Eating has been much more than meeting the nutritional needs of our bodies in all cultures. Often, gatherings take place around a table that brings family and friends together. Thanksgiving is one of the most beautiful examples of such gatherings. However, in such a lovely social activity, you wouldn't want to face difficulties due to your dietary choices. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, we discuss how you can enjoy Thanksgiving in this article.
There are vegan and vegetarian alternatives for turkey dishes, such as Stuffed Butternut Squash, Vegan Lentil Loaf, or Layered Roasted Vegetables.
Many traditional Thanksgiving dishes are already vegetarian and adaptable to a vegan menu.
You can include common side dishes and desserts to your menu to ensure satisfaction for both meat-eating and vegan/vegetarian guests, fostering inclusivity.
Have some fresh-veggie salads for a healthier Thanksgiving, balancing the high-calorie nature of traditional dishes.
What is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is an American holiday of gratitude, reflection, and coming together with loved ones around a shared table annually in November. Historically, Thanksgiving traces its roots back to 1621 when the English colonists, known as Pilgrims, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, shared a harvest feast with the native Wampanoag people.
In contemporary times, the holiday is celebrated with a substantial turkey dinner, alongside traditions such as American football, parades, and volunteer work. The day following Thanksgiving is famously known as Black Friday, marked by massive commercial sales and shopping as people kick off the Christmas season.
Traditional Thanksgiving celebration
The annual holiday originally was for commemorating the fall harvest through a plentiful feast. Although Thanksgiving menus generally follow tradition, they can vary based on regional and cultural distinctions.
A typical Thanksgiving dinner often includes a substantial roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. American stuffing, alternatively referred to as dressing, is commonly crafted with bread chunks and baked in a roasting dish. Additionally, popular side dishes encompass green bean casserole and macaroni and cheese.
For those who have adopted a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, the holiday may initially seem like a culinary challenge because the main course is, but with a bit of creativity and intention, hosting a plant-based Thanksgiving can be a delicious and satisfying experience.
What can a vegan/vegetarian eat on Thanksgiving?
Vegans avoid consuming any animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. Their diet consists of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Vegetarians do not consume meat, poultry, and fish but can include other animal products, such as dairy products and eggs, in their diet. There are different types of vegetarian diets, including:
- Lacto-vegetarian (which contains dairy but no eggs)
- Ovo-vegetarian (which contains eggs but no dairy)
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian (which contains both dairy and eggs)
A vegan or vegetarian can enjoy a varied Thanksgiving feast by exploring plant-based alternatives to traditional dishes. Additionally, many traditional Thanksgiving dishes are suitable for preparation vegan or vegetarian.
Meal choices for a vegan & vegetarian Thanksgiving
Here are some ideas on how to veganize your Thanksgiving.
Reimagine the main course
One of the first considerations for a plant-based Thanksgiving is rethinking the centerpiece. Instead of the traditional turkey, explore alternatives like a Stuffed Butternut Squash, Vegan Lentil Loaf, or roasted vegetables like Layered Sweet Potatoes. These dishes cater to a plant-based diet and bring a burst of flavor and creativity to the table.
Boost side dishes
Even though it is thought that roasted turkey is the star of Thanksgiving, sides are often the highlight of any Thanksgiving meal. The good news is that many traditional Thanksgiving sides are already vegetarian and can be easily adapted with vegan recipes. Mashed potatoes can be made with vegan butter and plant-based milk, and a rich Vegan Gravy can tie everything together for a depth of flavor.
If you are a host and have both meat-eating and vegan and vegetarian guests, it would be better to choose side dishes. This way, even though you traditionally serve turkey as the main course, you can be sure that your vegan and vegetarian guests will be satisfied with the delicious side dishes on your holiday table.
It is also important that people do not feel excluded by special and different meals served only to them in such gatherings. You can better capture the Thanksgiving spirit if you ensure that there are common meals on the table that you can share together.
Vegan & vegetarian stuffing
For some, Thanksgiving is all about the stuffing. American stuffing or dressing is typically made with a mixture of sausage pieces, bread, and potatoes cooked in a roasting pan. Instead of sausage, you can use vegan sausages or roasted vegetables such as zucchini, peppers, and Brussels sprouts.
Stuffed Mushrooms, Vegan Spinach, and Artichoke Dip, made with plant-based ingredients, are also great choices and are suitable for everyone.
It's a good idea to have a salad on the table, not just for vegans and vegetarians, but for everyone to finish Thanksgiving healthy and satisfied. As is common in such dinners, high-calorie, fatty, and difficult-to-digest foods are generally consumed in large quantities.
You can increase the vitamin and mineral content of your table with any salad you choose to ensure a more controlled consumption of these foods and to support digestion with high-fiber intake.
The traditional dessert at Thanksgiving dinner is hearty fall flavors like pumpkin, apple, and pecan pie. These desserts are perfectly suitable for vegan or vegetarian preparation and appeal to everyone's taste.
Tips for a vegan & vegetarian Thanksgiving
These are some simple tips to help you with your vegan Thanksgiving celebration:
- If you are a vegan or vegetarian, inform the host of the Thanksgiving dinner you will attend in advance about your dietary preferences. You can even go ahead and help prepare the table and create various alternatives.
- If you're the host, you can create a Thanksgiving feast that appeals to everyone at the table, especially by using a variety of side dishes. For the spirit of Thanksgiving, it's important to have shareable dishes on the table.
- To have a healthy Thanksgiving, try to nourish your body not only with high-calorie, high-carbohydrate, and fat-containing foods but also with fresh salads. This will prevent you from having digestive problems and regret after Thanksgiving.
- Be careful about your alcohol consumption and make sure you drink enough water because the first thing forgotten in such celebrations is adequate water intake.
In the spirit of gratitude and togetherness, Thanksgiving stands as a treasured tradition that has become a celebration of abundance and shared moments. Whether you embrace a traditional feast or adapt it to accommodate different dietary preferences, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to come together, give thanks, and savor the flavors of the season.
We hope you enjoy gathering around the table with vegan stuffed foods, fresh salads, and autumn desserts. Happy Thanksgiving.
What to do on Thanksgiving as a vegan?
It's good to inform the host of the Thanksgiving dinner about your dietary preferences and exchange ideas about vegan or vegetarian dishes that could be included into the menu. You can offer to help with the preparation, too!
If you're hosting the dinner, make sure to include dishes that your guests can share and enjoy together.
What do vegans eat for turkey?
As vegans and vegetarians cannot eat turkey, they could prefer Stuffed Butternut Squash, Vegan Lentil Loaf, or Layered Roasted Vegetables instead.
What do pescatarians eat on Thanksgiving?
Pescatarians, who include fish and seafood in their diet, can enjoy Thanksgiving with a variety of options, such as roasted fish, seafood stuffing, and veggie-based side dishes.
What is a good Thanksgiving menu?
Creating a good Thanksgiving menu involves a balance of traditional flavors and creative twists to appeal to a variety of tastes and dietary preferences. There are plant-based substitutes for many animal products. Additionally, it's important to find out whether your guests have allergies, such as gluten or nut, to prepare accordingly.
- National Geographic. How the traditional Thanksgiving feast has evolved over centuries.
- Clinical Nutrition. Intake and adequacy of the vegan diet. A systematic review of the evidence.
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies.