Welcoming Vegetarians to Your Thanksgiving Table

by in Thanksgiving, The Veggie Table, November 13, 2011
Your vegetarian friends won't mind if there's turkey on the table, as long as there's plenty of veg-friendly fare for them to eat.

A 2008 study called Vegetarianism in America, published by Vegetarian Times, showed that 7.3 million people, and growing, follow a vegetarian diet. That means that there’s a good chance a vegetarian may be coming to your Thanksgiving dinner this month. If you’re not a vegetarian, you may be wondering how to accommodate an herbivore while keeping your favorite foods on the table. With a few simple recipe tweaks, you’ll be able to please both the meat and non-meat eaters alike without having to overhaul your entire menu.

Vegetable broth – When cooking recipes that call for chicken or beef stock, like in recipes for soups, stews, and casseroles, simply swap it for vegetable broth. Most of the flavors in both meat and veggie broths come from the spices anyway, so you won’t notice the flavor change one bit. A nice bonus is that it takes far less time to make a vegetable broth than a chicken or beef broth if you’re preparing it from scratch!

Dairy – If your vegetarian guests also don’t eat dairy, swap out the milk and butter for non-dairy replacements like soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and dairy-free spreads like Earth Balance Soy or Coconut spread.

Stuffing – Set some stuffing aside that hasn’t actually been, er, stuffed in the bird. To amp up the filling factor of your bread-based stuffing, you could add toasted nuts and dried fruit.

Omit the meat – If you’re using meat as more of a garnish for certain dishes, like bacon bits on a veggie side dish, keep them on the side for guests to sprinkle on if they wish.

If you have favorite meat-based dishes that you can’t possibly do without, just make sure to have enough well-rounded vegetarian dishes to satisfy all of your guests. Ask your guests ahead of time what they will or will not eat. Many people who call themselves vegetarians have different guidelines when it comes to eating poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Knowing what you can serve in advance will help make menu planning easier and you can rest assured knowing everyone will enjoy your Thanksgiving feast.

Here’s a completely meatless menu; sub in meat dishes as needed if you’re serving a mixed crowd.

Even though everyone in my family enjoys meat, Thanksgiving is still one of my favorite holidays and I always find plenty to eat. This year I’ll be bringing my 3-ingredient vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for dessert – a total crowd pleaser!

TELL US: What’s your favorite veg-friendly Thanksgiving dish?

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

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Comments (62)

  1. Pat says:

    My daughter and husband are lacto-vegetarians, so the choices are more varied than if they were vegan. We make a big dish of three-cheese mac 'n' cheese with seasoned bread crumb topping for the entree. (The meat eaters enjoy this as much as the vegetarians!) I also serve mushroom gravy, as well as giblet gravy and leave the meat out of the dressing and green beans. Everyone eats pretty much the same thing and has a wonderful time being together!

  2. Jan says:

    My husband is a vegetarian. I buy a soy/tofu based Turkey roll with gravy at Trader Joe's. It is a snap to prepare. Basically, add a few turkey spieces to roll, ( ideas on the package) wrap in foil and toss into the back of the oven while turkey is cooking. He loves it! I think it is called Tofu Turkey?

  3. Eleen says:

    As a lacto-ovo vegetarian, on the way to being vegan… I have found vegetarian protein entrees very helpful,
    in thinking of others who eat meat. MorningStar has wonderful frozen entrees available at many grocery stores including Walmart. The BBQ-"Rib" choice has pleased a variety of my friends who love their Ribs.
    I like the "chicken" meal starters and Garden burgers… My most recent find in the same freezer section of my favorite Walmart is Veggie Patch meatballs. They are wonderful with your favorite sauce, and I even use them as part of a grab and run lunch with a salad just as they are. Veggie Patch has a variety of entrees available.
    There are some regional health food and natural food stores which carry a variety of frozen and canned vegetarian protein items. A favorite frozen "chicken" roast (loaf pan size) is made by Worthington. This is great with a mushroom soup gravy and cranberry sauce. I buy mine at Apple Valley Natural Foods. They have 7 stores in the midwest, and an online store as well. Here is the link: http://www.avnf.com

    It is nice to more acceptance of vegetarianism in the media.

  4. […] If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, don’t forget about those with different dietary preferences.  Here’s some ideas for Welcoming Vegetarians to your Thanksgiving Table. […]

  5. AlessiaPearl says:

    Vegetarian food is so good and easy to make. Check my blog for meals full of vegetables. http://alessiascues.blogspot.com/

  6. Judye says:

    we need foods that contain very low sodium…is there any available, if so what?

  7. JP LeBoeuf says:

    One of the most impressive vegetarian thanksgiving meals I served was a homemade stuffing, with sauteed mushrooms and onions. It was served inside a sugar pumpkin. I removed the lid at the table. I did add some vegetable broth to the stuffing and just a dab of oil, with salt and pepper, sage. The rest of the menu was roasted garlic mashed potatoes. broccoli and carrots with gravy. We were stuffed and had indian pudding for dessert.

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