Thanksgiving Substitutes: DC Chefs Share Alternatives Amid Rising Prices, Short Supplies

What to cook if you can’t find your favorite Thanksgiving dinner ingredients

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Thanksgiving dinner shopping rush is on, but don't let rising prices, supply chain shortages or picked-over store shelves get in the way of your ideal holiday table.

Some stores have reported low stocks of jarred gravy, stuffing and frozen pies, the National Grocers Association said amid nationwide supply chain shortages. Canned goods may be harder to find, too.

Another reason to look for alternative ingredients: Food prices are increasing, especially on meat, seasonings, salad dressings and produce, CNBC reported.

Whether your go-to items were out of stock or you want to save a few bucks, a little creativity can go a long way.

We asked two D.C. chefs to offer their best ideas for alternatives and substitutes for your Thanksgiving dinner.

Whole Turkey Substitutes: What's Cheaper, Tastier or More Vegetarian-Friendly?

While turkey is often what people gravitate toward for Thanksgiving dinner, there are many options out there to replace it as the main course.

"The reality is there are tens of dozens of things you could do. I think you just have to release the idea that 'I have to have turkey'," said private chef J. Jackson. "Once you release that thought, you can pretty much do anything."

If you are looking for a budget-friendly alternative, Jackson, also known as Mr. Foodtastic, recommends making a platter of turkey wings or a turkey breast instead of a whole bird.

As more families decide to celebrate Thanksgiving safely at home, many people are making a Thanksgiving turkey for the first time. Megan McGrath breaks it down step-by-step.

For those looking to skip meat, check out a mouthwatering Green Curry Cauliflower Roast. This substantial root vegetable will give a mouthfeel similar to eating meat, which often plays a role in how much people enjoy vegetarian dishes, said Jackson.

If you're looking for a new flavor, roasted tenderloin, poultry and even deep-fried duck are great alternatives for turkey, said Chef Mark Bucher, co-founder of Medium Rare Steak Frites Restaurant. He particularly likes chateaubriand, the piece of meat that filet mignon is cut from.

"Chateaubriand is very sexy for Thanksgiving and often underused,” Bucher said. "It is something that you can cut at the table and will wow your guests."

Canned Cranberry Sauce Substitutes

For some, there's no substituting the jiggly stuff that comes out of a can. But homemade cranberry sauce isn't too challenging — and you can make it far ahead of time. All you need is cranberries, sugar, water and a tart, fruity component like orange juice

If you are not in the mood for cranberries or are interested in trying something new, making sauces with other fruits is a great alternative.

Consumer Reporter Susan Hogan has four cost-cutting tips for Thanksgiving shopping.

Jackson likes fruits such as currants, raspberries, apples, cherries or apricots.

Chef Bucher believes apples and cinnamons make a great alternative for a holiday flavor sauce. He suggests trying this recipe:

Spices Substitutes

Spices have become some of the priciest items to obtain for Thanksgiving dinner, and one of the most recognizable spice brands, Maryland-based McCormick, says it has been dealing with supply chain challenges.

Often, people don't realize their favorite spices are blends of easier-to-find ingredients. This is why Jackson recommends combining your own spices at home to create what you need.

Savory Spice Substitutes

Savory Spice is a combination of spices you can make at home. McCormick's includes oregano, cinnamon, garlic powder, paprika, ground ginger, salt and black pepper.

Chef Bucher recommends leaning into trusty salt and pepper. Packaged soup mixes or salad dressings can also add oomph.

"My grandmother would cheat with soup mix like Lipton onion soup mix or even with a salad dressing," said Bucher. "There are old recipes that go back 50 to 60 years with French dressing on top of poultry that you roast. I know it sounds gross but it's actually really good."

Pumpkin Pie Spice Substitutes

Pumpkin spice is simply equal parts cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger. Here's an example of how to use your homemade blend: Make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies from Sally's Baking Addiction.

If you need allspice — which is a root spice, not a combination of everything in your whole spice cabinet! — our chefs suggest replacing it with spices that come close, such as clove or nutmeg.

Homemade Thanksgiving Substitutes

If you're making meat, it's straightforward to nail homemade gravy. Here's how.

Evaporated milk is one of those canned items that could be more expensive than usual or in short supply, but you can make your own at home.

For those with a sweet tooth, News4’s Megan McGrath has some delicious, delectable desserts for Thanksgiving.

Pies can all be made from scratch at home — or switch things up with a pumpkin cheesecake recipe from NBC4's Megan McGrath.

"Thanksgiving is the one day where you should take the time," Jackson said. "You'd be surprised at how easy a lot of things are to make."

Contact Us