In many households, the family’s traditional Thanksgiving turkey recipe is cast in stone, and some would argue that’s the way it should be.
“Folks don’t really want new and different on Thanksgiving,” says Jessica Fisher, author of “Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook.” “I think many people crave the comfort of a traditional turkey dinner.”
Moreover, she adds, there’s a pragmatic financial incentive to keep to the tried and true: “Simple menu items like roast turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce can be easy to make, very make-ahead and super economical, especially when one shops the sales.”
For those willing to break with tradition, this list compiles 10 unique turkey recipes to spark your creativity and frugality. The national average price for turkey was $1.62 per pound in September, but the deals start now. After all, one of autumn’s greatest sports is getting the best deal on your Thanksgiving turkey.
1. Braised Turkey With Wine
- Cost after turkey: $11.01
It’s difficult to get a traditional roasted turkey just right since the breast and thigh meat cook at different speeds. If you want your bird to be moist and flavorful — and are okay with not having it all in one beautiful piece to carve at the table — you might try braising your bird like a pot roast. The team at America’s Test Kitchen worked out all the details, and your finished bird will be memorable. You most likely have most of the essential ingredients on hand already, and you can keep the cost down by using fresh instead of dried mushrooms.
Recipe: America’s Test Kitchen
2. Spatchcocked (Butterflied) Roasted Turkey
- Cost after turkey: $5.20
If the crisp, golden skin is your favorite part of a roast turkey, there’s never quite enough to go around. You can fix that by butterflying — or spatchcocking — the bird as described by the food science geeks at Serious Eats. Not only is it gloriously crisp and perfect, but also your cooking time for a 12- to 14-pound bird drops to about an hour and 20 minutes. Use their recipe or just apply the technique to your own. Either way, it’ll work beautifully.
Recipe: Serious Eats
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3. Bacon-Wrapped Turkey
- Cost after turkey: $13.06
Bacon? Say no more. There are lots of ways to do a bacon-crusted turkey, but the version at Chowhound — with fresh pears and a pear-cider gravy — is especially memorable. If you want an even simpler turkey recipe, you can just slap the bacon on your bird and do everything else the traditional way, which keeps your costs lower. But the recipe as written results in a really impressive bird.
4. Chile-Rubbed Turkey
- Cost after turkey: $16.83
The turkey was domesticated in Mexico well before Europeans arrived, so it’s only natural to amp up the bird with Latin flavors. The beer-brined, chile-rubbed version at Epicurious is especially tasty if you’ve never taken Thanksgiving in this direction before. You might not be able to find those exact chiles in your area, so substitute whatever’s available — and cheap — where you live. Try to find a balance of earthiness, sweetness, smokiness and heat.
Recipe: Bon Appetit
5. Honey and Soy-Glazed Turkey
- Cost after turkey: $12.44
If you’re equally unconstrained by family tradition and historical authenticity, Asian flavors make for a very different experience. This turkey dish from Epicurious coats the bird with the rich flavors of honey, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil and Chinese five-spice powder, which make it taste wonderful and give it an impressively rich mahogany color once it’s roasted.
Recipe: Food & Wine
6. Deboned and Rolled Turkey
- Cost after turkey: $0
Carving your Thanksgiving turkey would be so much simpler if it weren’t for all those inconvenient bones, so why not cut to the chase and cut out the bones? Deboning the bird requires a sharp knife and a bit of patience, but it isn’t actually all that hard. The football-shaped end result roasts quickly, and your turkey leftovers will come in the form of neat, round slices.
Recipe: Martha Stewart
7. Stuffed Turkey Breast With Butternut Squash and Figs
- Cost after turkey: $9.82
When you hear the word Thanksgiving, “healthy recipes” is probably not the first phrase that springs to mind. That doesn’t mean the holiday season has to be an exercise in excess, though. If the traditional diet-busting feast isn’t your thing, you can opt instead for tasty yet virtuous recipes like this one from the SkinnyTaste blog. The recipe as written calls for turkey tenderloins, but you can scale it up — and lower the price per portion — by using full-sized breasts.
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8. Turkey Breast Roulade
- Cost after turkey: $18.63
Scouring the internet for leftover turkey recipes is quickly becoming almost as traditional as the feast itself. The obvious way to avoid that whole exercise is to prepare a smaller meal rather than the whole bird — and this turkey breast roulade is a perfect example. It’s easy, inexpensive and the addition of apples and raisins to the store-bought stuffing gives it a fresh and seasonal flavor.
9. Stuffed Roasted Turkey Thighs
- Cost after turkey: $12.27
If the idea of a scaled-down Thanksgiving turkey appeals to you but white meat does not, never fear: Turkey thighs are just as versatile and offer lots of options for lovers of the dark meat. The breadcrumbs, sage and dried cranberries in this recipe hit all the familiar notes, while the additions of Italian sausage and mushrooms keep it moist and add new flavors and textures. Boning the thighs takes a few minutes, and so does trussing them with twine, but it’s not especially hard.
Recipe: Adore Foods
10. Turkey With Sauerkraut
- Cost after turkey: $7.42
Turkey’s understated richness makes it the pork of the poultry world. So it’s unsurprising to find that side dishes more usually associated with pork also work well on your Thanksgiving table. For Americans of Eastern European descent, for example, that often includes sauerkraut. Don’t just pluck it from the jar and plunk it on your plate: It needs to simmer for an hour or longer with added spices and aromatics to mellow and reach the proper flavor.
Recipe: Julie Rose of NPR
Disclaimer: The prices in this article were gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Walmart.com and HEB.com, and were accurate at the time of writing. Your own local prices will vary, and the cost cited for each recipe should be considered only as a rough guide. In practice, most homes will already contain some of the ingredients, which will help reduce your final price.