Turkey shortage ahead? Don't panic. Try these alternate recipes on your Thanksgiving table

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

It looks like 2021 will continue to be the year of supply chain wobbles and woes. Smaller turkeys may be harder to source in the grocery store this year, a result of pandemic-caused processing bottlenecks.

That's according to Butterball President and CEO Jay Jandrain, who told Fox Business that retailers have seen customers rushing to snap up frozen turkeys earlier than usual.

Though you'll probably be able to find turkeys in your meat department, he said, you may be saddled with larger birds than you'd like, especially if you have a small family. 

"We don't expect there to be a shortage overall, but we do see that there are going to be fewer small turkeys this year," Jandrain said. 

Bigger turkeys mean more pressure at the checkout counter this Thanksgiving, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics said people could see a 10.5 % jump in meats and poultry costs this year over last

Still, the news isn't necessarily all bad. Ron Freeman, CFO of Ingles Markets, which has around 200 supermarkets in the South, said his stores are in "good shape" when it comes to turkeys. 

"We have also heard the rumors about a shortage of smaller hens but (Ingles) vendors have committed to filling our orders," he said.

But he cautioned consumers to be prepared for anything. "As we have all learned recently, supply issues can change rapidly, but that’s where we are right now," he said.

With all of that in mind, it may be time to consider a pandemic pivot for your table. Here are some tips if you'd like to save a little money on your Thanksgiving feast this year:

How to save Thanksgiving, and your wallet

  • Try main dishes where meat is used as a condiment or mixed with other ingredients. Think shepherd's pie or chicken pot pie for elegant but affordable mains. 

Recipe:Chicken Pot Pie

  • Try smaller cuts. If you can find turkey breast, for example, you can brine and roast it until it's perfectly tender. No dried bird breast this year. 

Recipe:Low Country Boil-Brined Turkey Breast

Recipe:Big Green Egg Smoke-Roasted Chicken

  • If it's not going to spur an outright revolt at dinnertime, consider skipping meat, period. Vegetarian "roasts" and other plant-based proteins abound in the freezer section of most well-stocked grocery stores. 

Recipe:Try this vegan quinoa 'meatloaf' as the centerpiece of your meat-free Thanksgiving

  • Think outside of the box and mix and match economical proteins, such as sausages and deep-fried chicken. It's physically impossible to complain when the smell of fried chicken is wafting through the air.

More:Rufus Estes’ Fried Chicken is deeply flavorful and juicy with a thin, golden crust

Chicken pot pie recipe

The formula is pretty simple for this dish: cooked chicken, a roux of butter and flour, chicken broth, chopped carrots, peas and other vegetables baked with pastry crust. You could even use turkey or a store-bought rotisserie chicken if you wanted. 

Chicken Pot Pie.

This recipe, from Southern Kitchen contributor Anne Byrn, takes a few shortcuts, but still relies on a homemade sauce to bring it all together. 

Cut larger vegetables into uniform-sized pieces so they cook evenly.

Serves: 6

Hands on time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 25 minutes


2 rounds pie crust, fresh or frozen

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen vegetables of your choice (see note)

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (see note)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chicken broth


Place a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 450 degrees.

Place one pastry round in a 9-inch pie pan that is 2 inches deep or a small casserole dish. (If you use a casserole dish, you may need to use additional pastry to line the bottom and sides of the pan. Use enough pastry to overlap an inch over the sides.)

Crimp the edge of the pastry with a fork, then prick the bottom a few times. Bake the pastry until it is well browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

While the crust for the pie bakes, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and chicken, then season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the flour is incorporated, about 1 minute longer. Add the broth to the skillet, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the chicken mixture into the baked crust. Cover the top with the remaining pastry. If you’d like, you can cut the top pastry into strips and weave it into a lattice. 

Press down around the edges, crimp the two together with your fingertips, and press around the edge of the pie with a fork to seal the top and bottom crusts. Make several vents in the top pastry with a sharp knife.

Place the pie in the oven, and bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes. If the pie seems done but the top is not brown, run the pie under the broiler briefly. Let rest for 10 minutes, then serve.


Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South Region. She's the editor of Southern Kitchen and a correspondent for The American South.

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