Skip The Turkey—Your Survival Guide To A Vegan Thanksgiving
Vegan Thanksgiving Alternatives
Thanksgiving can be an awkward occasion for most vegans, mainly because of that you-can-only-eat-the-brussel-sprouts thing. Not to mention the holiday’s reputation for dinner table conversation that can be anything but casual and the annual inquiries from relatives who still don’t understand why turkey counts as meat?
The good news is that a Vegan Thanksgiving done right means a mouth-watering menu with all the meatless and nutritious trimmings for all. Plus, it’s kind of hard to talk with your mouth full of delicious food, right? Right. Whether you’re hosting or bringing a dish, don’t just survive but thrive this season.
Here’s your survival guide to a vegan Thanksgiving.
In the past, tofurkey cornered the market as the only option for a vegan-friendly main course at Thanksgiving dinner. Now, there are hundreds of meatless recipes to choose from—tofurkey included. Nothing against tofurkey, but if you’re looking for a few other ideas for your main dish, it’s helpful to know all of the alternatives.
Here are some of the best plant-based proteins to make this Thanksgiving:
The protein prowess of lentils only comes second to their earthy and savory flavor, not to mention they act as an amazing vegan alternative to turkey. They are also pretty versatile, so you can cook up them as whole beans or mash them into a faux meatloaf, patty, or veggie burger. I love this recipe for Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf from Oh She Glows; aside from being delicious, it stands up to the whole-mix-together-every-ingredient-on-your-plate thing that happens on Thanksgiving. Turkey? What turkey?
2. Baked Tofu, Tempeh, or Seitan
While tofurkey is still a totally valid option, there are endless ways to transform these popular plant proteins into a knockout vegan thanksgiving dish. While I’m a big fan of Whole Food’s simple and essential recipe for Oven Roasted Tofu, you can easily substitute tempeh for a more firm and hardy option or opt for its chewier cousin, seitan, which mimics the texture of meat. All three are made from soy protein, so make sure you buy organic and non-GMO for the healthiest version, free from harmful hormones or antibiotics.
3. Non-Traditional Vegan Thanksgiving Entrées
No one said you had to recreate a turkey meal, so why not go off-script and do something different? Any combination of beans, grains, and vegetables will do for a Thanksgiving casserole (sans meat). You can also get creative by making this simple yet savory Vegan Thanksgiving Wrap from Minimalist Baker. It includes seasonal ingredients like sweet potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds.
SIDES & SAUCES
Many classic Thanksgiving sides (gravy, stuffing, biscuits) contain meat or dairy. Play it safe and whip up these vegan sides instead:
1. Vegan Gravy
For a crowd-pleasing, plant-based gravy, try the Vegan Mushroom Gravy recipe from the NY Times. Add in vegetable stock (use veggie scraps to make your own), mushrooms, and a little bit of soy sauce, then generously pour it over everything from main courses to sides. And make sure you have some for tomorrow’s leftovers.
2. Vegan Breads & Biscuits
Many bakeries offer vegan-friendly versions of your classic rolls or biscuits, and even if you’re not hosting, it’s still a good idea to bring your own. Put a holiday spin on the traditional biscuit recipe and try making these Pumpkin Sage Biscuits from Minimalist Baker.
3. Easy Vegan Stuffing
This Thanksgiving staple is still just as delicious and easy to make with plant-based ingredients. Simply swap out the chicken or beef broth and conventional bread for vegan-friendly alternatives. Need more guidance? Check out this stuffing recipe from Real Simple.
Since almost all sweet treats contain eggs, milk, and butter, the Thanksgiving dessert table can be a bummer for vegans. However, most modern-day plant eaters will know that baking with vegan substitutes is not as tricky as it once was, and it’s easy to find a variety of dairy alternatives. So, to help you make a (vegan) dessert that’s bound to go down in history as that “surprisingly great vegan thing you made for Thanksgiving one year,” here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Vegan Pumpkin Pie
You don’t have to miss out on this Thanksgiving tradition. Create a new classic with Gena Hamshaw’s recipe on Food52, “You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan Pumpkin Pie.”
2. Nutella Cake
Score the whole-foods trifecta and make a raw, vegan, and gluten-free dessert for Thanksgiving dinner. What’s the magic recipe? A Homemade Nutella Cake from JS Health loaded with rich flavors and nutrients to boot.
3. Fruit Crumble
There’s nothing more nourishing and warming during the holidays than a freshly-baked fruit dessert. Most of these recipes don’t call for dairy ingredients anyway, so it’s already vegan! Amy Chaplin is one of my favorite vegan chefs and her recipe for a Pear Cranberry Crumble is always easy to make and one of the fastest desserts to disappear. Try it for yourself and save yourself a few slices—just in case.
Based in the beautiful city of Portland, Maine, Katherine Oakes Englishman is a writer and yoga teacher with a passion for empowering others to live a more conscious and connected life. She is a contributing writer for The Good Trade, Wayward Collective and pens articles on outdoor travel as the East Coast correspondent at Bearfoot Theory; Katherine is also the former web editor of Pure Green Magazine. Offline, you can find her on a yoga mat or in pursuit of adventure in the wilds of Maine and the neighboring White Mountains.