A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

Dear Fellow Herbivore,

I get it. Trust me. Having specific dietary preferences can be unnecessarily anxiety-inducing, and even leave you feeling on the defensive, especially during the holiday season.

Guess what? I’m here to tell you, being vegan during the holidays doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Instead, it can be downright delicious and simply amazing (just like any other time of year). All it takes is a bit of preparedness.

With Thanksgiving upon us this week, I thought now would be a fine time to offer you some suggestions on how to enjoy your Thanksgiving, vegan-style, and maybe even plant some seeds of compassion along the way.

First, here’s a low quality look at my Thanksgiving dinner plate last year, featuring ToFurky, a broccoli-infused gravy of sorts, sweet potato mash, spinach and artichoke dip, stuffed acorn squash and cranberry.

Whether you are a vegan veteran responsible for all the cooking (no pressure, right?), or a plant-based newbie sitting down at someone else’s table this year, here are a few Thanksgiving recommendations.

Bring Home a Faux Turkey 

Although not a mandatory part of a plant-based Thanksgiving, if you are looking to bring home a festive bird alternative this year, consider a ToFurky Roast. When the Tofurky holiday products first hit the market, you had to get your hands on them well in advance. Now, they are available in the masses. Still, it’s always good to purchase early, just in case. Not sure where to find them? Check with your nearest health food store or use the ToFurky Store Locator. Other alternatives include Gardein’s Holiday Roast and Field Roast’s Celebration Roast.

Spoiler Alert: None of these options require hours of preparation, extensive cooking, or extended cleanup. If you were looking forward to some exhausting kitchen efforts, apologies in advance.

Stuff a Squash

In addition to stuffing my face with Tofurky last year, I decided to stuff acorn squash with quinoa and veggies. One lesson I learned through this experience, is that these squash are much easier to cut once you boil and soften them up. It only took me cutting my finger (moments after this photo) to figure this out the painful way.

Despite my momentary setback, my squash stuffing was a success! The acorn squash not only serves as an inviting vessel, you get to scoop out the warm, cooked squash with each bite of the stuffing (in this case, quinoa). You can even do the same thing with a small pumpkin if you so choose.

Bake a Casserole

During the holiday season, I typically opt to bake up some healthy, hearty, green casseroles. Sometimes it’s a green bean casserole, other times its broccoli. Newsbreak: these (and all other) veggie-based casseroles can be made vegan, by simply incorporating nut milk rather than dairy milk, and using an egg replacer if needed (see “egg” suggestions later in post). There are also some ready-made products available to help you. If you’re looking for a creamy, thickening agent to add to your casseroles, consider picking up a vegan cream of mushroom soup alternative. By offering to take the lead on some traditional casseroles this year, you can show your near and dear just how easily they can be made entirely plant-based.

Slice up Spuds

Contrary to popular belief, sweet potatoes weren’t solely destined to be baked into a casserole and smothered with marshmallows. What? I know. Crazy talk. As an alternative to transforming them into a casserole, simply peel, slice, and dress them up with a bit of rosemary, cinnamon and a dash with sweetness (such as agave, or brown sugar), and pop in the oven to bake. Of course, if you are dying to have a more traditional sweet potato casserole, no judgment here. You can even have it with a white, fluffy top layer, thanks to Dandies Marshmallows by Chicago Vegan Foods.

Chug Some Nog

Although I usually pick up some Seasonal Silk Nog, this year I’m eager to try Califia Farms (Almond Milk) Holiday Nog. Since I’m already a fan of their iced coffee beverages, I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy chugging this one.

Stock Your Stash 

Regardless of what you’re cooking up this season, before you get going, here are five ingredients I recommend having on hand.

  1. Egg Replacer: What about the eggs? Sometimes I simply whisk flax meal and water together, but recently I’ve been hooked on Neat Egg. Neat Egg lets you whip up an eggless egg for your seasonal dish as easy as 1,2,3. If you are baking, oats, bananas, coconut oil, or applesauce can also work as simple egg replacement and help bind your dish together.
  2. Nutritional Yeast: Thinking about making a dish that requires any level of cheesiness this season (like a casserole or mac n’ cheese)? Pick up some nutritional yeast, or as I like to call it—nooch! These nutritionally dense flakes will add a mustardy, nutty kick to your plate. If you’re in need of a cheesy sauce, check out my nooch-filled cheesy sauce recipe.
  3. Buttery Spread: Although I don’t use buttery spread regularly, I do use it when making sauces, or doing vegan baking. Having Earth Balance Buttery Spread in your fridge allows you to use it in any recipe that calls for butter.
  4. Nut Milk: While I haven’t reached the point of making my own nut milk yet, I always have (Vanilla) Almond Milk on hand. Almond Milk is widely available at most grocery stores. Use it when cooking your casseroles, or sweet treats this season.
  5. Daiya Shreds: You never know when you are going to want to top something with cheesy shreds. Am I right? Yes, there are some inviting new vegan cheeses on the market this year; however, Daiya is one that can be purchased at major grocery retailers, including Publix. And it’s mighty tasty and easy to melt.

*Purchasing Note: For Nutritional Yeast and Neat Egg, check with your nearest health food store (or if time permits, order online). Lucky for us, we are driving past a Whole Foods on our way home tomorrow. This means I’m going to try and get in and out of there quickly and stock up on our Thanksgiving items without figuratively blacking out and breaking the bank (wish me luck).

Plant Seeds of Compassion

Ultimately, this season offers you the opportunity to share the joys of a plant-based lifestyle with others. For a look at holiday vegan products and tips for planting seeds of compassion this holiday season, check out CompassionateHolidays.com, brought to you by FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement).

What’s on my Plate? 

Good question! I’m going to go ahead and assume this year’s menu will include some of the items I’ve mentioned here, and maybe even a couple of surprises. Since this is Andrew’s first Thanksgiving as a vegan, and our first Thanksgiving together, I’m especially looking forward to doing some joint cooking. To see what ends up on our Thanksgiving plates, follow along with me via the Vegan on the Run Facebook page.

And, if you see something you like, please share! The more plant-based compassion we spread this season, the better.

Much love and many thanks,

Sarah Kathleen McCartan (Vegan on the Run)

P.S. What’s on your plate this Thanksgiving?