw your pie shell if it had been frozen and make sure it is in a metal (like aluminum) pie casing. Create a space on your grill for indirect cooking and pre-heat grill to 400 F. Whisk together all filling ingredients and then pour into the pie crust. Place the pie on the indirect heat and cook for 25 minutes. Rotate the pie, which should be starting to set around the edges, and cook for another 25 minutes, covered. Move pie to direct heat for 2-3 additional minutes to crisp the bottom of the pie and then transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Picture of Michelle Stansbury of Eat Dring Be SD/cp,

Michelle Stansbury

Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based blogger and freelance writer who writes about travel, food, cannabis, and relationships. Follow her @discovermichelle or visit https://www.eatdrinkbesd.com/. Her work has appeared in national magazines like Marie Claire, Forbes, Cosmo, Reader’s Digest, and Bustle.