Don’t let the turkey centerpiece fool you – Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a meat-centric holiday. In fact, most of the traditional side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, cornbread and stuffing, are vegetarian in their standard form. A vegetarian should be able to fill themselves up quite nicely on non-turkey fare. However, many cooks, striving to serve unique interpretations of the holiday classics, use meat to liven up their feasts. One might find that bacon has wormed its way into the cornbread, mashed potatoes are served submerged in authentic gravy (made from meat drippings), and a horrific turducken sits at center stage.
Before I go on, I should admit that I am not a vegetarian. I often feel that I ought to be, given the deplorable consequences of the industrialized meat production system, but that is a long discussion that can be saved for a later post. Nonetheless, I love vegetables, and I find many dishes tastier when the diverse flavors at play aren’t overpowered by the taste of meat. Since our readers are definitely food-conscious, presumably environmentally-conscious, and probably health-conscious, I thought many could benefit from a list of vegetarian dishes that could yield a delicious and inventive Thanksgiving dinner.
Entrée: Carving the turkey out of the meal
- Vegan shepherd’s pie (or a sweet potato version). If veganism is irrelevant to you, feel free to use butter instead of oil and dairy milks. Either way, the hearty mix of lentils and vegetables topped with whipped potatoes are sure to be satisfying.
- Pumpkin Pot Pie. Pumpkin, kale, and carrots are just some of the vegetables held together by a lovely flaky crust (which could also be bought in a store, if time is short).
- Butternut Squash and Asparagus Torta. Preparation might be a bit challenging, but the creative combination of squash, asparagus, and cheeses is very rewarding.
- Kale and Sweet Potato Gratin. This casserole-like dish is rich, creamy, and surprisingly simple to make.
- Whole grain stuffing. A heart-healthy version of the classic.
- Cranberry-apple cornbread stuffing. Just swap vegetable stock for the chicken broth in this mix of fall and winter flavors.
- Kale-potato colcannon. Bring some Irish culture into this all-American holiday as well as some vitamin-dense kale.
- Mashed potatoes with thyme-parmesan ‘granola’. This vegetarian crunchy topping is a lot more impressive than bacon bits.
- Brown butter mashed potatoes. Simply cooking the butter until it browns gives the potatoes a flavorful edge.
- Garlic-thyme butternut squash. This humble-looking vegetable side stands strong thanks to its delicate herbs.
- Squash (or pumpkin) feta muffins. The combination of spinach, squash, and feta packs a unique flavor punch.
- Quinoa-stuffed acorn squash rings. Charming little squash rings hold a blend of quinoa, apple, cheddar, cranberry, sage, walnuts, and maple syrup.
- Gouda-root beer-mashed sweet potatoes. You could try skipping the soda and opting for real alcohol. In any case, the beer, gouda, cayenne, and sweet potato combination is sure to stun eaters.
- Sweet potato stuffed with spinach, hummus, and feta. The Mediterranean elements are a welcome variation to the traditional sweet potato.
- Baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon cashew cream. With emphasis on sweet, these sugary, vegan sweet potatoes complement a salty meal nicely.
- Pumpkin cornbread. It looks like regular cornbread but hides a pleasant pumpkin surprise.
- Rosemary maple corn muffins. These little vegan guys add some sweetness to the salty meal.
- Roasted pepper cheddar cornbread. For those adventurous types looking for a bit of heat.
- Vegetable stock gravy. You probably already have all the ingredients – it’s that straightforward.
- Onion gravy. Essentially the same as the other gravy, only with the tang of diced onions.
Vegan Desserts* (since desserts are normally vegetarian anyway)
*These all happen to be gluten-free as well, but there’s really no need to bother with that complexity if you don’t have gluten sensitivity.
- Apple Crisp. Gluten-containing substitutions can be made to simplify this already easy-to-make spiced treat.
- Pecan Pie. Maple syrup, dates, and cashew butter allow you to skip the eggs to veganize this timeless dessert.
- Pumpkin Pie. For many, this classic is the single best thing about autumn; and it’s just as delicious vegan.
Reference: many of these recipes were drawn from this list.
Eat up, my friends.