One of the most anticipated holidays is just around the corner — Thanksgiving. It’s the day that we can unapologetically stuff our faces with American delicacies while simultaneously appreciating all that there is to be grateful for. For many, the main course of Thanksgiving dinner is worth being thankful for: the turkey. But for others, like vegans, vegetarians, and turkey non-enjoyers, the giant bird at the center of the table may not be too appetizing. Thankfully, there is an alternative: tofurky.

What is Tofurky?

Tofurky, a combination of the words turkey and tofu, is a turkey roast substitute made primarily of wheat gluten, and a small amount of tofu. Tofurky roasts also contain a stuffing on the inside, made of wild rice and bread.

A typical Tofurky comes wrapped inside a plastic, which is fastened at both ends. While it definitely does not resemble a bird, it has a shape that can be compared to that of a turkey breast, making it all the more realistic.

How was Tofurky invented?

It all started with a man who lived in a treehouse in Oregon: Seth Tibbot. Tibbot decided to become a vegetarian in 1972 after reading a book explaining the efficiency of eating grains on their own, instead of eating the meat of animals that consumed grains. In his memoir, titled In Search of the Wild Tofurky, Tibbot explains that he discovered tempeh, a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans, when he visited a “hippie” farm in Tennessee. A few years later, he founded Turtle Island Foods and began making and selling his own tempeh to grocery stores and other food providers on the West Coast.

“I invested 2,500 bucks and I could make 100 pounds of tempeh in a night. It was an 8-hour shift,” Tibbot wrote in his memoir.

Tibbot operated this company out of the abandoned kitchen of an elementary school in Oregon, and it wasn’t until 1995 that his business really began to take off. After introducing his tempeh to vegetarian caterers Rhonda and Hans Warbel, they struck up a partnership producing meat-free Thanksgiving roasts — what would soon become known as the Tofurky Holiday Roast. 500 Tofurky roasts were sold the Thanksgiving of 1995, and according to CNBC, over 5 million roasts have been sold since its debut.

What did people first think of Tofurky?

At first, people had their doubts about this new mystery non-meat.

“The day Tofurky started selling, the New Yorker had a full-page cartoon about ‘the rock hard Thanksgiving tofu turkey dinner.’ And it was all a joke. But it wasn’t a joke. People were buying it,” Tibbot wrote in his memoir.

And the people buying it were loving it. It was an instant hit among non-meat eaters. In an interview with, Tibbot revealed that in the Tofurkys produced for the product’s debut, a feedback form was slipped inside the packaging.

According to Tibbot, one consumer wrote, “I have been waiting 20 years for this product. Finally I am not a second class citizen at Thanksgiving anymore!”

Because of Tofurky’s popularity, Turtle Island Foods expanded their products to meatless sausages, deli slices, and hot dogs, to name a few. There’s also a ham roast that comes with an amber ale glaze, which sounds delicious.

What does Tofurky taste like?

Like most wheat-based meat substitutes, the taste of Tofurky can be described as that of plain chicken. The texture can also be somewhat rubbery. What really makes the flavor is the spices added to it, which is up to the consumer.

The official Tofurky website suggests to use 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or other vegetable oil), 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh or ground sage for a baste. The website also says that “veggie broth, minced garlic, a dash of red wine or herbs like thyme or marjoram” go great with the roast as well. You can even purchase the brand’s vegan gravy as a topping for your roast.

TikTok @itssarahthyme user used olive oil and herbs, and she said it tasted pretty good. So, the flavor of the Tofurky is really up to you. Personally, I’m really intrigued by their vegan gravy, as an extreme gravy lover.

What’s next for Tofurky?

While nothing official has been announced, the Tofurky brand has been putting out a variety of new meatless alternatives in recent years. In 2020, the company announced the release of their new plant-based burger. So, we can speculate that Tofurky will be dishing up some more alternatives in the future.

Until then, the invention of Tofurky has given vegans and vegetarians a feeling of comfort and inclusion as they join their turkey-loving friends at the Thanksgiving table. What started as a single man’s solution to vegetarianism has become a staple in the non-eat meating lifestyle.