Thanksgiving is almost here, which means roasted turkey, carb-heavy trimmings, sugar-laden pies, and weeks of regret, right? Nope. You can skip all that guilt and still enjoy a scrumptiously satisfying meal by sticking to a plant-based holiday menu.
With almost 10 million vegans in the U.S., and at least 5 percent of Americans self-identifying as vegetarians, there is a good chance that at least someone at your Thanksgiving Day dinner isn’t going to be too happy without at least a few meatless options that are more than a mere afterthought.
However, keeping meat and other animal products to a minimum on the dinner table makes sense for even diehard omnivores. Eating a diet rich in whole grains and vegetables offers not only fantastic health benefits, but it’s also an excellent way to protect the environment.
If you are health conscious and preparing your first plant-based Thanksgiving or just want a few new ideas on what to serve, we have some suggestions for you.
The Troubling Tradition of Turkey
The real question is, can you have an authentic Thanksgiving without turkey? And the answer is, of course, you can! In fact, it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that eating turkey became associated with the holiday. However, skipping the bird doesn’t mean you have to skimp on serving an ooh and ahh-inspiring main course.
There are two different schools of thought when it comes to a plant-based alternative to the Thanksgiving turkey. The first one is that the main course should in some way try to replicate turkey just in a more cruelty-free version. The opposite way of thinking is avoiding attempting to simulate a turkey and just cooking a delicious and nutritious dish. Usually, it is a whole lot better idea for everyone concerned to take this second route.
Still, for anyone who’s not ready to completely abandon the star of T-day, there is always the choice to go with Tofurky (tofu turkey). But you probably won’t win over too many non-vegetarians. You can even find some rather impressive cruelty-free pre-made turkey replacements out there, like the vegetarian Quorn Holiday Roast and the stunningly beautiful Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey.
But if you are open to expanding your idea of what a Thanksgiving menu can mean, there are almost endless recipes to explore. Vegetarians will love this slow-cooker version of the traditional pot pie. Its rich flavors and hands-free cooking will leave plenty of time to hang out with guests. Or try the savory Spinach and Mushroom Quiche instead. With a delicate crust and hearty mushrooms, non-vegetarians won’t even miss the meat. Vegans can easily modify this vegetarian Spinach & Artichoke-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms recipe by substituting vegan-friendly sour cream and cheese.
So, What Are You Going to Eat with That?
With the main course out of the way, vegetarian and vegan-friendly trimmings are not that much of a problem. With only minor changes, it is possible to eliminate animal products from just about any must-have side dish. And for anyone who’s as concerned about their health as animal welfare, there are plenty of lighter versions for cranberry sauce and green bean casserole out there. Even carb-heavy mashed potatoes can be made a bit better for you by using unflavored almond milk and margarine instead of cream and butter.
But the stuffing or dressing and gravy, a quintessential side at any Thanksgiving dinner, can cause a bit of a problem. Depending on the main course you choose, you may already have the stuffing bit covered, but you will still need a great gravy to go along with it.
The easiest way is to purchase a prepared vegetarian or vegan gravy, and you can find a few outstanding plant-based gravy options on the PETA website. But, if you want to make your own, it isn’t difficult. This delicious mushroom-based vegan-friendly recipe from Cooking Light magazine is so good that you’ll try to find any excuse to use it. Or you may want to try switching vegetable stock for this turkey stock in this unique Apple Bourbon Gravy.
Anyone who doesn’t already have a favorite stuffing recipe may want to try this unusually delicious Apple-Sauerkraut Stuffing or the recipe for gluten-free Nutty Almond Sesame Red Quinoa.
Everyone Deserves Their Just Desserts
Okay, you can finally admit it. No matter how great the main course and sides may be, it is all about Thanksgiving desserts. A little sweetness is a perfect way to end a big meal, as long as it isn’t too decadent.
Pies are just about a requirement when it comes to Thanksgiving, but traditional ones not only have overly sweet fillings but crusts that are not animal-friendly. A better alternative is to make a fruit crumble. For example, a Cranberry and Apple Crumble is a wonderfully sweet and tart option, while serving a Red Wine Pear Crisp with Spiced Streusel is almost guaranteed to improve your dessert rep.
Chocoholics can still get their fix with these reduced-calorie chocolate desserts. Go big and bake a Five-Ingredient Chocolate Cake or keep it simple with these low-calorie Cocoa Fudge Cookies.
And don’t forget about fruit! A selection of fresh fruit is sometimes all it takes to satisfy that sweet tooth. You can even try making Poached Pears with Cardamom Cream or Broiled Grapefruit with Ginger and Maple Cream if you want to get fancy.
You need to think about eating well, exercising, and taking care of yourself throughout the year. Discover new ways to stay fit, active, and happy with these healthy living magazines.
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