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7 dishes to make for a totally vegetarian Thanksgiving

Forget the turkey, we’re all about the veg-friendly dishes.

On left, bread stuffing in a casserole dish. On right, shredded Brussels sprouts in white bowl. Credit: Getty / bhofack2 / Food Network

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I’ve been a vegetarian for almost a decade and I really haven't missed eating turkey on Thanksgiving day—wild, I know! When it comes to this food-filled holiday, I’ve never eaten Tofurkey, and never felt the need to explore meat alternatives that might masquerade as a Thanksgiving main course. I believe the key to a successful vegetarian Thanksgiving is a bounty of thoughtful dishes that are hearty and filling, albeit meatless. Oh, and plenty of pumpkin pie!

Here are a few tips for cooking an unforgettable vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving feast, plus the tools you’ll need to do so.

1. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes

A wooden spoon full of mashed potatoes.
Credit: Getty / FotografiaBasica

Personally, I don't think there can ever be too many potato dishes.

Regardless of where you eat Thanksgiving, chances are your region has a tradition of eating potatoes on this holiday. From sweet potato pie to classic mashed potatoes, these starch-heavy dishes are usually perfect for vegetarians.

For extra fluffy mashed potatoes, use a potato ricer. We like the Chef’n FreshForce Potato Ricer because it’s easy to use and doesn’t make a mess. For the simple decadence of a sweet potato casserole, try the Great Jones ceramic casserole dish, aptly named Hot Dish.

$33 at Amazon

$75 at Great Jones

2. Veg-friendly gravy

A gravy boat filled with gravy, shot from above.
Credit: Getty / tasha_lyubina

Vegetarian gravy is easy—simply swap out the turkey stock for veg.

I like to think of gravy as the glue that holds Thanksgiving together. So as a vegetarian, it's frustrating that the only gravy option is typically made with turkey stock or pan drippings (definitely a delicious option, but not veg-friendly).

We’ve got a step-by-step guide for making gravy, including vegetarian substitutions, but this mushroom thyme gravy is an even better option to suit everyone—and it can be made ahead so you're not rushing to make gravy after the turkey comes out of the oven.

Regardless of your recipe, making gravy requires a good whisk to ensure everything is properly emulsified.

$12 at Amazon

3. Something green

Kale salad in a black bowl, sitting on a wooden surface.
Credit: Getty / Candice Bell

Winter greens, citrus, and a touch of sweetness from dried fruit make the perfect simple salad.

Break up the slew of beige in your Thanksgiving feast with something green. (Your body will be grateful for this respite, however brief.) For a truly satisfying compliment to the Thanksgiving table, choose a salad that’s worthy of its spot.

With hearty ingredients and a bright citrus dressing that’s the perfect foil to all the heavier fare, this roasted pear salad will cater to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. You can roast the pears, toast the walnuts, crumble the goat cheese, and make the dressing ahead of time so tossing this salad together before serving is quick and simple.

The key to a well-tossed salad is a large mixing bowl. We love this Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls Set because each bowl comes with a lid, which means you’ll automatically have containers for leftovers. If you entertain frequently, this wooden salad bowl set is definitely worth the splurge.

My mom has requested that I make the same Brussels sprouts recipe a few years in a row now, so I'll share my secret: Ina Garten’s sautéed shredded brussels sprouts. I like to use a cast-iron skillet to cook my shredded brussels because it produces a deeper flavor and just the right amount of caramelization. I also like to finish my shaved brussels with candied walnuts because I simply cannot resist an opportunity to combine sweet and salty.

$38 at Amazon

$23 at Williams Sonoma

4. Turkey-free stuffing

Cornbread casserole in a white casserole dish, shot from above.
Credit: Getty / bhofack2

If you feel like switching it up, try cornbread stuffing instead of classic white bread.

Here’s the plain truth: it's not a great idea to put stuffing inside of a turkey. As we've learned over the years, that's not exactly food-safe. (And, if you're roasting turkey, you should butterfly it for the best results anyway.)

That makes it much easier to serve a vegetarian stuffing that can be made separate from the turkey—and often in advance. While you can simply substitute vegetable stock where you’d otherwise use turkey or chicken stock, an apple-raisin stuffing offers flavors that pair well with turkey while satisfying vegetarian needs as well.

The best vessel for cooking stuffing is a casserole dish, and this Pyrex one is great for storing leftovers.

$25 at Amazon

5. Mac and cheese, because carbs

Two bowls of macaroni and cheese, shot from above.
Credit: Getty / LauriPatterson

Try something different with the cheese for your mac—Gruyere, munster, or pepper jack will spice things up.

Maybe it’s a Southern thing, but I’m a firm believer in serving mac and cheese at Thanksgiving. It’s vegetarian, comforting, and can be cooked in that multicooker that’s sitting in the back of your cabinet. This recipe for butternut squash mac and cheese can be whipped up in your Ninja Foodi in less than 30 minutes—and if you prefer to stick to the classics, don't worry, the squash can be easily omitted here.

(If you don’t already own one, check out the multicookers we tested—these, especially the winning Ninja Foodi, make easy work of weeknight dinners. )

$350 at Amazon

6. “Fruit” (just kidding, it’s cranberry sauce)

A hand cutting canned cranberry sauce into slices.
Credit: Getty / DebbiSmirnoff

In my family, no Thanksgiving is complete without slices of canned cranberry sauce.

Consider cranberry sauce your daily serving of fruit and veg for Thanksgiving. My family is divided on the issue of canned vs. homemade, so every year we make it a point to have both options.

We serve the canned cranberry sauce (the only type of cranberry sauce my husband will eat) sliced and arranged elegantly on an artful serving platter from Food52.

$55 at Food52

7. Don’t forget dessert!

Hand cutting into a pumpkin pie, which is divided into eight slices.
Credit: Getty / Say-Cheese

Store-bought or homemade, you really can't go wrong with pie.

When it comes to Thanksgiving desserts, there are two equally viable options: homemade or store-bought. My family has a tradition of sourcing our pies from a local farm stand. Every year, my grandma or aunt will call in the order, and then my sister or I usually have to go pick them up.

Because I am a certified freak when it comes to pumpkin pie, I always pick up an extra to ensure I have adequate leftovers (very important) for days after the holiday.

If you’re going to make your own, check out our guide for making pumpkin pie with a pastry blender and be sure to have a pie dish on hand. For a non-pie dessert option, try an equally festive apple crisp. Once again, a pie dish or casserole dish will be the best vessels for this task.

$55 at Amazon

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