Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up


On my first Thanksgiving in Japan as an exchange student, I had cold tofu for lunch and felt exceptionally sad. After two years of not celebrating the holiday while I was in rural Japan, I decided to host a Thanksgiving potluck for my friends last year, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Everyone’s favorite dishes–even ones I really disliked as a child, like green bean casserole–were exceptionally good. The atmosphere was good, too–everyone seemed really excited to be there and to share their dish; plus, there was no weird gender segregation in the kitchen!

Kabocha-Apple Whole-Wheat Turnovers

If you’re living in Japan, making your favorite holiday dishes can be somewhat difficult. Maybe there aren’t fresh green beans in late November at your store; maybe your moven is too small for a turkey. I’ve gathered up some of my recipes (and some from other blogs) that would work well for your fall/winter holiday parties below.

Finally, let me take the opportunity to express how thankful I am for all of you. Whether you’re a commenter, a twitter friend, or someone who has actually been in my kitchen, your support keeps me going on days when I’m down and out Darwin-style. You all push me to write more and try harder. So thank you. Really, truly.


Unless you have spotted one already in your import store, it’s easiest to just order the damn thing online. In Ishikawa, Yamaya import stores sometimes have very small whole birds, but what each store stocks isn’t consistent across the board.

The Meat Guy gets excellent reviews, as does Yo Yo Market, and a number of my friends and other bloggers have ordered from them. I tend to use Foreign Buyer’s Club because the dimensions of the turkey are written in the description.

That’s right, you do need to measure your moven, freezer, and fridge before you buy a turkey. (Unless you have a properly large refrigerator instead of a hand-me-down. In that case, you’ll excuse me while I go cry in the corner.)

I don’t profess to be a master turkey roaster, but you will also need a kitchen thermometer (kukkingu ondokei, クッキング温度計), which you can also use for yogurt and tempura oil; a proper carving knife (niku kiri yô hôchô, 肉切り包丁 seems to be the general term used); and, if you’re planning to spatchcock it like I am this year, some kitchen scissors (kicchin basami, キッチンバサミ). (I’ll let you know how that goes.)

Vegetarian Main Dishes

This is a bit of an import-store stretch, but if you can get a squash (kabocha will do, adjust cooking time accordingly), quinoa, and blue cheese or gorgonzola, Naturally Ella‘s “Twice Baked Butternut Squash (with quinoa and gorgonzola)” is divine.

If you cut down the amount of cheese, 101 Cookbooks“Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese” is delicious and feeds a crowd. Use panko breadcrumbs if you don’t have stale bread around (I never do), kabocha, and bake in two batches.

A hearty fall curry dish will bring some heat to your table: Kabocha Curry or Eggplant Curry. (No cheese required!)

Don’t forget all the great vegetarian/vegan entree recipes in The Ishikawa JET Kitchen! : “Kabocha Curry Soup,” “Lentil and Chestnut Soup,” “Lentil Soup ala Plath,” “Palak Paneer,” “Kabocha Gnocchi,” and more. I use this cookbook once a week. To purchase, click here.

Pescetarian Main Dishes

If poultry’s off the table, Broiled Sawara with Paprika or “Foil-Wrapped Miso Salmon” from No Recipes are both excellent choices for the seafood lover.


Kabocha Hummus with veggies, pita, and/or crackers (vegan, gluten free)

Baba Ghanoush (vegan, gluten free)

Side Dishes

Kabocha-Apple Turnovers (now with new pictures!) (vegetarian)

Sesame-Roasted Kabocha (vegan, gluten free)

Aka-Kabocha with Sesame Sauce (vegan, gluten free)

Roasted Vegetables (vegan, gluten free)

Roasted Autumn Salad with Quinoa or Rice (vegan, gluten free)


For the pie fans: Kabocha Pie, Hokuriku Expat Kitchen

You could also make “pumpkin pie” using the kabocha purée recipe and your favorite pumpkin pie recipe from home.

Spiced Persimmon Cake

I actually prefer galettes to pies. Make a variation on this one from Cook Eat Live Vegetarian with figs or apples or persimmons. Instead of lavender, add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to the crust. The crust is also great because it doesn’t use butter; we’re having a butter shortage/price hike again in Kanazawa, so expect to see more recipes with olive oil or alternatives on my blog.

What are you making for the holidays?


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jean says:

    Ok, I can’t quite remember what I had for Thanksgiving since Canada celebrates theirs nationally during the 2nd Monday of October.

    But it was not turkey. I do eat meat 2-3 times per month. But turkey or even roasting a whole bird is not my thing. I grew up on an 80% Chinese diet when growing up in Canada. So my mother never got into turkey roasting much at all. For Thanksgiving I consider and enjoy seafood in lieu of turkey. To me, that’s a more elegant type of main meat dish.

    1. Leah says:

      Interesting! Some of my friends from Italian families grew up with Italian meatballs for Thanksgiving. I love hearing about everyone’s traditions. I’m lousy at carving meat, so a fish dish would probably look more elegant on my table. Maybe I’ll have a New Year’s fish this year!

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