Vegan Thanksgiving 2010
November 23, 2010

Thanks, everyone, for such positive and interesting responses to my trip to the Dole Wellness and Nutrition Bloggers’ Summit! If you missed any recaps, catch up:

Day one: Travel and Cocktail Reception

Day two: A controversial breakfast

Day two: Wellness and Pampering

Days two and three: Iron Chef Challenge and Farewell Breakfast

Thanksgiving Talk

As promised in yesterday’s post, I’m back with some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes!

Thanksgiving can be a rough day for vegans: we’re shuffled to and from family events and potlucks that have nary a vegan dish, and if that’s not enough stress, we’re also forced to watch the turkey carved with heavy hearts.

Some of us–especially the newly vegan among us–might also experience some new social discomforts. Perhaps we spend the drive to Grandmother’s house nervously hoping that questions won’t be asked about why we’re not eating the turkey. Or perhaps we spend days fretting about what dish to contribute to the dinner party we’re attending–or whether it will be rude to bring a dish at all.

As a veteran of all of these scenarios, let me offer a calming word to my newly vegan friends: relax. Thanksgiving is, first and foremost, a day to celebrate good company and good spirits, and there’s no reason to panic simply because your food politics are evolving. Instead, see this year as an opportunity to share your passion for compassionate eating with the people you love. When asked why you’re not partaking of the turkey, simply smile and say, “I’m actually exploring a vegan/vegetarian/plant-based diet right now, and really enjoying how I feel.” When invited to a get-together, politely and unassumingly call the host and ask if you might contribute a veg*n-friendly dish. If he or she is open, you might even ask what sort of foods would be welcome: would he/she like a soup? A grain dish? Maybe even an introduction to tempeh?

These same good manners go for raw eaters and health freaks who are attending vegan potlucks with limited healthy options. If you’re quivering in your pleather boots because you fear that you’ll have nothing to eat but Tofurkey, green bean smothered in fried onions, (yes, fried onions are usually vegan), and sweet potatoes slathered in Earth Balance and Sweet and Sara marshmallows (which are heaven, by the way), remember a) that you’re lucky to be eating vegan at all b) that Thanksgiving is a day of celebration, not a day to play health food police, and c) it’s also fine to offer to bring a more raw-friendly dish to the table. Just call your host and ask if he or she would be up for your bringing some kind of raw contribution. And you can bet that, wherever you go, there will be at least a few scrumptious salads and veggie dishes to savor.

When I was growing up, it wasn’t in a family of passionate cooks. There were cooks, sure–outspoken ones–but cooking was often greeted with some degree of annoyance. Vegetarian cooking was unheard of–my mother’s family recipe for stuffing was beef based! (If there is anything more frightening to a vegetarian kid than cow stuffed in bird, I’d like to know what it is, please.)

Now that I’m a little older, I get the the joy and satisfaction of helping to create the culinary celebrations that were never quite a part of my childhood, and I get to veganize them. What could be more fun? I know that many vegans have iffy feelings about Thanksgiving, and of course I understand that–it’s hard for a vegan to identify with a holiday that’s so directly tied to the consumption of animal food. But I’ve come to appreciate Thanksgiving in my own way, because it gives me a chance to cook and share the kinds of food I feel passionate about. I won’t actually be cooking this year, but I do still have plenty of recipe ideas for those of you who are hoping to celebrate your first–or your fiftieth–plant based holiday. Without further ado, here are some of my picks:

The Night Before

There’s a good chance you’ll spend this evening cooking, and you’ll be tempted to simply start your Thanksgiving feast ahead of time. Instead of finishing the vegan stuffing before it’s stuffed, why not just make a really simple vegan dinner? Throw together a nutrient dense salad

…or give my kabocha and avocado sandwich a try.

Or, if all you want to do is run your blender, simply whip up a blended salad.

Thanksgiving Day

Starters & Snacks

Cashew Cheese with Meyer Lemon and Dried Cherries + Flax Chips

Walnut and Lentil Pate

Cheesy Red Pepper and Hemp Dip

Zucchini Hummus

Appetizers: Soups and Salads

Arugula, Radicchio, Fennel, and Orange Salad

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Tomato, Corn, and Butter Lettuce Salad with “Buttermilk” Dressing

Cauliflower Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Raw Borscht

Side Dishes

Raw Walnut Stuffing

Roast Veggies (any variation!)

Corn and Zucchini Pancakes

Root Vegetable Mash

Raw Cranberry Sauce


Raw Nut Loaf

Acorn Squash with Cinnamon Scented Quinoa

Raw Sprouted Wheatberry Salad

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Burgers (crowd pleaser alert!)

Beet Ravioli with Sweet Root Veggie Filling

Easier-Than-Pie Desserts

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Banana Soft Serve

If that’s not enough inspiration for you, check out some of my other favorite Thanksgiving ideas from fellow vegan or vegan-friendly bloggers.

The Savory:

Karina’s Corn Bread Stuffing and Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

Kristen’s Harvest Soup

Susan V’s Green Bean Casserole

Isa’s Fluffy Mashed Potatoes and Savory Mushroom Gravy

Lauren’s Wild Rice and Sweet Potato Croquettes

Kathy’s Tofu Pie

VegWeb’s Seitan Roast

Heidi’s Maple Grilled Tempeh and Roasted Pumpkin Salad

The Sweet:

Lolo’s Mini Apple Pies

Kristen’s Pecan Spice Cookies

Kathy’s Five Ingredient Pumpkin Pie

Ange’s Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

Hannah’s Semifreddo (also check out her Thanksgiving quiche!)

Celine’s Apple Pie in Pecan Crust

OK friends. If you’re not excited to cook by now, you don’t have a heartbeat.

I’m wishing you all happy, healthy, and hearty Thanksgiving dinners. Of course, I’ll see you back here before Thursday, and I’ll be narrating my Thanksgiving travels step by step.


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  1. My heart just fluttered, stopped and I saw stars! Wow. There is probably around five different recipes I bookmarked. Your fantastic. Thats all I can say. I just put together an email I wanted to send to you. Please check it soon!


  2. I think with all of these dishes we could put traditional turkey day to shame.

    But youre right, its not about the food, its about good times with good people. Im really lucy to have a family that supports my decisions my be very vegan. Thats what Im thankful for!

  3. Your spread is stunning! For me I have to say that Thanksgiving is all about the familiar flavors, veggie or vegan or not. Many are vegan (if oil is used in place of butter): mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry grape chutney, green beans, stuffed mushrooms (contain cheese but I bet cashew cheese would be delicious), almond brussel sprouts, stuffing, and pie. Yum! At the moment I am regretting eating from the whole foods hot bar tonight, because I appreciate Thanksgiving so much more when I haven’t been eating related foods all week. Looking forward to cooking, sleeping, and seeing my relatives… in a very chilly Seattle.

  4. OMG! We don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving here in Mexico but I wish we did! All your food looks AMAZING!!
    First I’d set up a plate with walnut-lentil pate, hummus, red pepper dip and crudites and flax crackers.
    Then for soups I’d choose the raw borsch and the butternut squash and apple soup.
    For main dishes I’d choos the stuffed acorn squash and cranberry saauce on the side, and finally!!! for desert I’d choose Celine’s apple pie topped with banana soft serve!
    OMG I’m going to dream about this hahahah

  5. omg, I’m dying. I’ve been looking at holiday recipes for weeks and feeling completely uninspired. This is the *first* time I’ve looked at a menu and actually felt excited – and hungry! Good job, Gena! You pulled together an amazing selection, both from your own recipes and from your friends’. I forsee a bookmark frenzy. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      • Totally boring compared to your ideas! I had already planned the menu, so it’s too late to change. I’m supplementing my parents’ omni menu with some plant-based offerings. They’re doing the typical turkey, dressing, potatoes, rolls, pecan pie and cranberry jelly, so I’m bringing a pumpkin, wild rice & mushroom casserole, green beans amandine, cranberry orange compote, and a crustless sugar-free pumpkin pie. I’m nervous about the casserole, but I guess the worst that can happen is that I end up eating a lot of green beans! 🙂 I think I’ll be pulling out some of your ideas for Christmas and just for my own benefit in the future. Thanks again for posting them!

  6. I’m bringing a cinnamon- kale coconut farro dish, and you’re totally the inspiration behind it! Instead of using almond milk, I’ll be using coconut and adding some curry powder as well. Thanks Gena and I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving 🙂

  7. I am so excited for Thanksgiving this year! My sister and I are doing some raw and some cooked but vegan recipes 🙂 So much fun!

  8. What a helpful compilation! I’m actually not partaking in Thanksgiving this year because I’m not visiting family so I don’t really see the point. I’m actually looking forward to just going out for Indian food and ignoring the holiday. But last year I made a huge 100% Thanksgiving feast and it was awesome! And I made Susan V’s green bean casserole last year, it was very good.

  9. Great post – again, I’m loving your level-headedness and great perspectives. More and more people are aware of different foodways among different people now, and surprisingly to me, the people in my circle of friends who are least accepting of it are a couple of ‘manly-men’ guys who apparently take avoidance of white flour/sugar/meat as something of a personal attack on their own food choices! I just keep my head down and avoid talking food around them, which can be difficult, as whenever I bring a dish to share, it tends to invite comments and questions!

    Beautiful recipes and photos – thanks for sharing!

  10. I love it! So many good recipes. I pretty much took everything for my recent Thanksgiving off Oh She Glows 🙂

    I have actually embraced THanksgiving since going vegan. Before I moved to Oz, I started a tradition of a vegan Thanksgiving with just my brother in law, sister and niece. My mom started going on holiday just to avoid the extended family, so we found a way to avoid it too! No fighting or judging – just good, honest vegan food.

    Now I’ve brought that tradition to Oz and I have an annual vegan feast with friends. I love it 🙂

  11. From an omni’s perspective:

    1)I believe a host should ask each guest personally if he or she has any special food needs. Whe serving food in your home it is a responsibility to make sure everyone has the ability to enjoy him/herself and this means respecting and honoring everyone’s food choices or religious/moral guidelines. Within reason of course but I will happily indicate which dishes are vegan and serve them as far away from the meat as possible. I want you to leave my house with un-buttoned pants and a smile on your face regardless of if you ate meat or not.

    2) I LOVE food contributions, whether due to personal food choices or just because. The traditional dishes will be there but having a new and fun dish to try is always exciting. Please never feel like you are insulting the host by offering to bring something or explaining your food needs or limitations. Someone who doesn’t try to understand this or refuses to be flexible is not someone who you want to be around anyway.

    • Thanks Tasha. I tend to err on the side of TOO polite, so this is a welcome reminder that hosts should also do their part in accommodating different kinds of eaters.

  12. Yummm these recipes look so delicious (especially the butternut sqaush and apple soup!) I’m making Savory Autumn Leaf Pies from the Vegan Lunchbox for my vegetarian contribution to the Thanksgiving table. Oh btw-I made massaged kale salad for the first time ever on Sunday–the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my entire life!! Thank you so much for your inspiration, Gena!

    Random Question for Gena: When you mention nus in recipes, should I assume you mean raw nuts, or does it depend on the recipe?

    Thank you!

  13. First of all, most frightening non-vegan thxgiving food -Turducken. A chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey, all with a thick layer of stuffing between. Um…ugh. My family actually got one, one Thanksgiving. Unrelated, there was an emergency trip to the hospital that weekend, but to my impressionable burgeoning vegetarian eyes, the two were inexplicably linked.
    Thankfully, I am not the only vegetarian (although I am the only vegan) in my family, and I can count on there being plenty of animal-free veg dishes. But since I have reserved Wednesday for a trip to the Greenmarket and vegan cooking, so thank you very very much for the fabulous inspiration!!

  14. Thanks for the round-up! I am so overloaded with recipes that I have to STOP looking! And I’m only cooking for 1 and some potlucks. BTW, I never play health police at vegan potlucks. It’s thanksgiving for pete’s sake!

  15. I love this: “let me offer a calming word to my newly vegan friends: relax. ”

    Thank you!!!! I just posted yesterday about the holidays and living with a sense of gratitude. And that BECAUSE we live with a sense of gratitude it should mitigate and reduce some of the (unncessary) stressing about the little things in life, i.e. if something was truly raw or not, if you are running 5 mins late to the post office, if you worked out that day or not…not really big life stuff. And to just RELAX is a the name of the game.

    And today I just posted about holidays with family/friends: blessed or stressed? Of course there is ALWAYS a bit of stress in these situations but I love your tactics and thoughts here, very similar to my own logic.

    And this post with all this food…I remember your TG post last year. It feels like YESTERDAY that I was reading it. And also like a lifetime ago. It’s so surreal. I mean, I vividly remember sitting at my computer and commenting on it. Wow. A year later…

    Happy Holiday Season, Gena!


  16. Thank you for such a trove of recipes for this holiday! Thanksgiving in my house was never focused on the turkey due to such a large number of veg people in attendence. This year it’s just my partner and myself and I’m thrilled to have a day given to just cooking, eating, relaxing and giving thanks. I am thankful for having a family (albeit far away) that always totally respects my food choices and sees them as an adventurous challenge rather than a burden. I wasn’t sure at first how they would react and I’m glad that I gave them the opportunity to show me how loving and supportive they are. It can be important to remember that if a family of origin environment is emotionally toxic for any reason (food, body image, sexuality, gender expression, you name it), there are ways to decline an invitation and to identify a family of your choosing who are supportive and create new traditions.