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How to Cook For a Vegetarian at Thanksgiving

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Turkey Day certainly poses an obstacle for vegetarians. If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, it's important to keep in mind a few things while you're preparing dinner if you're planning to welcome a guest who doesn't eat meat. Rather than completely abandoning your routine game plan, make these minor adjustments so that both your meat-eating and vegetarian friends and family have some delicious food to choose from on the greatest food holiday of the year.

Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is never an easy feat. When diet restrictions enter the equation, things can start to become confusing and slightly overwhelming. If one of your guests at the Thanksgiving table this year is a vegetarian, you shouldn't plan to flip your entire menu upside down in order to accommodate their food preferences. With a few simple adjustments, everyone at the table can enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner.

In fact, it doesn’t require much to make sure that any vegetarians in attendance have food they can eat, while making sure to not take away from the meat-loving experience of your carnivorous friends and family.

Photo: Jennifer Causey
  • Tackle the turkey. The turkey is an obvious dish that your vegetarian guest is going to avoid. However, this doesn’t mean you should scratch it from the menu. (I mean, come on, it’s Thanksgiving!) If you’re feeling bold and adventurous, you can go ahead and make a “tofurkey” if you’re hosting several vegetarian guests, but this is a lot of extra work and not necessarily crucial to a successful dinner menu, even with vegetarians at the table. Instead, offer a vegetarian lasagna, a gratin, or a strata for a hearty main dish that vegetarians and meat-eaters alike can enjoy. Leftovers freeze easily, and they’re all great foods that your guests can take home with them.
Photo: Charles Masters
  • Tackle toppings. When it comes to sides, keep an eye out for a few common non-vegetarian components. If you typically cook your vegetables, green beans for example, with bacon, you can always keep your same recipe, but set aside a couple portions of it before the addition of the meat. Or, you can ditch the bacon entirely and top your casseroles and vegetables with breadcrumbs or roasted chickpeas for that signature, savory crunch.
  • Switch up stuffing. If your go-to is sausage stuffing, try out a cornbread, grain, or other meat-less stuffing this year, and rely on flavor and depth from herbaceous, roasted veggies, toasted nuts, and dried fruits. You can also double your favorite sausage stuffing recipe, and omit the sausage in one half so that there is a meatless stuffing option that works with everyone’s diet.
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  • Focus on ingredients. Other small cooking adjustment you can make in adherence to your vegetarian eater: Swap vegetable broth for chicken or beef broth. Also, olive oil for any bacon fat.

All in all, having a vegetarian at the table should not shake up your Thanksgiving routine or add on countless hours in the kitchen. By paying close attention to some unsuspecting ingredients and offering a couple vegetarian options or substitutions for casseroles, sides, and stuffings, all of your guests will have plenty of delicious food to enjoy at your holiday gathering.