How to Make a Vegetarian-Friendly Thanksgiving Dinner
Whether you're giving up the turkey or looking to surround it with plenty of delicious plant-based sides, we're here for you. Putting vegetables at the center of the plate is the modern, healthy approach to the holiday. Plant-based Thanksgiving has moved far beyond faux turkey roasts and now focuses on a rainbow of colorful dishes with different textures and flavors, leaving plenty to be grateful for at the table. Read on for spectacular vegetable mains that will be the star of the Thanksgiving spread, how to adapt must-have Thanksgiving sides to be plant-based, and craveable vegetable recipes you'll want to add to this year's feast.
Roast a Main that Doesn't Feel Like a Side
For a plant-based main that stands out from the sides, select a substantial dish with an element of surprise. Look for recipes that play on Thanksgiving flavors and feature the vegetable in its whole or halved form—bonus points if it can be stuffed. Try roasting heads of cauliflower drizzled with delicious sauces like this one doused in herb sauce. You can even stuff the bottom of the cauliflower, in between the florets, with your favorite stuffing. Especially festive for Thanksgiving is this whole stuffed pumpkin, it definitely belongs at the center of the table. Or go with seasonal squashes, like twice-baked butternut squash or beautiful pomegranate adorned and whole grain-filled acorn squash.
Plant-Based Substitutions for Vegetable Sides
While most Thanksgiving sides are plant-forward, be wary of common additions if you are looking to nix the meat, dairy, and eggs. Rather than try to recreate these dishes with alternatives like plant-based butters and nondairy milk, consider new dishes with bright flavor. Douse green beans in a Warm Raisin-Caper Dressing instead of cream and butter. Add smoky flavor to dishes like Brussels sprouts by using a few dashes of smoked paprika or a honey-chipotle glaze instead of adding the classic go-to, bacon. Rather than topping sweet potatoes with marshmallows (which are not vegetarian friendly) before baking, smash them and compliment their natural sweetness with salt-and-vinegar. Don't forget to include a crisp fresh salad to balance all the warm dishes.
Stuffing and Dressing
For a hearty stuffing full of vegetables in addition to the classic bread, stir in roasted squash, beets, carrots, or parsnips. Add a touch of sweetness with apples or pears or handfuls of dried fruits and nuts. Then swap out a few ingredients, if necessary. Use vegetable broth instead of turkey or chicken. Eggs help bind the stuffing together, but they are not necessary. Pour in extra stock instead or try this vegan mushroom and leek stuffing which already has the perfect proportions. Many stuffings contain sausage, use a taste-tested vegan sausage, like Field Roast or omit the meat altogether and mimic the flavors in the sausage by adding in spices. For example, if you like Italian sausage in stuffing, add in spices like fennel seed, paprika, and red pepper flakes.
If you've ever made mashed potatoes, you know they are as much about the cream or milk and butter as they are about the potatoes. It is that creaminess that we really crave, but it can still be achieved without dairy. For truly creamy vegan mashed potatoes try this simple swap: stir in oil and some of the liquid used to boil the potatoes. Our Vegan Mashed Potatoes recipe sizzles rosemary and garlic in the oil first to infuse the mash with subtle notes of these ingredients.
Just because there isn't a turkey doesn't mean guests won't expect gravy to drizzle over mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sides. Making a plant-based gravy means replacing one of the key ingredients, turkey or chicken broth. Our ultimate tip here, use a mushroom broth made from porcini, shitake, or a combo of dried varieties. Mushrooms lend a rich umami flavor to the gravy which mimics the savoriness of meat. A spoonful of miso paste or soy sauce, which helps with color as well also does this. Try our Mushroom Gravy.