7 Tips to Plan a Vegan Thanksgiving + Recipes

This is the first year I am going into the holiday season as someone who eats whole food plant based (aka healthy vegan, more on WFPB here) 90% of the time. I’ve shared this before, but about 1-2 times a month, I’ll have seafood at a restaurant. Also, ya girl still loves extra virgin olive oil, so I haven’t completely cut oils out, though I am mindful of how much I use. Maybe one day I’ll cut this out completely, but today is not that day. Regardless, eating WFPB means I need to plan ahead this holiday season so I can enjoy the holidays without stressing.

Our plan this Thanksgiving is to go to my parents’ house (unless Brandon has to work at the hospital, fingers crossed because we won’t know until the week of Thanksgiving). My parents have been overly supportive and accommodating of my dietary shift. My mom has been researching vegan foods for over a month! Since we have been communicating quite a bit these past several weeks about how to make modifications at Thanksgiving so I can eat too, I figured I would share some of the things we are talking about in case anyone is in the same boat!

I know not every host is as accommodating as my mama (because she’s the best), so don’t worry – within these tips I have ideas of what to do if you are going somewhere for Thanksgiving that is definitely not going to have vegan options.

You can read more about these free napkin tags featured in the photos and how to download them HERE. Learn how to achieve a simple Farmhouse Inspired Thanksgiving Table HERE (I just added some fresh eucalyptus in this blog post). 

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Tip #1: Prepare a Vegan Friendly Main Dish

I’m starting with this tip, because I think it’s definitely the one that is looming over everyone’s head who is a newbie vegan heading into the holidays. Have an alternative to turkey! Though I will be doing something a bit different for Thanksgiving (more details below), this is something I’m already thinking about for Christmas when we go to a large get together with Brandon’s family. There definitely won’t be a vegan main dish option, or vegan sides at that holiday event. If this sounds like your situation for Thanksgiving, don’t panic!

Preparing and bringing a vegan main dish will be an easy way to ensure you have something to eat that is filling. Things like plant based casseroles, “meat” loafs, stuffed squash, whole grain pasta dishes, or my favorite forrotto (pictured)  can be great alternatives to turkey. I have linked several yummy recipes in the bottom of this blog post.

Now, I just have to say, I love turkey! And I’m not going to lie, I’m not sure if I will be able to hold out when I smell that turkey cooking all day, but I’m really hoping I will be able to! But, since I eat seafood occasionally, my mom has planned to have lobster tails for me. I honestly think Brandon is going to be jealous!

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Creamy Tomato and Mushroom Farrotto by Cooking Light (just skip the parmesan topping)

Tip #2: Easy Modifications or Swaps for Sides

If you’re hosting or your host is accommodating, there’s actually a lot of easy modifications and swaps that can be made to make non-vegan side dishes vegan friendly. Two easy swaps are using nut based milks and vegan butter. Also using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth is an easy switch as well.

For example, my mom usually makes a sweet potato casserole or sweet potato mash. This year, she is making a sweet potato mash with a nut based milk instead of the butter and cream. She’s also putting the cinnamon butter on the side for my dad and Brandon to top theirs with. This way everyone can add what they want, and I can just skip over the butter (I may even add vegan butter).

We’ve also talked about making stuffing with vegetable broth, leaving cheese on the side for salads, and making our crispy brussel sprouts without the bacon.

Tip #3: Make Smaller Portions for Vegan Dishes in Advance

If you’re the only one eating WFPB or vegan, don’t feel like you need to make a huge amount of sides. Though you likely won’t be the only one eating your vegan side, you probably won’t need to prepare as much as you would think, especially if non-vegan options will be available as well.

My mom and I have chatted about taking the vegan recipes we have found, making half the batch, and preparing them in advance (and freezing) to make the day of Thanksgiving less stressful. If you are able to do this, I would recommend it!

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Tip #4: Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

This tip is especially helpful if you are attending someone else’s Thanksgiving and you will be the only WFPB or vegan eater there. Don’t feel like you need to remake a million sides dishes. Choose three two to three things that would make you feel satisfied and plan on bringing those.

For me, this would include some sort of hearty main dish I mentioned above, fall inspired salad or roasted vegetables, and mashed potatoes.

Tip #5: Vegan Desserts

If you’re not overwhelming yourself with making a ton of side dishes, and feel like you have time to prep a vegan dessert – do it! Traditional desserts are hard because most have dairy in them. Bringing a vegan dessert can ensure you still get to enjoy the holiday without missing out on classics. Also, many of these desserts can be made in advance.

Tip #6: If You’re not Hosting, Communicate and Prepare! 

Throughout this entire blog, you’ve probably picked up on this tip. I think the key is to communicate with your host and make plans in advance. My mom is super accommodating, and I realize not everyone has the same situation. So, if you are attending Thanksgiving elsewhere, ask the host what dishes are already going to be brought, and then choose a vegan dishes accordingly. Communicating this a few weeks in advance will be exponentially less stressful than a day or two before. So plan ahead!

Tip #7: Be Kind and Appreciative 

I have been eating this way for almost two months now, and I am consistently surprised with how kind and supportive most people are about my diet transition. I find that when I tell someone I’m vegan (a lot easier than saying “whole food plant based”) and ask if they would mind making a swap for me, they are more than willing to do so! I think the key is being extremely appreciative, kind, and have a solution ready.

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I feel empowered and calm

I’ve always loved the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, but there’s always been this bittersweet component for me in the past. It’s no secret that I enjoy eating a nutrient dense diet that fuels my body and makes me feel good- pretty much everyone in my life is aware of my health-nut lifestyle. However, during the holidays, I used to always feel like I had no control over what I had available to eat, and felt like I had no voice to ask for healthier options. I felt like I was being “high maintenance” for even wanting healthier food during the holidays. I had this internal struggle every year: I would suck it up to be polite, eat what everyone else was eating (even though I didn’t enjoy it), feel terrible a few hours later, and then have anxiety about not having any control over what I was able to eat during the holidays. How miserable does that sound?!

For the first time (maybe in my life) I feel empowered and calm about the holidays. I know I’ll be able to enjoy the holidays with my family, without stressing about the food options. And I’m not focusing on the calories here or if these are “diet” foods. I’m focusing on eliminating the dairy and meat products from my diet so I can enjoy the holidays without worrying about how I will feel after!

I can’t tell you how great it is to feel excited (not stressed) about meals this holiday season. Below are some recipes I’ve rounded up that look delicious for Thanksgiving or even Christmas to help you feel the same way as me!

 

Recipes:

I have not tried most of these yet! But there are some of the recipes I am looking at for Thanksgiving and some for Christmas as well: 

Appetizers:

Spinach Artichoke Dip by Forks over Knives

Kale Bruschetta by Forks over Knives

Would also love to do a vegan stuffed mushroom, but haven’t found a recipe I love yet. Will update this when I do find one. If you have one you love, please comment and let me know! 

Main Dishes: 

Creamy Tomato and Mushroom Farrotto by Cooking Light (just skip the parmesan topping)

Vegan Thanksgiving Wraps by the Minimalist Baker

Lentil Mushroom Stew over Mashed Potatoes by the Minimalist Baker

Vegan Pot Pie or Festive Pot Pie by Forks Over Knives

Shepherd’s Pot Pie by Forks Over Knives

Vegan Lentil Nut “Meat” Loaf by the Minimalist Baker

Side Dishes:

Hearty Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Salad by Cookie and Kate (I may not add the wheat berry)

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy by Forks over Knives OR check out Vegan Mashed Potatoes by the Minimalist Baker for a recipe with less ingredients.

Sweet Potato Casserole (if you’re not doing the mash like us) featured on the Rachael Ray Show

Whole Grain Stuffing by Forks Over Knives (you can really do any stuffing recipes and just use veggie broth though)

Traditional Roasted Brussel Sprouts by Ina Garten (and honestly I would just do a variety medley of roasted veggies like this)

Squash Tart by Bon Appetit (sub vegetable butter and skip the cheese, or you can replace the cheese flavor with nutritional yeast)

Vegan Creamed Spinach by Bon Appetit

Desserts:

Vegan Chocolate Pie by Pinch of Yum or if you want to make a homemade crust, check out this Silky Vegan Chocolate Pie by Forks Over Knives

Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie by the Minimalist Baker

 

I hope you loved today’s blog post!! Keep eating plants!!

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