A Thanksgiving Feast!: Vegan Versions of Traditional Thanksgiving Favorites
Can you believe we're just a few days away from Thanksgiving?! Our recent trip to London made me completely lose track of time, which meant I hadn't planned my menu, I hadn't bought the elusive pecans before the store ran out like last year, I hadn't even told the family when and where! So yes, there were a few moments of panic, rapid-fire planning, but finally, it seems to all be coming together.
In last week's episode and post we talked about those conversations that happen at the table when we're surrounded by non-vegan friends and family, and last year for Thanksgiving, I gave you tons of tips for prepping for the day, as well as some social tips for all my new vegans out there. This year, I thought we would make it all about the food! After all, what is Thanksgiving but a day that symbolizes the sharing of food together, and being thankful for the bounty nature has provided us, the fact that we have a warm plate of food on our table and a roof over our heads. It truly is a celebration of food!
In today's post and episode I'm going to go over the traditional Thanksgiving favorites, and some quick tips on how to veganize the non-vegan components of each dish, so that if you want to re-create grandma's pumpkin pie, or your mama's gravy, you can, with some simple swaps. The day is almost here, but if you're anything like me, you probably still have a side dish you haven't planned yet, or you were invited to a last minute gathering and want to bring something along.
Remember that you can also enjoy our seasonal Thanksgiving collection which we update every year, with recipes for many of the dishes mentioned below! You can find it here!
Ready for some veganizing tips and swaps? Here we go!
Vegan Swaps for Traditional Thanksgiving Favorites
Turkey swap: Bring a vegan roast instead
There are so many ready-made vegan roasts you can buy at the store these days that are both beautiful, traditional looking, not to mention delicious! Some great brands include Field Roast, Gardein and Tofurky, but if you don't have these available where you live, or you feel like making your own, here are some ideas of things you can make:
- Make a yummy seitan roast (either stuffed or not).
- Make seitan or portobello mushroom wellingtons wrapped in puff pastry.
- Make a lentil and mushroom meatloaf like this one!
- Make portobello pot pies, or pot pies made with the yummy vegan meats from the brands mentioned above.
- Make mushroom, pesto and sun-dried tomato puff pastry rolls.
- Make tempeh or seitan piccata.
- Make a lentil shepherd's pie with mashed potatoes or sweet potato mash on top.
- Make seitan or lentil and nut roulades.
Gravy swap: Use veggie broth and non-dairy butter
Yup! You can make delicious gravy without a single drop of turkey drippings!
- Just start off your gravy by using some non-dairy butter and onions, add some flour to make a roux, then deglaze with wine, add vegetable broth and start adding a ton of flavor. Here are some ideas:
- Add lots of sliced mushrooms.
- Add a bit of tamari soy sauce for a darker color and umami flavor.
- Add a bit of agave or maple syrup to balance out the flavors.
- Add a bit of non-dairy heavy cream if desired.
You can make gravy ahead of time to free up stove space on T-Day!
Green bean casserole swap: Use cashew cream, non-dairy sour cream or non-dairy heavy cream
Ah yes! The timeless classic each family has a slightly different version of. From opening up a can of green beans and cream of mushroom soup, to making a fancy version from scratch, many people can't imagine Thanksgiving without it. Yes, of course, you can make it vegan!
- Blanch the green beans and dump them in an ice bath to halt the cooking and save their bright green color.
- Sauté some shallots or onions in a pan, add some mushrooms and once the mushrooms start releasing some moisture, add a bit of flour and stir.
- Add some non-dairy heavy cream, cashew cream or even thick coconut milk. Cook until it has thickened a bit and the flavors have come together.
- Season with salt and pepper, add the blanched green beans, toss well and let the flavors come together for about two minutes.
- Top with crispy fried onions and serve!
Mashed potato swap: Use non-dairy butter and non-dairy heavy cream or milk
- Make timeless mashed potatoes by swapping the butter and cream for non-dairy butter and cream (or milk). Want to go even fancier? Add a bit of tofutti sour cream, chives, and roasted garlic and watch everyone lick the bowl!
Sweet potato casserole swap: Use non-dairy butter and non-dairy cream or milk, and vegan marshmallows!
I love making my sweet potato purée base by scooping out the meat of roasted sweet potatoes, and mixing them with melted non-dairy butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, non-dairy cream or milk, salt and pepper (maybe a little orange juice too), then placing them in a casserole dish, and topping it with vegan marshmallows which you can brown with a torch or under the broiler.
Stuffing swap: Use vegan sausage and veggie broth
If there's one thing people are very particular about it's their stuffing. Show me 10 families and I'll show you 10 different styles of Thanksgiving stuffing! The basics are the same though, some type of bread (cornbread stuffings are usually the most flavorful), vegetables like carrots, onions, and celery, some kind of winter herb, like thyme or sage, some meaty alternative, like vegan sausage crumbled up, and some vegetable broth. Make it your own, and you can either stuff your seitan roasts or lentil roasts or roast it in a pan and serve it as a side dish. Yum!
Cornbread swap: Use non-dairy milk and aquafaba
Cornbread has everyone fooled with that name. There's really no kneading, no developing of yeast, it's really as simple as making a cake and everyone loves it! Swap the traditional buttermilk by making your own with some non-dairy milk (the thicker the better), some apple cider vinegar and let it rest for 5 minutes. Use it in your recipe along with aquafaba as your egg replacer. Aquafaba is the brine found in a can of chickpeas, and 3 tablespoons equal one egg. Use baking powder as a leavener and the result will be scrumptious! Traditional Southern cornbread isn't sweet, but I always add a little sugar and some corn kernels to add extra sweetness.
Fluffy buttermilk biscuit swap: Use non-dairy butter, non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar
Use non-dairy butter, and non-dairy milk mixed with apple cider vinegar. The key to a fluffy biscuit is temperature contrast. The best results come from very cold butter and flour, which when in contact with the hot air in the oven will make the layers puff and create those delicious air pockets we love.
Cranberry sauce swap: No swapping necessary! It's vegan!
Either store-bought or homemade, you really can't have enough at Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin pie swap: Use coconut cream, aquafaba, cornstarch and non-dairy butter for the crust
Pumpkin pie is one of the easiest pies to veganize. Use non-dairy butter, flour, salt and very cold water to make the perfect flaky pie crust, and for the filling, use full fat coconut milk (the kind that comes in a can) instead of heavy cream, aquafaba (the brine from a can of chickpeas) to substitute the eggs, as well as some cornstarch to get that filling nice and firm for slicing. Of course you must serve it with some non-dairy whipped cream or coconut whipped cream.
Pecan pie swap: Use non-dairy butter for the crust, and maple syrup, cornstarch and molasses
Use non-dairy butter, flour, salt and very cold water to make the perfect flaky pie crust, and use maple syrup and molasses (my favorite is barley molasses), and some cornstarch to make the perfect filling alongside those yummy pecans.
Other simple vegan sides for Thanksgiving:
Typical Thanksgiving dishes fall in the brown-yellow-orange category (as most yummy comfort foods do!). When you want to add a pop of color, extra veggies or some fresh and bright flavors to your meal, here are some simple ideas:
Slow roasted garlicky cherry tomatoes
Toss cherry tomatoes (preferably a mix of colors in oranges, reds and yellows), with olive oil, smashed garlic cloves, thyme, a sprinkle of sugar, a sprinkle of salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Roast in the oven until they've burst and the flavors have come together. If you have the time, do this low and slow, aka, a low oven (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 1 hour or an hour and a half. Once they're out, toss with some fresh parsley and serve.
Roasted brussels sprouts with red grapes
Toss halved brussels sprouts with maple syrup, seedless red grapes, salt, pepper and high heat oil and roast in a 425-degree oven until the brussels sprouts are golden and tender but still crisp.
Sautéed green beans with caramelized onions and sun-dried tomatoes
Blanch or steam green beans until slightly tender and bright green and dump them in an ice bath to retain their texture and color. When serving, sauté in a pan with some caramelized onions (you can caramelize the onions a few days before or use store-bought caramelized onions), add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, some fresh herbs, salt and pepper and serve.
Roasted root veggies with herbs
Toss different colored thin carrots and/or beets, parsnips, etc., with some olive oil, balsamic or apple cider vinegar, your favorite herb combinations (my favorites to choose from are parsley, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano), chunks of garlic, salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 or 425-degree oven until golden.
The simplest side dish that never disappoints. Rub the asparagus spears with some high heat oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, grill until slightly tender, bright green but still crisp, serve with sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper on top.
As you can see, there's no reason why you can't have a traditional Thanksgiving and make it a delicious vegan feast!
I hope you have a wonderful day filled with yummy food, family and friends, remembering what this day is all about. It's about looking inward and feeling those wonderful waves of feeling grateful. Grateful for being safe and near those you love, grateful for being one of the lucky ones that have choices of food at the table. Grateful for the life lessons of the past year even if they came from hardships, and grateful that we're alive and well, to do it all over again next year.