This will be my third year cooking Thanksgiving dinner as a vegan, and I've learned a few tricks and recipes to make the process super easy. In fact, I think creating a vegan Thanksgiving meal is almost easier than a regular weeknight meal because so many dishes can be thrown in the oven.
Here's a glimpse at what I made last year. Lesson learned for this year: take the photo pre-gravy, but you get the idea.
I'll be making almost the same thing this year. Here's my vegan Thanksgiving menu for next week:
- A Tofurky roast. Last year we had the Field Roast hazelnut cranberry roast. I prefer the Tofurky because you bake assorted veggies along with it, but just browse the aisles at Whole Foods for a ton of delicious options you can simply bake and eat.
- Simple kale salad. Details below.
- Homemade green bean casserole. Recipe below.
- Homemade mashed potatoes. You can follow any simple recipe. Last year my sister in law mixed Yukon golds with a little garlic and chives, and it was great.
- Whole Foods vegan stuffing. Add liquid to the mix — couldn't be easier.
- Pillsbury crescent rolls.
- Cranberry sauce from a can, because that's how my husband prefers it. Something about seeing the shape of the can on the food makes him feel nostalgic for Rockwellian America.
- Ample Tofurky gravy. You just heat it up and pour! I recommend buying two of these if you have a group of four or more. Some Tofurkys have the gravy already included. In that case, buy only one more.
Here's my advice for planning and prep so that this meal feels like a holiday, not a work day.
One or Two Weeks Before
Figure out who's coming and if they're open to pitching in a dish or two. I'm not a big baker, and in general I have a salty rather than a sweet tooth, so I'm always happy to have someone else bring a dessert.
Make a menu of one main dish (a Field Roast or Tofurky make it super easy), 2-3 side dishes, a bread (come on, it's Thanksgiving!), and a fresh salad. Then start divvying up who's making what. This is the fun part! Need inspiration? I love the Ultimate Vegan Thanksgiving Menu 2015 that my friend Yvonne has on her blog.
Buy all ingredients as soon as you know what you're making. You don't want to drive to three different stores on Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving just to find elusive fried onions.
Two Days Before Thanksgiving
Read your recipes a couple times to double-check you have everything, both food and tools. Now's the time to run out for an emergency ingredient, not Thursday.
Do early veggie prep. For example, since I'll be serving a simple kale salad (kale + diced red onion + diced bell pepper, offering two different dressings), I'll wash and prep those veggies a couple days beforehand. I'm also including sweet potatoes, onions, and carrots in my Tofurky roast, so I'll slice the onion early. I'm using baby carrots that don't need any prep, and as for sweet potatoes, it won't take long on Thanksgiving to give them a quick bath and slice into big chunks.
The Day Before Thanksgiving
Remove Tofurky or other roast from the freezer to thaw. See package for instructions.
Put white wine and beer in the fridge. And maybe try a sip just to make sure they're not spoiled.
Run the dishwasher. It's best to start Thanksgiving with a totally clean dishwasher so you can load that thing up and make life easier for yourself on Thursday.
Exercise. And repeat on Thanksgiving! To me, food tastes better when I worked out earlier that day. Even if you don't normally do a lot of cardio, adding a couple extra 45-minute sessions of powerwalking or running gives you more of a calorie deficit to play with.
Set out healthy snacks. You'll probably start feeling mighty hungry while cooking, so have some carrots and apple slices available so that healthy items are the easiest to grab. And drink plenty of water, especially if you'll be partaking in adult beverages later.
Decide what time you want to eat and calculate baking times backward. Your roast is probably going to take the longest, so get that in the oven first.
Spruce up your roast. If you're making a Tofurky, I suggest their baste #1. Simple and delicious. And definitely add in all the recommended veggies. These steps are critical to making a next-level Tofurky. Go with baby carrots to avoid peeling and slicing.
After the roast is in the oven, cook the more work-intensive items. For me, that's the green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. And when I'm about 30 minutes away from mealtime, I'll throw the liquid in the stuffing mix.
Here's the recipe we use for green bean casserole. Vegans and non-vegans alike love this recipe. I like it more than the traditional version because it has more vegetables.
Vegan Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients (use vegan versions)
1 can French cut green beans
1.5 canisters vegan French fried onions
1.5 cups almond milk or other non-dairy milk
1 cube veggie bouillon
2-3 tablespoon corn starch (or potato starch) mixed with 2-3
1 tablespoon cold water to use as a thickener
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
3/4 cup chopped mushrooms (button, crimini, portabella, whatever)
1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon each of garlic, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme, whatever other hearty herbs make you happy
Heat soy milk and veggie bouillon in a saucepan, stirring until bouillon cube disintegrates. Do not boil or scald the soy milk. Just heat it.
Sauté onions, carrots, and mushrooms in the veggie oil in a skillet. Add salt, pepper, and herbs and spices.
Mix the starch and water well, and pour into the soymilk/bouillon. Stir well, because this will coagulate pretty quickly. Quickly add the can of green beans, the sautéed veggies, and about half of your French fried onions, and stir well.
Pour that mixture into a casserole dish or pan and top with remaining French fried onions. Bake in oven at about 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the onions begin to brown. Remove. Eat. Enjoy. Serves 4-6. Preparation time: 15-20 minute.
Rolls should be the very last item to go in the oven. In fact, you can probably wait until your guests arrive. Fresh rolls are best and only take 10-ish minutes to bake, and your oven will already be plenty hot from the day's activities.
Clean as you go. As you dirty cooking utensils and tools that you won't reuse, rinse and place in the sink or dishwasher.
Pause and relax between dinner and dessert. I don't like to feel rushed between a big Thanksgiving or Christmas meal and that slice of pumpkin pie. Clear the table, put away a few dishes, and let everyone relax for a while. You can refill everyone's wine glass or invite them on a much-needed stroll. Unless people are in a big rush to get home, I like to wait a couple hours for dessert after Thanksgiving dinner.
That's it! Vegan Thanksgiving made easy. Tweet me at @youngheike if you have any questions about how to celebrate this holiday the vegan way.