10 International Dishes for Your Thanksgiving Spread

By: Alia Hoyt  | 

lasagna table setting
You don't have to serve the traditional turkey and all the trimmings on Thanksgiving. Spice it up and serve more international dishes this year. Linda Raymond/Getty Images

Thanksgiving is a holiday any food lover, regardless of national origin, can enjoy. Originally a celebration of colonists' first successful harvest in the New World, the holiday has become a major part of American culture and an excellent excuse to gain several pounds in a single sitting.

A typical modern-day Thanksgiving feast usually includes the requisite turkey, ham, corn (on or off the cob), potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie. Of course, the Pilgrims were more limited in their menu options. They most likely dined on locally available seafood, wild turkey, swans and other fowl, peas, beans, radishes, grapes, plums and nuts. Sadly, there was nary a pumpkin pie in sight and certainly no whipped cream!

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Today the U.S. is a country largely inhabited by immigrants from all over the world, so it makes sense that international dishes also have a place at Thanksgiving. Keep reading for our list of 10 delicious and diverse international foods that guests are sure to enjoy come Turkey Day.

10: Jamaican Curry Goat

Curry goat, rice and peas
Jamaican curry goat is traditionally served with sides of coconut rice and peas and coleslaw. Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

It may not be the most traditional Thanksgiving dish, but curry goat is a delicious Jamaican option for revelers who want to skip turkey and instead cook a unique red meat. Plus, goat is surprisingly healthy. It contains much less fat than beef and even skinless chicken. It needs to be cooked at a low temperature to help the flesh retain its natural flavor and tenderness, so be sure to reserve plenty of cooking time.

This dish isn't ideal for diners with delicate taste buds, as Jamaican cuisine is known for its spicy flair. If you decide to live somewhat dangerously, however, you'll need to locate some cubed goat leg meat. Other ingredients for this dish include peppers, shredded coconut, curry powder, sour cream, arrowroot, clarified butter and red currant jelly. When you add all these items together, you create a curry sauce for the goat to be marinated or cooked in, depending on the recipe you're using.

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9: Baklava

Baklava
Baklava is sweet, sticky and delicious, and would make a wonderful addition to your Thanksgiving dessert menu. Tomekbudujedomek/Getty Images

Baklava is a sweet Mediterranean treat that will complement anything on your Thanksgiving dessert menu. Its flavor is enjoyable but not too overpowering. It's made with layers of phyllo pastry soaked in butter, chopped nuts and mouth-watering spices. The sticky concoction is baked and drenched in honey that permeates every layer of the pastry.

Generally, a recipe for baklava includes nuts, butter, phyllo pastry, sugar and honey. However, it's not an easy dessert to make, so you might want to make a few trial dishes well ahead of Thanksgiving to ensure you get it right. Of course, you can also pick some up from a specialty bakery. Trust us — no one is going to care where it came from. They're just going to eat it up.

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8: Salata de Varza

Salata de varza
Salata de varza is a light Romanian coleslaw that is vibrant and flavorful. Yulia Naumenko/Getty Images

If your taste buds long for something other than a regular green salad, try coleslaw done Romanian-style. It's known as salata de varza and could be just what you've been looking for. It's similar enough to American slaw so even guests with less adventurous palates will enjoy its light flavor. And it's easy to make and doesn't have to go in the oven like so many other Turkey Day dishes.

Salata de varza is a mix of thinly sliced cabbage, shredded carrots, olive oil, white wine vinegar, a touch of mayo, and salt and pepper. This Romanian version promotes cabbage's flavor instead of trying to hide it. It's also a healthier slaw than many American versions that are loaded with mayo.

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7: Tacos and Burritos

tacos and burritos
Tacos and burritos may not scream Thanksgiving, but they're fun and easy, and they also make great leftovers. Petri Oeschger/Getty Images

More people of Latino heritage are making their homes in the U.S. than ever before. As a result, many Thanksgiving tables are piled high with tacos, burritos and tamales. Using authentic flour and corn tortillas, you can incorporate standard ingredients such as cheese, beans, ground beef, shredded chicken, pork and tomatoes into a burrito station. Or, you and your fellow diners can fill tortillas with traditional Thanksgiving offerings, such as turkey and stuffing.

If you do a traditional turkey and have a ton of leftovers, perhaps make Thanksgiving-style turkey empanadas. All you need for this delectable dish is puff pastry, gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing to put a twist on this classic dinnertime treat.

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6: Beans and Rice

beans and rice
Cuban Americans traditionally serve beans and rice on Thanksgiving. Why not give them a try with your meal? Diana Miller/Getty Images/Image Source

Cuban-style beans and rice are as versatile as they are delicious. Plus, they're not nearly as unhealthy as the rest of your Turkey Day meal is likely to be. For many Cubans and Cuban Americans, a celebration simply isn't up to par without the inclusion of black or red beans and rice.

As an added bonus to weary Thanksgiving chefs, this dish is a cinch to make and goes with pretty much any type of meal. Cuban red beans and rice is known as congri, and is similar to the Cajun-style version found throughout Louisiana, but it's seasoned with cilantro, oregano and cumin.

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5: Tandoori Chicken

tandoori chicken
If you really want to break out of the traditional Thanksgiving mold, replace your turkey with tandoori chicken on the grill. DigiPub/Getty Images

Wildly popular in India and other parts of Asia, tandoori chicken is a great way to change up your Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, you don't have to constantly baste tandoori chicken like you do a turkey. Compared to Jamaican curry goat, tandoori chicken is equally spicy but less saucy, and its flavor comes from a light marinade applied to the meat's surface.

To turn out top-notch tender, spicy tandoori chicken, you'll need plain yogurt, onions, garlic, and a smattering of herbs and spices typically used in Indian cuisine, such as cilantro, turmeric, cumin and ginger. If you're interested in shaving calories and fat from the meal, you can always use nonfat yogurt. Serve with curry sauce on the side and enjoy.

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4: Couscous

couscous salad
A couscous salad with cranberries and feta cheese makes a refreshing side dish with just the right touches of Thanksgiving flavors. Ekaterina Smirnova/Getty Images

Couscous is more than just a dish with a funny name. It's easy to prepare, and can be adapted a million different ways and for as many different purposes. Technically, couscous is a grain by nature, though many people confuse it with pasta thanks to its similar consistency and taste. The distinction is pretty minimal, since both pasta and couscous are made from semolina (a granular form of durum wheat). The only difference is that couscous' grains are crushed and pasta's are ground.

Like rice, couscous is often a side item served with larger meals. For Thanksgiving, couscous can take the place of stuffing, rice or potatoes, and can be enhanced with dried cranberries and nuts to give it a more seasonal flavor.

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3: Lo Mein

Lo mein
Lo mein goes perfectly with chicken, so why not serve it as an unexpected side dish with your turkey? MaxPhotoSolution/Shutterstock

Chicken and noodles go beautifully together in soup, so it makes sense that turkey and lo mein would complement each other on the Thanksgiving table. Recipes for lo mein vary, but they typically include fresh lo mein noodles, light and dark soy sauce, sesame oil, bamboo shoots, cabbage, chicken broth and bean sprouts. Of course, all these ingredients will complement traditional Turkey Day flavors.

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2: Doro Wat

Doro wat
Doro wat is the national dish of Ethiopia and is traditionally served with Ethiopian flatbread called injera. AS Food studio/Shutterstock

Spelled many different ways, doro wat is a chicken stew that will warm up even the coldest Thanksgiving days. Although it's a traditional Ethiopian dish, this particular stew is a great way to ease people into African cooking because it closely resembles many Americanized stews in texture and appearance. However, it's spicy. Like really spicy.

Generally, a recipe for doro wat requires chicken, lime juice, hard-boiled eggs, chicken stock, dry red wine, ginger, cardamom, spiced or unsalted butter and berbere or chili powder. It's often served on top of injera, a traditional Ethiopian flatbread, which soaks up a lot of the stew's juices.

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1: Lasagna

Lasagna
Lasagna may be an Italian dish, but Americans love it. 10000 Hours/Getty Images

It's no secret that Italian cooking is hugely popular all over the world. This is particularly true in the U.S., where there seems to be an Italian eatery on every corner, and the pizza business is thriving. Better still, lasagna is a perfect addition to any Thanksgiving table, regardless of the eaters' national origin. Even picky eaters are likely enjoy a hearty helping of fresh lasagna.

Be sure to pick up lasagna noodles, ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, Italian sausage or ground beef, the makings for homemade tomato sauce and a truly authentic recipe to turn out the best lasagna possible.

America is a country of immigrants, so it's only fitting to include international dishes in this national day of thanks. Doing so will not only enhance the standard Thanksgiving menu, it'll help people learn about other cultures. Or just give them an excuse to eat pasta on Turkey Day. Either way, it's a win.

Originally Published: Nov 2, 2011

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