How to Plan a Show-Stopping Vegetarian Christmas Dinner
How to Plan a Show-Stopping Vegetarian Christmas Dinner
Acorn Squash With Wild Rice Stuffing
This two-for-one dish of wild rice stuffing and roasted acorn squash is a sure crowd-pleaser. You can cut the stuffed halves into quarters so they don’t take up as much room on the plate. Wild rice takes about as much time to cook as long-grain brown rice, which you can use as a substitute. You can also make the rice ahead and refrigerate. Reheat with a splash of water before adding to the sausage mixture.
Gluten-Free Vegan Lasagna
For this gluten-free vegan lasagna, thinly-sliced zucchini is a great stand in for noodles. When salted, the excess moisture is drawn out, leaving you with a lasagna just as firm as the noodle version. Mashed tofu, when seasoned correctly, tastes eerily similar to ricotta, but with significantly fewer calories and fat. It holds its own against traditional recipes and will wow dinner guests all the same.
Hearty Vegan Spiced Winter Squash Soup
Smooth and custardy, silken tofu blends perfectly with the butternut squash and pumpkin to create the ultimate velvety texture. And thanks to its protein and fiber, the dish is quite filling—your family won’t even know it’s 295 calories and completely vegan.
Beet and Citrus Salad With Almond Gremolata
To offset all those deep rich flavors typically found in holiday food, you want something bright and fresh, with enough flavor to cut through those other dishes. This salad is like a breath of fresh air at any table: The tangy yogurt and bold citrus will ensure it quickly becomes a favorite.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Pine Nuts
This staff favorite adds color and texture to your buffet and makes a splash on the Thanksgiving table. For a bit of showmanship, bring the whole cauliflower to the table, and then "carve" and dress with the vinaigrette, pomegranate arils, pine nuts, and parsley. While most holiday dishes are designed to be delicious warm or at room temperature, this is one dish that's worth saving until the end of your prep and serving straight out of the oven.
Smoky Eggplant Zaalouk
This creamy, smoky dip is Morocco's answer to baba ghanoush. Serve with grilled meat or fish, or as a spread in a sandwich.
Sheet Pan Curried Tofu with Vegetables
This vegetarian one-pan meal is loaded with color and texture, from the soft sweet potatoes to the crisp-tender cauliflower and juicy pomegranate seeds. Preheating the pan will help the potatoes and tofu achieve a crispy exterior; be careful when adding the vegetable mixture to the hot pan. A cool, tangy yogurt drizzle will help balance the slight chile heat from the curry powder. Drizzle the sauce over the pan, or serve at the table.
Potato-Butternut Gratin with Poblano Béchamel
The mild sweetness of butternut squash pairs particularly well with Mexican flavors of poblano chile and cumin. Goat cheese brightens and enriches the flavor, and toasty almonds offer a welcome textural contrast. Try to get a squash with a long neck, as slices from that section are easiest to work with.
Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna
Silky roasted butternut squash stands in for noodles in this more nutritious take on the starchy pasta casserole.
Extra Creamy Broccoli-Cheddar Casserole
This fresher take on the traditional casserole is loaded with vegetables and comes together with a homemade sauce instead of sodium-heavy canned soup.
Spinach and Feta Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust
The simple, scalloped shell made from thinly sliced rounds of sweet potatoes makes this version of a popular brunch (or supper) dish gluten-free. Choose potatoes with comparable diameters to create uniform slices for the easy-to-make crust. A mandoline makes slicing quick and precise, but a sharp chef's knife will work too. You can also slice the potatoes in the food processor using the slicing blade.
Beet and Goat Cheese Tart
This show-stopping tart can be a light main or an impressive appetizer. The classic pairing of sweet beets with tangy goat cheese gets wrapped up in a store-bought crust for an effortless, easy-to-eat picnic-ready dish.
Pecan Pie Baked Apples
Combine two holiday season favorites, pecan and apple pies, into an adorable and simple recipe. This idea will take less than 30 minutes to put together, and everyone gets a slice of happy, stress-free sweetness. Using just five ingredients, most of which you'll probably already have, means that you won't have to run out to the store for specialty items.
Stuffed Carnival Squash with Butternut Lattice
Forget slicing or carving at the table with this vegetarian holiday recipe. Each serving is an entire carnival squash, making for an easy and beautifully presented main dish. If you'll be pressed for time when cooking, you can easily make a batch ahead and bake just before serving.
Tricolored Beet Tart
Start your holiday meal with a simple yet gorgeous beet tart, topped off with tangy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts, and flaky sea salt. Par-bake the crust to get a lovely raised edge (what forms the shell of your tart) and ensure that the bottom will be cooked through. If you or your guests are not beet fans, substitute sweet potatoes: Wrap 4 (4-ounce) sweet potatoes in parchment paper, and microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Then cool, peel, and slice. You can also sub feta for goat cheese and pecans or walnuts for hazelnuts.
Butternut Squash Crown Roast
Prepare to watch jaws drop when you bring this dish to the table. Thanksgiving requires a presentation-worthy featured main, but it doesn't have to be a turkey every time. This year, impress your guests with a crown roast of butternut squash.
Roasted Vegetable Plate with Herbed Dressing
Vegetables can be sparse in winter months when holiday braises, hearty stews, and centerpiece roasts tend to take over. This seasonal vegetable plate will help you stick to your calorie plan, and can be altered easily depending on what's available. Don't be scared of a hot oven—roasting the veggies at 500°F gets the job done quickly and gives the vegetables a nice golden color. Tarragon has an anise flavor similar to fennel; you can omit it or substitute sliced green onions or parsley for a fresh pop.
Grapefruit, Endive, and Arugula Salad
Give yourself the gift of one worry-free dish this holiday season. This 15-minute, no-cook, citrus-flecked salad tastes best when it sits at least 10 minutes. No guest will be able to resist our lemony homemade vinaigrette, which adds sweet flavor without lots of fat, calories, or carbs. Tossing the endive leaves in the vinaigrette first softens their bitter edge. You could also sub thinly sliced fennel or chopped Romaine hearts. Top with chopped walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and grapefruit slices.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
Chef Jonathan Waxman taught Cooking Light Editor Hunter Lewis how to make this fall salad many years ago. Riff with the ingredients to find the flavor balance you prefer. For a vegan version, omit the Parmesan cheese.
Parmesan-Crusted Potato Gratin
These are the ultimate roasted potatoes. The top and edges get crispy, and the bottom layers turn amazingly rich and buttery. Be sure to buy same-sized potatoes so the slices are uniform.
Sweet Potato Gratin
Evaporated milk unifies and enriches the layers of this dish. Use all sweet potatoes or mix them up. Use a loaf pan for maximum height, and bake gratin up to 2 days ahead. Rewarm, covered, in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.
Harissa-Roasted Carrots with Pistachios
Available in most supermarkets, harissa comes in mild and hot varieties; if you want to play it safe, go with mild, then bump up the heat with a dash of cayenne pepper if you like. To make after-dinner cleanup easier, line your roasting pan with aluminum foil before adding the carrot mixture.
Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
A mix of colorful root vegetables may be your star side. Peeled, prechopped butternut squash saves time, but pieces tend to be irregular and small—we prefer peeling and cubing it yourself.
• • Gluten-Free Tip: Some mustards don't contain gluten, however avoid those that aren't labeled "gluten free" because there is a concern for cross-contamination.
Vegetarian Cherry-and-Tomato Tartare
Traditional tartare is an indulgent delight of varying raw textures, which we replicate here using cherries, walnuts, and a surprising mixture of orange and cream. Try it on baguettes with a grassy olive oil for contrast, or plate it among a bed of bitter greens (such as arugula) for a salad.
Roasted Parsnips with Lemon and Herbs
If you’re not familiar with parsnips, try these quick recipes to acquaint yourself with them. The root veggies look like white carrots and have a decidedly sweet, earthy flavor. Shop for medium to small parsnips, as larger ones tend to have tough, woody cores. In the main recipe here, a hit of fresh lemon juice and sprinkling of fresh herbs make the whole dish taste fresh and bright. If you don’t have parsley on hand, you can leave it out, but do seek out the dill.
Buttered Sweet Potato Knot Rolls
These sweet potato knot rolls take a little bit of time to make, but they’re well worth the effort. Serve them warm or at room temperature. Warning: your guests swoon over their heavenly aroma.
Crispy Cauliflower With Italian Salsa Verde
Crunch and zing are often missing from the holiday spread; these crispy, cheesy cauliflower florets with fresh lemon-parsley sauce achieve both. Serve with classic holiday dishes, or with roasted fish or a simple pasta toss on any weeknight. A thorough coat of cooking spray on the cauliflower will help the breading adhere and keep the florets from drying out as they bake. Finely grated Parmesan will go further in the breading; use a microplane or pulse in a food processor until finely ground.
Whole-Grain Spelt and Cornmeal Biscuits
Gently pat the dough flat instead of rolling with a rolling pin. Patting preserves all the pockets of fat needed for flaky biscuits, whereas rolling pancakes them into small, dense pucks. Cut the biscuits into squares to avoid any leftover scraps. This will also help you avoid the twisting motion of using a cutter that can also lead to flat biscuits. Spelt flour adds a deep nutty flavor, but you can use white whole-wheat flour if you can't find spelt.
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
Cauliflower mashed potatoes are a lower-carb, lower-fat mash that’s perfect for all your healthy holiday side dish needs. For deeper flavor, roast the cauliflower first, and then puree until creamy. Fold into your potatoes, and round it out with whole milk, a touch of butter, and a sprinkle of seasonings.
Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad
It may seem too good to be true, but it's not: This impressive plate requires only 5 ingredients (water, oil, salt, and pepper are freebies). Microwaved sweet potatoes are sliced into medallions, brushed with oil, and lightly seared so they become satisfyingly steak-like. The creamy, nutty sauce adds richness, and the lemon-dressed arugula-chickpea salad bulks up the plate beautifully. In place of almond butter, you can use any nut butter you like—try peanut, cashew, or sunflower butter. And if canned chickpeas aren't in your pantry, try cannellini or navy beans.
Braised Artichokes, Favas, and Carrots in Creamy Lemon Sauce With Fennel
We love the artichokes in this dish—they add their unique flavor and somehow make everything taste just a little sweeter. The olive oil emulsifies with the braising liquid to create a silky sauce that deliciously coats the bright spring veggies. Thin lemon slices, charred and caramelized in a cast-iron pan, make a nice garnish.
Creamy Artichoke and Asparagus Lasagna
Lemon rind brightens the sauce, making for a more delicate lasagna. To save on salt, use frozen artichokes, which contain a quarter of the sodium of the canned variety that are usually packed in brine.
Traditional versions of this dish can tip the scales at nearly 1,000 calories and 30g sat fat per serving. This makeover cuts that by more than two-thirds and still has plenty of marinara, melty cheese, and crispy baked eggplant.
For a twist on cranberry sauce this year, try this sweet, tart, and earthy beet-and-cranberry condiment. Toasted whole coriander and brown mustard seeds add warmth and take the chutney into savory territory. The chunky texture is part of the charm here, a great contrast to the mashes and casseroles on the table.
Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions
Deeply caramelized with balsamic vinegar until glossy and browned, these sweet and tangy jewels are a gorgeous addition to your holiday plate. We actually prefer frozen, peeled pearl onions over fresh for convenience; you save a lot of time by not peeling fresh pearl onions. You will be tempted to stir the pan frequently as the liquid reduces, but the onions need time to cook undisturbed in order to get deeply browned. Keep the heat low so the liquid in the pan doesn’t dry up too quickly.
Balsamic Cranberry-Onion Jam
This jam is an excellent, refined sugar-free alternative to the traditional, often too-sweet sauce, and tastes even better a day or two after it’s made. Because fresh cranberries are so tart on their own, be sure to use a sweet onion such as Vidalia in the jam. Pair this condiment with your holiday plate, then use as a sandwich spread for holiday leftovers.
Ginger-Chile Roasted Acorn Squash
Fresh ginger, red Fresno chile, and pomegranate don’t usually appear on the holiday table, but we love how they transform simply roasted squash into a dish with tingly heat and pops of color. Leave the sheet pan in the oven as it preheats to jump-start browning, saving roasting time in the oven.
Spinach and Feta Quiche with Quinoa Crust
We’ve turned a classic dish into a perfectly clean brunch option that the whole family will love. The crunchy quinoa crust gives heartiness to the light and fluffy quiche inside. Swap out canola oil for coconut, almond, avocado, or olive oil, and look for organic eggs and dairy products.
Green Bean Casserole with Caulifower Cream
Once simmered in milk and pureed, cauliflower transforms into a silky, luscious cream sauce—a dead ringer for the classic yet with a much better profile, saving nearly 500mg sodium and 4g fat per serving. We intensify the mushroom presence by using meaty cremini and shiitake mushrooms and roasting them first to cook out the excess liquid. If you can’t find shiitakes, use 2 (8-oz.) packages of cremini mushrooms. Skip the fried onions and use torn whole-wheat bread for a rustic, crunchy topper.
Maple-Caraway Brussels Sprouts
Layer upon layer of bold flavor earned these Brussels sprouts our test kitchen’s highest rating. The sprouts get deeply caramelized in toasted caraway and browned butter, then are quickly finished with a sweet and pungent mixture of maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and sherry vinegar. Caraway has an anise-like flavor similar to fennel seed. Add to roasted carrots or parsnips, or sprinkle over whole-grain rolls or crackers. Start the caraway and thyme in a cold pan so they can infuse the butter as it browns.
Potato and Parsnip Gratin
The addition of parsnips is an elegant twist to this traditionally all-potato dish. Parboiling and drying the sliced parsnips and potatoes first will keep them from absorbing the sauce in the oven so the gratin stays creamy. Half-and-half is our dairy of choice for this dish—a combination of equal parts cream and whole milk that gives the sauce its body while keeping the saturated fat at just 3g per serving. Toss the vegetables gently with the sauce so the slices don’t fall apart.
Ruthenian Mushroom Soup
A traditional Ruthenian dish, this soup starts with raw garlic and a bowl of dark brown mushrooms. It's often served on Christmas Eve, but can be enjoyed all winter long.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Pumpkin Seed-Oat Crumble
We use less sugar in this classic casserole and get sweetness instead from fragrant orange rind and vanilla. Turmeric boosts the orange color and adds a subtle earthiness to the sweet potatoes. Instead of an all-nut or marshmallow topping, an oat streusel made with pumpkinseeds adds crunch and contrast to the dish. Evaporated milk has a concentrated dairy flavor without the added sugar of sweetened condensed milk; it will help the potato base to thicken as it bakes.
Roasted Butternut Squash With Sticky Walnut Topping
Molasses complements the sweetness of the roasted butternut squash and gives the slices a deeply bronzed look. We add cider vinegar for balance and stir in walnuts for a sticky, praline-like topping. The dish is best served warm, when the molasses mixture is still gooey. You can roast the squash ahead and reheat the slices while you make the topping. A quick trick for cleaning a sticky saucepan: Fill with water and bring to a boil, letting any residue dissolve, and then drain.
Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Tart with Olive Oil Crust
To speed up prep time, roast the squash and par-bake the crust simultaneously. Our no-roll, no-chill, heart-healthy dough presses right into the pie plate and adds 4 grams of filling fiber to every slice. This easy dish captures all the warm, seasonal flavor of the colder months without being overly heavy or rich.