I decided to transition to a vegan diet in July 2016, which means this Thanksgiving was my first Thanksgiving as a vegan. Rather than go to my regular extended family event and only be able to eat a few dishes, I decided I would cook my own entirely vegan menu for my immediate family. And, since I have no idea what moderation is, I went all out and made a very large menu. Which includes making pretty physical menus, because why not?
I used Pinterest as my main source of recipes, similar to Penelope’s previous Thanksgiving planning post. This was dangerous, as I originally had well over 25 recipes I wanted to make, but I was able to narrow it down.
I wanted to start with two appetizers. My little sister and her fiancée were only visiting for a short time earlier in the day, so this way I could have food ready for them without serving the full meal too early. The first recipe I made was Cream of Pumpkin Soup, with Curried Pecans. The recipe is from my current favorite cookbook: Quick-Fix Vegetarian
This turned out really well, unsurprisingly. Everything I’ve made in this cookbook has been delicious, easy, and fast. I was able to make the soup and pecans earlier in the week, and had them reheating in a crock pot throughout the morning.
The second appetizer I made was Roasted Root Vegetable Crostini with Cranberry Relish
I was worried about this recipe initially, because the relish tasted very weird on its own. This dish tasted great once everything was all together though. I made a few changes to the recipe. My butternut squash went bad before I was able to make this, so that got nixed, but the sweet potato was plenty on its own. Instead of parsnips, I used radishes, because that’s what I received in my farmshare the weekend before. My older sister spiralized the radishes, which was a fun touch.
I had some issue coming up with an appropriate entrée for this meal. Obviously I wouldn’t be serving a giant dead bird. In general, the meat substitutes I’ve eaten have not been particularly great, especially the vegan “loafs” that most people use as a Thanksgiving entrée. Some of the meat substitutes are pretty good approximations, but Thanksgiving is not about “pretty good.” Thanksgiving is about stuffing your face with delicious food.
I had seen several recipes floating around for Thanksgiving themed “Vegan Bowls” so I decided to make a conglomerate of several different recipes and use that for the entrée. That way, each person could customize theirs as needed, and there would be no need to waste space on sub par foods.
I roasted some vegetables that I had on hand (acorn squash, carrots once again spiralized for funsies). For the protein, I used the chickpea recipe from Minimalist Baker’s Vegan Thanksgiving Wraps
I made up my own mashed potato recipes. Mashed potatoes have always been one of my top favorite foods, so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time trying to get a great vegan version. Before these, I had been very unsuccessful. Nut milks do not work well in mashed potatoes. Even when you get the unsweetened kinds, they are still way too sweet. These are made using Earth Balance instead of butter, and lite unsweetened coconut milk in place of dairy, and they turned out awesome. Easily as good as any mashed potatoes I’ve had before. They were fluffy and creamy and everything I want out of mashed potatoes. I’m a minimalist when it comes to potatoes, so I didn’t add any extra spices/herbs/gimmicks to the regular potatoes. The mashed sweet potatoes got a little cinnamon/nutmeg added, but I think they would have been better plain as well. I don’t have actual measurements for any of the ingredients, because I always make mashed potatoes by feel.
Most of the vegan gravy recipes I’ve seen have seemed pretty bland. I used this recipe because it seemed to have more flavor layers involved while still being easy to make and using normal ingredients. Now, this recipe was written for people who hate mushrooms. I used to be one of these people, but I’ve since come around to the mushroom train (as one of my friends recently told me “if you’re going to be so picky about the other things you’re eating, you probably should stop avoiding any vegetables” which is pretty good advice. At least for all vegetables except for kale, because kale is disgusting and the devil). I added some sliced baby bella mushrooms to the recipe, and then used my immersion blender to combine everything. I have since made this again without the mushrooms, and it tastes great both ways.
I decided to get creative when it came to the cranberry sauce, which I regret. I made this Spicy Cranberry Apple Sauce. This turned out tasty, but it wasn’t right for Thanksgiving. As I mentioned, I don’t understand moderation, so I put way too many jalapeño slices in it and it turned out pretty spicy. Which is fine and all, but I really missed having a sweet cranberry sauce with my food. Next time, I will skip the jalapeno entirely, since the rest of the recipe turned out great.
The side dishes for Thanksgiving are extremely important. Now, I’m aware that my menu essentially has four different bread type dishes. If you were expecting “vegan Thanksgiving” to mean “healthy Thanksgiving” you can see yourself out right now.
Thanksgiving is not about vegetables. Thanksgiving is about fitting as many brown/beige things on your plate and in your stomach as possible before you pass out. Which this menu was able to do very nicely.
First up is this Vegan Cornbread Casserole. This turned out amazing. I want to eat this every day. It felt just as indulgent as non-vegan cornbread casserole. This is also one of the first dishes I’ve made where I’ve been satisfied with the cheese substitute. In general, vegan cheeses are pretty meh. They don’t melt very well, so most of the mozzarella and cheddar options are usually a letdown. Mixed in with this recipe though, the daiya shreds worked very well.
Originally I didn’t have a stuffing recipe on my menu, but luckily I came to my senses and made this Vegan Sourdough Bread Stuffing. I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe, based on what I had on hand. I used only one loaf of bread because I originally thought about halving the recipe and forgot to update my shopping list. I used celeriac root instead of celery because that’s what I received in my farmshare. Instead of dried herbs, I grabbed fresh sage and rosemary. If fresh is available, I try to go for that.
I had one non-bread side dish on the menu, primarily as a request from my mom. I’m not a big fan of brussels sprouts, so I let her be in charge of making this Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potato Salad. I didn’t end up eating it because I prioritized mashed potatoes on my plate, but it looked very pretty, and everyone else gave it positive reviews.
Now, you’ll notice that the next two recipes under “Accompaniments” are both just straight up bread recipes. I made a Whole Wheat Cranberry Walnut Bread and Roasted Garlic Herb Dinner Knots. You might think that two bread recipes are overkill. You’d be wrong. The bread loaf was great to have alongside the appetizer soup earlier in the meal, and was a very sweet bread (partially because I accidentally used candied orange slices instead of dried orange peel). The dinner knots are a vegan modification of a pretty classic dinner roll. I was actually not a big fan of this, mostly because they didn’t rise back up well after being frozen pre-baking, but everyone else told me I was being silly and that they were delicious and that I need to keep making them.
I decided to focus on having just one dessert option. For me, the savory entrée/sides are much more important, and I’m usually too full to eat anything by the time dessert rolls around, and it’s a bummer. I made these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a Gingersnap Crust because they would be easy to snack on while you digest the rest of the meal, and they would freeze well if we were too full to actually eat very many (which ended up being a very good call).
This was my first time making a vegan cheesecake. I don’t have very high hopes for plain vegan cheesecakes. For me, I’ve found it’s much easier to just eat different, delicious things, than to try to find meh vegan substitutes, so I’ve been avoiding making any cheesecakes. But these turned out pretty tasty – I imagine having the strong pumpkin flavor helped to cover up the cashew-masquerading-as-cheese component.
The day before Thanksgiving I started to have suffer a strong case of FOMO regarding my dessert decisions, so my older sister stepped in and made a surprise bonus dessert. She made these great chocolate cookies with a kick courtesy of cayenne pepper. They were tasty, and fit in well with the mini-dessert trend.
No fancy meal is complete without a signature beverage, in my opinion. To go along with all this gluttonous and amazing food, I made a hot spiced apple cider (combo of apple cider, orange juice, apple slices, orange slices, cinnamon, and nutmeg). Festive, simple, tasty.
Honestly, I’m very proud of how my first vegan Thanksgiving went. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything from my previous non-vegan Thanksgivings, which the food comas we all experienced post-eating can attest to.
And all of the items held up great as leftovers, which is integral to any Thanksgiving meal. Although the leftovers didn’t last very long, since I finished them on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.