Re-Imagined Ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner 2020

by Shelley · May contain affiliate links

Published Updated August 1, 2021

~ From non-traditional Thanksgiving recipes to completely unique Thanksgiving dinner ideas (check out our “adventure” list near the end of this post!), we’ve got some fresh suggestions for celebrating Thanksgiving 2020. No disappointments – just a creative spin on joy. ~

Closeup of a tablescape set for Thanksgiving dinner, with a white tablecloth, china and crystal, and a yellow-and-orange wreath centerpiece.

Things May Be a Little Different This Year … How Can We Make That Feel OK?

For many of us this year, Thanksgiving is going to look a little different. Or, well, maybe A LOT different.

There are some seriously terrific ideas circulating out there right now, for celebrating Thanksgiving virtually (like planning a virtual family activity like a pie-making party – how fun)!

But I’ve been thinking specifically about the food traditions.

How Do We Re-imagine Thanksgiving Dinner?

One suggestion that I’ve personally been clinging to is the idea that, maybe instead of trying to force this year’s feast into being a traditional party, exactly the same as always (when it just won’t be the same at all), it could be a great year to try something TOTALLY new.

No disappointment that 2020’s celebration wasn’t just like in years past, because you MEANT it to be something different.

Go “Off-Script” Rogue

I’m not sure yet if that strategy will work, but it somehow rings true to me.

Maybe that’s because, instead of feeling powerless and unable to create the Thanksgiving celebration we always do, it empowers us to think outside the box and re-imagine ways to be thankful.

Assorted mini pumpkins a gourds arranged on a wooden table in front of a leaf-and-candle Thanksgiving dinner centerpiece.

It puts the ball back in our court to call some shots, which is something we haven’t had a lot of this year.

When it comes to the food for the feast, that could mean going completely off-script with a chili cook-off or seafood feast (I mean, hey, why not?) … or it might just mean trying some new recipes, instead of the usual standbys. (Probably easier, quicker, more stress-free ones! Because if there’s one thing we surely don’t need more of this year, it’s STRESS!)

Whatever it might mean for you and your family, I wanted to offer a few additional creative ideas for celebrating uniquely, and re-imagining 2020’s Thanksgiving feast, complete (of course!) with some of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes for you to try.

Just a little fun inspiration as you put together your ideas and menu …

Celebrate ALLLL Day Long (Starting with Breakfast … and Maybe Parade Bingo!)

In “normal” years, the big Thanksgiving dinner tends to be the focus of the entire day for most families.

One fun way to switch things up this year might be to feature some special Thanksgiving-ish foods all throughout the day, starting with breakfast. Flip on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (in its 2020 TV-only format), maybe play some Parade Bingo, and cozy in for a relaxed morning.

Or, turn Thanksgiving on its head entirely with an “upside down” Thanksgiving feast – by hosting the big meal of the day at breakfast this year (instead of waiting for a late-day turkey dinner to celebrate).

Wait … whaaaaaat????

Why not? This kind of Dr.-Seussy, topsy-turvy day can be especially compelling for younger kiddos, who love a little wackiness and happily embrace completely off-the-wall ideas with a sense of adventure (instead of with that feeling so many of us grown-ups have, of kinda being cheated a little).

You could go with some sort of traditional recipe, full of pumpkin flavors, like:

Photo os a white bowl of Pumpkin Oatmeal, garnished with dried cranberries and a pecan half.

Or, you could conjure up a little creative fun with:

Overhead photo of several people's hand reaching across the scene, building their own waffle creations from little bowls of different toppings.

  • a make-it-your-way Waffle Bar (pictured above)
  • DIY Yogurt Parfaits
  • or by making wacky Pancake Shapes (and, if your kiddos are old enough, letting them try to make some creative shapes of their own, too!) Total bonus points if you can actually shape your pancakes into turkeys lol! 😉

Or, if you’d like to make breakfast the night before (so you can focus on getting all competitive with that Parade Bingo), try:

Thanksgiving Snacks and Appetizers (And Maybe a Unique Movie Night??)

Here’s another off-script idea: If you can’t host your typical gathering, why not stage a game night or movie-thon with your immediate circle? Watch some feel-good flicks, and whip up some quick and easy “Thanksgiving-y” appetizers instead of a full holiday supper.

One way to make your movie night really unique is to ditch the Hollywood blockbusters in favor of family home movies. Kiddos love seeing movies of themselves when they were little.

And, since all of us are probably going to be missing relatives we can’t see this year, home movies are one way to bring those loved ones a little closer.

More {Memorable!} Bonus Points:

To take that movie night idea one step further, you could ask each part of your extended family – or your extended friend circle – to shoot a quick little movie on their phones and send it off to everyone else in the group. Maybe everyone shares a favorite memory of Thanksgivings past, or shares something they’re thankful for, or even lightens the mood with an upbeat greeting and “virtual hug.” Whatever you choose – save them up (no peeking!) for your Thanksgiving movie night!

Oh … and about those movie snacks. Of course, as always, you can also make these great munchies to keep hungry people happy while you finish cooking a big supper, if you’re still planning to wrestle a turkey this year!

Overhead photo of Pumpkin Hummus in a little brown bowl, sprinkled with bits of fresh sage and with whole sage leaves nearby.

Creating a “Traditional Feast” with New Favorites

So, maybe you still want to do a rather traditional feast, but you like the idea of venturing into some new recipes, to make things feel intentionally a little edgy, a little unique and fresh. Or, maybe your typical menu just doesn’t work for 2020, if you’re cooking for a lot fewer people. Or … maybe you find yourself cooking the entire meal all by yourself, for the first year ever.

Not to worry! 

If you’d still like to cook up a Thanksgiving dinner with a traditional vibe, but some new recipes, you’ve come to exactly the right place!

Because, you know, here at THK, we focus on bringing you recipes that are quick and easy. And (bonus for health-conscious 2020), they’re healthier, too!

Here are some great ideas:

Thanksgiving Salads

Overhead photo of this unique Thanksgiving salad, shaped like a turkey with a half butternut squash for the body.

Thanksgiving Sides

Pinnable collage of various Thanksgiving side dish recipes.

Thanksgiving Desserts

It you wanna try something a little different from your usual pumpkin pie, how about:

And for the Ultimate Off-Script Adventure …

Ok. Here’s where it gets realllllly unique! Stick with me, friends … adventure awaits!

If you decide to completely jettison the turkey and stuffing this year, to thoroughly embrace the idea of making this year’s feast unique … consider a Thanksgiving dinner that brings your core family group together in the kitchen.

Choose a “participatory” meal idea, where everybody can play a role. This instantly gets people talking and interacting. And, instead of the focus being solely on the final Thanksgiving dinner table, with a meal that just doesn’t feel the same as always … the focus is on enjoying the creative process of dinner together!

Here’s what I mean:

Idea #1 – How about a make-your-own pizza bar, where everyone can roll out their own dough and choose their own toppings? (Our Mini Deep Dish Pizzas – pictured below – are a fun spin on this if you have kiddos.)

Overhead photo of a muffin tin full of individual, unbaked mini pizzas with all different toppings combinations, and two hands finishing one of the pizzas.

Idea #2 – Similarly interactive? A make-your-own taco bar! Set out taco beef and some of our Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos meat, and let everybody customize to their heart’s content. Nacho bars are fun and easy this way, too!

Idea #3 – Along those same lines are pasta bars, baked potato bars … anything your family likes to customize. They can all be fun ideas for this type of “make-your-own” night, too!

Idea #4 – Another “all-play” dinner concept is definitely fondue. It’s hard to feel sad and isolated and like Thanksgiving dinner is a weird disappointment when your core peeps are gathered around a melty, burbling pot of deliciousness, dipping and chatting and creating a unique moment of togetherness. (Pssssst … for a dipper-dessert treat, be sure to include our crazy-easy 3-Ingredient Chocolate Dip!) 

Idea #5 – Get competitive (in a friendly-fun way)! At the beginning of this article, I mentioned a chili cook-off. You could use that concept as a springboard to host a family cooking competition, whether that’s an actual chili cook-off, or a Chopped-style game. The goal is fun, and a bright spot for your family in a uniquely challenging year.

Idea #6 – Eat the food you really want to eat! Whatever that might be – no rules! Remember that I also mentioned at the beginning of this article, that you could go for something like a seafood feast? Well, when I was a kid, we often had a couple of Thanksgiving dinners each year, with various family groupings. We didn’t need (or want) TWO turkey dinners, so one meal was always a seafood feast, which was pretty much the ultimate treat for my little family of four. You don’t have to do seafood, though – let yourself daydream over whatever your family would consider the ULTIMATE. You could even stage this as a cooking class, everybody working together to make a complicated recipe you’ve always wanted to try.

Whatever You Do …

Whatever you decide is right for your family this year, look for unexpected ways to make the unique feel special, instead of disappointing. To make it memorable for what you do have, not for what you missed.

Fingers crossed, next year we’ll be back to huge family gatherings, just like always. 

Or, just maybe, we’ll all find a few new 2020 traditions, a few new-favorite recipes … that’ll become a part of future Thanksgivings, and make them even more special for the unexpected things 2020 brought into our lives.

Maybe. Just maybe. 

I’m holding onto that hope.

Happy Thanksgiving … from all of us here at THK … to all of you!

Family photo of us near a sand sculpture that says "Happy Thanksgiving".
We snapped this family selfie a couple of years ago, just before Thanksgiving, at a sand sculpture competition on a beach along the Gulf of Mexico. Wherever you are in the world this year, my friends, we wish you a truly Happy Thanksgiving!

2 thoughts on “Re-Imagined Ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner 2020”

  1. What a great post today! Full of great ideas for some different Thanksgiving food and fun. This will make thanksgiving 2020 seem more like an adventure than a flop!

    • Oh, Chriss – thank you so much! I am really trying to keep a positive, upbeat outlook on all of this, and as I started thinking about the possibilities, I wondered if some of my ideas might help to inspire other people, too. I’m so happy you enjoyed it – that means a lot! ~Shelley


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