Sustainable Thanksgiving Meals and Recipes

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Over the years, MOTHER EARTH NEWS has dished up plenty of good ideas for low-budget,

practical, eco-friendly and fun Thanksgiving celebrations. Here’s a guide to some of our best, including Thanksgiving recipes that range from quick-and-easy to slightly more inspired. Whether you’re getting ready to dig into a locally raised turkey that grew up on real pasture or a wildly creative vegetarian or vegan holiday meal, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in our deep archives.

We’re thankful that you came to our table today, and we hope you enjoy a very happy Thanksgiving!

Better Birds: Organic, Pastured and Heritage-Breed Turkeys


Stood Up by a Thanksgiving Turkey

by Barbara Pleasant

Want a locally raised grass-fed turkey this Thanksgiving? Here’s how to find a supplier.


A Turkey Story

by Jena Woginrich

Last spring, I decided to raise my own free-range turkey for Thanksgiving. Here’s how that project turned out.


Talking Turkey for T-Day

by Deanna Duke

Pledge to eat local foods, including locally raise true free-range heritage turkeys, this Thanksgiving.


Free-Range Thanksgiving Turkeys

by Tabitha Alterman

If you’re looking for a delicious, sustainably raised turkey this Thanksgiving, your best bet is to purchase one from a local farm.


Discover Better Flavor This Thanksgiving

by Aubrey Vaughn

From organic apple pie to tasty heritage turkeys, local, sustainable Thanksgiving dishes are healthier and better tasting than supermarket options. Learn how you can enjoy a savory, eco-friendly Thanksgiving feast.


Saving Rare Breeds

by Nancy Smith

While historic livestock breeds may not be as “efficient” as their industrial counterparts, the animals are often healthier and more interesting to keep; their meat, milk or eggs are more flavorful, and their genetic diversity is vital to our food security. Learn how you can help save rare birds by joining the Real Food Revival.


Why the Midget White Turkey Is the Perfect Homestead Turkey

by Troy Griepentrog

Heritage breeds are worth saving simply because of the genetic diversity they offer, but they’re also extremely fun to raise (and learn about). This interview explains some of the finer points of one breed of turkeys. In 1971, only six specimens were known. Today, could the midget white be the ideal homestead turkey?


Midget White and Bourbon Red Turkeys are Better!

by Troy Griepentrog

A recent taste test comparing heritage breed turkeys with “industrial” turkey reinforced that heritage turkeys, especially the midget white and bourbon red, do indeed taste better than factory-farmed birds you’ll find in the supermarkets. Find out which breeds were the winners and learn about the turkey that not only tastes best, but is also the perfect choice for your homestead.


A History of the Midget White Turkey

by J.R. Smyth Jr. and B.C. Wentworth

This is a rare firsthand look at how and why a rare breed of turkey was developed, was rescued from near extinction, and may become popular once more.


Why You Should Care About Heritage Breeds

by Troy Griepentrog

Here are some thoughts on why rare breeds should matter to you.


How Eight Heritage Turkeys Kicked a Butterball’s Butt

by Don Schrider

In the past few years, several taste tests have indicated that heritage turkeys taste better than industrial breeds. This new study involved about 70 people in a blind taste test. But this test involved more than just flavor. Texture, tenderness, aroma and appearance were also rated.


A Real Thanksgiving Bird

by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors

Raise or hunt your own turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Includes instructions on how to skin and prepare a turkey for cooking.


Talking Turkey

by Anne Vassal

New ways to cook and prepare a Thanksgiving favorite, including recipes for turkey mango curry, Azteca soup, picadillo pita, BBQ turkey and turkey white bean salad.


The Turkey Hunt

by Edward Stern

As I drove up Highway 27 heading toward Northern Michigan, I was enjoying a late fall day, the kind just sunny enough that if you wanted to (and I did), you could stick your hand out the window and feel the crisp air passing through your fingers without being cold. It was gorgeous, and so was she.


Savor the Flavors of Fall: Roasted Heritage Turkey With Herbs

From our sister magazine, Mother Earth Living
Serve with gravy made from the vegetable- and herb-flavored broth left in the roasting pan.


Call of the Wild

from our sister magazine, Mother Earth Living
Increasingly popular with gourmet diners, wild game offers meat eaters a healthier alternative.


Turkey Tips

from our sister magazine, Grit
Select your turkey based on your guest list.

Meatless Meals: The Vegan or Vegetarian Thanksgiving


Vegetarian and Vegan Thanksgiving Meals

by Aly Van Dyke

Attention Vegetarians and Vegans: You too can have an enjoyable, delicious Thanksgiving dinner without compromising your lifestyle!


Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Pie

by Laura Evers

Happy Thanksgiving! Want a new vegan dessert to serve at Thanksgiving? Try this Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Pie from the website Care2 Inc.


A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

by Ron Schadegg

Try this recipe for stuffed pumpkin in lieu of turkey for a vegetarian Thanksgiving — or simply add to a traditional meal as a fun, flavorful side dish.


With All the Trimmin’s

by Scot Robinson

Make a complete Thanksgiving feast without the turkey, or any veggies for that matter. Includes cooking instructions for stuffed pumpkin, cranberry sauce, creamed baby onions and baked apples.


Healthy Holiday Pie Tip

by Tabitha Alterman

This season, try a creamy vegan pie with fewer calories and less saturated fat.


Vegetarian Holiday Fare

from our sister magazine, Mother Earth Living
The seven meat-free recipes testify to the fact that vegetarianism is not a form of deprivation, and also that vegetarian cooking doesn’t necessarily aim to imitate meat with nonmeat ingredients (although the Vegetarian Holiday Roast might serve that purpose).

Traditional Thanksgiving Foods: Pumpkins and Squash


Homemade Pumpkin Pie Recipe

by Tabitha Alterman



It would not be Thanksgiving without from-scratch pumpkin pie!


What Do You Do With a 40-Pound Squash?

by Lorraine Worley

Winter squash or pumpkin can be canned or follow the recipe for yeasted pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter pie, banana-pumpkin milkshake or a pumpkin butter cake.


Pumpkins Make Any Dish a Smashing Hit

by Jessie Fetterling

Pumpkins are healthy and can satisfy both your sweet and salty tooth, so start celebrating the flavor of the season! Includes recipes for Rigatoni with Pumpkin and Bacon, Pumpkin Ravioli, Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque, Thai Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Bread and more.


The Great Pumpkin



by Jack McQuarrie

How to pick and preserve a pumpkin, including seeds and Mother’s all-time favorite pumpkin pie recipe.


Grilled Pumpkin With Rosemary and Sea Salt

by Deanna Duke

This great recipe offers a new way to enjoy pumpkin.


Three Phunky Pumpkins

by William Woys Weaver

There are lots of wonderful heirloom pumpkins that are superior in flavor and appearance to the same old orange globes found everywhere in the fall: It’s a shame we don’t see more of them. Here are a few varieties for gardeners with enough room for long, trailing vines. One is French, one is Italian, and one is Iranian. All three will forever change your perception of pumpkins.


The Great American Pumpkin

by Gail Damerow

Information on how to grow pumpkins along with tips on choosing the best pumpkin for cooking. Includes recipes for pumpkin purée and clearwater pumpkin soup.


About Pumpkins

by Sara Pacher

The benefits and joys of growing, preparing and cooking pumpkins, including what to grow, when and how to plant, what to watch for, how to harvest and store and how to grow giant pumpkins. Includes recipes for Simple Pumpkin Soup and Pumpkin Muffins.


How to Roast Pumpkin and Squash Seeds

by Tabitha Alterman

Halloween may be over but put those old pumpkins to good use by roasting the seeds.


Roast Squash Seeds

by Scott Smith

You will get a bonanza of great flavor and nutrition from squash and pumpkin seeds, which are loaded with protein and fiber.


Wonderful Winter Squash



by Barbara Pleasant

This highly nutritious vegetable stores easily for up to six months. Includes cooking tips.


Kitchen Garden: About Squash

by Sara Pacher

Cooking uses for this versatile vegetable, including pies, casseroles, fruit cocktails, varieties, harvest and storage.


Pumpkins, Post-Halloween

from our sister magazine, Mother Earth Living
Halloween is over and there are pumpkins still sitting in your living room. What should you do with them? We can help.


Pumpkins, Gourds & Squash

from our sister magazine, Grit
A visit to a pumpkin farm yields several gourd, squash and pumpkin ideas.

Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and Yams


Enjoy Fall Flavors With Healthy Sweet Potato Recipes

by Jennifer Kongs

Sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple, but there are limitless ways to cook these hearty tubers — with or without marshmallow topping.


The Sweetest Potato

by Rita Pelczar

Slip some nutritious and delicious sweet potatoes into this year’s vegetable patch. Here’s how to grow, harvest, store and cook sweet potatoes for your holiday feast. Includes Mother’s favorite varieties of sweet potatoes plus a recipe for candied yams.


Great Varieties of Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

by William Woys Weaver and Roger Doiron

Our food and gardening experts recommend some favorite potato and sweet potato varieties for stellar Thanskgiving meals.


Southern Peanut Stew With Sweet Potatoes and Collard Greens Recipe

by Tabitha Alterman

You’ll love this down-home comfort food — the blend of sweet and spice is pretty nice!

More Side Dishes and Other Favorite Thanksgiving Foods


A Toast to Roasted Vegetables

by Barbara Pleasant

Roasting is the best way to cook winter root vegetables, because dry heat coaxes out and concentrates flavors. Use this simple method and fool-proof tips from cookbook author Andrea Chesman to bring out the best in parsnips, carrots, rutabagas and other root vegetables.


Healthier Holiday Desserts

by Aubrey Vaughn

While homemade desserts are delicious, they’re often high in fat and calories. Satisfy your sweet tooth without sabotaging your body, with these healthier holiday dessert recipes.


Parsnips Back on the Plate

by Kris Wetherbee

Now is the time to experience parsnips, the ivory jewel of root vegetables. Includes the recipe for Ginger-glazed Parsnips — a perfect holiday treat!


Stocking the Root Cellar

by Mike and Nancy Bubel

Keeping winter vegetables fresh underground, including varieties, treatment, storage, harvest.


Courting the Cranberry

by Bruce Burnett

Not only are cranberries a delicious addition to any Thanksgiving feast, they’re good for you too! Cranberries may have broad-spectrum antibiotic value against E. coli and other harmful bacteria and are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and potassium.


Create a Cranberry Feast

by Eva Zlab

The ruby of the bog will add a burst of color and a bundle of flavor to your holiday fare, including recipes for cranberry-honey sauce, cranberry crepes and apple-cranberry salad.


Try Apple-Sausage Stuffing

from our sister magazine, Mother Earth Living
This delightly sweet stuffing will liven up any Thanksgiving feast.


Herbs in Stuffings: Classic Holiday Stuffing

from our sister magazine, Mother Earth Living
The secret is French bread and copious amounts of celery, green onion, and parsley, a legacy of our Louisiana Cajun neighbors. If you use dried instead of fresh herbs, convert to teaspoons instead of tablespoons.


Savor the Flavors of Fall: Savory Butternut Squash Stuffing

from our sister magazine, Mother Earth Living
This dish pairs beautifully with roasted heritage turkey with herbs.

Delicious Homemade Breads


Five Minutes a Day for Fresh-Baked Bread

by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François

Discover this ridiculously easy — and cheap! — technique that revolutionizes home baking.


Homemade Bread: Truly Easy and Delicious

by William Rubel

Say goodbye to the intimidation factor in baking homemade bread! These tips and simple bread recipes will inspire beautiful loaves and a whole new outlook on baking.


Easy, No-Knead Crusty Bread

by Roger Doiron

This easy bread recipe requires no kneading, and uses the heat and humidity of a Dutch oven to achieve the perfect crispy crust.


Wholesome Holiday Bread Recipes

by Erica Rowe

Intent on celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays while still eating healthy, the author devised a few natural and wholesome holiday bread recipes.


Homemade Whole-Grain Bread Recipe

by Tabitha Alterman

Nutritious bread doesn’t have to be dense and bland. Revolutionize your whole grain baking using this Homemade Whole-Grain Bread recipe based on the methods of baking expert Peter Reinhart. You’ll make homemade whole-grain bread with a surprisingly light texture and rich flavor.

Sustainable Holiday Drinks, Too!


Even the Drinks Are LOCAL? Try Farm-fresh Apple Cider This Thanksgiving


by Tabitha Alterman

Support America’s artisan cider makers by putting locally made sweet and hard apple cider on the Thanksgiving table this year.


Cheers to Pumpkin Beers!



by Tabitha Alterman

Pumpkin love continues, but this time with a twist, it’s not an ale but a lager, the only one of its kind in the world! Includes a link for how to brew beer in a pumpkin.


Brew Your Own Beer

by Nathan Poell

Homebrewing is a lot of fun, and it gives you the chance to make any kind of beer you want. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to get started, and making your own beer is usually cheaper, too. This article will tell you what you need to know to make a good first batch of beer with step by step instructions for a basic brown ale. Are you ready to get started?


Good Libations

by Megan Phelps

For delicious and eco-friendly beverages, try local and organic wine and beer. Choosing local beverages encourages breweries and wineries to explore a diversity of flavors, and avoids the environmental costs of transporting wine and beer halfway across the country, or even halfway around the world.


Enjoy Delicious Apple Cider, Sweet and Hard

by Megan Phelps

If you happen to be driving out in the country on a beautiful fall day, and you pass a roadside sign that says “fresh apple cider,” by all means stop! This is the time of year to enjoy freshly pressed cider, and some of the best available is from local cider mills.


Fall’s Sweetest Harvest



by John Stuart

If you want to try really delicious apple cider, look for fresh local cider in the fall. You can find it from small cider mills, or press it yourself with a backyard cider press.


Make Your Own Hard Cider

by Nathan Poell

Making delicious hard cider is fun and simple, and if you press your own sweet — nonalcoholic — cider, you’ll have the perfect starting place to brew your own intoxicating hard cider.


Falling for Apples

by Noel Perrin

One of the sweetest things about homemade cider is the pressing of it.


Get Ready for Cider Pressin’

by Judy White

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll round up some jugs, and head for the nearest cider mill right away.


Juice of the Apple

by Michael Phillips

Don’t settle for thin, homogenized, store-bought “apple juice.” Homegrown cider is cheaper and infinitely more refreshing.


Pouring Apple Cider



from our sister magazine, Grit
Clyde’s Cider Mill is country’s oldest steam-powered cider mill.

And More …


Reader Callout: What’s the One Thing You Make From Scratch at Thanksgiving?



by Tabitha Alterman


What’s the one thing you make from scratch at Thanksgiving? Tell us (and our readers) about that one special, “gotta have it or it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving!” thing you make from scratch every year.


A Simpler Thanksgiving



by Anne Vassal

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean a crowd of folks and hours of labor. Enjoy a simple, savory Thanksgiving feast with these easy recipes. Includes recipes for Herb-roasted Turkey Breast, Grilled turkey, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, Green Salad, Squash Flan and Ginger Cream.


Back to Basics



by Anne Vassal

Simple Thanksgiving recipes for Garlic Roast Chicken, Mixed Greens salad, Leftover Chicken Salad, Bean Soup, Almost-Instant Dessert.


Harvest Kitchen



by Stephen Klein

Preparing the traditional Thanksgiving dish, including recipes for cranberry relish, cranberry cake, apple and cranberry crunch and turkey tips.


Saving Tradition

by Anne Vassal

Look here for simple directions for cooking and preparing a turkey. This includes recipes for smoked gravy, cranberry sauce, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.


Savor the Season With ‘Slow Food’

by Megan Phelps

Indulge in traditional, homemade foods this holiday season by discovering the slow food movement.


A Turkey of a Different Feather

by Juanita Browne

Creating a decorative turkey from various vegetables, including squash and pumpkin.


Save Money on Holiday Meals

from our sister magazine, Grit
Talk turkey when searching for ways to downsize the cost of the main meal for festive occasions.


An Inspired Thanksgiving

from our sister magazine, Grit
The Grit magazine staff offers tips and recipes for a delicious holiday meal.


A Harvest Banquet

from our sister magazine, Mother Earth Living
Give thanks for the bounty.

Resources to Help With Your Thanksgiving Meal


Local Harvest


Find local sources of organic and grass-fed meat with this directory of family farms, farmer’s markets and natural food stores. Find local sources of organic and grass-fed meat with this directory of family farms, farmer’s markets and natural food stores.


Eat Wild


Scientific proof of the benefits of grass-fed meat is available at the Eat Wild site, which is maintained by Jo Robinson, author of the books Pasture Perfect and Why Grassfed is Best. The site also includes a directory of producers of grass-fed beef, bison, pork, chicken, turkey and dairy products.


Slow Food USA


This international organization of food lovers has active chapters in most states.

Environmental Working Group’s
Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Greenpeace Shopper’s
Guide to Genetically Modified Foods


Utne Reader’s Guide to
Sustainable Seafood



Beer Town



All American Wineries



American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC)




This nonprofit agency is working to conserve rare breeds and genetic diversity in livestock.


Sand Hill Preservation Center


This small family farm is dedicated to the preservation of genetic resources, including rare and unusual seed varieties and poultry breeds.


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