Beyond Sides: A Vegan Thanksgiving Guide
When people give advice on how to navigate Thanksgiving as a vegan, they often say, “stick to the sides.” I myself give this advice. This year, however, I’m going to recommend going beyond sides. This year, treat yourself to everything from a vegan Thanksgiving entree through sides and to dessert. You don’t have to make it complicated — from homemade to store-bought, you have options!
Being a Vegan Outsider
A vegan diet can be challenging not just because you have to learn what food is vegan and then stock and cook that food. Being vegan is challenging because food and sharing meals is a part of our culture. When you switch to a plant-based diet, you are often going against your culture.
Never is this counter-cultural behavior so pronounced than on the holidays. These are where food traditions are central to gathering with loved ones. And, Thanksgiving?! Forget about it.
Do not despair!
There are many tactics to dealing with being a cultural outsider as a vegan (sign up to be notified with the Plenty Vegan Plan is open to learn more). To start, let’s focus on dealing with tactics for just one day: Thanksgiving.
How to Deal with Thanksgiving as a Vegan
Ok, call me idealistic, but I love the challenge and the opportunity that comes with a vegan diet. There are so many recipes to try and new ingredients to learn about, and boy do I love veganizing non-vegan foods. Bring on the challenge!
When you approach a Thanksgiving meal, you have to consider a few things. Are you the host, are you are traveling or are you a guest? There will be different expectations and levels of flexibility in each scenario.
Some other considerations come up too. Do you have time to try a new recipe? Are others open to trying new (vegan) foods? Can you make a meal just for yourself and other vegans? Can you veganize family favorites?
Some things to think about for a vegan Thanksgiving:
- Embrace creating new traditions.
- Quickest way to people’s hearts — feed them! (Make loved ones yummy vegan food.)
- Try a new vegan recipe(s).
- Do a practice run of a new recipe before Thanksgiving.
- Buy store-bought if you are traveling or don’t have time/interest in preparing something.
- Start with one thing — make a vegan dessert, for example.
- Be flexible with your veganism. (don’t hate on me, it works for some in transition or some plenty vegan peeps)
- Remember… treat yo self — this is your holiday too!
A Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
I recommend the above approaches to Thanksgiving because I have taken all of them at some point in the past almost 10 years of eating vegan.
I have eaten sides that had butter in them (and only eaten sides). I have bought a whole prepared vegan meal. I have made vegan pies. I have made entire meals from scratch with new vegan recipes that I have tried out beforehand or on the day of!
By now, I do have a menu that I really love and is my standby when I’m not feeling adventurous. This is it:
Entree: Seitan Roast with Mushroom Gravy
Sides: Mashed Potatoes & Shaved Brussels Sprouts
Dessert: Apple Pie
(I did make a vegan pot pie for Thanksgiving last year and Damn! was it tasty.)
Let’s go over this standby menu in case you want to stick to a recommendation.
Vegan Thanksgiving Entree: Homemade
I’ve made Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Seitan Roast Stuffed with Shiitakes and Leeks so many times. It makes me feel like the Level 10 Vegan® I am. I can almost convince myself there’s a long family tradition of making the seitan from vital wheat gluten and smelling the aroma of shiitakes in the air. It’s that much of a classic to me by now.
I love having a vegan Thanksgiving entree that is hearty and impressive. Who needs turkey?!
A hot tip: I always feel the need to cook it for a long time and then I end up drying out the seitan and really relying on the gravy to make up for that. So… don’t do that.
Speaking of gravy, the gravy I make (the only gravy I make) is from Vegan on the Cheap and is a Creamy Mushroom Gravy. This one is a HUGE hit with the non-vegans of the world. In fact, mushroom gravy is often beloved by non-vegans. Don’t be afraid!
The recipe calls for Gravy Master which is the secret gravy punch. You won’t need much and the tiny bottle will likely last you the rest of your Thanksgivings.
Vegan Thanksgiving Entree: Store-Bought
Listen, often we travel for Thanksgiving or we’re just too darn lazy to go the distance with homemade meals. No worries — that’s where the grocery store comes in!
You will likely have to hit up your local Whole Foods or natural grocery but, depending on where you live, the mainstream grocery store might carry what you need too.
I’ve put together entire vegan meals from Whole Foods before. For the vegan Thanksgiving entree, all you need to get is a Field Roast Celebration Roast and some mushroom gravy (Whole Foods seems to always have a veggie gravy option).
There are other packaged vegan Thanksgiving entree options too — Field Roast is just the one I always go with. You can check out Tofurky’s Holiday Vegetarian Roast & Gravy (it comes with gravy!) and other options in the vegan section.
But Sides Are Really Yummy Too
Though you should have a vegan Thanksgiving entree option, the truth is, sides are so great. I really love them, don’t you?
I’m of the opinion that, if you’re going to have gravy, you have to have mashed potatoes that you can slather in that gravy. It’s a must.
Vegan mashed potatoes are super simple. If you typically make your mashed potatoes with milk and butter, just sub in a vegan milk like almond milk and for butter sub Earth Balance, olive oil or vegetable broth.
One thing that is fun to do is to add other vegetables to your mashed potatoes. You can do half cauliflower and half potatoes, or half parsnips and half potatoes — mashed root veggies are super forgiving. This take on mashed potatoes is a good option to mix up your nutrition profile and maybe cut down on some carbs.
Vegetable Side — Shaved Brussels
I am obsessed with the Shaved Brussels Sprouts from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction (yes, Isa will come up a lot on this site — her stuff is great!). You slice up brussels super thin and sauté them in olive oil and salt until they browned. SUPER delish. Because it’s Thanksgiving, I’m heavy handed with the olive oil.
Cutting so many brussels can be very time consuming but I learned a great tip recently. Sapna (a featured Vegan Ninja) recommended pulsing brussels in the food processor! (Just cut off the hard stem first.) They might not look as pretty as the hand-shaved brussels but it will save an enormous amount of time.
If you don’t like brussels sprouts, well, you know what veggies you like. You don’t have to get too fancy here, just make sure you have a green of some sort. Maybe you want to veganize your family’s green bean casserole.
A Very Vegan Dessert
I grew up with a vegan dessert. No, I didn’t grow up vegan (it definitely followed a ton of turkey meat) but… Crisco is vegan!
These days, we steer clear of hydrogenated oils so Crisco is off the list but luckily there are options. I used Nutiva Shortening recently and it worked great.
If your family recipe is not already vegan, making a pie vegan is not very difficult. You might have grown up with pats of butter dropped on your apples, but you can easily substitute for that. Earth Balance, people. Earth Balance.
This year, I did a dry run apple pie inspired by King Arthur Flour’s November #bakealong. I had high hopes of attempting my first lattice crust, but, alas, I was running late to an appointment and had to keep it simple.
If you look at the apple pie recipe, you’ll see it calls for butter. But, guess what? That’s the ONLY non-vegan thing in that ingredients list! The shortening it calls for is vegetable, just like the shortening I grew up with. Go, King Arthur!
That’s it! You have your entire vegan Thanksgiving meal from start to finish. Simple as, um, pie!
This year, I’m joining some dear vegan friends in a Thanksgiving dinner (with non-vegan family and a turkey too). I’m excited for another year of a delicious shared vegan meal.
What will you be making this year? Share with the rest of us! Tag Plenty Vegan on Instagram or comment below.
Originally published on Plenty Vegan.