How to Accommodate Your Vegan and Vegetarian Friends on Thanksgiving

By welcoming potluck dishes and focusing on ingredient swaps, your menu can easily be tailored to all dietary choices.

The question of whether or not to invite your vegan and vegetarian friends and family to your traditional Thanksgiving feast has an easy answer: Of course you should. "You can't truly be thankful for your family if you've decided not to include them in a celebration of thanks due to their diet choice," says chef Petrina Peart of Gaiya's Harvest.

Of course, you shouldn't expect them to alter their dietary choices for the holiday, so be sure to offer a few plant-based dishes. "If your intention is to be a great host, you have to be accommodating to your guest," says Peart. "You should always have one thing that everyone can eat. It means so much to go to someone's home as a guest and they have made something special just for you—it really is the thought that counts, especially for Thanksgiving."

How to Include the Classics

You don't need to scrap your entire menu to offer vegan or vegetarian options. "A traditional Thanksgiving menu has lots of options for vegans and vegetarians: green beans, cranberry sauce, mashed or roasted potatoes, and sweet potatoes and yams—it's a carb-loaded feast, and we will happily lick our plates," says Peart.

Make Ingredient Swaps

Taking the time to update some of your recipes to leave out the meat, eggs, butter, and other non-plant-based ingredients will make your guests feel welcomed and loved. "I usually recommend keeping your vegetable dishes as vegetable dishes—dairy-free with low fat," says Peart.

Instead of green bean casserole—which typically calls for condensed cream of mushroom soup—try opting for sautéed mushrooms with green beans, reduced vegetable broth, and crispy fried shallots. Swap candied yams for fresh roasted sweet potatoes, drizzled with maple syrup, cinnamon, and spiced crunchy pumpkin seeds. "Mashed potatoes can be livened up with roasted garlic oil and rosemary instead of butter—or use vegan butter," Peart says.

Make 2 Versions of the Same Dish

Simple ingredient swaps might work for many of your recipes, but some just won't taste the same. "If Grandma's stuffing recipe calls for bacon fat, beef tallow, or any other rich umami meat flavor and it's left out, your family members will notice—and maybe even feel a little cheated," says Peart. "For some menu items, it's just necessary to make two versions. At my family's Thanksgiving we'll usually have two macaroni and cheeses—the one I make is usually vegan. They both get eaten!"

group of friends rustic dinner party outdoors
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How to Prevent Cross-Contamination

If no one in your household eats a meat-free diet, you probably don't have cutting boards, pans, and knives that are designated vegetables-only—but you should make sure that everything is thoroughly washed before switching your prep duties. This means you can't chop the green beans on the same board where you just diced the bacon.

Cross-contamination extends to the table service, too. "If you've already put the effort into making vegan options, keep them far away from the others," says Peart. "Don't put the vegan options next to the meat options to avoid splashing. Label foods, or use two tables if you have the space."

Don't Question Their Dietary Choices

Avoid making your vegan and vegetarian friends' dietary choices a topic of conversation. "A lot of times, people won't share why they've changed their diets," says Peart. Also avoid drawing attention to someone's preference by making a meal that's entirely meat-free, or commenting on what's on their plate. "If you and your other guests like turkey and ham, serve it," says Peart. "Just not right next to the mashed potatoes."

Welcome Guests to Bring a Dish

While you shouldn't give your guests the impression that they need to bring a dish in order to have something to eat, you also shouldn't brush off their offers to help. "If someone offers, allow them to bring something—it may be a hit," says Peart.

Make a Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly Dessert

Relatives and friends who don't eat meat or dairy have the same sweet tooth as the rest of your guests, and it's easy to find something everyone can enjoy. "Everyone wants pie and ice-cream—everyone!" says Peart. Providing a vegan dessert can be as simple as using coconut oil instead of butter in your pie pastry and grabbing a pint of non-dairy ice cream.

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