You want everyone to feel welcome at your table. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple brunch for a new neighbor or dinner with your best friends from college, you don’t want anyone feeling like the meal wasn’t made just for them. And a feast dedicated to giving thanks should be the epitome of this feeling of home and harmony. The challenge is how do you that with at least one guest who doesn’t eat meat and one or two others swearing off dairy. Your next culinary challenge is learning how to create the perfect vegan Thanksgiving.
The first thing you need to remember is that the perfect vegan Thanksgiving doesn’t mean that everyone has to be vegan. You can still put someone else in charge of the turkey. Depending on the reasons for your guest’s vegan lifestyle, you might need to serve it out of view. But most folks won’t mind as long as the turkey isn’t on the same platter as the Brussels sprouts.
If you’re going to have a mix of dishes for a variety of eating styles, just make sure things are clearly labeled. You might, for example, put vegan dishes in white serving dishes while the other dishes are in colorful bowls. Are you ready to try some new traditions as your family’s health habits and nutritional needs evolve?
Here are three essential steps to create a vegan-friendly holiday meal.
Don’t do a tofu turkey. As a vegetarian for almost two decades, I can tell you the frozen mock meat never works out. It doesn’t taste great, no matter how much gravy you pour over it. If someone on your guest list is afraid of “missing out” or has requested a turkey substitution, you can try a homemade “turkey” roast. Check out this vegan “turkey” roast from none other than Ellen DeGeneres’ personal chef. I have made this a few times for holiday feasts with excellent results. The downside is it takes time to make and there will be a lot of leftovers. Make sure your vegan guests are prepared to take home leftovers or you’ll find yourself eating a lot of faux turkey sandwiches.
The preferable alternative to turkey is a vegan main dish that celebrates fall flavors and everyone can enjoy. I would recommend this recipe for Root Vegetable Quinoa Bake from Clean Eating magazine. To keep it vegan, don’t bake with the goat cheese. (Although you can serve the goat cheese on the side for those who do eat dairy.) Another winner would be the delicious Spinach and Mushroom Strata from Terry Hope Romero’s Veganomicon cookbook. There’s also a great shepherd’s pie recipe in Veganomicon that would be a perfect main dish for plant-based eaters and carnivores alike.
You can keep certain holiday staples, but you may need some simple modifications. Stuffing is an essential item on the Thanksgiving table even if you don’t enjoy the bird to go with it. Make it separately from the meat (if you are still having a turkey) and use vegetable broth in place of chicken or turkey broth. If you also need a stuffing that is gluten-free, try this delicious recipe from UpRootKitchen for Brown Rice Stuffing with Cranberries, Leeks and Thyme. If you choose to make stuffing from the box be sure to read the ingredients to check for any chicken stock in the mix.
Mashed potatoes can easily be made vegan. Using coconut milk or soymilk will keep them creamy. Roasted garlic adds a lovely new flavor twist. Or instead of mashed potatoes try scalloped sweet potatoes, like this recipe from Taylor at FoodFaithFitness. Serious Eats even has a guaranteed to please vegan version of green bean casserole.
Don’t be afraid to try some new flavors! Have you ever tried a stuff acorn squash? Maybe this is the year to experiment with Brussels sprouts? Not that vegans only eat salad but the meat eaters in our family request that I bring this Spinach, Strawberry and Broccoli salad from Tosca Reno to holiday gatherings. You can even ditch all the traditional foods and have a taco bar or chili cookoff!
Does this all feel overwhelming? No one ever said the perfect vegan Thanksgiving had to be 100% homemade. Don’t be afraid to outsource! You can pick up any variety of delicious vegan ready to eat options from MJ’s Deli if you are local or if you live near a Whole Food’s. Also, remember that it’s really not about the food. Whatever is on the table don’t forget to give thanks for the abundance you have in your life.