7 dishes to make for a totally vegetarian Thanksgiving
Forget the turkey, we’re all about the veg-friendly holiday dishes.
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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 I really don’t care 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 side dishes. 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
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, try using 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 new Great Jones ceramic casserole dish, aptly named Hot Dish.
2. Veg-friendly gravy
I like to think of gravy as the glue that holds Thanksgiving together, so as a vegetarian there’s nothing worse than realizing your host made theirs using turkey stock or pan drippings (definitely a delicious option, but not veg-friendly). We’ve got a step-by-step guide for making gravy that will satisfy any dietary needs.
Regardless of your recipe, making gravy requires a good whisk to ensure everything is properly emulsified.
3. Something green
Break up the slew of beige in your Thanksgiving feast with something green—your body will be grateful for this respite, however brief. A salad with simple greens is as unfussy as it gets when it comes to this holiday, and cruciferous veg like roasted Brussels sprouts can make for delicious festive eats.
The key to a well-tossed salad is a large mixing bowl. We love this Pyrex Essential Mixing Bowls Set because each bowl comes with a lid, which means you’ll automatically have containers for leftovers.
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 Sauteed 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.
- Get the Pyrex Essential Mixing Bowls Set on Amazon starting at $33.67
- Get the Lodge Chef Collection Cast Iron-Skillet from Williams Sonoma starting at $24.95
4. Turkey-free stuffing
Here’s the plain truth: My mom never makes special vegetarian stuffing for me, so once a year, I begrudgingly eat her stuffing laden with turkey stock. (It’s my grandma’s recipe and involves a minimum of four loves of torn white bread and is quite literally irresistible.) Since not all vegetarians are comfy with the idea of making special exceptions like this, I’m proposing we normalize turkey-free stuffing.
Simply substitute vegetable stock where you’d otherwise use turkey or chicken stock, and voilà! You’ve got a meat-free stuffing that you and your vegetarian loved ones can enjoy. The best vessel for cooking stuffing is a casserole dish, but a pie dish will also work for a smaller gathering.
5. Mac and cheese, because carbs
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 Instant Pot that’s sitting in the back of your cabinet. If you don’t already own an one, check out the Instant Pots we tested—these make easy work of weeknight dinners,
6. “Fruit” (just kidding, it’s 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 a serving platter like this one from Food52.
7. Don’t forget dessert!
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 cranberry or apple crumble. Once again, a pie dish or casserole dish will be the best vessels for this task.
- Get the Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish on Amazon starting at $39.99
- Get the Great Jones Hot Dish for $75
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.