Miami Miami Moving Guide

7 Florida-Inspired Dishes for a New Twist on Thanksgiving Dinner

turkey set for Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving is coming, and you could certainly cook the same turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie you served your family last year, when you lived up north.

But this is Florida, and to quote a favorite old tourist campaign, the rules are different here. So is the food. It's even possible that Spanish colonists and Native Americans broke bread together in Florida in 1565, more than 50 years before the Pilgrims came over. Other historians argue that the first Thanksgiving was in 1564, also in Florida, when the French and the Native Americans shared a meal.

To celebrate your move to Miami, why not add a Florida flair to your Thanksgiving meal? You can cite Florida history or your own history for any culinary decision you make. Plus, you can make your Thanksgiving dinner a garden party. Take those extra serving dishes and cookware out of storage, you’re going to need it.

Florida flew the flags of Spain, France and Great Britain before it became part of the United States, and its culinary traditions reflect all the people who have ever made Florida home. Floridians trace their roots to the American South, New York and the Northeast, Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Haiti, Africa, the Middle East and most European countries. Some of those from the Caribbean trace their roots to India, China and elsewhere in Asia, adding more culinary influences. Add to those all the current immigrants who live in Miami, and you can basically make a case for adding any dish you want to your Thanksgiving in Miami. One option would be to have a potluck and invite everyone to bring a dish that reflects his or her culinary heritage.

Here are seven Florida-inspired dishes when you're looking for a new twist on Thanksgiving dinner in Miami:

1. Add seafood to your Thanksgiving menu

With all the seafood available in Miami, you can take your thanksgiving menu far beyond oyster stuffing. Consider creating seafood side dishes of scallops, shrimp or oysters. Or perhaps you'd prefer Florida grouper stuffed with crab meat to the traditional turkey. (This Paula Deen recipe is for crab meat-stuffed flounder, but you can use grouper instead. Stone crabs are a particular delicacy that's currently in season, and they come already cooked, though you may have to make your own mustard sauce or lemon butter. Stone crab season is Oct. 15 to May 15. The crabs are harvested, one claw (the part you eat) removed, and the crab is thrown back into the ocean, where it grows a new claw.

2. Turkey with traditional mojo marinade

Cuban Americans and other Miamians with Latin American and Caribbean roots often like to make a turkey for Thanksgiving. But their idea of seasoning is a little different and, we think, more flavorful. The traditional mojo marinade for turkey uses sour oranges, lots of garlic and oregano. If you don't have sour oranges, use a mix of orange juice and lime juice.

3. Chorizo and cornbread stuffing

Chorizo is a Spanish sausage popular in most Latin countries and by extension in Miami. A little chorizo can provide a lot of flavor to a recipe. Cornbread stuffing is a staple of Southern cooking, and adding chorizo gives it a flavorful zip. This recipe from the Miami website Hispanic Kitchen uses stuffing mix. This cornbread and chorizo stuffing recipe from Epicurious has you make the cornbread from scratch.

4. Include avocado this Thanksgiving

Florida avocados are plentiful this time of year. You can slice them up on salads, of course, as well as make traditional guacamole. They also make great additions to common side dishes, like these Thanksgiving potatoes with walnut guacamole.

5. Fresh vegetables

Your grandparents up north probably did not have access to a lot of fresh vegetables at Thanksgiving time, but that has changed. You can buy fresh from Florida green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes and more. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides some recipes with Florida products. Or, just cut up your favorite veggies, toss them in olive oil, add herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning and roast them in a 425-degree oven for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through. Salt and pepper, and you've got vegetable side dishes.

6. Serve something mango

Mangoes aren't in season, but you can buy them in the store and you may still have some in your freezer. Mango salsa, mango daiquiris, mango sauce for fish or shellfish, mango slices in your salad – it's not a Miami meal if you don't include a mango recipe.

7. Pumpkin flan or Key lime pie

Key lime pie on a table with limes and whipped cream

Image via Epicurious

Here's the thing about Thanksgiving desserts: You want more than one option. In addition to your pumpkin and/or apple pies, you might consider a pumpkin flan or a Key lime pie. Here's a recipe for pumpkin flan (flan de Calabaza). The traditional Key lime pie has a graham cracker crust and is made with egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and Key lime juice, which you usually buy in a bottle. Any recipe with gelatin is an imposter and be very wary of any Key lime pie that is green. Key lime pie also is topped with whipped cream, not meringue. The staff at Epicurious did some serious testing and came up with a few tweaks to the traditional Key lime pie recipe, which they say makes the best Key lime pie ever. And if you're not a baker, fill your table with sweet treats from these Miami bakeries!

If you're wondering what to cook on Thanksgiving besides turkey, you can always go the nontraditional route of roast pork and serve rice and black beans instead of mashed potatoes. Or borrow from the Italian tradition and make lasagna. Every country's food is welcome in Miami. Use these seven dishes for that inspiration you need when you want a Thanksgiving with a twist.

About the author

Teresa Mears

Teresa Mears is a website publisher, writer, blogger and editor in South Florida who was raised to be frugal. After working as a newspaper reporter and editor, she moved her career online. In addition to running Miami On The Cheap, Florida On The Cheap, Fort Lauderdale On The Cheap, Palm Beach On The Cheap, Living on the Cheap and other websites, she writes about personal finance for U.S. News & World Report and other publications.

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