Because everyone deserves a delicious Thanksgiving meal—including vegans.  
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Whether it’s your first Thanksgiving as a vegan, or your twenty-first, it can be tough to navigate your way to a satisfying Thanksgiving dinner without leaving your stomach grumbling or aching afterwards. I have been eating a plant-based diet for almost four years now, and I still find it tough to tell relatives that yes, I am still doing this “vegan thing” and turn down servings of food my loved ones worked hard to make. However, with a little prep, I still manage to have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day. Here’s my game plan for this year:

First, I figure out what I can eat.

Most of my immediate family is vegan now, which makes celebrating with them a breeze. But now that I’m married, I spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, and they serve a traditional Southern Thanksgiving dinner. It is a spread of dreams for most, but it can be tricky for me. I’ve learned from last year that the bread, roasted veggies, salad, and wine are vegan-friendly, and to be honest, that sounds like a great feast to me itself.

Are you in charge of Thanksgiving this year and have family members with dietary restrictions?

Get in the kitchen.

A mushroom-based gravy is super easy to make and adds a rich, comforting flavor to just about anything. This is a must-have for me, along with hummus to put on bread or dip veggies in. These both make great creamy additions to plain baked potatoes.

I also plan to make a large dish of either a sweet potato or green bean casserole, as those are easily adaptable for plant-based cooking and can even be crowd pleasers for omnivores (just make enough to share!) Plus, prepping some of my favorite foods before Turkey Day makes for a more satisfying meal, takes a load off family members, and keeps temptation at bay.

Forage for protein.

I must admit, faux turkey dishes don’t exactly sound or look like an appealing option to me, and I don’t enjoy a lot of meat alternatives in general. However, protein is easy to miss when it comes to a vegan Thanksgiving, and I need a tasty option that travels well. I was inspired to create a plant-based version of this Triple-Mushroom Stuffing, which packs 13 grams of protein per serving, and is a great way for me to add extra protein in a tasty way. I will also sneak in chopped tempeh for the ultimate plant-protein dish. Combined with hummus, whole grains, and several grams of protein from veggies, I will have a lovely, well-rounded Thanksgiving feast.

Never forget about dessert.

My favorite food at every holiday has always been dessert. Thankfully, Whole Foods has several great vegan options for dessert in their bakery, and if I can’t get to making a plant-based apple or pumpkin pie, I can pick one up the night before we leave.

Participate in all the other activities that make Thanksgiving special.

For me, Thanksgiving has never been about the turkey or the feast. I plan to wake up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as I do every year. I also plan to make memories cooking in the kitchen with my new family, even if I’m not eating most of what is being served. Most importantly, I plan to spend quality time with my loved ones and enjoy their presence before and after Thanksgiving dinner has been served. Being the lone vegan at Thanksgiving has helped me spend the day focused on gratitude for all that I have, instead on eating as much as I can, which helps me enjoy the holiday even more than before.