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What do vegans eat on Thanksgiving instead of turkey? A lot of things! A vegan Thanksgiving is just as indulgent and just as delicious as a standard Thanksgiving, all without a single animal product on the table. And if you think it’s complicated to nix the turkey, gravy, butter, and eggs from the menu, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a huge variety of vegan Thanksgiving foods to choose from, including main dishes that are so good we promise no one will be missing the turkey.
Ready to start planning your menu? We’re sharing all of our favorite vegan Thanksgiving ideas, with plenty of options for making sure that this is the tastiest year yet.
Quick Tips for an Easy Vegan Thanksgiving
The trick to a successful vegan Thanksgiving dinner—or any successful Thanksgiving dinner—is to work smarter, not harder.
If this is your first time cooking a start-to-finish vegan meal, then it’s helpful to go into the process with a bit of know-how about how vegan baking and cooking works. After all, you don’t want to be scrambling for substitutions and cooking alterations when you’ve got two things in the oven, three things on the stove, and a table that still needs to be set (though we’ve all been there).
To take the guesswork out of cooking vegan foods for Thanksgiving, make sure that you’re familiar with the basics first by reading through these quick and helpful tips:
- Start menu planning well in advance. A great Thanksgiving meal is cohesive and well-balanced, both in terms of the items that you make and the cooking process that you undergo to make them. Clip ideas for vegan Thanksgiving foods all year round as you find them (Pinterest is great for this) so that when you actually have to sit down and prep. you have an assortment of pre-vetted ideas to choose from.
- Skip the main dish, if you want. There’s no rule that says a vegan Thanksgiving dinner must feature a tofu turkey. Lots of people will probably tell you that the real joy is in the appetizers, sides, and desserts anyway, so if you’re getting stressed trying to source worthy vegan alternatives to turkey, skip the main dish entirely and focus on other dishes instead.
- Don’t take on too much. Vegan or not, making a Thanksgiving meal gets stressful when you take on more than you can reasonably handle. If you’re starting to sweat just staring at your cooking to-do list, offload some of the work by paring down your menu, handing off some dishes to your guests, or buying pre-made vegan foods at the store.
Vegan Substitutions for Common Thanksgiving Ingredients
When sourcing vegan Thanksgiving ideas, you can either stick to vegan recipes or make vegan substitutions to existing classics (or a little bit of both). It’s up to you which way you go, but if you’re planning to do a bit of the latter, here are the substitutions you’ll need to know for swapping out common Thanksgiving ingredients.
Instead of butter, use… vegetable oil, coconut oil, or sunflower oil for cooking, and dairy-free yogurt, applesauce, or mashed banana for baking. You can also just purchase vegan butter and use that in all types of preparations.
Instead of eggs, use… flax eggs, chia eggs, applesauce, or aquafaba.
Instead of heavy cream, use… dairy-free milk, silken tofu, coconut milk, or coconut cream. (Read up on the basics of substituting heavy cream for more information.)
Instead of buttermilk, use… lemon juice mixed with dairy-free milk, vinegar, dairy-free yogurt, or cream of tartar.
Instead of granulated sugar, use… certified vegan sugar, beet sugar, or maple syrup.
Fortunately, most of the other ingredients that you’ll use are already vegan-friendly. If you’re ever not sure about an ingredient, do a quick Google search to ensure that it’s vegan and then look up substitutions if necessary.
Vegan Thanksgiving Appetizers
All this talk of making a vegan Thanksgiving dinner, and we’re starting to get hungry! Start the night right with one of these vegan apps.
Baked Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip
Ooey, gooey, and the perfect accompaniment to crudité and crackers, this creamy rendition uses cashews to get just the right consistency. It can even be made the previous evening to save yourself some time on T-day.
Vegan Charcuterie Board
A charcuterie board without the meat and cheese? You bet! Building a charcuterie board is all about choosing the right assortment of textures and flavors, and you can easily do that using only vegan items.
Vegan Mushroom Tarts with Herbed “Cheese”
The star of these tarts is an herby tofu cream cheese that comes together in a cinch in your food processor. Mushrooms and sauteed onions make for a flavorful accompaniment, but you can also mix it up with caramelized onions or roasted beets or parsnips.
Stuffed Cucumber Bites
Add something refreshing to your refreshments with stuffed cucumber bites made with a yummy filling of blended chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and roasted red peppers. These finger foods are as addictive as they are simple to make, and as a bonus, they’re pretty to look at too.
Vegan Pinwheels with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Whip up some show-stopping, savory pinwheels that seriously look and taste like a pro made them. We wouldn’t be shocked if these became a staple at all your vegan Thanksgivings to come.
Vegan Thanksgiving Main Dishes
It’s easier than you might think to come up with a worthwhile vegan alternative to turkey. (And no, a tofurkey isn’t your only option.)
Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash With Quinoa and Kale
Roasted squash always has a place on a vegan dinner table, and that goes double around the holidays. There are endless things that you can stuff it with, but you definitely can’t go wrong with quinoa, kale, and herbs under a glossy balsamic drizzle.
Mushroom Wellington With Rosemary and Pecans
Vegan puff pastry makes another appearance, this time for an elegant vegan main that bakes up into a truly stunning dish. Stuffed with hearty mushrooms, fresh rosemary, toasted nuts, and truffle oil (optional, but why skip it?), it can totally stand on its own as an entrée—or be sliced up and served as a side.
Vegan Butternut Squash Lasagna
If you haven’t been serving lasagna on Thanksgiving, you’ve been missing out. This version features a silky butternut squash, plus mushrooms and kale. Make ahead of time and then reheat day of to reduce Thanksgiving day stress.
Jackfruit Pot Roast
Cook up an unctuous pot roast, no roast required. Jackfruit serves as the perfect stand in and holds up well to ample servings of potatoes and carrots. And since the best part is the sauce anyway, you’ll be glad to know that this red wine, vegan Worcestershire, and herb-heavy sauce does not disappoint.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Garlic and Paprika
A whole cauliflower roasted until it’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside is the unexpected vegan main that you never knew you needed. Aside from looking impressive, it’s a one pan meal with just a handful of simple ingredients, which makes it all the more appealing when you’ve got an extensive menu to put together.
What Is a Tofu Turkey?
A tofu turkey, also known as a tofurkey, is a vegan turkey replacement that’s typically shaped with a blend of tofu and/or seitan and then filled with stuffing before being seasoned with herbs and broth. The whole thing is then roasted in the oven until golden. If you want to go fully homemade, make your own vegan meat and use that for the outer layer.
You can buy a premade version under the brand name Tofurky, or you can find a recipe to make your own. Likewise, you could just forego a turkey replacement entirely and go with one of the vegan Thanksgiving mains above.
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Vegan Dinner Rolls
Don’t worry, there’s definitely room for rolls when you’re whipping up vegan foods for Thanksgiving.
Simple Vegan Dinner Rolls
Make buttery dinner rolls without the butter—or without the dairy butter, that is. This is a basic bread recipe with only two short resting periods for the dough, so even non-bread-bakers shouldn’t feel too intimidated to give it a shot.
Vegan Dinner Rolls—No Yeast
If you’d rather skip the yeast, try out a yeast-free vegan dinner roll recipe that’s extra moist thanks to the addition of aquafaba and non-dairy yogurt.
Vegan Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving dinner is usually all about the sides.
Vegan Mashed Potatoes
No matter how you like them, mashed potatoes can absolutely be a part of your vegan Thanksgiving. Start with a simple recipe, then modify as desired by adding in flavorful additions like roasted garlic or chopped chives.
It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a huge serving of stuffing. This Thanksgiving side is incredibly vegan-friendly and doesn’t require much of an adjustment beyond swapping out standard butter for vegan butter.
Vegan Wild Rice Pilaf
Rice pilaf is made by sauteéing rice with aromatics before boiling it in broth, and it’s super easy to adapt for Thanksgiving by adding in a fall-inspired mirepoix and topping with dried cranberries and pecans.
Vegan Collard Greens
Bring some green to the table with a collard green side dish bursting with brightness and flavor. And if you want to amp it up, deglaze your pan with a touch of white wine when the greens start to stick.
Maple Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots
Care for something sweet on the side? Caramelize some carrots in the oven with maple syrup, brown sugar, and fall spices for an easy meal accompaniment that comes together in just 20 minutes.
Vegan Thanksgiving Desserts
Hopefully you’re not full yet, because it’s time for vegan Thanksgiving pie and other delectable desserts.
Vegan Pecan Pie Cheesecake
There’s not an ounce of cream cheese to be found in this mouthwatering pecan pie cheesecake, just plant-based ingredients and an explosion of taste and texture. Plan to make this one at least a day in advance since it’s best left to set in the freezer overnight.
Easy Vegan Apple Crumble
It only takes four ingredients to make this scrumptious apple crumble. If you’re feeling fancy, drizzle with caramel sauce for an unforgettable final touch.
Gooey Pumpkin Spice Latte Chocolate Pudding Cake
Okay, so there’s a lot going on here, but this smorgasbord of dessert goodness all comes together into something quite spectacular. Care for a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream on top, anyone?
No-Bake Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie
Making a no-bake pie is a smart Thanksgiving shortcut. This one is irresistibly chocolatey, with a quick and effortless crust made from nuts and cacao powder, plus some maple syrup if you want a bit more sweetness.
From Tofurkey to Pie, What’s On Your Vegan Thanksgiving Menu?
There is no shortage of great ideas for a vegan Thanksgiving. Hopefully you’ve found lots of recipes to get inspired by, and maybe even some new favorites to put on the holiday rotation.
Remember, Thanksgiving is just one dinner out of 365 (and several nights of leftovers, if you’re lucky). We know that your vegan Thanksgiving will be a hit, so take a deep breath, pick out the recipes that look the most delicious to you, and pour a glass of wine or a steaming mug of hot cocoa—then get to work on creating your beautiful, animal-friendly Thanksgiving meal.
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