Vegan Guide to Thanksgiving: Recipes and Tips for Plant-Based Eaters

No turkey? No problem. We've got plenty of plant-based foods for the holiday ahead.

Vegan Guide to Thanksgiving illustration, featuring Brussels sprouts, mashed sweet potato, stuffed mushrooms, lasagna, rolls, and salad.

Treehugger / Lindsey Reynolds

Thanksgiving is a cherished holiday for its focus on family, food, and gratitude. Each year, everyone loosens their belts and awaits the big feast. Turkey is the main event for many families in the United States; approximately 46 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving, and about 217 million are killed annually. This, plus all the dairy-laden side dishes, makes this holiday challenging for first-time vegans.

Fortunately, there are more plant-based foods and recipes available than ever before. Here, we detail some of our favorite vegan Thanksgiving foods you might consider bringing to dinner this year. Plus, check out our expert tips for navigating Thanksgiving as a vegan among your non-vegan friends and family.

Our Favorite Vegan Thanksgiving Foods

From plant-based apps to entrées to decadent desserts, you certainly won't go hungry this holiday. Here are 17 vegan Thanksgiving dish ideas that are sure to satisfy.

1. Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Artichoke spinach dip
VeselovaElena / Getty Images

Don't let the vegetables in the name fool you—this classic appetizer usually includes cream cheese, sour cream, and additional cheeses. Fortunately, there are vegan alternatives to all of these dairy items, and the result is still a creamy, tasty dip perfect for chips or veggie sticks.

2. Sweet Potato Soup

Opt for a rich, slightly sweet vegan soup as a tasty appetizer. Sweet potato soup recipes are fairly simple, involving a few quick steps of cooking the vegetables, broth, and spices together, then pureeing the mixture. Garnish with red pepper flakes, herbs, or green onions.

3. Autumn Salad

Mixed salad and bread
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Get creative and spruce up your salad course with fall fruits and veggies—think cubed sweet potatoes, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and crisp apples. Toss in some pecans and add your favorite salad dressing—we like balsamic vinegar, tahini-based dressing, and even a simple olive-oil-and-salt mixture.

Treehugger Tip

Who says you need a near-identical turkey replacement? Swap the bird for an extra heap of cooked chickpeas, lentils, or tofu—any of which can be added to your salad or stuffing.

4. Mashed Potatoes

Traditionally loaded with dairy, vegan mashed potatoes typically include vegan butter and non-dairy milk. We guarantee you won't be able to tell the difference.

5. Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower in cooking pan served on dining table
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

There are dozens of ways to flavor and serve cauliflower. To achieve caramelization, drizzle the head of cauliflower with olive oil or melted vegan butter (as well as salt, pepper, garlic, and whatever else you prefer) before baking. The result should be a buttery brown exterior.

6. Green Bean Casserole

This is another dish that can be easily made vegan: Swap the dairy milk for soy or almond, and leave out any other non-vegan items, such as bacon or heavy cream.

7. Butternut Squash Curry

Put a fall spin on Thai curry with generously spiced butternut squash. Many curries have a coconut milk base, making them vegan. Just make sure the broth you use is indeed a vegetable broth.

8. Pumpkin Ravioli

Pumpkin Ravioli
huePhotography / Getty Images

This is one of our more ambitious suggestions, but we promise pumpkin ravioli will be a major hit at your Thanksgiving meal. Make sure to use vegan cheese for the ravioli filling. Create a plant-based sauce to pair with your pasta; you can make the extra pumpkin filling more liquidy, or whip up a vegan brown butter sauce.

9. Three Sisters Side Dish

Customize a three-sisters side bowl with corn, squash, and beans. The possibilities are endless—you can create a soup or chili, a side salad, or vegetable stuffing.

10. Lentil Stuffing

Protein-packed and flavorful, lentil stuffing can be a vegan's main event in place of turkey. For any vegan stuffing, choose your bread cubes carefully. Italian bread, challah, and a crusty baguette all have great textures and tastes for this dish.

11. Tofurky Roasts

Tofurky is a company that produces vegan meat alternatives, including its signature plant-based turkey and ham roasts for the holidays. While this meat substitute is often poked fun at by meat-eaters and in popular media, a plant-based roast can be quite delicious, especially for new vegans or vegetarians who miss the taste of meat. Don't knock it till you try it!

12. Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms
Aniko Hobel / Getty Images

Stuffed mushrooms typically include walnuts or pine nuts, rice or bread crumbs, spices, and sometimes celery, onions, and vegan cheese. These apps are filling enough to be moved to your entrée list.

13. Lasagna

Vegans, rejoice—you don't have to sacrifice your favorite cheesy pasta. Lasagna is another main dish with which you can get creative. Use either vegan cheese or vegetables as the primary filling; we like eggplant and sweet potato.

Treehugger Tip

When putting together a vegan holiday meal, think outside the box. You don't have to stick to recipes that are based on a traditional Thanksgiving dish.

14. Dinner Rolls

soft and fluffy homemade dinner rolls
from_my_point_of_view / Getty Images

Many types of bread you find in the bakery or grocery are already vegan, so long as they don't include eggs, milk, honey, or other animal products. Spice up your rolls with rosemary, garlic, and thyme.

15. Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts are taken to a whole new level when roasted. Pop these vegetables in the oven with olive oil, garlic, and herbs, and wait for the magic of caramelization to take place.

16. Homemade Nice Cream

Homemade ice cream
Mizina / Getty Images

You can buy some dairy-free ice cream from the grocery store for your Thanksgiving meal, or you can make your own. "Nice" cream is a plant-based spin on ice cream made from frozen fruit (typically bananas), plant-based milk, and other yummy vegan mix-ins. Many recipes are simple and only include a handful of ingredients. Add a scoop or two onto your vegan pie after the big meal.

17. Apple Crisp

As with many vegan baked goods, there are plenty of vegan apple crisp recipes that range from very easy with minimal ingredients to advanced with all the delicious bells and whistles. Again, dairy-free milk and butter are key here.

Tips for Vegans Attending a Non-Vegan Thanksgiving

Woman serving salad to friends at dinner party
The Good Brigade / Getty Images

Given the small percentage of people who identify as vegan in the United States—the majority of survey results fall under 5%—it can feel awkward and isolating to navigate a Thanksgiving meal filled with traditional, animal-based dishes. You'll want to be polite to meat-eating family members and friends who offer you food while still maintaining your vegan values.

This feat doesn't have to be stressful. Here are some tips to help you enjoy the holiday.

Talk to the Host

Make your vegan preferences known. Politely explain that you are following a plant-based diet and will be avoiding animal products at the main meal. Offer to bring a vegan dish or two. By communicating in advance, you’ll avoid any uncertainty or uncomfortable feelings that may arise on the holiday. 

Bring Your Own...

What’s your favorite dish? Remember: It’s a holiday, and everybody should have fun and enjoy their food. Whether you decide to whip up a large vegan stuffing, mash some potatoes, or buy some store-bought, plant-based cookies, make sure you’re excited about it.

Eat Ahead of the Main Meal

If you aren’t in a position to talk to the host, schedule your eating in a way that works for you. Of course, don't fill up too much beforehand; you can always eat whatever vegan dish you decide to bring.

Also, consider stashing a quick vegan snack, such as a protein bar or trail mix, in your bag if you aren't sure what plant-based snacks await you at the gathering.

Focus on the Other Aspects of the Holiday

Yes, this holiday is largely centered on food. But it is also about spending quality time with loved ones, enjoying fall festivities and traditions, and giving thanks. Remain present-minded this Thanksgiving and take a holistic approach to your celebration. You're bound to have a lovely time with your party—differing food preferences and all.

View Article Sources
  1. "Have A Food-Safe Holiday Season." United States Department of Agriculture.

  2. "Turkey Sector: Background and Statistics." United States Department of Agriculture.

  3. "Snapshot: Few Americans Vegetarian or Vegan." Gallup. 2018.