For new vegetarians and vegans, Thanksgiving can be terrifying.
One of the most common questions you’ll hear — right up there with one about the big P — is “But what do you do for Thanksgiving?” I asked it, and I bet you did too.
It’s not nearly as maddening as “Where do you get your protein?”, but having eaten this way for a few years now, the Thanksgiving question misses the point, for me.
Warning: “We used to walk to school 5 miles in the snow barefoot, uphill both ways” old-man rant ahead.
When did Thanksgiving become about eating so much you can’t move? While I admit I probably spend more time watching football with a nice, seasonal microbrew in my hand than I do actively being thankful, I’m pretty sure that gratitude and time shared with loved ones is the real point.
Sure, it’s fun to sample all the special, harvest-inspired dishes and indulge a little more than you usually would. But perhaps it’s easier to be thankful when there isn’t an abundance of food in front of you to distract. (And I’d argue that for most people on this earth, our idea of scarcity would still be a feast.)
What if, in the worst case, you neglected to bring something special and vegan-friendly to Thanksgiving (like one of the recipes below), wherever you happen to be celebrating? What if the only things on the table that happened to be vegan were, say, a big green salad, some bread, and a single, boring vegetable dish?
Oh, and don’t forget that clean water that you don’t have to walk far to get, and that you’re pretty sure won’t make you start vomiting and possibly die.
Not many people’s idea of Thanksgiving dinner, I know. But if this “disaster” happened — salad, bread, a vegetable, and water — it would be a pretty good reminder that we have a lot to be thankful for … that our worst-case scenarios are still pretty darn good.
To me, that’s what this day is all about.
Thankfully, none of that has to happen. Wherever you’re going, bring something! Something vegan, something really special, something that would be thrilling to eat for dinner on a normal night. Add that to the above “worst-case” scenario, and your vegan Thanksgiving is simple, stress-free, and delicious. Maybe not the Thanksgiving you grew up with, but not a bad alternative.
So what to make? You’re in luck, NMA readers are here to help: we hosted a recipe contest for our social media followers, newsletter readers, and podcast listeners, and the results are in. Our own Susan Lacke taste-tested them all and chose three winners, whose recipes for appetizer, entree, and dessert appear below, to win a No Meat Athlete shirt of their choice and a signed copy of my book.
Here they are — I hope one finds its way on to your table on Thursday!
Appetizer: Vegan Spinach Dip
By Angela Merchant & Jessica Gonzalez, from Ahimsa Vegan Eats
“For as long as we can remember, spinach dip has been a signature appetizer at every Thanksgiving we attended. It is comforting and creamy, fresh and crunchy. Plus, we love anything that gives us an excuse to eat tons of sourdough bread! The spinach dip we know and love is loaded with dairy sour cream and mayo, not to mention the seasoning packet riddled with chemicals, preservatives and MSG!
When we went looking for a vegan alternative we found plenty of hot spinach dips with artichokes and jalapeños, but that wasn’t what we wanted! We were sure that we would never get to experience the same delicious dip that we would congregate around. It was impossible for us to find a seasoning packet without all the nasty additives. BUT, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, we knew we had to be ready to celebrate. So check it out, this has now replaced spinach dip at all family functions and nobody even knows there is a difference. My dad (who cuts meat for a living, and a devout omni) will only eat this version now!”
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1½ teaspoons onion powder
- 1 tablespoon grated onion (1/4 small onion)
- 1 small carrot (grated)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 1 bag (6-8 ounces) fresh baby spinach, chopped
- 1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 1 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 2 cups vegan sour cream (instructions below)
- 1 3/4 cup raw cashews (not salted)
- 1 cup unsweetened, plain soy milk
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup refined coconut oil, melted
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 pinches of salt
- Make sour cream by blending all sour cream ingredients together in a high-speed blender. Then place into a container and place in fridge. (This can be done up to 2 days ahead of time.)
- Combine all the other ingredients including the sour cream together.
- Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to mix and the dip to thicken.
- Serve with a fresh sourdough bread and crunchy vegetables.
NOTE: To make your own sour cream it is essential to use a High-Speed blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec. If you do not have one the end result will not be as smooth and silky, and may come out gritty. Try soaking your cashews for 6-8 hours to help a standard blender break them down.
Entree: Cheryl’s Stuffed Acorn Squash
By Cheryl Pannone
“Every thanksgiving we all make a dish to bring to a family members house. Sense I am the only vegan in our family this can be a challenge for holidays. I have to come up with something that we all could enjoy that was delicious and flavorful since my family is always a little hesitant to try foods that are vegan (why is that anyway?) I needed to make a wow dish! I made this recipe last year as a delicious addition to Thanksgiving dinner. They were a hit and I plan on making them again this year maybe a different version, perhaps with quinoa and tomatoes or other veggies.”
- 2 acorn squashes, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 cup chickpeas (or other white bean)
- Dash of sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tsp chopped fresh sage
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1½ cups vegetable stock (homemade if possible)
- ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- Preheat the oven to 450°F
- Cut squash and scrap out the seeds and then place the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet with either parchment paper or lightly oiled. Then cover with foil and roast for 40 to 45 minutes, until its tender. Test it with a fork.
- Heat the oil a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions first and season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft and clear for a couple of minutes.
- Then, add the garlic and seasoning except the fresh parsley and cook for about 30 seconds to mix in all the flavors. Then add the vegetable stock and uncooked rice, bring to a boil then, reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans, parsley, cranberries, maple syrup, orange zest, and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Spoon the rice mixture into each acorn squash and place back on the baking sheet. Sprinkle some vegan bread crumbs on top with a squeeze of lemon and vegan cheese as an option. Bake for another 10 minutes just enough to heat through. If you like a crunchy top, set oven on broil until toasted – make sure to keep an eye on it!
Dessert: Sweet Potato Waffles
By Jason Bahamundi
We’ve long known Jason Bahamundi, who blogs at Cook Train Eat Race, is a little obsessed with his waffle maker. He’s made almost every food in waffle form, from polenta to carrot cake, and they all turn out delicious. These unique sweet potato waffles are no exception.
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 2/3 cup pancake mix of your choice
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Maple syrup, vegan whipped cream and/or ice cream
- Fresh sage — chiffonade
- Chop sweet potato into chunks and then place into a bowl and cover with water.
- Microwave sweet potato for 5 minutes or until tender.
- While sweet potato is in microwave combine all ingredients into a separate bowl and combine well.
- When sweet potato is ready use potato masher to create smashed sweet potato.
- Combine with other ingredients.
- Following your manufacturer’s directions pour 1-2 tablespoons per waffle and cook until crunchy on the outside and creamy smooth on the inside.
- Plate and then pour pure warm maple syrup over the top with extra dried cranberries and walnuts.
Thanks to everyone who entered our recipe contest, and congratulations again to our winners! Wishing you a happy, grateful Thanksgiving.