Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family, giving thanks and, of course, eating lots of food. However, Thanksgiving isn't exactly a vegetarian-friendly holiday. If you're having a vegetarian over for Thanksgiving for the first time, or if you have switched to vegetarianism recently, don't fret over skipping the greatest meal of the year. There are plenty of vegetarian Thanksgiving meal ideas that will keep everyone's stomach satiated.
Turkey is the star of Thanksgiving dinner, so finding its vegetarian understudy may seem like a difficult task. Here are some vegetarian-friendly foods to keep an eye out for:
- Field Roast Grain Meat Co. Celebration Roast - Field Roast offers a lot of vegetarian meat dishes made from grain meat, or wheat dough that has been kneaded free of starch. Each Celebration Roast is made by hand and is stuffed with a stuffing made from apples, mushrooms and butternut squash.
- Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk'y - These faux turkey breasts are filled with a savory stuffing made with onions, celery and cranberries. It also comes with vegetarian-friendly gravy.
- Tofurky - The Tofurky roast is made from tofu and wheat protein and is filled with a wild rice and whole wheat bread crumb stuffing. You can buy the Tofurky Savory Giblet Gravy separately or you can buy a package that contains both the roast and the gravy. Or, if you want the whole kit and caboodle, Tofurky offers a Vegetarian Feast complete with Tofurky Jurky Wishstix and an Organic Chocolate Cake from Amy's Kitchen.
Check your local health food store or visit the product's website for a list of stores or locations in your area that sell that product.
Side Dishes and Desserts
With traditional stuffing and gravy being a vegetarian no-no, the list of side dishes may appear bleak. And making two different dinners to please meat-eaters and vegetarians alike is just too much work. So here are some tips on how to tweak the traditional recipes to make them vegetarian:
- If you or the person coming to dinner is vegan, then milk and eggs must be substituted in every recipe that calls for them. You can use soy milk, soy butter or soy margarine and soy cheese instead.
- Although the marshmallows are many people's favorite part of candied yams, vegetarians will not eat them. That's because they are made with gelatin, which is made from the collagen in animal bones. To make the dish vegetarian-friendly, either omit the marshmallows or make half of it with marshmallows and half of it without.
- If you are making side dishes that contain meat, such as a sausage stuffing or green beans with bacon, set aside a portion of it to be made without the meat.
- You can also set aside a portion of the stuffing and bake it in a separate pan instead of inside the turkey.
- If you are making separate portions, make sure you use separate utensils when both cooking and serving. Use one set of utensils for the vegetarian portion and one set of utensils for the regular portion.
If you want to make a completely vegetarian meal, or if you want to add some side dishes geared specifically toward non-meat-eaters, here are some you can try:
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Steamed Spinach
- Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
- Mushroom or Vegetable Gravy
- Balsamic Roasted Vegetables
For dessert, you can make a vegetarian pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake using tofu or vegetarian cream cheese instead of eggs. The use of tofu also makes the dessert vegan-friendly. Here are some other dessert ideas:
- Cranberry Apple Pie
- Pear Tart
- Pear-Cranberry Pie
- Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
More Vegetarian Thanksgiving Meal Tips
- Check all ingredient labels for animal-derived products such as gelatin and whey before using any product in a dish that is meant for vegetarians.
- If a vegetarian is coming to your house, you may want to ask that person to bring a side dish or dessert. It can take some of the pressure off of you as a cook.
- If you're the host or hostess, make sure that all guests treat each other with respect. It's easy for the vegetarian to feel like an outsider and some meat-eaters may not understand that choice, so it's your job to keep the peace between both sides.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Thanksgiving Meal
Eating vegetarian, even if it is just for that Thanksgiving meal, has its benefits. The vegetarian diet is high in fiber and antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals. According to WebMD, that kind of diet can protect the body from many diseases, including cancer. Here are some other benefits of the vegetarian diet:
- Decreased risk of heart disease
- Lower body mass index
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower risk of obesity
- Decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Decreased risk of developing prostate or colon cancer
The Thanksgiving meal is probably the most stressful - and delicious - meal you will make all year. Having to accommodate a vegetarian may sound like an added stressor, but it doesn't have to be. With a few simple substitutions and an extra side dish or two, you'll have a meal that will satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.