Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. With travel restricted and people limiting contact with others, the whole family might not be able to get together, but we can still enjoy a meal with loved ones. If you’ve ever been interested in trying a few vegan Thanksgiving dishes or a whole vegan Thanksgiving meal, maybe this is the year to try it out. Without any strange uncles to call you a “coastal elite” and suggest that you’re going through a phase, you can eat whatever the heck you want on Thanksgiving without judgment. As a lifelong vegetarian and five-year vegan, I know the best vegan Thanksgiving dishes to keep your health top notch this holiday season while enjoying this favorite holiday meal. Let’s make the best of a Thanksgiving during a pandemic by being grateful for our health, for the time we get to share with loved ones, for the meal we have in front of us, and for the abundance of nourishment that the planet provides us with. I’m going to let you in on the secrets of creating a lovely plant-based Thanksgiving meal.
I’ve Never Eaten Turkey
My parents decided to raise me and my brothers as vegetarians. Living in Western Pennsylvania, this was particularly scandalous and controversial to the rest of the family and other random meddlesome individuals. When any of us were sick, my aunt would tell my mother that it was because we weren’t eating meat. Lunch at school usually included something perfectly normal like peanut butter and jelly but everyone, unable to process a life without meat, still asked me what I ate for dinner or what I ate at all.
Twenty years later, eating plant-based is on everyone’s mind. Since then, we’ve become vegan, and while some of my family is on board now, some aren’t, but that’s okay; I don’t mind being controversial.
Like every good vegetarian family, we eat a tofurky every year. While the rest of the family watched my uncle fry the turkey in the yard, my brothers and I gathered around my father to see him carve the legendary tofurky. You don’t need a big knife like you do for a turkey, but who needs knives anyway?
Making the tofurky is a long process – yes they come frozen and have easy-to-follow instructions on the back, but when have you ever seen a father just follow the instructions? My dad has a secret marinating process that takes place while the rest of us watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. From what I’ve seen sitting on the counter when I’ve witnessed the process, the marinade contains soy sauce – but that’s about all I know. Fingerling potatoes and baby carrots marinated in a similar sauce are a must in my dad’s book. And two tofurkys allows for adequate leftovers which, in my opinion, are often better than the meal itself.
Here are some vegan Thanksgiving dishes that my family usually has for the holiday.
A vital wheat gluten and tofu roast perfect for a meat-free holiday meal.
Like I said, my dad really does it up, but I feel like you have to. People do a lot of stuff to meat before they eat it, and you basically have to do that same thing with any veggie protein. Lots of spice. Lots of sauce. Having never eaten real turkey, I enjoy tofurky just fine – especially smothered in my mom’s gravy. Let’s be real though, the side dishes are the real stars of the show on Thanksgiving Day.
Gravy is by far my favorite component of the Thanksgiving meal. I think it should be considered a dish itself; I could eat it with a spoon. As you can see, I cover basically everything on my plate in gravy – the tofurky, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, pumpkin pie, mix a little into my wine. Just kidding…but I was serious about the first three.
Regular stuffing, that is non-veggie stuffing, includes a bunch of the weird stuff that people take out of their turkey. At least that’s how I understand it. There’s a story my mom loves to tell at the Thanksgiving table. When my brother was in kindergarten, the teacher asked the class what stuffing was. My brother raised his hand and proudly stated, “fluff,” as in what fills stuffed animals.
Mashed potatoes come in a solid second place after gravy. Making mashed potatoes vegan is so easy. All you have to do is replace the butter with a plant-based butter such as Earth Balance, and use a plant-based milk instead of regular cow’s milk. I’ve used Silk original almond milk, and it works just fine. For fancier mashed potato recipes, check out my recommendations in the next section.
Vegan Thanksgiving Dish Recipes:
Vegan food bloggers are doing an amazing job creating healthy and innovative vegan thanksgiving dishes to make your holiday one to remember. Here are some of my favorites:
Turkey / Other “Meaty” Entrees
I know I’ve really hyped up the Tofurky, so I bet you already wrote three tofurkys on your grocery list. (Also, if you are interested in trying a Tofurky, you have to get them early!)
You can buy a tofurky as just the roast, the roast plus gravy, or as a feast (roast, gravy, and vegan chocolate cheesecake – they’ve got it all handled). I recommend just getting the roast because homemade gravy is much tastier. For those with food allergies or intolerances, a tofurky is made with soy and wheat, which are two major allergens. Let’s look at some other options.
Beyond Meat, mushrooms, and spinach, all wrapped up in puff pastry. Umm, heck yeah! This dish will totally impress your guests, and it isn’t as complicated as it seems.
A slice of this Wellington looks gorgeous on a Thanksgiving plate.
Tips: Use store-bought puff pastry or crescent roll dough for extra ease. And slightly cook the Beyond Meat on the stove before placing it into your Wellington.
Try: Shepherd’s Pie
This shepherd’s pie uses butternut squash instead of the classic mashed potatoes on top. Making that simple switch can make the dish completely fresh and add a new level of health benefits. According to Healthline, butternut squash is an “excellent source of provitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.” It is so important that we harness the power of food as medicine right now especially. Why not pack in added ingredients to do just that? Along with butternut squash, this dish is packed with lentils and mushrooms.
One of my favorite plant-based meats right now is Beyond Meat. I add it to everything I can. This shepherd’s pie recipe uses Beyond Meat in the base! I know. It’s genius. Beyond Meat mixed with peas, corn, carrots, and mushrooms creates a delicious base for a generous top layer of classic mashed potatoes. I will definitely be making this dish this holiday season.
(Tip: Be sure to use vegan worcestershire sauce — or just soy sauce. It doesn’t remind you to do so in the recipe.)
Try: “Meat” Loaf
Made with your choice of nuts and butternut squash, this dish will probably outdo any turkey substitute. It can be easily made gluten-free with subbing the breadcrumbs out for oats. I’ll be dreaming about this smothered in gravy.
A simple vegan stuffing with only nine ingredients, you’ll be able to throw this together in no time. It’s a great place to start if you don’t want to get too involved in your Thanksgiving meal.
This gluten-free stuffing uses gluten-free bread so everyone can enjoy stuffing during the Thanksgiving meal. With mushrooms and pears, this dish has a unique flavor combo, earthy and sweet, that will be the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the indulgent dishes on your plate.
As I mentioned before, making mashed potatoes vegan only involves two substitutions – from butter to plant-based butter, and from milk to plant-based milk. If you’re looking for a new recipe to spice up your mashed potato game, here are some recommendations.
Apparently “The Best Damn Vegan Mashed Potatoes”
This mashed potato recipe is from the great Minimalist Baker. I think I would trust Minimalist Baker with my life, so I definitely trust them with my mashed potatoes. A classic recipe with a garlicky twist.
I can’t believe someone put kale into mashed potatoes, but at the same time, I’m kind of mad I didn’t think of it myself. This version of the classic side looks absolutely divine. With that kale to add those essential dark greens to your Thanksgiving meal, this dish packs a healthy punch and changes up the texture of regularly gooey mashed potatoes.
Gravy and Cranberry Sauce
You can find the recipe for mushroom gravy within this recipe for cauliflower mashed potatoes, But hey, if you’re already on the page, you might as well try these mashed potatoes too.
This is what your vegan Thanksgiving dinner could look like.
I know it’s hard to save room for dessert when you have a plate full of plant-based goodness, but if you’re like me, you’ll always find a little bit of space. Or what I like to do is make the desserts myself so that I can taste them as I go and then I feel less like I have to try them on Thanksgiving Day.
Sometimes a whole slice of pie seems overwhelming after dinner, but a cookie is a no-brainer. These pumpkin sugar cookies while super easy to make are delicious. Try not to eat all of the dough before it’s baked – like I almost did. And this pumpkin frosting is a must with these cookies.
An easy gluten-free and vegan apple crisp that can double as breakfast the next morning. I’m all in. Try it with some vegan vanilla ice cream or with the coconut whipped cream mentioned above.
I’m so excited to try some of these vegan dishes over the Thanksgiving holiday. Embrace the season and start celebrating gratitude.
Tag us on instagram @cookandculture if you try any of these vegan Thanksgiving dishes.
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