11.14.19 1

The Ultimate Vegan Thanksgiving Guide

One of the most frequent questions I get during this time of year is, “As a vegan, what do you eat for Thanksgiving??” Sometimes I giggle a little on the inside. I think people tend to forget that there are approximately 20,000 varieties of edible plants in the world, and they’re so, so tasty!

I think the key to pleasing meat-eaters with a plant-based meal is to not try to make things taste like meat. By that, I mean don’t call something “vegan turkey” when it’s a soy-based product. If you label a dish as “vegan __(insert meat/cheese dish here)__,” people will expect a dish that tastes like turkey/cheese/etc. And as any vegan will tell you, nothing in the plant world will taste like a turkey to someone who is accustomed to eating turkey. It just doesn’t!

Instead, provide your family and friends an incredible alternative to meat, and one that isn’t a vegan version of anything. Feed them the right food, and they won’t even miss the turkey. 

With Thanksgiving only two (!!) weeks away, I wanted to make a huge list of vegan options that you could use at your own Thanksgiving celebration. Whether you’re feeding yourself, your family of four, or a friend group of twenty, I’m positive you can find some recipe ideas that will please even the meatiest of carnivores.

Vegan Thanksgiving Apps and Snackys

One of my favorite parts of any party is the finger foods! Cheese balls, crudites, baby quiches, dips, the whole enchilada (ohh, enchiladas). I could make entire meals out of snackys. Have y’all ever seen the movie Mermaids? The mother (played by Cher) only makes meals made up of finger foods. That is my true destiny if I’ve ever seen it.

(and remember, if all else fails, there’s always hummus!)

[vegan party cheeseball via meaningful eats]

Vegan Thanksgiving Soups + Salads

The taste and texture of pumpkin and squash lend itself to creamy, luscious soups. Throw in a little bit of nutmeg or some cinnamon and pass it through a high-speed blender, and you’ve made yourself a great first course! I also love that flavor with some crunchy greens and apples. 

(and remember, if all else fails, just add greens and veggies and extra virgin olive oil. it doesn’t have to be multi-stepped and tedious!)

[apple + corn + butternut squash soup via turnip the oven]

Vegan Thanksgiving Main Events

Okay, okay. Here’s where most people have their vegan Thanksgiving doubts. But what about the turkey?? Let me tell ya, I’m gonna blow your minds here! All the savory, filling goodness a main dish commands, but without the trytophan and hormones. Hold on to your potatoes, kids.

(and remember, if all else fails, Trader Joe’s has a Turkey-Less Roast that’s delicious, if you need something in a pinch or simply don’t feel like cooking.)

Vegan Thanksgiving Sides

My (never-humble) opinion: the sides are the best part of holiday meals. If you disagree, you best bring your fists. I’m willing to fight over this. I will destroy a buffet on side dishes alone. I’ll make you rethink the term “all-you-can-eat” solely because of my mashed potato intake.

It helps that my mom makes the best dressing (and pecan pie) in the entire world. The woman is magical. I’ve been working on veganizing them, but I know my limitations, and sometimes, foods are better left as perfect memories than failed forays in flax eggs. Que sera sera, let it be. Here’s some sides that won’t make you weep into your childhood.

(and remember, if all else fails, most homemade cranberry relishes are vegan. make easy mashed potatoes with a butter sub. green beans with almonds. some of the dressing mixes are vegan. this can be as easy or involved as you like.)

[vegan green bean casserole via the busy baker]

Vegan Thanksgiving Breads + Muffins

What’s a holiday meal without carbs? I could eat en entire can of Crescent Rolls on my own. Same with a loaf of white Wonder Bread. I don’t now, because we’d have to amputate my feet, but I’ve watched me do it before. I love having some sort of bread to sop up all the leftover Thanksgiving goo.

(and remember, if all else fails, you can get a loaf of French bread for a buck at the Walmart bakery … and it’s 100% vegan. AS are the aforementioned Crescent Rolls)

[cheezy vegan pull apart bread via veggie society]

Vegan Thanksgiving Coffees + Mocktails + Cocktails

Welp. Okay. During this particular holiday season, I won’t be partaking in the cocktail portion of this section. However, whether you’re a sober-by-medical-necessity pregnant gal like me or just simply don’t drink alcohol, there are plenty of delicious drinks for you. Here’s a few of them.

(and remember, if all else fails, couple Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate with oat milk and some coconut whipped topping! or go here for a list of all vegan-friendly wines)

[thanksgiving punch via thyme and joy]

Vegan Thanksgiving Desserts 

Ahh, the pièce de résistance. Remember that scene from Forrest Gump in which Bubba is listing all the ways you can eat shrimp? Sub sugar for shrimp, and that’s me. My dad and I are sugar eaters. Me little less so than my dad — we’ve taken to calling him Alf (instead of Elf … like Buddy the Elf) because he could survive on candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup. And hard tacos from Taco Bell.

Anyway. The desserts are the endcap to the meal, the final building block. Don’t disappoint.

(and remember, if all else fails, crushed Oreos + vegan cream cheese + a fridge make some tasty truffles on the fly. or just eat Nutter Butters straight from the package.)

[vegan cranberry fluff jello salad via spabettie]

Vegan Thanksgiving Leftovers Ideas

What good is making all this food unless you plan on eating it for the next week? I’ve included a few ways to repurpose your leftovers into something magical.

(and remember, if all else fails, just zap everything you didn’t eat for the big event. all of these recipes try to repurpose leftovers, but in my opinion, leftovers are pretty good on their own too!)

[thanksgiving leftovers pizza via seitan beats your meat]

Some general Thanksgiving tips 

If you’re the lone vegan in your Thanksgiving crew, chances are good that those around you may not understand your lifestyle. Remember, now probably isn’t the time to show them videos of factory farmed turkeys meeting their demises. If asked, take the opportunity to tell them the great parts of eating vegan. You have a captive audience that you might not have on any other day. Don’t preach to them; just tell them why you eat how you do.

You might take some ribbing. People tend to mock what they don’t understand. It sucks, but don’t react in anger, lest we become the “protein-deprived maniac” that tried to cut Granny Betty after dinner. 

Always offer to help! Cooking is a bonding experience. Bring a few things to prepare with your family and friends.

Not all alcohol is vegan!! Check with Barnivore.

If you wanna fudge a little with cornbread dressing and make your cornbread out of a Jiffy mix (shhh, I won’t tell), make sure (1) you make it at least a day before you intend to make the dressing so it has time to dry out, and (2) get the box marked “Vegetarian” at the top in green. Can you believe it, Jiffy has lard in the original version. I’ve made this mistake, too; always a best practice to read the box!

If you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, pick up a veggie tray. Or outsource everything to Whole Foods … they do an entire vegan meal. As does Purple Carrot, and they deliver the ingredients to your door — I actually have four free Purple Carrot boxes to give away! Send me your email and I’ll get you the code.

Be positive, with reasonable expectations. People might not love your food, especially if it’s their first time trying a vegan dish. That’s okay! 

Most importantly, however you choose to celebrate, remember that this is a holiday based on gratitude. And the slaughter of my ancestors. But for this post, we’ll just stick with gratitude. Be thankful always.

Always be thankful. Love you guys.

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  1. Steph wrote:

    Thanksgiving or not. I’m excited to just try some of these. We have been veg for a few years now and we are slowly trying to do a few vegan days each week. I don’t know how anyone could do this without Pinterest and blogs – I’d be just eating carrots.

    Published 11.16.19