This Thanksgiving will be my seventh as a vegan, and I’m happy to say that it’s no longer a big deal to not to have turkey at dinner. Honestly, though, I can’t say that it ever was.
Even before I went vegetarian, the interesting part of cooking Thanksgiving dinner was never the turkey: we knew what turkey tasted like. And it was more or less the same every year, save for the ill-fated turkey-fryer-on-the-deck experiment of 2007.
The side dishes, though? Those were the opportunity to have fun and to try new things. And other than good company, of course, they’re what stands out in my mind to distinguish one year’s Thanksgiving dinner from the next.
So since going vegan, my wife and I have never found it a big deal to just make Thanksgiving dinner—we just make a bunch of sides, new ones every year. And it works. If we’re attending somewhere else, we do the same, and just bring plenty to share. And enough that even if there’s nothing else for us at the table, we’ll be happy.
And as I always like to point out this time of year, I think that’s the best attitude to have if you’re a new vegan and you’re concerned about Thanksgiving—be happy with the abundance that you have.
It’s a time to be grateful—grateful that you have enough to fill your belly, and people you love to share it with. Even if your father-in-law is making annoying vegan jokes, even if you’re stuck eating nothing but salad and bread because that’s all there is for you, just try to keep in mind how many people in the world—right there in your town, probably—would be overjoyed to switch places with you, to have the luxury of being the vegan with only a few dishes to eat at a Thanksgiving feast (in a heated home, I should add) for a day.
And that, long as corny as it may be, is my answer to “How do you do Thanksgiving as a vegan?” 🙂
Below are two Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, which I co-wrote with Stepfanie Romine, published earlier this year. While these aren’t traditional Thanksgiving recipes per se, the flavors definitely work for a modern, plant-based (and oil-free!) interpretation. You could consider them both sides, but the stew can definitely be a main course if you’d like it to be.
And by the way, in case you’re looking for a health-focused gift for yourself or a friend, I must say The No Meat Athlete Cookbook makes a good one. Granted, I’m just a little bit biased … but lots of reviewers, and even many mainstream publications like Sports Illustrated and Outside Magazine, agree.
Enjoy the recipes, and have a happy, grateful Thanksgiving!
French Onion Stew with Mushrooms
Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 10 minutes prep, 1 hour 15 minutes to cook, not including time to cook beans or make Cashew Cream
Traditional French onion soup (soupe à l’oignon) employs a rich beef stock for depth; our plant-based version relies on two types of mushrooms and mushroom stock instead to provide meaty richness. We eliminate some of the hassle of caramelizing onions by letting the oven do the work. And we didn’t forget the best part: Cashew Cream is spread thick on sourdough toast, broiled, then floated on each bowl. Oui, oui!
- 3 large yellow onions, sliced
- One 10-ounce (283 g) package cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 4 cups (960 ml) mushroom stock
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from stems and chopped fine
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
- ¼ cup (60 ml) red wine, such as Cabernet or Zinfandel
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- 3 cups (530 g) cooked cannellini beans or (690 g) cooked adzuki beans
- 1 ounce (30 g) dried mushrooms, broken into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- ½ cup (80 g) Cashew Cream (page 236)
- 4 slices sourdough bread (GF: 4 slices gluten-free bread)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Combine the onions, cremini mushrooms, 1 cup of the stock, thyme, rosemary, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a large Dutch oven. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour, stirring and scraping down the sides of the pot every 20 minutes and adding the wine after 40 minutes.
- Transfer the pot to the stovetop and place over medium-high heat. Preheat the broiler.
- Carefully stir in the arrowroot powder, then add the beans, dried mushrooms, water, and remaining 3 cups stock. Bring to a low boil. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide the cashew cream evenly among the slices of bread. Broil until the bread is toasted and the cashew cream is golden brown. Place a slice of bread atop individual bowls of stew and serve.
[Note from Matt: I like to stir in a splash of white wine vinegar during the last few minutes of cooking, or at the table, with this one.]
Tahini Green Beans
Serves: 2 to 4
Time: 15 minutes
This recipe quickly entered regular rotation for everyone who tested it; the tahini and sesame seeds make green beans incredibly enticing with very little effort. If you are a dipper, serve the sauce on the side and eat the green beans like fries. This technique also works with steamed or roasted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or beets.
- 1 pound (454 g) green beans, washed and trimmed
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free tahini
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon toasted black or white sesame seeds, optional
- Steam the beans in a medium saucepan fitted with a steamer insert (or by adding ¼ cup/60 ml water to a covered saucepan) over medium-high heat. Drain, reserving the cooking water.
- Mix the tahini, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pep- per to taste. Use the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce as desired.
- Toss the green beans with the sauce and serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with the sesame seeds, if using.