This year’s Thanksgiving is going to look a little bit different for everyone. For many of us, it means we’ll be celebrating with different people than usual. For anyone who’s attending a friendsgiving or dining with a new set of relatives, you might encounter tricky dietary restrictions that have you wondering what to put on the table. Here are some handy tips and tricks for easily creating vegan friendly versions of all your favorite Thanksgiving dishes.
Baking & Desserts
Let’s start at the best part: dessert. Adjusting any baked good recipe to be dairy free is a lot easier than you might think. Vegan butter like Earth Balance tastes great and holds the consistency of butter in most recipes. For pie crust, recipes often require frozen chunks of butter that may be difficult to achieve with a margarine texture. Vegetable shortening like Crisco works great in place of unsalted butter for dough, and even comes in sticks the same size as sticks of butter that will cool down fast in the fridge or freezer. If you’re wondering what else you could possibly do with a pound of Crisco, the stuff lasts forever; you’ll find something, or just save it for next year! For a store bought crust, just pay attention to the listed ingredients on the box.
Any recipe that calls for milk, yogurt or sour cream for baking is easy to revamp as well. There are plenty of options for non-dairy milk that all work great in any baked good. The only trick is to make sure you’re buying the plain flavor; many soy and almond milk brands sell vanilla, chocolate and other flavored versions. Oat and coconut milks always work great too. Non-dairy yogurt comes in plenty of varieties as well. Coconut milk yogurt is widely available and adds a rich, creamy texture without adding any coconut flavor. Vegan sour cream is a little bit more difficult to find, but not anywhere near impossible. Whole Foods is your best bet here; non-dairy milk, yogurt and butter are easy to find at any grocery store, but if you’re looking specifically for sour cream, try a more specialized store.
Now for the more complicated part: eggs. There are plenty of easy ways to replace eggs, but some work for certain dishes better than others. For something like cornbread, it’s very easy to make without eggs completely. In other recipes, it can be essential to keep the moisture from the eggs. Some common substitutes used in baking include mashed banana, applesauce and flax seed. If you’re going all out, try the flax egg method. This involves combining flax seeds with water and letting it soak for about 5 minutes before adding it to your batter. If you’re looking for a lowkey method, applesauce should jive with the flavors in most of your baked goods for this time of year. It also gives a lot of moisture to whatever you’re baking. In pie fillings, eggs are often used to give the pie a more luxurious texture. If you’re going for a traditional pumpkin pie or any custardy dessert for the holiday, try using full fat coconut milk to replicate that richness. You can find it canned in most groceries stores.
Onto the iconic part of the dinner: the sides. Stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole; what could be better? The majority of these vegetable sides are already almost vegan, and very easily adaptable. Let’s start with the potatoes. Often a favorite, mashed potatoes are incredibly easy to veganize. Throw in some Earth Balance instead of Land O’Lakes and you’re all set! You might want to add a little extra salt, but they’ll taste just the same as the real stuff. Sweet potatoes are similar. The only thing you may need to switch up here are the marshmallows. If your vegan is particularly strict, you can pick up some marshmallows from Trader Joes; they’re completely dairy free. Everything else in a traditional sweet potato casserole is completely vegan already.
Green bean casserole is often a divisive dish on the Thanksgiving table, but if it’s a favorite for your family, there’s an easy way to recreate it. Is it going to be as easy as dumping Campbell’s soup into a casserole dish? No. But it’s not difficult either. Recipes from Delish and Minimalist Baker suggest making your mushroom sauce by creating a roux with flour, almond milk and vegan butter. You’ll get a rich, creamy sauce to add your mushrooms and green beans to with just those ingredients. And don’t forget the crispy fried onions; Trader Joe’s brand makes a definitively vegan version, but just pay attention to the ingredients section and you should be golden. Not unlike crispy fried onions.
Stuffing is equally as easy to make without meat and dairy. If you usually make your stuffing with sausage, that would be the first thing to eliminate. There are plenty of wonderful flavor combinations for veggie stuffing; apples and pecans or caramelized onions and celery are just two examples. The spices and the bread are what really carries the dish. It’s standard to add some broth or stock to your stuffing; chicken or beef broth can be easily swapped for vegetable broth, and no one will be able to tell the difference.
The Thanksgiving Turkey and Gravy
Last but not least, the most lackluster (but iconic) part of Thanksgiving dinner: the turkey. Most vegetarians and vegans are content to go without the main dish if there are enough sides, but if you must buy a tofurky, here are some tips. The Spruce Eats provides a great list of the top five Thanksgiving meatless turkeys. Topping the list is the Tofurky brand Roast with Wild Rice Stuffing, and honorable mentions include the Gardein Stuffed Savory Turk’y and the Quorn Turk’y Roast. Depending on your local grocery store options, these may be easy or near impossible to find in the vegetarian or frozen food sections. Gardein is widely sold, so it may be a good strategy to start there. Consult your friendly neighborhood vegetarian on this one; chances are they’ve had plenty of tofurkys in their lifetime.
Our last dish to tackle is gravy. This is particularly difficult since gravy traditionally comes from meat drippings and is the best sauce to pair with…well, everything on the table. If you’re concerned about missing out on gravy don’t worry. Vegans have been perfecting mushroom gravy under the radar for years. In this New York Times recipe, vegetable stock, portobellos and soy sauce come together to form a rich gravy that won’t leave you missing the real stuff. And you can make it in advance – the best news for any holiday recipe!
No matter what is on your table and who is around it, try to make the most of Thanksgiving this year. It may feel like we have nothing to be thankful for in 2020, but there is a bright future ahead. Make sure to celebrate in style and look forward to next year!