Thanksgiving might be the hardest time to be a vegan.
Not only are all the traditional items full of meat and dairy, but unless they have an all-vegan family, they can feel ostacized by the jokes, put-downs, and microagressions around the family table.
If you're a non-vegan that has invited a vegan to dinner and you want them to have a good time, don't fret. Vegan "technology" has grown at a lightening fast pace. You can absolutely have a delicious, animal-free meal that will make everyone happy. I'm here to tell you how.
Did you know that some beer is made using fish bladders? First of all, ew. Second of all, not vegan. And third - not well known! So, while finding vegan drinks seems easy, it's a little trickier than you might expect....
Wine is also not always vegan! This article from The Kitchn explains why (spoiler alert: fish bladders again, among other things), and recommends a few vegan wines. If you're not into talking with your local wine shop guy to find these, here is a handy dandy list of vegan wines that Trader Joes carries.
We already mentioned that not all beer is vegan. Some top brands that are safe are:
- Budweiser and Bud Light
- Coors and Coors Light
- Guinness (Original and Blonde American Lager Only)
- Heineken (Beer Only, Not Cider)
- Miller Lite and Miller High Life
- Pabst Blue Ribbon
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
- Stella Artois (Beer Only, Not Cider)
If those aren't your style, check out Barnivore, your vegan beer, wine, and liquor guide to see if your favorites are vegan.
Ok, so I may be in the minority here, but I think the best part of Thanksgiving is the sides, which makes the turkey not all that big of a thing to miss out on, but it really is the symbol of Thanksgiving. It will be obvious to non-vegans if there is no turkey, so you may decide to make two main dishes, but there are lots of options for vegan mains like Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk'y, Trader Joes Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast With Gravy, and Quorn Celebration Roast.
But, according to our CEO, Robert, "I think Tofurkey is still the best, to be honest."
Tofurky has been around so long that it's become a bit of punchline, but Robert has been a vegan for a very long time, so maybe it's best to trust him here.
If you want to be awesome and actually cook something instead heating up something pre-made, try a do-it-yourself Torfurkey with Mushroom Stuffing and Gravy. Or this Mushroom Wellington with Rosemary and Pecans. And then make extra for me because boy howdy that looks good.
Most thanksgiving sides can be made vegan relatively easily, you just need to know about the best substitutions.
First butter. It's such a staple of traditional cooking that people go crazy when you try to take their butter away. This is why we suggest not even mentioning it to the non-vegans. There have been a lot of advances in the vegan butter department, and they most likely won't even notice.
Sub in a vegan butter like Earth Balance or Faba Butter for regular butter on things like mashed potatoes and you're set. If you normally put milk in your mashed potatoes, try oat milk! We like Oatly. It's creamy and delicious.
For sides like candied yams, sub out regular marshmallows for Dandies.
When it comes to stuffing, most families have their traditional recipes. Some add meat like sausage or oysters, which might make veganizing difficult. I don't think I would ever even want vegan oysters to be a thing, but vegan sausage is here and it's pretty darn good. Sub vegetable broth for turkey broth and you're good to go. No, it may not taste exactly the same, but it will still be really good, and it will make your vegan friends (and the planet) happy.
Unfortunately store-bought cream of mushroom soup doesn't exist, but Minimalist Baker has a vegan green bean casserole recipe or you can make your regular recipe and make the cream of mushroom soup from scratch.
Again, all of these will taste pretty close to your well-loved traditional versions, so there's no need to make separate dishes for the vegans.
Like sides, desserts can easily be made to taste the way you're used to with a few simple swaps. For dessert, the answer is usually coconut in the form of coconut oil or coconut milk.
Or can keep it super easy and toss a few bags of Maxine's Heaveny Pumpkin Pecan Spice cookies on the table along with a pot of coffee and your favorite board game for hours of post-meal fun.
The first Thanksgiving was a harvest festival and a time to give thanks and break bread with neighbors. It should be celebrated with a spirit of inclusion and a focus on connection, not food.
Now, that doesn't mean that the food shouldn't be delicious. It absolutely should. But the food should not be more important than the people who eat it. A few simple swaps and vegans and non-vegans alike will be happy at the table!