Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday centered around a large meal shared with family and friends. While the classic main dishes like turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes are decidedly not vegan, there are still lots of delicious plant-based options for vegans to enjoy. So what do vegan people eat on Thanksgiving?
One of the biggest challenges for vegans on Thanksgiving is finding a main dish to substitute for turkey. Here are some popular vegan mains:
- Tofurky – This turkey substitute has been around for years and is made from wheat gluten and tofu.
- Seitan roast – Seitan which is made from wheat gluten can be shaped and seasoned to mimic a roast.
- Lentil or nut roast – These veggie-packed roasts make a hearty plant-based main.
- Mushroom Wellington – Mushrooms, veggies, and puff pastry create an impressive dish.
- Eggplant Parmesan – Layers of breaded, baked eggplant with tomato sauce and vegan cheese.
- Stuffed squash or jackfruit – Squashes like acorn or buttercup can be stuffed with veggies, grains, etc. Jackfruit is amazing at mimicking pulled meat when seasoned.
The key for vegans is to choose a main dish that feels special like a holiday centerpiece. Getting creative with plant-based proteins and vegetables can yield some really delicious results.
When it comes to Thanksgiving sides, there are lots of vegan options both traditional and creative.
Many classic side dishes happen to already be vegan or can be made vegan with simple ingredient swaps:
- Mashed potatoes – Use plant-based milk and vegan butter
- Stuffing – Use vegetable broth and vegan bread
- Green bean casserole – Use plant-based cream and mushroom soup
- Cranberry sauce – Most are naturally vegan
- Sweet potato casserole – Use plant-based milk, butter, and marshmallows
- Cornbread – Substitute egg replacer and plant-based milk
- Rolls – Choose vegan rolls or make your own
With a few easy tweaks, these classics can still be on the Thanksgiving menu for vegans.
Vegans can also get creative with unique holiday side dishes like:
- Hasselback squash – Filled with savory stuffing
- Green bean fries – Crispy baked green beans
- Brussels sprouts gratin – Shredded and baked in creamy sauce
- Autumn roasted root vegetables – Curried squash, potatoes, carrots etc.
- Wild rice pilaf – With pecans and cranberries
- Baked polenta – Topped with savory mushrooms
- Three bean bake – Lima, kidney and pinto beans baked with seasonings
The options are endless when creating vegan sides that are festive and delicious.
Vegans can indulge in all the pies, cookies, and other desserts that omnivores enjoy on Thanksgiving. Again, it simply requires using plant-based ingredients in place of dairy and eggs:
- Pumpkin pie – Use vegan pie crust and plant-based milk
- Apple pie – Vegan crust and egg replacer
- Pecan pie – Made with margarine and egg substitute
- Cookies – Substitute plant-based margarine and egg replacer
- Cobblers and crisps – Use vegan biscuits or toppings
- Ice cream – Many brands like So Delicious or Ben & Jerry’s are vegan
Vegan desserts can be just as decadent and satisfying using plant-based milk, butter, and eggs. The flavor comes from the same sugar, spice and everything nice so they taste just as amazing.
Thanksgiving beverages are easy for vegans:
- Wine – Most are vegan-friendly
- Beer – Check for dairy ingredients but most are vegan
- Plant-based milk – Almond, oat, soy, coconut, etc.
- Sparkling juice – Look for vegan labeled brands
- Coffee & tea – Enjoy with plant-based creamer
- Cider – Many are already vegan or can find brands that are
Drink options abound for vegans since wine, beer and many others are already plant-based. Herbal teas, coffee with nut milks and seasonal beverages like warm apple cider are perfect for Thanksgiving too.
Vegan Thanksgiving Menu Ideas
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving or a vegan guest, here are some sample menus featuring entirely plant-based dishes:
Traditional Style Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
- Seitan Roast with Gravy
- Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Green Bean Casserole
- Multigrain Bread Stuffing
- Cranberry Sauce
- Pumpkin Pie
- Spiced Apple Cider
Gourmet Style Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
- Porcini Mushroom Wellington
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots
- Wild Rice & Quinoa Pilaf
- Autumn Root Vegetable Gratin
- Fig & Pear Chutney
- Pecan Pie
- Mulled Wine
Southern Style Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
- Cajun Stuffed Squash
- Skillet Cornbread
- Braised Collard Greens
- Baked Sweet Potato Casserole
- Spiced Peach Cobbler
- Iced Tea
There are endless possibilities for creating stunning vegan Thanksgiving menus. With a combo of savory protein-packed mains, fresh vegetable sides, creamy comfort foods, and sweet treats, vegans can enjoy a mouthwatering holiday feast just like everyone else.
Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes
Here are some must-try vegan recipes to add to your Thanksgiving menu:
- Vegan Thanksgiving Roast – This savory seitan loaf is shaped and stuffed to mimic a roast turkey.
- Veggie Pot Pie – Chunky veggies like carrots, peas and potatoes baked in a comforting flaky crust.
- Eggplant Parmesan Casserole – Layers of tomato sauce, breaded eggplant and vegan cheese make this hearty main dish.
- Green Bean Casserole – An easy vegan version of the classic Thanksgiving side.
- Biscuits and Gravy – Flaky homemade biscuits smothered in savory mushroom sausage gravy.
- Cranberry Sauce – Fresh or frozen cranberries made into a sweetened sauce.
- Vegan Pumpkin Pie – A classic pumpkin custard in a flaky pie crust.
- Vegan Apple Pie – Juicy apples baked in a beautifully braided crust.
- Vegan Pecan Pie – Gooey, nutty, and irresistible pecan pie that just happens to be vegan.
Those recipes should provide plenty of inspiration to start planning your vegan Thanksgiving menu!
Tips for Vegan Guests
If attending an omnivore Thanksgiving dinner as a vegan guest, here are some tips to help you navigate:
- Eat beforehand – Have a snack or small meal so you don’t arrive starving since the options may be limited.
- Offer to bring a vegan dish – Make one or two plant-based sides to share.
- Check the menu – Politely ask the host if they’ll have any vegan items and if not, what you can bring.
- Look beyond the turkey – Focus on all the tasty meatless sides and don’t dwell on the meat dishes.
- Appreciate accommodations – Thank the host sincerely if they make efforts to include vegan fare.
- Don’t apologize – You have nothing to apologize for so enjoy your meal!
Being gracious and non-judgmental will go a long way to help others be accepting of your vegan diet.
Vegan Thanksgiving Tips
Here are more tips to help you have a fabulous vegan Thanksgiving:
- Get your staples – Shop ahead of time for plant-based butter, milk, cheese, eggs and creamer.
- Make vegan gravy – Gravy pulls the whole meal together. The veggies, drippings and broth simmered into an ultra savory sauce.
- Make some dishes ahead – Casseroles, sides and desserts can be prepped 1-2 days before.
- Keep it simple – Having a complex menu leads to stress. Focus on a few dishes done well.
- Make leftovers on purpose – Having pre-made meals ready to heat and enjoy saves time later.
- Get festive – Decorate with fall touches like leaves, gourds, pine cones, etc. Play seasonal music.
- Relax and enjoy – Don’t worry about perfection. Thanksgiving is about quality time with loved ones.
Those tips will help you to keep calm and cook on so you can have an easy and fabulous vegan Thanksgiving.
Common Questions about Vegan Thanksgiving
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about having a vegan Thanksgiving:
What is the best vegan turkey substitute?
The most popular options are Tofurky roasts, seitan roasts, or roasts made from whole wheat like Wheat Meat. Choosing one that suits your taste and texture preferences works best.
How do you make vegan stuffing?
Use ready-made vegan bread cubes or stale bread pieces. Sauté aromatics like onion and celery then add veggie broth and seasonings. Toss the bread with the veggie mixture and bake until crispy on top.
What ingredients make a vegan gravy?
Start by sautéing onion and garlic in oil. Add broth, soy sauce, nutritional yeast and flour to thicken. Simmer until desired thickness then season with salt, pepper and herbs.
Can you make cranberry sauce without sugar?
Yes, you can sweeten it instead with apple juice concentrate or pureed dates. Start with fresh or frozen cranberries and liquid, then add natural sweetener and seasonings.
What is an easy vegan pumpkin pie recipe?
Blend silken tofu with pumpkin puree as the custard. Pour into a vegan pie crust. Flavor it with pumpkin pie spice. Chill, then top with whipped coconut cream before serving if desired.
Vegans can absolutely have a delicious and satisfying Thanksgiving feast without any animal products. With plant-based main dishes, versatile side options, and seasonal desserts, the holiday can still feel traditional while adhering to compassionate vegan eating principles. Families with vegans as well as vegan hosts should feel empowered to create menus that everyone at the table will enjoy. Thanksgiving is centered around togetherness, gratitude and comfort. By embracing vegan dishes, we can expand that circle of compassion to include all living creatures, both human and animal. With some creativity and planning, plant-forward cooks can craft a memorable Thanksgiving that skips the turkey but is still filled with all the flavors of the harvest.