Does “vegan Thanksgiving” sound like an oxymoron? To many in America, it might be a completely novel idea. But for me, a vegan Thanksgiving is normal, as I have eaten a plant-based diet (a term for a diet consisting of foods derived from plants, with no animal products whatsoever) for the past 10 years. An estimated 46 million turkeys are killed each year for America’s Thanksgiving feast. So how do vegans even celebrate the holiday? To me, Thanksgiving has always represented family, warmth and comfort. When my family shifted to a plant-based diet, the holiday held more meaning because we were able to be thankful and feel good about everything that was on our table. Further, not only is a plant-based Thanksgiving possible, but it is also extremely tasty.
For the main dishes, options abound, from a mushroom casserole to a head of roasted and seasoned cauliflower. My family always makes a Tofurky roast, which I look forward to each year (and the Tofurky has improved in flavor over the years, as well). Tofurky is a manufacturer which sells plant-based sausages, deli slices, tempeh and more, all made from savory blends of wheat and soy. Just like other “main” dishes, cooking the Tofurky takes time: thawing, chopping the veggies that will surround it and the roasting itself. We cook the dish with carrots, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and butternut squash, and top it all with a balsamic glaze.
Let’s be honest, though — the side dishes are the best part of the Thanksgiving meal. We always make more options than can fit on the table. This includes a hearty cornbread stuffing, a tart cranberry sauce, roasted brussels sprouts, sautéed green beans with slivered almonds and a creamy miso gravy. My personal favorite is mashed potatoes. Vegan mashed potatoes are simple; no recipe required. Just chop and steam white potatoes, mash them and add soy milk (or another plant-based milk), Earth Balance (or another vegan “butter” spread) and salt. If you like them creamy, add more milk. Add everything to taste, which means you get a headstart on eating before everyone else. For a richer flavor, drizzle in cashew cream (soaked and blended cashews) and nutritional yeast (a flaky topping that is rich in Vitamin B and provides a cheesy, nutty flavor).
Last, but certainly not least, are the delectable desserts. For over six years, my siblings and I have made a pumpkin cheesecake and maple pecan pie. The pumpkin cheesecake is a fun twist on the traditional pumpkin pie; it’s creamy, just sweet enough and a perfect complement to the pecan pie. Two years ago, we realized the absence of chocolate in our meal was a detriment to our psyches, so we added a chocolate mousse pie. This rich and decadent dessert can be made without the crust if you want a simpler mousse, and is incredibly popular with everyone at the Thanksgiving table, vegans and non-vegans alike. These desserts will guarantee that your guests leave the table happy.
If you are trying to transition to a more plant-based diet, or simply looking for new dishes, try a few of these recipes for the holiday. Not only are they easy and healthier alternatives to typical Thanksgiving fare, but they are also delicious and satisfying. The best part about putting in the work to make these dishes is obvious: the leftovers. Happy Thanksgiving.