Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Ideas

One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the way it can bring many people together, often only at this time of year, to share a feast with one another. When some of those at the table have special dietary preferences, such as vegetarianism, that can also be one of the greatest challenges.

If you're planning to share the feast with a vegetarian this year, or maybe deciding to go vegetarian yourself, I hope I can give you a few ideas about where to start. Anyone can make a vegetarian meal, all it takes is a little bit of planning, and careful attention to the ingredients list of processed foods.

First, it helps to know what sort of vegetarian you're cooking for. For the most part vegetarianism can be broken down into 3 main options:
  • Vegan - No animal products or bi-products, so no meat, no eggs and no milk. Oftentimes, vegans will not eat honey or other non-vegan sugars.
  • Lacto-Ovo - Will eat eggs and milk products.
  • Lacto-Icthyo - Will eat milk and fish.
There are other variations, so if you're not sure, ask your guest specifically what they will and won't eat.

At our house, we enjoy eggs - so we raise our own chickens!
Next, you may be wondering if you need to entirely toss out your old family favorites if you want to make them vegetarian. The answer is often, no!  Many recipes can be adapted for vegetarians. 

For example: most stuffing recipes can be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth and cooking in a baking pan instead of inside the turkey.  If yours uses sausage or other meats, you can either use soy-based meat replacements or add in something with a 'meaty' texture like mushrooms or chunked winter squash instead - you may find these changes will be met with approval by your meat eaters as well as the vegetarians!

Again though, make sure you read the label for any packaged items included in your recipe, because oftentimes, you will find meat in the strangest of places, like yogurt with gelatin in it (which is not necessarily vegetarian).  That's also going to rule out regular marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes or in a dessert.

For more information about how to adapt recipes, check out 101 Most--if not all--of Heidi Swanson's recipes come with crib notes for how to make the dish vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, and she will also give you tips on alternative sweeteners as well. Spending some time looking over how she adapts her recipes will not only give you lots of ideas for a vegetarian menu, but also help you see how to alter your old favorites to fit into a vegetarian lifestyle

If you are putting together an entire traditional but vegetarian Thanksgiving meal, you may want to buy a faux-turkey.  

Personally, I prefer Quorn’s Roast. It is relatively easy to cook and it tastes amazing.  It does, however, have eggs in it so it is not suitable for a vegan.  

Tofurkey is the first brand of faux turkey sold, relatively easy to find, and comes with stuffing. They also carry an entire Vegetarian Tofurky Feast complete with sides.

Or course, you can skip the faux turkey altogether and simply provide a seasonal vegetarian main dish or a few sustaining vegetarian sides.  

Often, vegetarians and vegans try to move away from the idea of a meat-like dish as the 'main' course, and instead combine a number of 'side' dishes that go well together without any one item taking center stage.

When my kids were younger, I would make them real mac and cheese, making a flour roux and everything. 

That is, until I saw Jamie Oliver create mac and cheese brilliance, by melting some butter, adding a little bit of sour cream and then melting the cheese into that bubbly goodness. Since discovering that trick, I've never looked back.

You can also use cauliflower instead of macaroni, for a gluten-free "mac" and cheese.  

On Jamie Oliver's website, you can find a simple Four Cheese Macaroni as well as a Vegan Mac n Cheese recipe, either of which would be a popular addition to your Thanksgiving Day table.

Below, I've compiled a sample Thanksgiving Day menu composed of vegetarian dishes (some of which are Vegan), to give you some ideas for creating your own. Keep in mind that you can always adapt any of your favorite recipes as well.

Remember that it also helps a lot to ask the vegetarian to bring a dish they know they can eat and enjoy - especially when working with unfamiliar dietary restrictions, it's much less stressful if you have the help and participation of the person who will be depending on getting it right.

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving Day Menu

Appetizers & Starters

Relish and Veggie Tray
- pickles, olives, vegetable sticks.

Chips or crudites served with vegetarian bean dips, hummus or salsas

Tossed Salad 
(if you wish, set out salad items a la salad bar and let guests create their own)

Main Course Ideas

Faux Turkey (Quorn or Tofurky)
note: Quorn is vegetarian, not vegan)

Substantial Side Dishes/Main Dish
(depending on portions, these can be a main dish or side dish)

Macaroni and Cheese 
(see links above)

(without the breadcrumbs, this also serves as a gluten-free stuffing substitute)

Additional Sides

Any Stuffing recipe made with vegetable broth and no meat.


(can be vegan and gluten-free)

as well as any other family favorite vegetables, fruit salads, breads, etc.


Caramel Pumpkin Pudding

Chocolate Pecan Pudding Pie

Bay Leaf Pound Cake

Happy cooking!

Featured by:
Junkin' Joe

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  1. yummy!! I have to make several of those side dishes - love the thought of corn pudding in squash!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Some great ideas! Although I am a meat lover my oldest grandson's girlfriend is vegetarian. When we know she's coming we try to have some vegetarian dishes for her. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  3. I have bookmarked this page for ideas for Christmas dinner. The German Pumpkin Soup recipe is mine, but as a vegetarian I am anxious to try these other recipes!

  4. Thanks for sharing :) We made a "turkey" fruit platter, it was a hit. I hope you had a lovely holiday. Thanks for sharing with us a Mommy Monday!

  5. I've pinned your wonderful post! It can be challenging to make vegetarian dishes for 'traditional' meals but everything you have suggested sounds delicious. You have provided some excellent recipe inspiration and I am a big fan of Quorn products as well. Thank you for sharing this post with us at the Hearth and Soul hop.

  6. I have tried Quorn and I do like it. I am vegetarian and my daughter is Vegan so it is great to get new ideas for meals for us.
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