The Ultimate Thanksgiving Recipes…with a Twist

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, right? Wrong! This year try Thanksgiving with a twist! Don’t get me wrong. Cooking a turkey and all the trimmings is certainly delicious. There is nothing quite like that leftover turkey sandwich the next day. But why not try something different? Think outside the box! Mash it up! And I am not talking about the potatoes. Here are three ways to turn your turkey dinner on it’s tail feather.

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Recipes…with a Twist

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Menu

1. Smoke It

You have definitely tried roasting your bird in the oven. It is possible that you have even experimented with frying your turkey. But have you tried smoking it? This method is equally delicious as the others, but it is WAY easier. There is no scooping out those nasty turkey gizzards because you can buy a turkey breast instead of the whole turkey. That is the best part anyway!

Here are the steps. Ready? Brine it, rub it, smoke it. Like I said, less mess and less complicated.

  • Brine It– I rarely follow a recipe when creating a brine because I basically like to clear out my fridge and pantry. But I like to start with a base of 8-10 cups of water, 3/4 cup of salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar or brown sugar. Then, you can add garlic cloves and whichever seasonings you like. For the turkey, I would add some poultry seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and maybe a splash of apple cider vinegar. Bring all of the ingredients to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, before allowing to cool completely. Then, place your turkey breast in the brine for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.
  • Rub It– You can buy premade rubs for your turkey or make your own by combining the same seasonings as above and rubbing liberally all over. Or you can try this rub from Food Network.
  • Smoke It– There are a ton of smokers on the market, but we own the one below. The Green Egg is amazing, but it is also pricey. Since we live in Las Vegas and do not have to worry about trying to smoke meats in below freezing temperatures, our Weber Smoker is perfect. Depending on the size of your turkey breast, you will want to smoke it at  225-250 degrees for about 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees.

*The following is an affiliate link. There is no additional cost to you, but I may receive a small commission if you purchase using my link. 

On the Side

I would recommend spicing things up for your side dishes. For example, Bobby Flay’s sweet and spicy Pumpkin Soup with Cinnamon Creme and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds would make a great appetizer. To serve alongside the smoked turkey, try his Sourdough, Wild Mushroom, and Bacon Dressing. His Sweet Potato Gratin is also truly divine. Then, for dessert, continue with the sweet and spicy theme and make Chef Flay’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce.

This meal is perfect if you love tradition, but want to mix things up “just a bit”. The other bonus is that you will still have those amazing turkey sandwiches as leftovers the following day. All that Black Friday shopping required sustenance of the smoked turkey variety! Is your mouth watering yet?

Smoked Turkey Recipe

2. Stuffed Pork Chop with Cinnamon Apples

I have a secret. This is the easiest and most delicious Thanksgiving dinner ever. Your guests will think you spent hours slaving in the kitchen. In actuality, you could have this meal knocked out in no time.

There are two ways you can serve these stuffed pork chops with cinnamon apples for Thanksgiving. One way to create this meal is a total secret and you shall never reveal it to your guests. You can buy your stuffed pork chops premade at most local butcher chops. They have already cut the pork chops and stuffed them with some sort of seasonal stuffing (perfect for Thanksgiving). All you have to do is take them home and pop them in the oven.

The second way is make these bad boys yourself. You want to get bone-in pork chops, at least two inches thick. You can ask your butcher to split them to the bone for you. This is to make your life easier later. Maybe you are a surgeon or a butcher, but I’m just a mom and my cuts look like something my toddler might do.

Again, I recommend create a brine for your meat. Brining helps to lock in those great juices and flavors. I found this great recipe for an Apple Cider Brine that I have not tried yet, but sounds amazing. It has the right base of salt and sugar, but incorporates apple cider and some spices to bring out those great fall flavors…with a little spice.

For the stuffing, I love this recipe from the Neely’s. It includes your traditional celery, onion, garlic, rosemary, and sage, but the twist is adding cornbread and dried cranberries. Genius! If you have a favorite family stuffing recipe, you can still make it! Just use it to stuff your pork!

Season your meat liberally with salt and pepper. You can grill your pork chops or bake at 375 degrees. The time will depend upon the size of your pork chop, but you want an internal temperature of 145 degrees. To finish, serve with my father-in-law’s cinnamon apples on top. It creates it’s own sauce that will have you licking the plate at the end of the meal. Or you could slather it with your favorite sauce and serve the apples on the side or for dessert over vanilla ice cream!

On the Side

This is a very hearty meal, so you do not need a lot of extra sides. Besides the cinnamon apples, I would do something green like Ina Garten’s roasted Brussels Sprouts or Alton Brown’s Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole. For something cool and crisp, I might just throw together a spinach salad with dried cranberries, halved pecans, quartered artichokes, and feta cheese. Then, top with a light vinaigrette.

Stuffed Pork Chop Thanksgiving Recipe

3. Paella

Paella Thanksgiving with a Twist

This year, my family and I have decided totally shake things up and serve paella. Paella is definitely the ultimate twist on a Thanksgiving dinner! However, it is also the perfect dish to serve for true “family style” dining. Not to mention, it is completely indulgent. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? Sharing with family and eating more food than you would probably eat in a week!

Paella is a Spanish style dish with a rice and luxurious saffron base. From there, the recipe may call for a wide variety of meats from chicken and chorizo to shrimp and even lobster tails! Yes, please!

My husband and I first tried paella once in Paris while waiting to take a train down to the South of France. We were already in love with each other, but we fell head-over-heels in love with this sweet, spicy, salty, and savory dish. Every bite offers something different. You might encounter a different flavor or different texture that just lights your palate on fire (in a good way)!

Great paella needs the right pan and for that we ordered this special pan below (*affiliate link). It is made of carbon steel.  My husband spent hours researching the best pan for this sumptuous dish. Of course, this pan can be used for a variety of dishes, but it is absolutely perfect for paella.


Here are some tried-and-true Paella recipes. My hubby and I plan on doing some kind of combination, depending on what seafood is available to us in the desert of Las Vegas as it gets closer to Thanksgiving.

Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Paella
Ming Tsai and Jamie Bissonnette’s Paella
La Tienda Authentic Paella
On the Side

Rather than serve stuffing or green bean casserole, this main dish begs for tapas, in my opinion. If you have ever dined at a great Spanish tapas restaurant, you know what I am talking about. These are small bites, but what they lack in size, they make up for with big flavors.

We plan on serving a variety of tapas throughout the day to wet our appetites for the (hopefully) fabulous main course. I might just have to make some Sangria, as well, depending on how my Detroit Lions are playing.

Below are recipes for some of my favorite tapas. You could also serve a large plate of Spanish cheeses, cured meats, and breads to munch on throughout the day.

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Manchego (or Blue Cheese)

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)

Garlic Marinated Black Olives

Spanish Mushrooms


Are you feeling twisty this Thanksgiving or are you a traditionalist? What is on your Thanksgiving menu this year? Please comment and share below!

6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Thanksgiving Recipes…with a Twist

    1. My husband recommends checking to ensure your wood is not too “green”. As in new wood, not in color. It has to sit out and dry out a bit before using. “Green” wood creates an excess of smoke. I hope that helps! You must let me know how it turns out!

  1. thanks for sharing we dont usually eat a traditional meal and now that my mother is recovering from surgery we might be having an unconventional thanksgiving.

    1. Oh, I hope your mom feels better soon! Thanksgiving is more about the people you are with than the food, but what if you got a really fabulous dessert? If your mom can eat it, that would still make the whatever you are eating special! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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