Taking the meat out of Turkey Day can be a challenge. Besides the main dish, several common Thanksgiving foods contain animal products. If you’re hosting a vegetarian Thanksgiving or serving a no-meat meal for only some of your guests, don’t worry. Here are seven tips for providing vegetarian dishes or tweaking traditional options.
Believe it or not, vegan whole turkey is an option. If your guests don’t want to indulge in turkey, they’ll still need a protein-based main dish. You could offer a quinoa or lentil option; both of these vegetarian protein sources offer rich, hearty flavors that will complement Thanksgiving side dishes. Bean-based soups or chilis are another option. Low on time? Consider purchasing a frozen vegetarian entrée. Your guests will appreciate having choices, even if they aren’t home-made.
This is one dish that’s easy to make vegetarian with a little planning. Traditional stuffing recipes use gravy and chicken or beef stock to add flavor. You can substitute vegetable broth or gravy with almost no change in flavor. Making your own vegetable stock is easy, but you can also purchase it in cubed or liquid form at the grocery store.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Be careful. Not all marshmallows are vegan or vegetarian. Even though they’re sweet and delicious, traditional marshmallows are made with gelatin, an animal byproduct. If you’re hosting a vegetarian, you’ll need to serve vegan or vegetarian marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole.
As an alternative, you could offer whole sweet potatoes with loads of brown sugar baked on top or on the side. Your health-conscious guests will appreciate this offering, but those with a sweet tooth will also love it. You could also look for vegetarian marshmallows and make a traditional casserole with a modern update.
Believe it or not, some beers use animal products in the filtering stages. Gelatin is used by some companies, as is isinglass, an ingredient created from fish bladders. European beers are more likely to use these ingredients as they follow traditional aging and casking procedures. Major U.S.-based brands like MillersCoors and Anheuser-Busch only produce vegetarian beers. Not all vegetarians worry about how their beers were filtered, but for a true vegetarian Thanksgiving, it won’t hurt to include at least one vegetarian beer on your grocery list.
Don’t forget to purchase vegetarian gravy to serve with your mashed potatoes. Your guests won’t want a turkey-based option, nor will they want to eat plain potatoes. Mushroom gravy is a popular choice and has a savory flavor profile.
Baked Beans and Green Beans
Do your regular bean dishes include bacon or ham? If so, try to plan a second batch without meat. It won’t take long, and your vegetarian guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Pies are another surprisingly not-vegetarian dish. Many traditional recipes use lard, or animal fat, to add flavor and flakiness to the crust. If you purchase a pre-made crust, check the ingredients first. If you cook from scratch and don’t want to alter grandma’s secret recipe, that’s okay. Just let your guests know that the pie isn’t vegetarian and make sure to offer other dessert options.
You can still have a great vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner with these changes. Squash, pumpkin, and potatoes are all delicious fall vegetables you can serve. Roast a fall vegetable medley, offer pumpkin soup, or bake spaghetti squash for a kid-friendly vegetarian option. Let your guests be an inspiration to try brand-new dishes or new twists on old recipes.