Vegan Thanksgiving is Easy, Traditional and Delicious

This year, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local newspaper about why we don't have turkey in my home on Thanksgiving. I hope that I was able to capture some of the joy that comes with embracing compassion on this day of all days–one that celebrates family, friendship, abundance and gratitude. (Please take a look at my article on the myth of free-range turkeys, too.)

I look forward to my cruelty-free Thanksgiving dinner every year. I’m a traditionalist, and so my Thanksgiving menu doesn’t change a lot from year to year. There is an entrée surrounded by all the “trimmings,” ie, the dishes that were always a part of my family’s Thanksgiving meals when I was a kid. They are tweaked ever-so-slightly to make them vegan.

But there is occasionally something new on the menu—some great item that I saw on the internet and can’t resist trying. This year it is going to be coleslaw with beer dressing.

Here is what will be on the menu for Thanksgiving, 2009.

Mini Mushroom Strudels: This a veganized recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook.

Veggie Strips with Onions: I use the Vegetarian Stir-fry Strips from White Wave, which are seasoned seitan. But any faux meat product you like would be fine. I slice them and sauté with sweet onions, and then pile them on a platter next to the stuffed mushrooms.

Stuffing: My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal! I use a packaged stuffing mix and make it with vegan margarine and veggie broth. I usually sauté onions, chopped celery, walnuts, and dried fruit bits and mix those into the stuffing before baking.

Mashed potatoes: This is the only time of the year I make mashed potatoes so it feels like a major treat. I mash them with vegan margarine and plain soymilk.

Gravy: I always fret over this a little bit, but I think my gravy problems are finally over. My friend Judith, the Savvy Vegetarian, posted a recipe for gravy made with chickpea flour. I found the flour made by Bob’s Red Mill (they call it garbanzo flour) in my grocery store. I like Judith’s recipe a lot, but am going to keep mine sort of basic. I’ll use a mixture of olive oil and vegan margarine, the chickpea flour and some veggie broth. I’ve already tested this and it is wonderful!

Sweet potatoes: In the past, we’ve had sweet potato salad with toasted pecans and I may do that again this year. Or I may go with tradition and just bake and mash the sweet potatoes. I don’t really need to bother with vegan marshmallows because I know most of my guests don’t care. But just for fun, I think I’m going to order some coconut toasted marshmallows from Vegan Essentials and make one little casserole dish of sweet potatoes topped with those.

Green Bean Casserole: We didn't have this when I was growing up, but I love it—all-American comfort food at its best! And even if I weren’t vegan, I don’t think I’d want to use that gloppy condensed cream of mushroom soup. Here is a vegan recipe for this classic dish:

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
3 Tbsp vegan margarine
2 Tbsp white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain soymilk
2 packages frozen French cut green beans
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 2/3 cups French fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the margarine and sauté the mushrooms until just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and salt and cook over low heat for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Slowly add the milk and cook until thick. Add a little more milk if the sauce seems too thick.

In a large casserole, combine the mushroom sauce, green beans, pepper, and half the onions. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Top with the remaining fried onions and bake for another five minutes.

Cranberries: I was raised on canned jellied cranberries and had no idea until I went to college that there were other options. I’ve had all kinds of wonderful homemade cranberry recipes, but the basic one is still my favorite. And it is certainly easy. In a pot, combine 12 ounces of cranberries, 1 cup of vegan sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the cranberries burst—about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Coleslaw: Not a tradition for me, but it is for many others. I think it’s a nice fit to any Thanksgiving feast and I’m dying to try this recipe for coleslaw with beer dressing

Gingered Turnips: My friend Kate is making these, and the recipe is included in my 2007 Thanksgiving menu.

Wild Rice with Mushrooms: Kate is from Minnesota so wild rice is a tradition in her family. I don't think there is an official recipe; it's just cooked wild rice sautéed with onions and mushrooms.

Pillsbury Crescent Rolls: Yes, they’re awful, but they’re traditional and they are vegan!

Dessert: Apple pie and wonderful pumpkin cheesecake, both made by my friend Phyllis who is a superb vegan baker. The recipe for the cheesecake is at the end of the post on my 2007 Thanksgiving menu.

For drinks, we’ll have wine, beer and sparkling cider.

I can't imagine how anyone could even think of having a turkey, can you?

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2 Responses to Vegan Thanksgiving is Easy, Traditional and Delicious

  1. Mrs. Nix December 10, 2009 at 6:48 pm #

    I hope you don't mind, but I'm totally ripping this off for my Christmas dinner this year. Our family has been observing vegan for two days. I know!! I'm so ignorant of vegan cooking in this beginning stage. I've been scared of Christmas' approach for fear of throwing up my hands, saying "screw it," and falling off the wagon for the sake of comfort.

    This menu sounds absolutely delicious, and I'm sure my poor family will thank you for it with me.

    Maybe the holidays weren't the best time to make this change, but it felt right to all of us at once, so anyway…thank you. This is great.

  2. Catarina Thanos December 2, 2010 at 3:04 am #

    Thank you, very useful. I wasnt really a big fan of Spinach for many years (ok, that’s a total lie, I hated the stuff), but after marrying a vegetarian I kind of had to get used to it, and have slowly come to absolutely love the stuff. Spinach curry is undoubtedly my absolute favouritest! I recently found an entire spinach recipes website which is my new favourite site now, you should take a look!

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