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How to Cook for a Vegan at Thanksgiving

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Don't worry if a vegan is attending your Thanksgiving event. Cooking for a plant-based guest is actually quite easy with these simple ingredient swaps and suggested menu options.

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of Thanksgiving dinner hosts quite like the word "vegan." Pretty much the antithesis of all traditional holiday meal components, vegans don't eat meat, dairy, or eggs. But, thankfully, it's not as hard to cook for a vegan as the public believes. Arm yourself with a hearty serving of seasonal veggies, grains, and legumes, and you'll have a Thanksgiving-worthy meal in no time.

Making a dish vegan-friendly doesn't have to mean absolutely scrapping your traditional choices. Below are some easy ways to make dishes plant-based without changing the recipe's integrity: 

Easy Vegan Swaps

  • Favor vegan fats. When sautéeing or roasting veggies, choose olive oil instead of butter. It will have the same rich flavor. Be sure to add extra salt if the original recipe calls for salted butter.
  • Swap stocks. Simply replace any meat-based broths with vegetable broth. This can easily make grain dishes and soups, like Vegetable Paella or Silky Tomato Soup, vegan-friendly.
  • Opt for plant milks. If the dish just needs a splash of dairy for a touch of creaminess, soy milk can easily be used in its place. Just be sure to choose unsweetened plain varieties and avoid the sweet flavored types most people drink or pour over cereal.
  • Play up umami. Want to add a nutty touch to sides with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top? Nutritional yeast is a great stand-in, with a natural cheesy and high-intensity umami flavor. 
  • Time for tofu. If you're looking to use ricotta in a dish like lasagna, mashing firm tofu with a little vegan mayonnaise and herbs makes it a creamy, rich substitute.
How to Freeze Vegetables

Simple Vegan Thanksgiving Menu

Don't feel like you need to make the entire menu vegan for a single guest. Most plant-based guests will be happy to have a few options, and many won't be expecting the entire spread to be free of meat, dairy, and eggs. For guests with dietary restrictions, it's nice to make sure they have at least one salad and two sides options. If you want to go above and beyond, also serve a heartier dish that can be their main. Below is a tentative menu to inspire you:

Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Citrus VinaigretteAcorn Squash with Pomegranate and Kale TabboulehSage-Roasted Carrots and Turnips
Photo: Iain Bagwell; Photo: Jennifer Causey; Photo: Jennifer Causey

If you're still worried or confused about serving a vegan at your Thanksgiving, just ask. Most will be happy to answer any questions, and almost all will point you in the right direction with recipes and cookbook suggestions.