These vegan mashed potato bowls with tempeh gravy are so festive and fun! They’re the perfect way to celebrate an intimate, low-key holiday or to channel the spirit of the holidays at any time. The bowls feature fluffy mashed potatoes and a savory, protein-packed tempeh gravy. If you’ve got a soy allergy, I’ve got you: there’s an option to make the gravy with chickpeas, too.
One of the things that’s said about holiday meals is that they’re all about the sides.
Actually, me! I like having a main dish for my holiday meal—something that’s substantial and celebratory.
I also like when that main dish feels as effortless as it does hearty and fun.
That’s why I created these vegan mashed potato bowls with tempeh gravy.
The bowls are every bit as filling as some of the other holiday entrées I’ve created, like my lentil sweet potato shepherd’s pie or red lentil chickpea loaf. But they’re a bit simpler to make, and they can be scaled to serve two or four people, rather than six or eight.
They’re also a perfect option for one person who is very, very glad to have leftovers.
I originally developed the recipe for these mashed potato bowls during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
That Thanksgiving, of course, was different.
Many folks were celebrating alone or with only one or two other people.
Big and elaborate feasts just weren’t a reality for a lot of families, my own small family included.
So, I thought about something that would deliver on holiday favorites in a compact, low-key way.
Mashed potatoes? Check.
Something green? Check.
A protein component? Check.
And of course, optional, yet highly recommended, cranberry sauce.
The resulting bowls quickly became a favorite. Nowadays I enjoy them often, simply as a means of channeling comfort and coziness, whether the winter holidays are approaching or not.
My fluffy vegan mashed potatoes are the base of these fun, festive holiday bowls.
They are very classic mashed potatoes, and they happen to be my mom’s favorite holiday side dish. There’s nothing like a buttery, pillowy bite of them.
You can read all about the science of super fluffy mashed potatoes in this post.
I actually do have a recipe for a traditional green bean casserole recipe.
But I wanted to keep things a little simpler for these mashed potato bowls, and I used steamed green beans as a vegetable component.
You could add some vegan butter to the beans for extra flavor. You could also use my quick steamed green beans with Dijon vinaigrette if you’d like more seasoning on the vegetables. I tend to think that the gravy is enough to season them well.
In place of green beans, you could add Brussels sprouts—another classic holiday side dish. You could also add broccoli, kale, or any other green vegetable to your bowl.
Alternately, try a simple salad in place of green beans (or cooked greens). This shaved Brussels sprout salad, my festive kale salad with coconut bacon, and my favorite butter lettuce side salad are all great.
Sometimes—OK, most of the time—I think it tastes better than mine. And my mom is a fan of the jellied version.
In the spirit of keeping things realistic, I suggest a store-bought cranberry sauce as a garnish for these bowls. You could use a sprinkle of dried cranberries, too, with or without a little handful of crispy baked vegan candied pecans.
You could substitute another relish or chutney that you love.
Or, you can omit the cranberry component altogether, option for some fresh parsley or chives as a garnish instead. The bowls will still feel fulsome and complete.
I chose tempeh, which may be my favorite plant protein, for the vegan mashed potato bowls.
As it turns out, tempeh is also a perfect addition to a creamy, savory gravy.
The tempeh is crumbled before it gets lightly sautéed, similar to the technique in this dish of tempeh “sausage” and grits.
Then, it’s covered in a simple vegan gravy, which I based off of this tried-and-true recipe.
Tempeh was actually quite hard to come by during quarantine, so when I developed the mashed potato bowls, I knew that I wanted to present my readers with a substitute option.
Of course, some people also have soy allergies, so the alternative is with them in mind, too.
I figured I’d test the recipe with chickpeas as well as with tempeh. I smashed the beans partially, using a coarse setting on my potato ricer, so that they’d be “crumbled” as well.
It worked perfectly. The bowls can be made with tempeh or chickpeas, depending on what you can find, what you like, and what’s appropriate for your eating style.
The chickpea version is pictured below. It reminds me of this hearty wintertime dish of creamy chickpeas and mushrooms, which is also made with mashed potatoes!
The steps here are really as you’d expect. Let’s go through the process together.
First, you’ll soak, rinse, steam, rice, and fold (or mash) your potatoes as described in this recipe. You may have more potatoes than you really need for the bowls, and this is OK!
Freeze the extra, if you like, for future happiness.
The steps for making the savory tempeh gravy are to make a flour and broth slurry, then add it to a hot skillet with sautéed tempeh crumbles.
You’ll season this gravy, heat it through, and simmer it until it thickens nicely.
Next, you’ll steam or microwave cook your green beans for the bowls. They should require about 5-6 minutes of steaming or 4-5 minutes of microwave cooking on high.
Finally, you’ll put your bowls together: a bed of mashed potatoes, a heap of green beans, a quarter of the savory tempeh gravy, and a dollop of cranberry sauce, if using.
Embrace the joy of eating homemade food every day with the hearty and wholesome recipes in The Vegan Week.
There are so many ways to make the mashed potato bowls with tempeh gravy in steps, so that you don’t have to prepare them all at once.
To start, you can prepare the mashed potatoes ahead of time. They’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days, and they can be reheated in the oven or in a slow cooker.
You can also freeze mashed potatoes for up to eight weeks, then defrost them in the fridge before reheating.
Ditto for the tempeh (or chickpea) gravy! You can prepare it up to three days before you plan to eat. The gravy will keep in the fridge for up to five days total. It, too, can be frozen for up to eight weeks.
And of course, green beans are easy to steam or microwave cook right before eating.
But even those can be prepared a day or two in advance of your meal. As can most green veggies you might like to add to this hearty, wholesome, cozy and festive meal.
It’s nice to have a holiday meal option that’s everything I want on a special, chilly day, without any of the cooking stress that I associate with special occasions.
I hope the vegan mashed potato bowls will bring you coziness and pleasure.