A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

Oh my, I blinked my eyes and here we are in November!  How did it get here so quickly?

I have not been the most regular of bloggers, but I didn’t want to leave anybody hanging for those Thanksgiving plans.  Perhaps you are a new vegan and you are not sure how to make some of your favorite holiday dishes without the animal products.  Or more likely, you are not a vegan but you have a vegan guest or two who will be showing up at your holiday table.  In any case, I’m here to walk you through a very vegan Thanksgiving day.

Don’t Skip Breakfast!

Serve something wholesome and hearty like Steel-Cut Oats, Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal, or a Tofu Scramble.  A healthy morning meal will sustain you through all those hours of food preparation and allow you to come to your holiday table without feeling famished and ready to stuff yourself!  If you want to indulge a bit and have a more festive breakfast, try Low-Fat Vegan Pumpkin Muffins*, perhaps alongside that scrambled tofu.

Honor Your Traditions

Family holiday traditions vary so much – but here’s what I grew up with on Thanksgiving:  Stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and…oh yeah, turkey.  What can I say?  For me it has always been all about the side dishes.   For dessert we always had pumpkin pie, usually accompanied by one or two other types of pies…apple, pecan, berry, or whatever else a guest may have brought.  Think about what dishes are really important to your family and friends and be sure not to leave out anybody’s favorite.

Veganize It

So how do you make everybody’s favorite dishes vegan?  First, whenever the recipe calls for butter, use Earth Balance non-dairy spread.  You can bake a nice flaky pie crust with it, you can have those buttery mashed potatoes, you can put it in your stuffing, and you can melt it on your pan for candied sweet potatoes.  (Speaking of those sweet potatoes, try topping them with Dandies vegan marshmallows!)

Next, use vegetable broth instead of chicken or turkey broth.  Better Than Bouillon makes a great vegetable broth paste that will work in any recipe, and Rapunzel vegan bouillon cubes are excellent as well.  You can make a nice rich gravy by melting earth balance, whisking in some flour, and then adding vegetable broth and stirring until thick.

Last, use a nondairy milk to replace cow’s milk in any recipe.  I’m partial to a plain soy milk (not vanilla), because it is nice and thick, but plain almond milk can also be used if you don’t like soy.

The vegan at your table will appreciate any veganizing that you do – and if you can’t figure out how to make every dish vegan, try to find out what your vegan guest’s favorite dish is, and be sure to veganize that.  My mom knows how much I love stuffing, so she makes it vegan and then only puts half inside the turkey, baking the other half in a separate casserole dish for me and my family.  Maybe you would like to try her Decadent (veganized) Bread Stuffing recipe!

Buy a Field Roast

If it just won’t feel like Thanksgiving without a turkey, I recommend a product called Field Roast.  The company is based in my very own Seattle, and they use wholesome ingredients to make a chewy, savory roast that is quite satisfying.  Tofurky and Gardein also make similar products, but Field Roast is my own personal favorite.  It’s not essential for me to have this, but it’s tasty, my kids really like it, and it does provide a lot of protein.

Try Something New

In addition to the usual holiday favorites, I have some new dishes that I’ve more recently grown to love at Thanksgiving.  One is sauteed kale.  It brings such a lovely color to the table, and provides a host of essential vitamins and minerals to keep you balanced on an otherwise indulgent day.  Another new favorite is roasted brussels sprouts – just toss with some olive oil, add salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about a half hour.

You can also try something new when it comes to the Thanksgiving centerpiece.  If you aren’t feeling the Field Roast idea and you want something more whole foods based, try a brown rice and lentil pilaf stuffed inside a pumpkin, or stuffed inside halved acorn squash for individual servings.  Just a tip – roast the squash first, then stuff and re-roast to meld the flavors.

Leave the Guesswork Out of It!

Last but not least, we come to dessert.  For me, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie.  Now, pumpkin pie can be a tricky recipe to veganize.  You can’t use some egg replacer powder and soy milk and come out with a good pie…it just won’t firm up.  And if you use a tofu pumpkin pie recipe, the texture will be good, but in my opinion it just doesn’t taste right.  Several years ago I tackled the vegan pumpkin pie challenge, and I think I’ve got it down – so when it comes to your beloved pumpkin pie, make it easy and just use my Homestyle Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe.  Top with a dollup of Soyatoo whip if you want that traditional taste, or make up some whipped coconut cream for a tasty, all-natural solution.

Save the Debates for Another Day

The best part about the Thanksgiving meal is relaxing around the table with friends and family.  Whether you are vegan, an omnivore, or something in between – don’t let the Thanksgiving table become a platform for a debate.  Vegans – don’t try to convince somebody that they shouldn’t be eating that turkey when they have some in their mouths!  Omnivores – try not to put the vegan in the room on the spot by asking, “so, why don’t you eat turkey?” as they are trying to enjoy their plant-based meal.  By all means, have these conversations, just not over your holiday meal!  This is a time to relax, celebrate, and express our gratitude.  Happy Thanksgiving!

*I’ve been making these with only 1/2 cup of sugar these days, and they turn out just fine. Add a peeled, chopped apple to the mixture for a delicious variation!