Your Ultimate Guide to a Vegan Thanksgiving: 20 Easy Recipes for Sides, Mains & Desserts!
If this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving, let alone a vegan Thanksgiving, it might seem a little daunting to cook a plant-based feast. With how much forethought and preparation goes into Thanksgiving dinner, even weeks beforehand, it’s understandable why you would be stressed.
Whether you currently follow a vegan diet or are trying to make a special vegan Thanksgiving dinner so that a loved one (or two!) has a festive meal to enjoy, we want to make sure you’re prepared to embark on one of the best-tasting dinners of your life.
Seriously, vegan food does not have to taste “vegan” (and by that, we are referring to the misconception that food made from plants has to taste bland or “weird”). In fact, vegan cooking is not only easy (and at times less expensive than traditional cooking!), but it also tastes amazing. You certainly don’t have to be vegan to enjoy a vegan and vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving. Trust us!
What foods are considered vegan for Thanksgiving?
We’re lucky to live in the 21st century, as now nearly every classic Thanksgiving dish has an equally delicious veganized version that delivers the same yummy goodness and nourishing comfort as the traditional version.
There’s even vegan turkey being sold in the supermarkets if you really wanted to go all out (though we do have a wonderful lentil loaf recipe that is just as easy and more cost-effective!).
The best part? The recipes we chose taste nearly identical to their traditional counterparts so even if not everyone at your Thanksgiving table is vegan or vegetarian, they’ll still absolutely love the dishes you’ve prepared.
Below, we go over not only the ins-and-outs of what constitutes a food or dish being vegan but also some traditional Thanksgiving recipes you can easily make vegan with some simple swaps. For instance, if you have a family favorite cranberry sauce recipe, oftentimes the only key ingredient to watch out for is ensuring the sugar is vegan.
Or if you really want your grandmother’s favorite mashed potatoes, you might want to test her recipe a week before but swap in all dairy-free products (such as oat milk and vegan butter) to see how it tastes.
Of course, we have a few of our favorite recipes below, but in case you want to veganize some family staples, it definitely is possible- it just takes some patience and a little experimentation!
First, what not to include: Ingredients to avoid and watch out for
Whether this is your first vegan Thanksgiving or your 50th, it’s always good to go over what ingredients to watch out for, especially because non-vegan ingredients are so easily disguised these days (we see you Red 40 and Yellow 5).
The added bonus of hosting a vegan Thanksgiving (or bringing some vegan dishes for everyone to enjoy) is that, by nature, that means they’re also vegetarian-friendly.
While veganism is on the rise, there are still many more vegetarians in the United States. Odds are you’ll probably also have a vegetarian at your Thanksgiving as well, in which case, they’ll also be grateful that you brought a Thanksgiving dish that a vegetarian can enjoy as well.
That being said, a vegan Thanksgiving can be a vegetarian Thanksgiving, but a vegetarian Thanksgiving may not be classified as a vegan Thanksgiving. The key ingredients that a vegan Thanksgiving omits are the following:
- Meat and poultry
- Dairy (this includes but is not limited to creamers, butter, creams, milk, ice cream, yogurt, and milk powders)
- Bee products
- Fish & seafood
- Honey (those who consider themselves 'plant-based' may still eat honey)
- Any animal-based product or a product made in which an animal was harmed
That’s right. Many people don’t realize that while food or ingredient might not have an animal product in it, it could be made in a way that harms an animal. For instance, some granulated sugars in the United States use bone char to whiten the sugar.
Some ingredients that you might not know aren’t vegan include:
- Vitamin D3 (derived from lambswool–look for Vitamin D2 for vegan-friendly)
- Oleic acid (often rendered from animal fat)
If you’re attending a Thanksgiving dinner and the host has prepared some vegan dishes, it’s always a good idea to politely ask what’s in each dish if you’re wanting to ensure it’s strictly vegan.
Have anyone at the table with allergies to watch out for?
Oftentimes, if someone is following a vegan diet, they might also be cautious of other allergens, such as nuts, gluten, or even soy and coconut.
To ensure that your vegan Thanksgiving can also be made allergy-friendly as needed, we’ve selected a few of our favorite vegan Thanksgiving recipes below. These recipes are either naturally gluten-free, coconut free, soy-free, and/or nut-free, or can easily be made to fit those allergen needs.
How much food should I make per person on Thanksgiving? A helpful guide
Probably the most stressful part of hosting a Thanksgiving is trying to figure out how much food to make per person, which then means you have to figure out how much to scale a recipe, and then how much you need of each ingredient at the store.
Thanksgiving dinner is the math problem we were never given in grade school but definitely should have been! According to Delish, you can assume that per person, you’ll need ¾ cup stuffing, 1 potato, ⅓ cup gravy, ½ cup veggie side, ¼ cup cranberry sauce, 2 dinner rolls, ⅙ of a pie.
However, we would like to note that you definitely need to also account for the vegan Wellington or lentil loaf you’re serving (we recommend about 1-2 slices per person if that helps!).
Vegan Thanksgiving Menu Template:
In terms of what dishes to make, we recommend the following:
- 1-2 main dishes: you can even double the amount of one main dish to serve as many people as you need.
- 4-6 side dishes: this will include classics, like mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and green bean casserole, and maybe some new favorites, such as double stuffed sweet potatoes or butternut mac n’ cheese
- 2-4 desserts: of course, you can serve more desserts, but we recommend including at least 1 pie (it doesn’t have to be pumpkin, but we highly recommend it!) and an alternate option, such as cake, cupcakes, or brownies, for those who don’t like pie.
Once you’ve chosen your dishes, you can then scale the portions up or down based on the number of guests in attendance.
Definitely include any of your must-have side dishes (regardless of the number of people attending- everyone loves vegan Thanksgiving leftovers!), but make sure that you check off all of the boxes.
What if you’re not hosting Thanksgiving? How to navigate if you're eating plant-based
If you’re not the one hosting vegan Thanksgiving this year, don’t think that you’ll leave with an empty stomach!
Here are some of our best tips for how to survive Thanksgiving when vegan
- Let your host know that you’re vegan ahead of time (and include any other dietary requirements as well!): give your host a few weeks in advance to ensure that they can potentially prepare something vegan for you (if you trust them to do so) or to ask what dishes you can bring. Most people are always happy to have more food options on the table! This is also a good time to ask for the ingredients that will be used in other dishes, such as salads. You can ask if there’s a possibility of leaving off the cheese and dressing before serving so that you can have some as well!
- Choose and cook the recipes you’d like to bring: We suggest bringing one main, one side, and one dessert at the minimum. Someone might also be able to bring more sides or prepare a salad that’s vegan (and that you can dress yourself when ready to serve).
- Bring your own wine: Some wines are not entirely vegan (they sometimes contain gelatin as a thickening agent; look for organic as they are often vegan) It’s never a bad idea to bring a wine that you know is vegan and love! To find out if a wine is vegan, you can visit Barnivore to double-check.
- Keep conversation off of food: If you don’t feel comfortable discussing why you’re vegan and/or don’t want to bring attention as to why you’re abstaining from meat, have some conversation starters to keep the talk light and easy. Talking about why you went vegan and how to do it is often a conversation that’s best to engage in after a family gets together (unless the family member that you’re speaking to is very open-minded or interested in learning more about your lifestyle!).
- Graciously turn down offers: Not everyone will understand that you’re vegan, and not everyone understands what actually constitutes a vegan dish. If your Aunt Sally made you her favorite cheesy potato gratin, you can kindly thank her for the effort and tell her how much it means to you that she would go to the effort of making it, but gently mention that your diet has changed, and offer her some of a dish that you brought!
And do remember to relax and breathe! You’re meant to still have fun and enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving, vegan or not. While yes, having dietary restrictions that others may not understand can be stressful, having a plan of action eases the stress and allows you to partake in the holiday’s events with ease and delight.
Our Favorite Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes:
Below are a few of our favorite vegan Thanksgiving recipes that we’ve rounded up. As mentioned earlier, these recipes are either naturally gluten-free or can be made gluten-free, along with nut-free and soy-free.
As with any recipe, it’s always good to test the recipe out a week in advance so that you know how the recipe works in your kitchen, as well as which ingredients work best for you. This will ensure there are no surprises come to Thanksgiving dinner!
But rest assured that the below recipes also fall into the wonderful category of being easy. These are no-stress, no-fuss recipes that are absolutely delicious and delightful for all eaters, vegan or not!
Vegan Thanksgiving Entrees Everyone Will Love
- 1 Sheet Vegan Puff Pastry
- 1/2 Tsp Dried Rosemary
- 2 Tbsp Grounds Flax Seeds
- 8 oz Button Mushrooms, minced
- 5 Tbsp Water
- 2 Tbsp Tamari Sauce, (soy sauce works as well)
- 2 Tbsp Preferred cooking oil
- 1 15oz Can of Black Beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 Cup Onion, diced
- 1 Cup Walnuts
- 2 Small Carrots, diced
- 3/4 Cup Breadcrumbs
- 2 Stalks Celery, diced
- 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
- 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Dried Thyme
- 1/4 Tsp Pepper
- 1 Tsp Dried Sage
- 1 Tbsp Vegan Butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 400F. If your puff pastry is frozen, take it out now to thaw it out. Stir in your ground flax and water in a small bowl, set aside.
- Heat your oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add your onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté for 7-8 minutes or until they’ve softened. Add the garlic, thyme, sage, and rosemary. Sauté for 1 minute until aromatic.
- Add your mushrooms and cook for 6-7 minutes. Add your tamari and cook for an additional 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, add your drained and rinsed black beans. Mash your beans with either a fork or masher. It’s okay if there are still some whole beans left.
- Add your walnuts to a food processor, and pulse until you get a fine crumble texture.
- Add your sauté mixture, walnut crumbles, breadcrumbs, tomato paste, salt, and pepper to the large bowl with mashed black beans. Using either your hands or a rubber spatula, mix until well combined. Taste if you need to add any more salt or pepper.
- Roll out your puff pastry into a rough rectangle of about 12x14 inches over some parchment paper.
- Transfer your filling mixture over a separate piece of parchment paper and form it into a log. Transfer it over to the middle of your puff pastry. You can always reshape the log once it’s on the puff pastry. Take the sides; lengthwise and one at a time gently wrap it over your filling. Gently press the puff pastry together to seal it. Now do the same thing with both ends of your wellington.
- Roll your wellington over so that the seams are facedown and transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Brush some melted vegan butter over it and using a sharp knife cut some diagonal slits going both ways to create a criss-cross design.
- Bake it in the oven for 30-33 minutes or until the outside is a beautiful golden brown color. Let it set aside for about 10 minutes before cutting into it.
Serve with some gravy, cranberry sauce, and/or your favorite sides. Enjoy!
Other Great Vegan Main Course Thanksgiving Options Include:
Easy-to-Make Vegan Thanksgiving Sides:
Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Mushroom Gravy
For the Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- 5 Russet Potatoes, peeled
- 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Milk, unsweetened
- 1/4 Cup Vegan Butter
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
For the Mushroom Gravy
- 1 medium Onion, diced
- 2 Tbsp Tamari
- 8 oz Cremini Mushrooms, chopped
- 2 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
- 3 Tbsp Vegan Butter
- 1 Tbsp Miso Paste
- 1 Cup Vegetable Broth
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Chop your peeled potatoes into cubes, as even as possible. In a large pot cover potatoes in cold water for about 10 minutes to remove any starches. Drain and cover with water again, bring to a boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain and transfer potatoes to a large bowl.
- Mash your potatoes using a masher. If you have a ricer you can use that as well. Add in your non-dairy milk, vegan butter, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix until vegan butter has fully melted and everything is well incorporated. Taste for any seasonings.
- To make the gravy, sauté the onions over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for an additional 8 minutes.
- Add the tamari, flour, miso paste, salt, and pepper and stir until everything is well combined. Bring heat down to low and let it simmer for about 2-3 minutes. The longer you simmer it, the thicker your gravy will be.
- Transfer your gravy mixture to a blender and blend on high until combined and smooth. Taste for any seasonings.
- Serve mashed potatoes and gravy together, and enjoy!
Sweet Potato Mac & Cheeze
Prep Time: 1 Hour
Cook Time: 10 Min
Total Time: 1 Hour, 10 Min
- 1 Large Sweet Potato
- 1 Small Onion, or ½ Large Onion
- 5 Cloves Garlic, peeled and whole
- 16 oz Short Pasta
- 1 Cup Non-Dairy Milk
- ¼ Cup Nutritional Yeast
- ¼ Cup Neutral Oil, such as avocado oil
- ½ Tsp Paprika
- ½ Tsp Dried Oregano
- ½ Tsp Salt
- ¼ Tsp Turmeric
- ¼ Tsp Black Pepper
- ¼ Tsp Chili Pepper Flakes, optional
- Preheat your oven to 425F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Using a fork, poke some holes in your sweet potato. Peel your onion and cut it in half. Place your onions and garlic cloves on some foil and drizzle with oil. Mix around to make sure they are coated in oil. Take your foil and close it up with the onion and garlic inside. Bake your sweet potato, garlic, and onion in the oven for 1 hour. Carefully check on your garlic and onion half-way through to make sure they aren’t burning.
- While your veggies are baking, cook your pasta according to the package. Drain it and set it aside. Once your veggies are done baking, remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes or until you can safely handle the sweet potato. Cut your sweet potato in half and scoop out 1 ½ Cups of the flesh.
- To a blender, add your sweet potato, roasted garlic and onion, non-dairy milk, oil, paprika, dried oregano, salt, turmeric, black pepper, and chili flakes (if using). Blend until completely smooth.
- Pour your sauce over your pasta, mix, and serve! Garnish with freshly chopped herbs and enjoy!
Other Great Vegan Thanksgiving Side Dishes Options Include:
Vegan Thanksgiving Desserts:
Vegan Apple Spice Cake Recipe with Cinnamon Caramel Frosting
Yields 16 slices
Apple Spice Cake:
- 3 1/2 cups cake flour or gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour, sifted (do NOT skip- add in 1
- Tsp arrowroot powder if using gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour, see Note)
- 1 cup of coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp finely ground sea salt
- 2 cups unsweetened dairy-free milk, room temperature
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (to be mixed with dairy-free milk)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, room temperature
- 1/3 cup coconut oil or vegan butter, melted but not hot
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups chopped apples, skin peeled
Vegan Cinnamon Buttercream:
- 2 cups vegan butter, room temperature
- 4–5 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2–4 tbsp dairy-free milk
- 1 batch vegan caramel sauce
- Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare three 8″ cake pans with olive or coconut oil and parchment paper for easy removal.
- Prepare the vegan buttermilk by stirring apple cider vinegar into the unsweetened dairy-free milk and set aside for 5-7 minutes to curdle.
- While the buttermilk is being prepared, whisk together flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl.
- Pour in the dairy-free milk and apple cider vinegar mixture, coconut oil/vegan butter, applesauce, and vanilla together. Gently mix until thoroughly combined.
- Fold in the chopped apples.
- Evenly divide the batter into the prepared cake pans.
- Bake the cakes for 27-30 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a drying rack to cool completely before frosting.
Other Great Vegan Dessert Thanksgiving Options Include:
Healthier-For-You Vegan Cocktail Recipes to Enjoy with Thanksgiving Dinner
Apple Cider Mimosa
- 1 750ml Bottle of Dry Sparkling Wine
- 1 Litre of Apple Cider
- 1/4 Cup Cinnamon Whisky
- Fresh Apple Slices
- Cinnamon Sticks
- In a pitcher, add your dry sparkling wine and apple cider. Stir in your cinnamon whisky. Feel free to taste and see if you want to add a splash more of cinnamon whisky.
- Garnish with some apple slices and cinnamon sticks. Serve right away and enjoy!
Another Great Cocktail Option That Everyone Will Love
Grapefruit Rosemary Lemonade Sparkler
- 3 pink grapefruits
- 2 lemons
- 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 32 oz sparkling water
- Agave or stevia to taste optional
- Use a citrus reamer to juice the grapefruits and lemons in a large or you can squeeze them by hand (that’s how I did it!).
- Use a fine-mesh strainer to remove any pulp or seeds.
- Add the sparkling water to your juice and mix well. Transfer to serving glasses with ice and finish with rosemary sprigs.