A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

As an long-time mostly-vegetarian, I know a thing or two about vegetarian feasting in general and the Vegetarian Thanksgiving in particular.

The rules below are mine.  What are your ideas or family traditions for feeding the vegetarians on Thanksgiving?  Please share your own insights—or feel free to request advice!—in the comments.

First and foremost, nix on the Tofurkey.  We vegetarians don’t really envy you your turkey.  Go ahead, enjoy it.  We’ll be healping our plates with the excellent salads and sweet potatoes you prepared.  (If you are inclined to offer something that’s more of a vegetarian “main dish,” there are suggestions below—but in my experience a plate of Thanksgiving “side dishes” is a pretty magnificent feast.)Rule number two: Prepare a bountiful spread of sides that do not include bacon.  Make your roasted potatoes without duck fat.  Omit the marshmallows from your sweet potato dish.  Do not finish the frisee salad with lardons.  Serve the mashed potatoes separately from the gravy.  Make a good salad AND a green vegetable.

Rule number three: Do not fuss.  Do not constantly inquire whether your vegetarian guest has had enough to eat.  Do, please, offer plenty of dessert.That said, what’s on your Thanksgiving menu?

I’m not so handy with Pinterest, but I made you this visual guide to Emmy Cooks recipes that would be right at home on a Vegetarian Thanksgiving table.  A few (ok, more than a few) of my favorites are listed below.

Appetizers and Snacks:
Rye Crackers
Savory Parmesan and Black Pepper Shortbread
Rosemary Candied Pecans
Green Olive Cream Cheese
Creamy White Bean Dip
Roasted Squash and Tahini Dip
…and don’t forget to set out a few of your favorite pickles or that special jar of Tomato Jam

Vegetarian “Main Dishes” (which double as sides for everyone else):
Savory Bread Pudding
Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Tart
Quinoa Cakes (or make them after Thanksgiving with your leftover roasted squash and roasted brussels sprouts)
Smoky Cauliflower Frittata or Pound-of-Greens Frittata
Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

Stuffed Little Red Potatoes
Miso-Roasted Squash with Kale
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Rainbow Carrots
Delicata Squash Rings with Herbed Oil

Roasted Maple Squash Soup
Creamy (Vegan) Roasted Celery Soup
So-Green Spinach Soup

Spectacular Salads:
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Lemon, Pecorino, and Red Onion
Kale Salad with Apples, Currants, and Gorgonzola
Orange-Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette
Savoy Cabbage Salad with Apples and Walnuts
Winter Salad with Celery and Parmesan

Whole Wheat Soda Bread Rolls
Potato and Rosemary Focaccia
Easy Beer Bread with Sweet and Savory Variations

Rustic Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel Topping
Sweet Potato Pie with a Cream Cheese Swirl
Tiny Pies
Hazelnut Baked Pears
Vegan Chocolate Cake
Earl Grey Chocolate Cake
Bittersweet Chocolate and Dried Apricot Cookies


28 thoughts on “A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

  1. Valerie

    Those are good rules. :) I’ve had no problem skipping the turkey for the last several years – the sides are super filling and delicious alone!! This year, though, *I’m* the only cook and I know my hubby would like a turkey (though he says he is fine to skip it). What do you do as the cook when others want meat? Will you cook it? I cannot put a bird in my oven!!!!!!! My husband understands, but I feel a bit guilty anyway…

  2. moderngirlnutrition

    I tried the delicata squash recently at Whole Foods- It was amazing! I would be happy with just that for Thanksgiving:)

  3. Alicia

    When Thanksgiving is at my house, I make mushroom gravy and make sure the dressing is vegetarian and not stuffed in the turkey (my husband is not veg). I have made this on Thanksgiving and it is great http://foodandspice.blogspot.com/2008/04/mushroom-nut-roast-in-puff-pastry.html

    But in general, the dressing, gravy and potatoes are my favorites. If we are going someplace that will not have vegetarian dressing or gravy, then I just make my own the next day and feast on any of the treats I didn’t get on Thanksgiving. I don’t expect anyone else to make me veggie gravy. I’m happy to bring it but don’t want to offend the hosts.

    There are usually so many sides that I don’t miss a main dish at all on Thanksgiving! Oh, and this year I’m bringing the desserts…

  4. Allison

    I agree whole-heartedly with your rules! Especially no Tofurkey… ugh. (And no need for a vegetarian main dish if there are enough amazing side dishes.) On the other hand, I am not opposed to half the sweet potatoes involving marshmallows… That was not a tradition in my house, so I’ve only tried marshmallowy sweet potatoes once in my life! Not bad for a once-a-year thing…

    Also yes yes yes to plenty of desserts! : )

  5. ieatthepeach

    These are great tips! My family is crawling with vegetarians and vegans, so for as long as I can remember, our Thanksgivings have been vegetarian except for the turkey. Everything is meatless, and mostly dairy-free, right down to the gravy. It’s fantastic, and so not a big deal.

    I’d add a part 2 to your “don’t fuss” tip: make food that tastes good. Don’t worry about Pleasing the Vegetarian(s) or Being Healthy–just make food that you would want to eat, and that you’re excited to share. That’s what the Thanksgiving meal is about, isn’t it?

  6. Sarah

    This year I am getting my way – with our plant-based diet – and making a chickpea tart for the main course :) Yum! And am I the only person who hates Tofurky? Yuck…….

  7. Eileen

    We’ve done vegetarian Thanksgiving for our whole adult lives, and have hosted vegan Thanksgiving for the past two years (and are totally doing it again this year), so we are WELL PREPARED. I don’t mind tofurky or field roast, actually, but we don’t need it. Instead, lots of roasted veg, greens, grain salads with beans, stew or soup, big beautiful pie, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and lots and lots of biscuits. Also wine. Did I mention wine? :) And then we play Boggle.

  8. An Unrefined Vegan

    Excellent rules, Emmy – and an amazing line-up of recipes. I think the “do not fuss” rule is the best. I’ll find something to eat; makes me uncomfortable to have my food choices called attention to!

  9. Sarah @ The Cook's Life

    Perfect tips, Emmy! And thanks for the list of recipes. My brother and sister-in-law are vegetarians and I am always looking for new dishes to cook when they visit. We don’t see them at Thanksgiving, but I will be pulling out some of these to make when we see them next! And I can always use new ways to cook veggies!

  10. e.marie

    all very good rules to follow for any dinner party (not just turkey without the turkey day!)… and thanks for sharing the dessert recipes… as a meatitarian who can’t have dairy products, vegan desserts are always a winner at my table…

  11. baconbiscuit212

    I love Thanksgiving! When I was a vegetarian, I still liked to have one big showstopper of a dish on the table. My favorite was a giant stuffed pumpkin that was roasted in the oven. Awesome!

    These all look wonderful, Emmy! Thanks for the Thanksgiving ideas!

  12. putneyfarm

    Good menu ideas/recipe…we like our meat, but for us Thanksgiving is all about the sides, sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens….and a bunch of desserts…good stuff…

  13. Enchanted Seashells

    and i would add to please either omit or tell us if you used chicken and/or beef stock in any gravy, sauce, rice or other side dish, or in clam chowder (for seafood eaters) I always ask at restaurants and invariably find they use chicken stock in almost everything cos it’s cheap and salty.

  14. Somer

    I made Shira’s cashew loaf from the potluck last week. It is going to be a main at our house on Thanksgiving. You ought to give it a go. I think I’m going to do mini’s so people can have individual portions.

  15. littleveg

    Thanks, Emmy. It was fun to see all your Thanksgiving ideas on pinterest. Lovely photos. We have been doing shared omnivore/vegan meals for years with my family and everyone looks forward to the dishes I decide to bring. It’s added so much more variety to our traditional feast.

  16. musingmar

    This is a great post, and even though turkey is present on my Thanksgiving and Christmas tables, there are more vegetable choices each year. I really appreciate that list, as someone who enjoys but eats little meat.

    And, I so agree with the ‘no Tofurkey’ sentiment. I went to a wedding earlier this year where there was a platter of ‘soy meat.’ It looked disgusting. I was saddened to learn it was provided on request for a relative of mine who has been vegetarian/vegan for many years and eats that kind of thing regularly. I don’t understand why people want fake meat. There is such wonderful bounty to enjoy without eating meat, real or contrived.

    I have learned so much from your blog about the joy of good vegetarian eating, which is why I reference your site frequently on mine. Good food deserves sharing!

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