If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, but are expecting vegetarian or vegan guests, it’s easy to pull off a feast that makes everyone happy. There’s no need to prepare one large meat eating meal, and another separate vegetarian meal. Most vegetarians and vegans do not require a ‘meat equivalent’ at Thanksgiving. Yes, traditionally Thanksgiving has largely about the food. But more importantly it’s about family, togetherness, happiness and peace.
If this is your first Thanksgiving after transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle, try some of these ideas to incorporate healthy food preparation into your meal that your vegetarian guests, and you as host, will be thankful for this Thanksgiving:
- Bake some stuffing outside of the turkey.
- Make a small portion of vegetarian gravy.
- Keep cooking utensils separate to prevent “cross-contamination” between meat foods and vegetarian foods.
- When recipes are adaptable, use substitutions like vegetarian broth, soy margarine (the formulations without whey are suitable for vegans), soy milk, and kosher marshmallows which are made without gelatin.
- Use vegetable oils instead of animal fats for frying, and vegetable shortening like Crisco for pie crust.
- Read ingredients lists carefully on pre-packaged foods, being aware of terms like gelatin, whey, and “natural flavors” that can be animal-derived.
- Prepare plenty of vegetable and fruit side dishes, and simply leave them meat-free.
- Offer plenty of breads, beverages, fresh fruits, and non-gelatin desserts, which are suitable without modification for most vegetarians.
- Invite your vegetarian guest to prepare a “Tofurky” or vegetarian ‘turkey equivalent’ entrée to share with you the rest of your guests, or you might try your hand at preparing a small one (my favorites are Quorn and Field Roasts.) They are extremely easy to cook in the oven. Your meat-eating guests might be curious enough to want to try it!
- Most importantly – this is a great opportunity to take advantage of the all amazing in-season vegetables. Make TONS of fresh, delicious (not overly cooked) vegetables that are perfectly in season like squashes, sweet potatoes, and green beans.
Finally, don’t be shy – ask your vegetarian guest for help, tips, or recipes that would complement their vegetarian choice. You may find that your guest offers to help out in the kitchen, or bring a dish from home. Please don’t take a dish from home as an insult to your cooking; take it as a desire to share traditions at Thanksgiving. Even meat-eating homes can benefit from a healthy, nutrient-dense vegetarian recipe idea any time of the year.
I’d love to hear how you enjoy your meat free Thanksgiving!