Photo: Jennifer Causey

Find the best vegetarian thanksgiving recipes, from easy vegetarian stuffing to delicious turkey alternatives.

Elizabeth Laseter
September 21, 2017

From vegetarian stuffing to vegetarian gravy, planning and executing a vegetarian Thanksgiving menu can quickly become an overwhelming task, especially if you’re a newbie vegetarian. No turkey, no problem—for the ultimate vegetarian Thanksgiving menu, treat your guests to crave-worthy meatless thanksgiving dishes, from savory cornbread dressing to crisp, roasted Brussels sprouts. Whether you’re hosting a lively crowd or laid-back group, our best vegetarian thanksgiving recipes will make your plant-based feast the most delicious (and nutritious) one yet. Our vegetarian menu ideas include colorful, flavorful, and nutritious takes on tried-and-true Thanksgiving classics plus timesaving tips so you can spend more time with guests. Find easy recipes for vegetarian thanksgiving appetizers, side dishes, desserts, and even vegetarian thanksgiving turkey alternatives that would make stunning centerpieces of any table.

How to Cook for a Vegetarian at Thanksgiving

Photo: Jennifer Causey
Photo: Greg Dupree
Photo: Greg Dupree

Vegetarian Appetizers

When it comes to vegetarian thanksgiving appetizers, keep things simple so you can focus on the main event. A crudité platter full of crisp, colorful vegetables and tasty dips and spreads makes an easy, shareable starter. Subtle touches, such as leaving the leaves attached to radishes make for a stunning presentation. Consider recipes you can prepare partially or fully in advance to save precious oven space.

VIEW GALLERY: Vegetarian Appetizer Recipes

Spicy Soy Bar Nuts: This nutty trio of peanuts, almonds, and cashews packs spicy, sweet, and umami flavors. Set out bowls for guests to snack on while waiting for the main event.

Pesto Yogurt Dip: Our tangy Greek yogurt dip is the perfect light appetizer before a heavy meal. Pair with an assortment of fresh sliced vegetables such as carrots, radishes, cucumbers, little gem lettuce leaves, and mini bell peppers.

Leek and Spinach Dip: This healthier take on cheesy spinach dip gets a boost from earthy, caramelized leeks. If you’re feeding a crowd, make this recipe and the Pesto Yogurt Dip, then serve with sliced veggies and pita chips. You can easily make both dips with one 32-ounce tub of yogurt.

Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball: Make this savory, herbed cheese ball up to two days ahead of time, but wait until just before serving to roll in the chopped parsley and walnuts. Pair with simple homemade crostini toasts.

Tricolor Beet Tart: This stunning multicolored beet tart boasts a simple timesaving technique—frozen puff pastry dough. You can actually make the entire tart ahead of time and gently reheat in the oven when you’re ready to serve it.

Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Lindsey Lower
Photo: Jennifer Causey
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Vegetarian Side Dishes

Think of vegetarian Thanksgiving side dishes as the bread and butter of your meatless feast. Aim for a variety of vegetable dishes from greens to roots to starches and don’t forget fruits, nuts, and legumes. Staple sauces like gravy and cranberry sauce don’t necessarily need turkey to be enjoyed and can greatly enhance foods on your plate by adding citrusy brightness or savory umami.

VIEW GALLERY: Vegetarian Side Dish Recipes

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad: We’ve reimagined the typical roasted Brussels sprout dish into a simple, fall-inspired salad. Thinly slice the Brussels sprouts ahead of time, but add the other ingredients the day of your dinner to maximize crispness.

Skillet Green Bean Casserole: This isn’t your grandmother’s green bean casserole, but it’s certainly faster and will save you oven space. A cast iron skillet and stovetop cooking make for an easy side that comes together in under 30 minutes.

Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables: One handy sheet pan is all you need to coax out roasty flavors from a smorgasbord of colorful vegetables. Make sure your pan is large enough so that none of the vegetables overlap, as crowding can prevent browning.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Oat Topping: Cutting the sweet potatoes to uniform size will help them cook more evenly. When tender, mash the cooked sweet potatoes with the back of a spoon to desired consistency, but we suggest leaving a few chunks for texture.

Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce: While this tangy-sweet Thanksgiving staple sauce is typically associated with turkey, we love it drizzled over sautéed green beans, spooned over top baked brie, or spread over buttered yeast rolls.

Photo: Jennifer Causey
Photo: Brian Woodcock
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Vegetarian Stuffing

From traditional recipes to innovative riffs, stuffing is an essential part of any Thanksgiving table. If you’re keeping it classic, opt for whole-grain bread or cornbread as your base. You can easily make any of our stuffing recipes meatless by using vegetable stock in place of chicken stock.

VIEW GALLERY: Vegetarian Stuffing Recipes

Classic Herb Stuffing: This is the perfect go-to stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving traditionalists. We up the nutrition by using whole-grain bread while capturing earthy flavors with fresh sage.

Triple Mushroom Stuffing: Mushrooms pack the rich, savory flavors we crave from meat but are a much healthier alternative. Here, a meaty threesome of crimini, shiitake, and button mushrooms combines with garlic, fresh thyme, and whole-grain bread for a savory and soothing stuffing.

Classic Corn Bread Dressing: This quintessential Southern side relies on corn bread for its crumbly texture and subtle sweetness. Our lightened riff uses a simple whole-grain corn bread recipe with no added sugar and pure corn flavor.

Photo: Chris Court
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez
Photo: Rebecca Longshore

Vegetarian Breads

While buttery rolls and warm cornbread are crowd-pleasing Thanksgiving favorites, don’t be afraid to spice up your feast with fruit- or vegetable-packed quick breads or muffins. A ramekin of homemade fruit butter would add a special touch to any table’s bread basket.

VIEW GALLERY: Vegetarian Bread Recipes

Cranberry, Orange, and Pistachio Muffins: The addition of wheat bran works plenty of fiber into these fruity, nutty, and nutritious muffins. If you’re hosting out of town guests, bake a batch for a quick energizing breakfast or snack.

Pecan Pumpkin Drops: Homemade biscuits are undeniably delicious, but they can be labor intensive. Drop biscuits take a quarter of the time because they do not need to rise before baking. For our version, we combine pumpkin, pecans, and ground nutmeg for warming fall flavors.

Cheesy Cauliflower Biscuits: Mashed cauliflower binds with Greek yogurt and egg, a simple technique that saves on calories and fat. For 51 calories, you get two of these savory cheesy biscuits, plus plenty of protein and fiber. Even better—they’re gluten-free.

Photo: Iain Bagwell
Photo: Jennifer Causey
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Vegetarian Turkey

Make a crowd-pleasing vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish by sticking to comfort foods that feed a crowd, such as vegetable lasagna, chili, or mac ‘n’ cheese. You can also create a gorgeous edible centerpiece with stuffed winter squash such as acorn squash or Long Island cheese pumpkin.

VIEW GALLERY: Vegetarian Turkey Recipes

Lentil Shepherd's Pie: Nutty bulgur, crunchy lentils, and umami-rich mushroom stand in for ground beef in this nutrient-packed approach to the much-loved classic dish. Our meatless version is the perfect main attraction for your vegetarian Thanksgiving menu.

Vegetarian Moussaka: Moussaka is a staple comfort food of Greek cuisine, but it’s traditionally made with ground lamb. We swap in heart-healthy bulgur wheat between layers of tender eggplant, then top it all off with a cheesy béchamel.

Vegetable Lasagna with Butternut Béchamel: This show-stopping veggie-packed lasagna is topped with a rich béchamel sauce whose secret ingredient—butternut squash—adds creaminess without extra fat. There’s plenty of space for a luscious troupe of Gruyere, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Ricotta cheeses.

Black-Eyed Pea Stuffed Acorn Squash: Before cutting the squash crosswise, slice off the top stem to help each half sit securely on your sheet pan while baking. If you don't have time to make dried black eyed peas, you can substitute low-sodium canned. This recipe, which makes four tender squash halves, can easily be doubled to feed a crowd.

Whole Stuffed Roasted Pumpkin: This indulgent, stuffed pumpkin will steal the show at your Thanksgiving gathering. This recipe calls for sausage, but it can easily be swapped for meatless alternatives such as Tofurky or Field Roast products.

Photo: Jennifer Causey
Photo: Iain Bagwell
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Vegetarian Desserts

From fruit-topped tarts to chocolate-swirled cakes, there are plenty of delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving desserts to make. While pumpkin pie is a safe bet, why not try something new this year? If you can’t decide on one particular pie, a handy split pie pan lets you bake two different kinds.

VIEW GALLERY: Vegetarian Dessert Recipes

Apple Galette with Vanilla Yogurt Drizzle: Showcase gorgeous fall apples—or any seasonal fruit—with this lighter take on traditional apple pie. This tart may look rustic, but its flavors are complex and sophisticated. The glaze’s pure vanilla flavor comes from vanilla bean paste, which packs a richer flavor than vanilla extract.

Carrot-Apple Spice Cake: This dazzling dessert boasts a timesaving secret—boxed cake mix. We jazz up the store bought mix by adding buttermilk, grated apples and carrots, and a splash of bourbon to the batter, then top everything off with a browned butter and cream cheese glaze.

Roasted Grape and Pear Kuchen: We showcase roasted grapes, which pack a tart, caramelized flavor and jam-like texture, alongside sliced pears in this lightly sweet traditional German yeast cake. A slice would pair well with coffee or dessert wine such as ice wine.

Chocolate-Swirled Pumpkin Bundt: Our autumn-inspired version of this classic ring-shaped cake kicks fresh pumpkin’s earthy sweetness up a notch by adding rich bittersweet chocolate into the batter. Serve slices to guests with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Hibiscus Poached Pears: If making pies, cake, and tarts aren’t your thing, try poaching fruit. Simmering fruit in aromatic liquid elevates its flavors. The spiced pears in this recipe get their ruby glow from antioxidant-rich hibiscus tea that also lends a fragrant, cranberry flavor.

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