Thanksgiving wasn’t always a day of eating one’s self into a food induced coma. It’s believed that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 between the colonists and the Wamponoag Indians. The early settlers were dying of starvation and the Native Americans showed them how to work the land. After the first corn harvest, the settlers had a celebratory feast with the Natives to thank them. It is not believed that turkey was eaten, but we will never know for sure. But what we do know is that the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the harvest a grain. Yes, it was all about plant food.
Days of thanksgiving became a tradition for the early settlers, and in later years, many states adopted an annual Thanksgiving holiday. In 1827 magazine editor and writer Sarah Josepha Hale launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She wrote many stories romanticizing Thanksgiving. Many Thanksgiving “traditions” such as eating turkey and cranberry sauce actually came from Ms. Hale’s stories, not from history.
One of the most common questions I get asked when people learn that I’m vegan is “What do you eat for Thanksgiving?” I find a little strange, because there is so much bounty in plant-food, but I guess if you were raised on the traditions that Sarah Josepha Hale created, it might be a little difficult to fathom Thanksgiving without the bird carcass on the table. Fortunately veganism is gaining popularity, and more people are giving thanks without taking the life of an animal. Here is just a small sampling of some of the dishes that can be served at your vegan Thanksgiving celebration.
My Favorite Recipes for a Vegan Thanksgiving
Vegan Cheese and Apple Tartlets – They may look complicated, but these little mini tarts are easy to make, and they’re a great appetizer!
Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip Bites – These little bites are the perfect appetizer to kick of your meal!
Harvest Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette – Avoid filling up on some of those heavy, no-so-healthy foods by starting your meal off with this festive salad.
Holiday Kale Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing – This salad will add a splash of color to what is normally a very brown meal.
Roasted Kabocha Soup – If you prefer beginning your meal with something warmer than salad, give this spicy squash soup a try.
Creamy Vegan Cashew Mushroom Gravy – Pour this gravy over your mashed potatoes, holiday roast, stuffing, and just about anything that could use a little use a little extra flavor.
Creamed Kale – I made this dish at an (omnivore) in-store Thanksgiving cooking demo a few years and people were blown away by it. One women told me that she hated kale but she’d gladly eat this every day, and another told me that she was lactose intolerant and couldn’t believe there was no cream in it. If you’re serving this on Thanksgiving, you might want to double the recipe because it will disappear pretty quickly.
Spinach Mushroom Stuffing – I know that a lot of people like to put festive ingredients such as cranberries and chestnuts in their stuffing, but I’m a big fan of the savory spinach and mushroom combo. I almost always “cheat” and use packaged stuffing mix.
Spinach-Mushroom Polenta Stuffing – If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving gluten-free style this year, you can still enjoy stuffing. I’ve made a gluten-free version of my favorite spinach-mushroom stuffing using polenta instead of bread cubes.
Thanksgiving Rice – Scrumptious rice from Back to the Cutting Board by Christina Pirello is the perfect accompaniment to both a Thanksgiving feast and a Christmas dinner. It’s also a terrific side for just about any autumn or winter meal. It’s gluten-free and oil-free.
Super Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts – These sprouts are so easy to make that it’s almost silly not to make them!
Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots and Toasted Pistachios, – If there’s no room in your oven to roast sprouts, this pan seared version is just as tasty – if not, more so!
Hasselback Potatoes – These potatoes take very little time to make, and they make a delicious –and good looking! – side dish.
Vegan Scalloped Potatoes – Move over, mashed potatoes, Vegan Scalloped Potatoes are a perfect side dish for holiday feasts!
Vegan Kale and Potatoes Au Gratin – Thinly sliced potatoes, kale, and dairy-free cheese sauce come together deliciously in this ultimate side dish.
Smashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Cream – Smashed potatoes are cooked twice, giving them an extra crunch. They’re a terrific side for just about any meal!
Vegan Colcannon – If you prefer your potatoes mashed, you can’t go wrong with this dish, which has lots of greens mixed in.
Green Bean Casserole – Green Bean Casserole is a Thanksgiving favorite, and it’s a dish that doesn’t take very long to prepare. Rather than use canned and frozen foods in this recipe, which is how it was originally created, I used fresh green beans, onions, and mushrooms along with cashew cream cashew cream and panko breadcrumbs.
Garlicky Mashed Butternut Squash – This easy-to-make side dish will add a splash of color to the holiday table!
Maple Miso Glazed Squash – Because of this dish’s fall flavors, it’s a welcome addition to the holiday dinner table, but it’s perfect for weeknight meals as well.
Stuffed Mushrooms –It’s not Thanksgiving in my house without stuffed mushrooms. To save time, I didn’t make them one year and all of my guests freaked out. I’m constantly tweaking my recipe, adding garlic or greens. The most recent version is topped with pesto, and is my favorite yet.
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms – If you prefer larger, heartier mushrooms to small ones, give these stuffed portobellos a go. They’re a great main dish option.
Maple Miso Tempeh Cutlets – If you didn’t get enough maple-miso flavor with my squash recipe, you’ll need to make this recipe from But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan by Kristy Turner, which is a main dish for holiday meals.
Stuffed Acorn Squash – This recipe won best main dish in the Virtual Vegan Potluck two years ago, and it is quite a tasty dish, if I do say so myself. Thanksgiving guests will be impressed with stuffed squash as the centerpiece on their plates.
Quinoa Stuffed Squash – I created a gluten-free version of my original stuffed squash recipe since I have so many friends who can’t tolerate gluten. The beauty of stuffed squash is that you can use pretty much anything as the stuffing.
Vegetable Crescent Roll Ring – Stuffed with squash, mushrooms, kale, and garlic, this Vegetable Crescent Roll Ring will have everyone coming back for seconds!
Pumpkin Baked Ziti – If you feel like taking a non-traditional route and serving pasta for Thanksgiving this year, give this festive dish a try.
No-Bake Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake –This very easy no-bake recipe can be made days or even weeks in advance and stored in the freezer until you’re ready to serve it. Unless you tell them, your dinner guests will never guess that this sweet treat is made with cashews!
Baked Apples – This is a very simple dessert that comes together quickly. Since it’s light in nature, it can offset your heavy Thanksgiving meal.
Apple Crisp – Apples are in season this time of year, so it only makes sense to have them for Thanksgiving dessert. A crisp is easier to make than a pie, and I have to admit that I prefer it over pie too.
Autumn Apple Cider Sangria – Raise a glass and toast the holidays with Autumn Apple Cider Sangria!
Mulled Apple Cider – If you’d prefer a non-alcoholic drink, this hot Mulled Apple Cider is for you!
What’s on your menu this Thanksgiving?