The Veggie Table: Thanksgiving Tips for the Vegetarian

by in Healthy Holidays, Thanksgiving, The Veggie Table, November 14, 2009

Cranberry Mold
With that huge turkey, sausage-filled stuffing, buttery rolls, creamy casseroles and more, the traditional Thanksgiving spread isn’t exactly vegetarian- or vegan-friendly. When you’re the cook, you can make sure to serve options that fit your diet, but if your host isn’t serving vegetarian fare, don’t despair. Here are some tips on how to navigate — and still enjoy — the feast.

Take Stock
Be mindful of where the flavor comes from. Grandma’s pumpkin soup and vegetable stuffing may seem veg-friendly, but she likely uses chicken or even beef stock. If you’re worried, ask your host and maybe suggest that he or she make a side or two with vegetable stock. If your host (or guests) balk at the thought, prepare a version for yourself and offer it up to everyone else along with the meatier stuff. Most likely, no one will be able to tell that you swapped chicken stock with veggie stock — especially if you up the flavor with fresh herbs.

The Main Event: Turkey
Just because you don’t eat meat, that doesn’t mean your meal has to lack protein. Many Thanksgiving dinners include a soup course, which you can turn into a main dish. Again, see if your host will switch to vegetable broth or offer to bring your own squash stew or bean chili for everyone. This recipe will provide the protein you need to satisfy you and other guests, and there’s no need to turn to cooking up one of those prepackaged, meat-substitutes such as Tofurky.

Not Always Room for Jell-O
I always loved the sweet dishes that made it to our family’s Thanksgiving table — my mom’s gelatin mold and my grandma’s sweet potato casserole dotted with mini-marshmallows. But when I celebrated my first vegetarian Thanksgiving, I vetted the classic dishes to weed out what wouldn’t work. That included those gelatin-containing sides. Gelatin, the ingredient that gives Jell-O, marshmallows and even jiggly cranberry sauce their bounce, is made out of the collagen in cow or pig bones, hooves and connective tissues. There are great vegetarian gels and marshmallows on the market that you can use, but why not stick to a simpler, more wholesome option: Sprinkle your sweet potatoes with a little brown sugar or a squirt of agave (or just enjoy their sweetness au naturale).

But There’s Butter
You bet there’s butter in those pies, mashed potatoes and more. There may be milk and eggs as well. If you avoid dairy ingredients altogether, bring along your own sweet treat — one featuring fresh harvest fruits. Try preparing a warm Apple Compote (serve with a scoop of dairy-free ice cream) or some cinnamon-spiced baked pears. Without all that butter, these sweets are lower calorie, too.

TELL US: What is your favorite vegetarian recipe for Thanksgiving?

Janel Ovrut, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Dine Dish Delish, and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel. Catch up on her previous posts here.

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Comments (5)

  1. Krikri says:

    Frying of turkeys during this time is sure going to be hard time for people trying to avoid fat but you have less fatty substitutes that people can look to – for example the Endive and Watercress Salad with Pomegranate Dressing.

  2. Mike says:

    My wife makes a mean stuffed acorn squash with basmati rice, pecans, and cranberries, and a delicious vegan pumpkin pie that we top with Purely Decadent coconut milk ice cream. All to the delight of our omnivorous family and friends!

  3. @kencasey says:

    Thanks for the ideas. I was almost ready to slip into eating Turkey this year. And, Tofurkey didn't do it for me.

  4. Sandra says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I am facing my first vegetarian Thanksgiving. My family has been supportive and plans to swap out chicken broth for vegetable broth. I did not even think about the cranberry sauce! Thanks for more great ideas.

  5. vitamin b1 says:

    It sounds great ! Thank you very much for sharing such nice different recipes here. I visited the links and found all recipes. I will try to make them.

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