The time has been set. Evites have gone out. (And your mom is already breathing down your neck with questions, including whether your kitchen table has wheelchair access for grandma.)
You are hosting Thanksgiving. And not just any Thanksgiving—a vegan Thanksgiving. You go, girl.
While your gut reaction is full-blown fear over whether family (or friends) will embrace your meatless holiday meal—after all, it’s one of the most gluttonous days of the year—it doesn’t have to be all Tofurkey, roasted apples, and anxiety. Thanksgiving can actually be a stellar tool to introduce the people you love to a more compassionate yet divine holiday meal. Lastly, with more than one-third of Americans now admitting they eat vegetarian meals a significant part of the time, there has never been a better time to host an animal-friendly Thanksgiving.
As you start to map out your feast, here are a few tips to make it an enjoyable meal that doesn’t ruffle any feathers.
1. Skip The Torfurkey. For heaven’s sake, leave the Tofurkey on the shelf. If you want to win your guests over, the last thing you want to center a perfectly delicious meal around is “fake” cardboard-like turkey. You are sure to remind them just how much your lifestyle (and palate) sucks. Instead, focus on a main focal dish that makes them forget about our feathered friends altogether. Which brings us to…
2. Don’t Skimp On a Centerpiece Dish. Just because you’re not serving a dead bird, doesn’t mean you should deprive your friends and family of something that reminds them of fall festive goodness. You don’t have to get too creative—there are a gazillion recipes on the Interweb. Here are some ideas:
- Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Pumpkin and “Cheesy” Baked Potato Casserole
- Creamy Cashew Veggie Pot Pie
- Maple-Apple Cider Tofu With Stuffing And Apple Cranberry Chutney
- Pumpkin Mac ‘N’ “Cheese”
3. Make The Classic Thanksgiving Staples. Remember the goal is to make the people sitting at your table feel like things are status quo. It’s okay to whip up a few unique dishes, but stick to the classic sides—just swap out the animal ingredients with vegan substitutes. Below is a list of common T-Day ingredients and their vegan alternatives:
- Butter: Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread or Baking Sticks
Milk: Soy, hemp, rice, almond, or coconut milk
Eggs: Ener-G Egg Replacer for a direct swap, but silken tofu, soy yogurt, and potato starch will work depending on use. See here for a more detailed list and conversions
- Cream/Evaporated Milk: Silk Original Creamer, Organic Valley Soy Creamer
Gravy: Road’s End Organics Quick Gravy, Hain Pure Foods Vegetarian Chicken Flavored Gravy Mix, or Make Your Own
- Chicken Broth: Pacific Foods Organic Vegetable Broth (Low Sodium), or Make Your Own
- Cheese: Daiya Cheese, Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Shreds, Teese Vegan Cheese
- Sausage: Field Roast Vegetarian Grain Meat Sausages, Lightlife Smart Sausages, MorningStar Original Sausage Patties
- Bacon: MorningStar Veggie Bacon Strips, Lightlife Smart Bacon, or Make Your Own
Table Sugar: Agave Nectar, Evaporated Cane Juice, or Maple Syrup
4. Be Honest With Your Guests. After doing some research, it appears that vegan advocates are split on this issue. Some say don’t say a peep that it’s a vegan meal because your guests will decline faster than they can say grace, or you’ll be greeted with tons of cynicism. Those critics say to just wow them with a savory smorgasbord of vegetable dishes and just casually work into the conversation that there’s no turkey being served as you’re pouring them a glass of Chandon. I say, get real. Unless you have some very optimistic friends and family, it’s in your best interests to give them some kind of heads up. (Do you want to see your father lose his shit in front of the kids. Yeah, probably not.) You can dance around it a bit if you feel better (sample email below). But if you’re up front, you will know if someone feels particularly strong about not having the meat trimmings. In that case, consider encouraging them to bring something that will make them happy and you will dazzle them with plenty of classic meatless sides they will gobble right up.
5. Go Crazy On Dessert. When all else fails, get them drunk with sweet sugary goodness. If you’re hosting a vegan Thanksgiving, chances are you’re already an avid (even if amateur) vegan baker. If you’re new to this, it might be best to order some vegan desserts from your favorite local sweets shoppe. If you’re up for lots of prep and testing, check out Pinterest for some great vegan dessert options.
6. Give Some Background. There is no harm in telling the ones who have decided to spend Thanksgiving with you why you are hosting a vegan Thanksgiving. DO share a few facts. Like, more than 45 million turkeys are killed every year just for Thanksgiving. DON’T tell them they are all going to hell if they ever eat turkey again. Go soft on them, sister. You want to give them reason to adopt or experiment with a vegan lifestyle, not set your house on fire.
Now, get cooking. And remember, nobody’s judging (yeah right).