I had my first vegan Thanksgiving in 2001, and I showed up at my parents’ house armed with recipes I found in dark corners of the internet, recipes I’d never tried before and was just sort of hoping would work. I ended up with a pumpkin soup that tasted like dirt (literally) and a cranberry walnut salad made with store-bought seitan. If I remember correctly, I ended up eating rolls and tossed salad and feeling pretty sorry for myself.
Obviously the options are a lot better now, and because of that, you might find yourself facing the opposite problem: there are so many recipes to choose from, and you’re not sure which will become your “standards,” because there is no way that you can make all of them.
I don’t recommend trying a recipe for the first time on Thanksgiving day—even if it’s from a cookbook author or blogger whom you trust—because that day will be filled with distractions, and multiple people competing for oven and stovetop space, and those conditions aren’t ideal for following a recipe for the first time. The safest bet is to do a test run: make the dish at least once in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, just so that you are familiar with the timing and the steps.
I also don’t recommend using all new recipes this Thanksgiving. If this is your first vegan Thanksgiving, and you’re responsible for the entire meal, it’s probably a better idea to focus on one or two new dishes, and use your standard easy favorites (mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, a tossed salad) to fill out the rest of the meal.
Finally, and most importantly, Thanksgiving isn’t the time to mess with the classics. You heard about some great new mashed potato method and can’t wait to put your nephew in cleats to give it a whirl? Great! Try it another time! If you decide then that it’s better than your current recipe, make it that way a lot in the coming year and then debut it at next year’s Thanksgiving.
Here are the recipes which I’ve used, and with great success:
- any of the recipes from the Thanksgiving section of my zine, Potluck Mania, obviously, but if you only try one for this holiday, make it the Mushroom Dressing;
- If you try two, make the Coconut Sweet Potatoes, because they’re crazy delicious and so easy that you can assign all the work to your clueless cousin;
- the Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Yellow Rose Recipes is my go-to mashed potato recipe;
- The Best Vegan Green Bean Casserole from Fat Free Vegan is always a hit, though I’m sure that the recipe Isa just posted today is also great, I just haven’t made it;
- I like simple vegetables at Thanksgiving, since everything else on the table is usually heavy and calorie-dense, so I make roasted brussel sprouts (brussels tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little paprika and roasted in the oven until crispy) and a green salad with apple slices, dried cranberries, and caramelized walnuts tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette;
- I make a seitan roast which is my standard chicken style seitan recipe, but uses Brian McCarthy’s Vegan Turkey Roast method. I baste it before baking with a basting liquid that is 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon tamari, and 1 teaspoon liquid smoke;
- I don’t usually make dessert at Thanksgiving (someone else always does!), but I’ve happily eaten Smlove Pie and The Millennium Cookbook’s Pecan Pie1 at vegan thanksgiving potlucks.
Have a happy holiday!
1It was brought to my attention in a comment that Todd X lifted “his” pecan pie recipe from The Millennium Cookbook. I’ve made the correction.