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Creating New Traditions with Canadian Turkey

By Shannon Crocker MSc RD, Vibrant Nutrition Communications
Every Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember, we’ve had a big family gathering and a delicious feast of roasted turkey with sides of fall veggies. Oh, and pie, of course! It’s a pretty typical Thanksgiving with all the wholesome foods that nourish our bodies and souls.

Long-standing traditions bring joy; but, this year, I might shake up our pretty typically Canadian family tradition…just a little.


Mexican Thanksgiving anyone?

Last year a friend of mine told me he was hosting a Mexican Thanksgiving. “A what?” I asked, looking at him quizzically and really hoping for an invite (Darn, I didn’t get one!).

Turns out, he wanted something a little different from the typical Thanksgiving tradition. So, he marinated a whole turkey in Mexican seasonings (e.g. chilis, onions, cilantro and cumin) and served Mexican-themed side dishes like grilled corn, avocado salad, and spicy black beans.

A Mexican turkey dinner may not be a typical Canadian-style celebration, but it certainly sounds tasty and lots of fun! It’s inspired me to try something new.


How can you create non-traditional traditions?

Don’t get me wrong, my Thanksgiving will always include a whole turkey; not only is it delicious and nutritious, but it’s also incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed at any traditional or non-traditional feast. Plus, we love those turkey leftovers!

If you’re like me, and interested in switching things up a little this year, here are three non-traditional ways to celebrate Thanksgiving and still enjoy that turkey:


1. A Friendsgiving Celebration. Family not in town? Host a “Friendsgiving” celebration! Invite friends over to share a potluck-style Thanksgiving. You roast the turkey and friends bring the sides.

Or, have friends bring their favourite turkey appetizers for pre-dinner sharing. These appetizers are perfect for sharing:

Spiced Turkey with Hummus
Sweet Ginger Turkey Kabobs
Turkey Cranberry and Goat Cheese Party Bites
Inviting just a couple of friends for a more intimate dinner? Buy a small turkey or consider doing various cuts of turkey, like in this Deconstructed Turkey with Stuffing. Or, ask at the butcher counter to cut your turkey in half and save half for another delicious turkey dinner. Here’s a great half-a-turkey recipe.


2. A Thanksgiving Barbecue. It’s usually still fairly warm-ish on Thanksgiving weekend and turkey is super tasty (and surprisingly easy!) on the grill. You can barbeque a whole turkey on a rotisserie or simply on the grill in a roasting pan.

You can cook side dishes on the barbecue too, like grilled corn or barbecue sweet potatoes. Even stuffing can be cooked on the grill – just wrap your stuffing in foil and cook on indirect heat.

I like to spatchcock (flatten) turkey for quicker, even cooking. Ask your butcher to do it or follow these how-to instructions.

Feeling adventurous? Try deep frying a turkey – that’s definitely an outside job! Find the step-by-step instructions for deep frying turkey at Canadian Turkey.


3. Cultural Cuisine Thanksgiving. Like my friend and his Mexican Thanksgiving feast, you could roast a whole turkey with a new twist on traditional flavours. Plan your menu, including drinks and desserts, around that theme.

Here are three flavourful cultural infusions to get you started:

Tuscan Turkey dinner with sides like sweet potato gnocchi and garlicky sautéed greens.

Hungarian Turkey with sides of dumplings, stuffed peppers and cabbage.

Cajun Turkey with cornbread stuffing, spicy sweet potatoes and a green bean casserole.


Got Turkey Cooking Questions?

If you’re new to cooking turkey, or just need inspiration, Canadian Turkey has delicious recipes, tips and tools to set you up for success.

• New to carving a whole turkey? Watch this video for tips to carve a whole turkey:

• Not sure what size turkey to buy? Check out this whole bird calculator that helps you figure that out. It even allows you to specify if you want leftovers or not (Just say yes!)

• Not sure what to do with the scrumptious leftovers? Check out all the delicious leftover turkey meals. Truly, with leftover turkey, the possibilities are endless.


Part of the joy of Thanksgiving is that every family celebrates a little differently. No matter how you celebrate, I’m wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!