How to Cook a Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner

By Mia Barnes – November 17, 2022

Thanksgiving is one of America’s favorite holidays. It’s a precursor to Christmas and some say it officially marks the beginning of the holiday season. This big dinner is one of the most joyful times when you can sit with family and friends and enjoy delicious meals.

Even though turkey is traditionally the main entree for Thanksgiving, you can easily replace it with plant-based options to satisfy vegetarian and vegan diets. This guide will show you how to make a tasty vegan Thanksgiving dinner for all your guests.

1. Plan Your Menu

If this Thanksgiving is your first with a vegan menu, it’s essential to plan your menu ahead of time. Get creative with the meals, and try ingredients you’ve never used before. About a month or so before Thanksgiving, do some trial runs with the recipes you found interesting. Testing the dishes now will help you perfect your craft during showtime on Thursday.

Planning is also essential because of shortages and supply chain issues. The supermarkets are already busy around the holidays, and you may have trouble finding ingredients during the week of Thanksgiving.


2. Take Advantage of Substitutes

Even though turkey is out of the picture, you can still make traditional Thanksgiving dishes and keep your vegan menu intact with simple substitutes. You may be surprised how easy it is to make your favorite dishes vegan by just swapping out a few ingredients.

Start by thinking about what protein you want to serve. Tofu and tempeh are excellent soybean-based protein sources that are versatile enough to use in various dishes. Try making a tofurky if you want to mimic the traditional bird closely. Whole grains like quinoa and couscous are also terrific meat substitutes because they contain protein and are good sources of fiber.

Desserts are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving and you can easily make them vegan. Some non-vegan sweeteners typically used in desserts are honey and refined sugar. Instead, swap them out with agave nectar, brown rice syrup and coconut sugar. Replace dairy milk with plant-based milk, and use ripe bananas instead of eggs. These ingredient swaps will make amazing desserts that surprise your guests when you tell them they’re vegan. 

3. Focus on Vegetables

The central part of a vegan diet is vegetables and plant-based foods. When crafting your Thanksgiving menu, you can easily include popular vegetable dishes contributing to the holiday traditions. These foods are integral to your daily diet during this season and any time of the year. They’re low in calories and can help you lose weight when combined with other nutritious foods and a healthy lifestyle.

One favorite vegetable during the holidays is green beans. String beans are a versatile vegetable that you can eat alone, in a casserole, roasted, pickled and more. You can pay homage to the first Thanksgiving by serving corn-based dishes, because maize was one of the original dishes, along with squash, carrots and pumpkin.

4. Think Outside the Box

Thanksgiving dishes vary from region to region and household to household in the United States. There is no set menu of what you must cook, so get creative with your meals. You can make themes for your Thanksgiving dinners, such as traditional favorites, international flavors, barbecue dishes and many more options. For example, try a barbecue teriyaki holiday roast for a delicious turkey substitute if you want an exotic flair.

5. Volunteer for Turkeys

Turkey outside.

Every Thanksgiving, the president of the United States symbolically pardons a turkey in front of the White House. The tradition goes back to 1963 when President John F. Kennedy informally spared a turkey — President George H.W. Bush made the pardoning ceremony official in 1989.

You can add to your vegan Thanksgiving by volunteering to help a turkey for this holiday. Some organizations run programs where you can symbolically adopt a turkey by paying a small fee. For example, Farm Sanctuary sends adopters an adoption certificate and a picture of the turkey they helped save.

Making an Inclusive, Delicious Dinner

Thanksgiving is a celebration of family and a time to reflect on how thankful you are for the loved ones in your life. For many people, Thanksgiving dinner is the day’s highlight because you’re making comfort food to ring in the holidays.

If you want to switch up the menu this year, try cooking a vegan Thanksgiving. Plant-based options have various health benefits and you’d be doing the environment a favor by reducing your meat and dairy consumption. You can even feel like a president by sparing a turkey on your Thanksgiving menu.


About the Author

Mia Barnes smiling.

Mia is a health and wellness writer and the Editor In Chief at Body + Mind. She specifically enjoys writing about women’s fitness, as well as mental health-related topics. When she’s not writing, Mia can usually be found reading poetry, taking a dance or cardio class, or hiking.


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