The countdown is on to sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. Have you started your meal planning yet? While the idea of a vegan Thanksgiving may be perplexing to some, the dinner possibilities are endless. Plus, with a focus on the bounty of fall foods and harvest, a Thanksgiving plate has the chance to be colorful, bright, and full of life. Over the years, I’ve switched up my main course and sides many times over. (In fact, I’m trying something new-to-me this year as well, but more on that later.) For a peek onto my table and some ideas on what you might want to include on yours, here’s the rundown:
When people arrive and the finishing touches are going on the big lunch or dinner, it’s good to have some things to nibble on at the table. This year, I’m planning on making a little Mediterranean-style platter with Greek olives, pickled turnips and cauliflower (more on that in a future post), and my Olive & Artichoke Pâté. On the side I’ll have crusty bread, crackers, and/or carrot sticks for dipping.
If you’re not planning on serving potatoes elsewhere in the meal or don’t mind a double helping of Russet-type goodness, my Loaded Potato Slices with Cashew Cream and Bacony Bits would also be a crowd pleaser for young and old alike. (I’m planning on serving them on Christmas Day.)
While Thanksgiving is known for its coma-causing indulgences, I like to start with a big salad. Even if it doesn’t make it onto my plate for the first go around, by the time dinner hits that evening, I’m glad to fill up my plate with greens. This year, I’ll go with one of two options: Massaged raw kale salad with creamy garlic dressing, roasted chickpeas, and lemon tofu for a hearty option of a salad that eats like a meal.
Roasted delicata squash and persimmon salad with caramelized onions for a lighter salad with fall flare and sweetness.
For another fall salad option, Corn & Black Bean Salad travels well and the flavors only develop and improve as it marinates.
Obviously for the main course, a person can stop by the freezer section of the grocery store and pick up a Hazelnut Cranberry Roast en Croute from Field Roast, Tofurky roast, Gardein Holiday Roast, or the new Turkey-less Stuffed Roast from Trader Joe’s. I haven’t tried the others, but I did get Field Roast’s option one year. Delicious. I think it was Sophocles who once said, “Anything wrapped in puff pastry is good.” That being said, the prices on these items can be a bit steep. The going rate for the Field Roast en croute is $18 to $26, depending on location. Knowing that vital wheat gluten is fairly inexpensive and that seitan is pretty easy to make is one point towards making your own. However, the Trader Joe’s roast is only ten bucks. Like I said, I haven’t tried it, but it’s something to consider if you’re short on time or inclination!
Make your own seitan: Last year I made the Chicken-style Seitan Roast from Vegan Diner paired with the Creamy Sage & Pepper Gravy also from the book. This seitan from Julie Hasson is one of my favorites. Plus, it freezes beautifully. That meant that I was able to start making dishes in advance, so that I didn’t spend all day of the third Wednesday in November over a hot stove. The gravy is creamy, flavorful, and my absolute favorite when gravy is essential.
If you’d rather avoid the last minute kitchen hubbub, set yourself up by the grill with my Thanksgiving Kebabs. It’s a who’s who of fall-time feasting. Just add a green salad and cranberry sauce, and dinner is ready.
In past years, for the main course I’ve made Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon. They have a wonderful toothsome chewiness and the flavors of lemon & thyme. They aren’t too heavy, and they fit along nicely with mashed potatoes and gravy. Not just for Thanksgiving, I enjoy chickpea cutlets all year around. I’ve served them many times to non-vegans, and they’re almost always a hit. (I made the mistake of using homemade breadcrumbs instead of store-bought for one dinner, and the resulting cutlets were on the soft side. For perfect texture, go with store-bought breadcrumbs.)
There’s a link to the recipe here, but the baking directions aren’t included. I always bake them, and I use half the amount of oil listed with no adverse effects. To bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly oil each side of the cutlets, and bake at 375 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, flip the cutlets, and then bake for 8-10 more until golden brown.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for big extended family gatherings (where tofu-phobes may be likely), on years when it’s been a smaller gathering of vegan-minded folks, baked tofu can make a tasty centerpiece. My favorites are Baked Lemon Rosemary Tofu, Red Wine Marinated Tofu, and Pumpkin-seed Crusted Tofu with Cranberry Relish from Vegan with a Vengeance.
My Popcorn-Crusted Polenta with Cashew Cream and Barbecue-glazed Butternut Squash would make for a eye-catching entrée that feels like fall. To cut down a step, feel free to leave out encrusting the polenta in popcorn. Just cut out the hardened polenta in the shape of circles and head directly to an oiled skillet to fry on each side for 3-5 minutes. Stack with cashew cream and roasted butternut squash in a barbecue sauce glaze, and you’re good to go. (Want to use jarred barbecue sauce instead of homemade? I’ll never tell. Except maybe to my mom, but you can trust her.)
My plans for this year? I’m going to make the Festive Chickpea Tart from Dreena Burton’s Let Them Eat Vegan. I’ve never had her chickpea tart before, but all of the feedback I’ve read online looks consistently good. Dreena has tons of good looking options here. (Update: You can read all about the tart & the new green bean casserole I made here.)
As for sides, the produce section is full of possibilities. With the cool temperatures, I usually like to roast a variety of vegetables like delicata squash, crispy cabbage, green beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and/or Brussels sprouts topped with caramelized onions and crushed nuts just before serving. A side of collard greens or kale sautéed with garlic makes for a nutrient-dense and delicious option.
My favorite go-to cranberry sauce is the Traditional Cranberry Sauce from Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. I definitely recommend adding the optional balsamic vinegar. It’s a wonderful combination of tangy, sweet, and sour.
Mashed potatoes come together easily by boiling medium-sized chunks of russet potatoes in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Mash with an immersion blender until smooth. Add non-dairy milk as necessary, and finish with a spoonful of non-dairy butter and/or salt and pepper. Stirring in caramelized onions or fresh chopped chives is also a delicious addition.
What vegan items will be gracing your table this year?
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