When you think of Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? Turkey, right? (Aside from gratitude, loved ones, and a harvest-filled cornucopia, that is). Referred to by many as ‘Turkey Day,’ this holiday commemorates a three-day feast celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. The first Thanksgiving meal epitomized abundance with a menu ranging from fish, deer, cabbage and pie to plums, cranberries, custards and of course, turkey. Today, the spirit of gratitude and abundance remains strong as we gather in grateful appreciation with family, friends and, of course, food.
For vegans, however, a Thanksgiving feast may seem more like a Thanksgiving fast. A food-filled table with a roasted bird centerpiece accompanied by thick gravy, side dishes lathered in butter and an array of desserts topped with mounds of whipped cream presents a challenge for an individual whose diet excludes both meat and dairy.
When I first became vegan, I dreaded Thanksgiving. I envisioned an afternoon of stuffing, roasting, basting and cutting a turkey I wouldn’t be eating, punctuated by mouth-watering smells of foods I’d chosen to forgo and a bland dinner plate of nothing but lettuce. But as I’ve discovered over the years, being vegan doesn’t mean you have to skip the Thanksgiving ‘feast’ or settle for a meal any less delicious than the one Americans all over the country traditionally enjoy.
Vegans can easily create a yummy plant-based, dairy and meat-free meal by swapping a few ingredients here and there and infusing classic entrees and sides with delightful vegan options that even the omnivores won’t be able to resist…Gobble-Gobble!
Start things off with some plant-based crisps and crackers to satisfy your cravings without filling up on heavy cream dips and cheeses. Chop up some celery, red peppers and carrots and try making these spicy oven-crisped chickpeas to dip in sweet potato chipotle hummus. Or opt for some black bean chips with this delicious vegan guacamole dip. You could also try making some healthy sweet potato, squash, apple or kale baked chips for a less greasy, antioxidant-filled snack. Plenty of vegan snacks (that are both healthy and delicious, I promise) exist – don’t be afraid to introduce them to friends and family before the real meal begins.
Your Turkey Day dinner doesn’t have to be all about the Turkey. This Thanksgiving, let something new take the spotlight. Tofurkey is always an option, of course. However, for the more adventurous vegan, a maple glazed stuffed squash, complete with kale, rice, almonds and mushrooms is a perfectly satisfying alternative to slabs of turkey meat. And as a bonus, it won’t leave you feeling stuffed or sleepy as turkey often does! Or, try this protein-packed crispy quinoa black bean burger (with an egg replacement such as a flax egg: 1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 3 tbsp water). I promise, you won’t even miss the turkey!
For those who just can’t forgo the buttery delight of potatoes, casseroles and greens, simply swap vegan margarine, olive oil or coconut oil for butter. Lentils, beans, nuts, squash, grains, greens, fruits and potatoes can be chopped, sauteed, mixed, roasted and mashed to make a colorful array of vegan side dishes. Try these spinach and quinoa stuffed tomatoes (use olive oil instead of butter and omit the cheese) for a tasty plant-based side.
Chocoholics, pie connoisseurs and cookie monsters can all still happily indulge at a vegan Thanksgiving. These gluten-free and vegan baking hacks open up a world of possibility for dairy-free dessert options. Egg replacements include bananas, applesauce, flax and/or chia-water mixtures. Avocado, coconut oil and vegan margarine can be substitutes for butter, while almond milk and soy milk are perfect alternatives for cow’s milk (note that measurements and/or substitutions may vary depending on the recipe).
This chia seed pudding recipe is more than just a tasty dessert, as it has the hydrating, heart-healthy, superfood health benefits of chia seeds. Also try these vegan chocolate truffles for a delicious bite-sized treat. And of course, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a pie or two, so experiment with fillers and this four ingredient vegan pie crust.