A Floridian’s Twist on Thanksgiving DinnerNovember 05, 2021 - Updated December 05, 2022
Thanksgiving, the absolute favorite holiday for some, is upon us once again. The usual spread – consisting of pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and of course, turkey or ham – will grace the tables of singles, couples, and groups of friends and families everywhere. But what if you could spice up the holidays a bit by adding something special? No, not your great aunt's casserole with her “secret” ingredients. We’re talking recipes and flavors that aren't typically associated with Thanksgiving in many areas of the United States – particularly where colder climates are concerned.
No matter what part of the country you live in, it might be nice to kick Thanksgiving up a notch this year by giving it a tropical flair. You could, in fact, extend the theme throughout your home with place settings, decorations, music, and more.
Let's explore some of your options for successfully kicking off this year's Tropical Thanksgiving.
Don't forget to offer up a tropical Happy Hour to break the ice and get the party started. The drink we have in mind for your tropical Thanksgiving theme revolves around pineapple. Why pineapple? The only U.S. state that produces pineapple is, currently, Hawaii, which is pretty tropical. Pineapple is, in fact, indigenous to many tropical locations and is used in numerous drinks and dishes with a tropical theme.
Mini or dwarf pineapples will be needed for this recipe. Just under one pound should do, depending on how many guests you have. How do you know if pineapples are ripe? At the base, they should smell sweet. They should be slightly soft with a yellow exterior.
Here's the recipe for a Pineapple Ricky… It serves six people.
Ingredients you'll need:
- Soda water
- Light rum (8 ounces)
- Small sprigs of mint as well as eight leaves
- Fresh ginger root (half cup peeled and chopped)
- Cored fresh pineapple (halved)
Tips: Save the pulp after you scoop out the pineapple and then freeze it for a gin or vodka spiked potion. Surely you can use it for something. As for "cups," should you go with regular sized pineapples instead of minis, be prepared to Uber everyone home after your celebration!
This cocktail with a Floridian's twist is another great drink to start off your Thanksgiving dinner. It is ideal for entertaining guests and easy to make in large quantities. While you can easily buy spiced rum at your liquor store, it won’t compare to the one you make at home. Here's what you'll need:
- Vanilla Bean
- Orange Peal
- Cinnamon Stick
- Allspice Berries
- Black Peppercorns
- Ground Nutmeg
- Fresh Ginger
Ahi Poke – A Snack
Your Ahi Poke will consist of cubed raw tuna/ahi, crunchy sweet onions, and salty seaweed. It's not for everyone, but it's in keeping with the tropical theme, in a big way. It's a great starter. If tuna isn't something in which you or your guests want to partake, other options include dried and smoked beef (pipi kaula), smoked salmon, clams, cooked shrimp, octopus, or crab.
Ingredients you'll need in addition to your fish/meat selection:
- Macadamia nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Chili pepper
- Fresh ginger
- Sesame oil
- Maui onion or yellow onion
- Chopped green onion
- Soy sauce
Avocado Mango Salad
You can also consider bringing a little bit of summer to your table with this tropical dish. There’s something about Florida cuisine that brings a level of freshness, and this salad is no exception. It’s a quick and easy combination of vegetables and spices that the whole family will love. Here is what you’ll need:
- Red Onion
- Lemon Juice
Bahamian-Style Mac & Cheese
How about some comfort food with a tropical twist? This creamy Bahamian mac and cheese recipe will be the perfect addition to any celebratory feasts. Here are the recommended ingredients for this dish:
- Elbow macaroni
- Cheddar cheese
- Green bell pepper
- Habanero pepper
- White onion
- Black pepper
- Evaporated milk
Your bread selection practically goes without saying: Kings Hawaiian Sweet Buns/Rolls. You can also use them for stuffing, if you wish, or make them from scratch in your kitchen.
Here's a recipe for your very own tropical buns. But wait, there's more. Here's a recipe for the bread stuffing, which consists of garlic, paprika, Portuguese sausage, and of course, Hawaiian Buns.
Dessert – A Slice of Paradise
Pumpkin pie is relatively traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving, but we're going to give it a tropical twist with a recipe for Haupia Pumpkin Pie.
Cranberry Lime Pie
Speaking of desserts, cranberries are another popular Thanksgiving staple! Perk this delicacy up with the classic tropical flavor of limes. What you’ll pull out of the oven will truly be a work of art as it can double as a centerpiece for your big dinner! Get ready to cut into this dessert as soon as your guests have finished feasting.
You will need the following ingredients:
- Gingersnap Cookies
- Unsalted Butter
- Light Brown Sugar
- Granulated Sugar
- Lemon Zest
- Lime Zest
- Lime Juice
- Whipped Cream
The Main Dish – Kalua Turkey, Of Course
Provided you and your guests opted for turkey rather than ham, here's a tropical recipe to help you incorporate your theme into the main dish of your Thanksgiving meal. For Kalua Turkey, you will need a 16-pound turkey (or larger, depending on the size of your gathering), liquid smoke seasoning, kosher or coarse sea salt, and water. At 16 pounds, you can figure in roughly 4 1/2 to 5 hours of roasting time, until a thermometer reads 165° Fahrenheit, and the skin is slightly browned. For 30 minutes after you remove it from the oven, you'll want to let it sit and rest. It should literally fall off the bone.
Citrus and Herb Turkey
Another must-try recipe that adds a simple twist on the classic centerpiece for every Thanksgiving dinner. By combining the aromas and flavors of oranges and lemons with thyme and sage, you can make a delectable entrée for all. Citrus and Herb Turkey consists of a longer list of ingredients than usual, so grab your pen and paper. You won't regret it!
- Yellow Onion
- Olive Oil
- Chicken Stock
Would You Rather Have Ham?
If you and your guests would rather have ham instead of turkey, or simply want to add ham to the mix, we've got you covered! Here's a recipe for tropical-style ham. (Specifically, guava and pineapple glazed ham.)
If you think about it, this really isn't much of a stretch since many cooks already use pineapple slices and pineapple juice when cooking ham. This just adds a little more of a tropical flair to the process and finished product.
Don't forget the sweet potatoes if you plan on making ham; they go hand-in-hand in the minds of many individuals. Okinawan sweet potato is, in fact, a staple ingredient. It has numerous health benefits and is known for its purple, vibrant color. Numerous tropical dishes are built around this sweet potato. Can you buy them in America? You may need to locate a specialty store, but they can be found. (You can actually order them on Amazon and other online locations, in fact.)
If you can't find them, just consider adding brown sugar and pineapple to regular sweet potatoes. Here's a recipe for Tropical-style sweet potatoes to go with ham. You'll need the following for this recipe:
- Mini marshmallows
- One egg
- Crushed pineapple
- Pepper and salt
- Brown sugar
- Sweet potatoes
What about Decorations?
If you decided to go with our suggestion above and continue the tropical Thanksgiving theme throughout your table, place settings, and home, some incredible ideas can be found under Pinterest Tropical Thanksgiving Ideas. Be sure to check them out. There’s sure to be some Don Ho music available somewhere, too.
Here’s a suggestion to drive home a fun tropical theme. Greet your guests "aloha" upon arrival, as well as when they leave. It means both hello and goodbye, in Hawaiian and communicates kindness, passion, and love. Perfect for Thanksgiving. Warm up that chilly autumn day with a celebration to rival all other Thanksgiving get-togethers. Go tropical this year.
Even if you live in a North Carolina community, you can have a Thanksgiving typical of one that might be found in Florida or any other tropical setting. Don't let the cold weather get you down. You might even want to make beachwear the required attire for attending your Thanksgiving tropical soirée!