It was this time last year that I started my vegan journey. That’s right. I went vegan cold turkey (pun intended) right before Thanksgiving. I had no knowledge of substitutes or alternatives and rushed to do research on what to get. It was stressful.
In honor of my one-year veganniversary, I decided to compile a handy guide for making Thanksgiving vegan. If you’re worried about a vegan Thanksgiving being completely new and unfamiliar, don’t be. You can enjoy almost all of the same things you ate before with only a few tiny substitutes. The idea is that you do not have to seek out new, vegan recipes to replace your old favorites. Just replace the non-vegan ingredients for vegan-friendly ones.
So, to kick things off, we’ll start with a list of common ingredients in Thanksgiving meals that are easily substituted with plant-based alternatives.
Common Ingredients and Their Vegan Substitutes
Plant butter instead of dairy butter
This one’s easy, folks. Non-dairy butter (sometimes AKA margarine) is sold in most grocery stores in the same section as dairy butter. The difference is that non-dairy butters are made with plant oils. Just check the ingredient labels on the products and make sure there’s no milk in it.
Plant milk instead of dairy milk
There are loads of plant milks out there, so you’re bound to like at least one of them. I suggest purchasing an unsweetened milk. I put a regular, sweetened milk in vegan mac & cheese one time, and it was regrettable.
Vegan cheese instead of dairy cheese
Vegan cheese options and qualities have improved over the years. From cheese wheels for your charcuterie board to shredded cheese for topping, there is a vegan cheese for everything, and they’re all quite good! You will likely not find a lot of options at your regular grocery store, so a store like Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s is a better bet for you (or order some online).
Onion gravy instead of meaty gravy
There are some excellent recipes online for easy, vegan onion gravy, or Campbell’s canned onion gravy is accidentally vegan and delicious.
Vegetable broth instead of animal-based broth
Just grab some veggie bouillon or broth from the soup aisle instead of the other animal-based options. Making and storing your own is also easy and delicious, but we’ll save that for another post.
Flax eggs or egg alternatives instead of eggs
I prefer flax eggs, personally. Using flax eggs is substantially cheaper than using egg alternatives and even regular eggs. Simply mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons of cold water, stir, and set it in the fridge for about 20 minutes. That creates one egg, so simply double for two, triple for three, etc.
White table sugar uses bone char in the processing of table sugar. Strange, right? Turbinado sugars like Sugar-In-The-Raw are vegan-friendly.
Similarly, brown sugar isn’t vegan. Swap for coconut sugar!
This shouldn’t surprise you, but honey is also not vegan. Use maple syrup instead!
Now that I’ve given you a simple list of easy ingredient swaps, let’s apply these to some examples.
What you’ll be looking for is a “plant-based roast,” “vegan roast,” or “celebration roast” are some of the names these have. They are round, frozen, plant-based roasts. They are stuffed with good food like wild rice, stuffing, and cranberries. There are many brands you can choose from that vary in cost. Some brands include Gardein, Field Roast, Tofurkey, and Whole Foods’ new store brand roast ( I will be reviewing this one after I’ve eaten it for Thanksgiving).
Cooking instructions are on the box, but I encourage getting creative with your roast. I like to baste mine in plant butter, cover it with some dried herbs and spices, and roast it on a bed of vegetables.
All the other common dishes
Mashed potatoes: Use plant butter, plant milk, and onion gravy
Candied yams: Use plant butter, coconut sugar, and vegan marshmallows (found at most Whole Foods-type stores)
Cranberry sauce: Make yourself, because many canned sauces contain an animal-derived thickener
Stuffing: Veggie broth, flax eggs, and plant milk
Baked goods and desserts: Flax eggs, turbinado sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, plant milk, and plant butter will cover most of your non-vegan items
BONUS ROUND: List of Thanksgiving dishes by category
Every year, I pick what to make for Thanksgiving from a list of foods I’ve compiled. Feel free to add your own favorites to my existing list to make it your own!
Chips & dip
Mac & cheese
Corn on the cob
|Veggie Sides||Roasted maple brussel sprouts|
Green bean casserole
Sauteed green beans
Sweet, roasted acorn squash
|Sweet Sides||Cranberry sauce/chutney|
|Desserts||Pie (pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, cherry, apple)|
Glazed banana bread/cranberry orange bread