Menu for a Vegan Thanksgiving
After writing my post on how to transition to a meatless Thanksgiving, the time was right to post some vegan menu options for your Thanksgiving spread. (The comments on that post have been so interesting. I hope that you'll head over there and chime in if you haven't already!)
This is an updated version of my post from last year, and it includes dishes that I've made over the years on that fourth Thursday of November. Some of the recipes are my own and others come from some of my favorite cookbooks.
When guests arrive and you're completing the finishing touches, setting the table and filling water glasses, sate their appetites with a few appetizers. Some of my favorites are Olive & Artichoke Pâté with crusty bread and carrot sticks for dipping, Loaded Potato Slices with Cashew Cream and Bacony Bits for a warm and indulgent alternative to the standard mashed potatoes, and Seitan Bacon-Wrapped Dates. They can be prepped ahead of time, just requiring a light frying before serving.
SALADS & SIDES
While Thanksgiving is known for being a meal of excess, some vegetable-rich sides and salads balance everything out. Options include two different kinds of kale salad and Roasted Delicata Squash and Persimmon Salad with Caramelized Onions. If you're traveling for the holidays, this Corn & Black Bean Salad does well in a Pyrex container on the road, and in fact, the flavors only develop and improve as it marinates.
For warm options, crispy cabbage or sautéed collard greens add some green to an otherwise beige meal.
Looking for cranberry sauce? My favorite is the Traditional Cranberry Sauce from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. (She offers the option of adding balsamic vinegar, which I definitely recommend. It gives balance and makes a wonderful combination of tangy, sweet, and sour.)
Mashed potatoes come together easily by boiling medium-sized chunks of russet potatoes in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Mash with an immersion blender until smooth. Add nondairy milk as necessary, and finish with a spoonful of nondairy butter and/or salt and pepper. For extra oomph, stir in caramelized onions or freshly chopped chives.
At our large family Thanksgiving, people are there all day -- first for the main meal, then for a big flag football match, and finally for another meal of leftovers before sitting down to a game of Celebrity or Apples to Apples. If your guests will be lingering, having a pot of soup on the ready is a convenient way to keep everyone well fed and happy.
For the main course, there are a ridiculous amount of options! Impress your guests with Popcorn-Crusted Polenta with Cashew Cream and Barbecue-Glazed Butternut Squash. It's an eye-catching entrée that feels like fall. To cut down a step, use jarred barbecue sauce instead of homemade and/or leave out encrusting the polenta in popcorn. Just cut the hardened polenta into the shape of circles and head directly to an oiled skillet to fry on each side for 3-5 minutes. Stack with cashew cream and roasted butternut squash in a barbecue sauce glaze, and you're good to go.
If the kitchen is packed with people vying for the oven, you can take the cooking outside to the grill with Thanksgiving Kebabs in a lemony marinade.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for big extended family gatherings (where tofu-phobes may be likely), if your gathering includes other vegan-minded folks, baked tofu can make a tasty centerpiece. My favorites are Baked Lemon Rosemary Tofu and Pumpkin-Seed-Crusted Tofu with Cranberry Relish from Vegan with a Vengeance.
If seitan is calling your name, I'm partial to the Chicken-Style Seitan Roast from Vegan Diner paired with the Creamy Sage & Pepper Gravy, also from the book. As a bonus, the seitan freezes beautifully. You can make it far in advance and just put it in the refrigerator the day before to thaw. I dare say that it makes the seitan even more moist and delicious. The gravy is creamy, flavorful and my absolute favorite when gravy is essential.
In past years, for the main course I’ve made Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon. They have a wonderful chewiness and the flavors of lemon and thyme. They aren’t too heavy, and they fit along nicely with mashed potatoes and gravy. Not just for Thanksgiving, I enjoy chickpea cutlets all year around. I’ve served them many times to nonvegans, and they’re always a hit.
There’s a link to the chickpea cutlet recipe here, but the baking directions aren’t included. I always bake them, and I use half the amount of oil listed with no adverse effects. To bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly oil each side of the cutlets, and bake at 375 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, flip the cutlets and then bake for 8-10 more until golden brown.
Last year I made the Festive Chickpea Tart from Dreena Burton's Let Them Eat Vegan. As a big plus, you can make two tarts and freeze one for the Christmas holidays. The tarts freeze and thaw beautifully.
FROZEN MAIN COURSES
Looking for something convenient for the main course? There are a plethora of options! My favorite is the Hazelnut Cranberry Roast en Croute from Field Roast. (After the holidays are over, I always try to pick one up when they're on sale, because they are so delicious.) The roast is made with their flavorful grain meat and stuffed with Field Roast sausages, cranberries and apples. It's then wrapped in a puff pastry. Anything wrapped in puff pastry is a winner in my book. This roast ranges from $18-26 depending on location.
For an intimate dinner for two or if you'll be taking your vegan entree to a nonvegan Thanksgiving, the Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk'y (shown above) comes two to a pack along with two packets of gravy. It is a toothsome dish filled with stuffing and cranberries; although, the gravy is a bit on the watery side. I wouldn't say that it's my favorite option of the bunch, but it's still pretty good and the least expensive. Gardein also has a larger Holiday Roast that serves eight.
What vegan items will be gracing your table this year?
For mouthwatering recipes and thoughts on living a compassionate life, visit Cadry's Kitchen.