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Vegan Thanksgiving: 38 Holiday Menu Options to Transform Your Family Dinner

We all know that the holidays center around one thing: 

Food. 

And Thanksgiving focuses on this element more than any of its contenders! 

Whether you are attending an in-person (or virtual) Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving, there is some delicious food in your future. 

Unlike some other more flexible events like weddings, dinners out, and barbecues--

Thanksgiving is a holiday where people can get really thrown off by veganism.

No turkey?

What on earth are vegans going to eat!? 

Don’t worry—

In this article, we’re going to walk you through a vegan Thanksgiving celebration from start to finish. (Even your omnivore friends are going to love these dishes!) 

Here is what we’ll be going over: 

Is your mouth already watering? 

Then keep reading!

Thanksgiving: Honoring Traditions Old and New

While the Thanksgiving holiday does have origins in religious beliefs and historical events, it is a widely popularized holiday now that focuses on three things: 

  • Giving thanks
  • Spending time with family
  • Cooking incredible food

Many families have extended their personal traditions to create an even more fun and meaningful holiday! 

Here are a few activities some families participate in: 

  • Volunteering for food drives, soup kitchens, or other meaningful causes
  • Running (or walking) a 5k together as a family
  • Binge-watching a tv series (All of the “Friends” Thanksgiving episodes are favorites!)

In fact, Thanksgiving is so popular, it has formed a sub-holiday—

Friendsgiving!

This holiday is especially popular among millennials and has risen to popularity within the last 5 years. 

Friendsgiving is all about having a cozy, laid-back holiday with close friends where everyone shares food and celebrates their friendships. 

It usually takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving and is a pot-luck event. 

This tradition is especially heart-warming. 

This year, Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving are going to look different for many families and friends across the United States. Lots of people will be hosting smaller dinner parties or even virtual gatherings! 

If you are joining in on a virtual celebration this holiday season, here are some new traditions that you can suggest for 2020: 

  • Start a food train: Send a surprise take-out meal to a friend that you know they will love and have each person pay it forward. 
  • Volunteer virtually: In the spirit of the holidays, give back by dedicating your time to a meaningful cause. Here are ways you can volunteer virtually
  • Write a thank you letter: After all, it’s called Thanksgiving for a reason! Write a letter of gratitude to your friends and family. Not only will it brighten their day, but it also actually has health benefits for you. 
  • Coordinate your dinners: Celebrating in different houses? No problem! Agree upon a dinner menu and have fun cooking and eating together over a zoom call.  

This is a year for cherishing old traditions and embracing new ones!

Vegan Nashville Hot Cauliflower Bites from Richa of Vegan Richa

Starters, Hor D’oeuvres, and Appetizers - Oh My! 

Prior to even sitting down at the table-- 

Food is a huge part of any Thanksgiving celebration. 

Fancy, indulgent dishes that only make an appearance once a year add to the feeling of coziness and gratitude for the occasion. 

What’s the trick to creating a pre-dinner spread? 

Curate dishes that have a little something for everyone! Your starters should include flavors that are sweety, salty, and savory. 

One classic way to do this is to create a charcuterie board!

At first, you might feel stuck.

It’s true, traditionally charcuterie boards are filled with different types of meats and cheeses. 

But hey, rules are made to be broken. 

Creating a vegan charcuterie board has never been tastier (or more aesthetically pleasing!) Here are two vegan charcuterie board ideas to copy at your holiday celebration: 

  • The Reluctant Entertainer goes all-out creating her epic charcuterie board and includes plant-based meatballs, cashew dip, nuts, veggies, crackers, and more. 
  • The First Mess offers a guide to three different vegan snack board ideas that are all out of the park. Whether you make one dish off the list or all three, the other guests are going to love you. With recipes for a roasted garlic and butternut dip, a balsamic and mushroom pate, and soft cashew cheese with beetroot and miso, you’ll have a tough time saving room for dinner. 

If you have a little extra time to spend in the kitchen, there are a few vegan appetizer ideas that you may want to perfect! Here are some top picks: 

On this list, you’ve got it all--

There are salty, sweet, spicy, creamy, savory, and smoky flavors that will wow all of the guests at the table! 

Turmeric Roasted Chickpea Carrot Salad from Lindsay Cotter of Cotter Crunch

All About the Sides: From Mashed Potatoes to Stuffing

Let’s be honest—

If there is any group of people that is used to making a meal out of sides, it’s vegans!

Luckily for vegans, Thanksgiving sides are legendary. 

Comfort foods like casseroles, stuffings, and mashed potatoes? 

There’s never been a better time for them to shine. 

Here is a list of veganized dishes for Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving. On the list, you will find a healthy mix of tried and true classics, and refreshing new recipes to introduce. 

Creating a mix of classic side dishes and up-and-coming comfort foods will make your day feel cozy and special. 

What better time to try out new recipes than in the company of friends and families! 

Vegan Loaded Mashed Potatoes from Christine of Jar of Lemons

5 Vegan Thanksgiving Ideas that Kids Will Love

Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving are all about three things: 

  • Sending time together
  • Sharing old traditions
  • Creating new memories

What better tradition to share with your kids than taking the time to cook a Thanksgiving recipe with them?

Your Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving menus should include a few recipes that can be cooked up with your chefs-in-training. No matter what age the kids in your family are—

They aren’t too young to start cooking. 

Here are a few lessons that kids learn while cooking: 

  • History lessons about your family traditions
  • Cultural lessons about diet
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Math skills (measuring, counting, etc)
  • Social skills like responsibility, kitchen safety, sharing, and more. 

Here are a few picky-eater proof recipes to create with your kids this upcoming holiday: 

  • Full-fat coconut milk is the secret ingredient to this creamed corn recipe by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken. 
  • Adding this simple and easy applesauce recipe by Plant-based and Broke made by the kids will make Thanksgiving a little sweeter. 
  • This baked mac and cheese recipe by The Simple Veganista will be a crowd-favorite among adults and children. 
  • Ready for all of Thanksgiving in a bowl? This loaded mashed potato bowl by Jar of Lemons is the perfect idea for kids this holiday. 
  • This vegan three bean chili by Wee Little Vegans is full of fall flavors. 

These kid-friendly recipes will make your holiday a success! 

Portobello Steaks with Pesto Aioli from Sarah of Make Thyme for Health

Everything But the Turkey: Main Dishes for Dinner

Whether you are hosting the event, are responsible for bringing a dish, or are working on giving your host ideas—

These recipe ideas will make everyone forget about the traditional Turkey for dinner. 

These versatile dishes allow you to pack in more flavor and transform your holiday traditions. Here are the very BEST vegan main dish ideas for Thanksgiving: 

  • Imagine enjoying a Friendsgiving dinner where these stuffed acorn squashes by The Simple Veganista were the main course! Beyond adorable. 
  • This turkeyless turkey recipe by the Anti Carnist is so realistic it will make you do a double-take. This moist seitan-based recipe satisfies all your traditional dinner cravings. 
  • Sticking with the traditional theme, test out this turkey roast recipe by My Quiet Kitchen. 
  • Making Thyme for Health plays on savory and fresh flavors with this portobello steak recipe with pesto aioli. 
  • Who doesn’t love pasta? This ravioli recipe stuffed with sweet potato, mushroom, and hazelnuts will be a crowd-favorite for sure. 
  • It takes some time, but this 1-hour plant-powered butternut squash shepherd’s pie (gluten-free) by Will Frolic for Food is completely worth it. 
  • If you are looking to create a show-stopping main dish that will be talked about for years to come, then you need to make this Thanksgiving Pithiviers recipe by Lazy Cat Kitchen. Fall flavors like butternut squash, pecans, thyme, and nutmeg are all wrapped up in a delicious puff pastry. 

These recipes are all traditional with a twist! 

When cooking these dishes up, you’re sure to learn something new in the kitchen and create new memories this holiday season. 

Vegan Chai Cake with Orange Cardamom Frosting from Leanne of Crumb Top Baking

Desserts: Apple, Salted Caramel, and Pumpkin Galore

Everyone knows that on Thanksgiving, even if you’re completely stuffed—

There is always room for dessert. 

These tried and true dessert recipes are the epitome of fall flavors: 

  • Pumpkin pie is a classic Thanksgiving dish. This recipe by Be Plant Well is simply scrumptious! 
  • Vegans can enjoy “cheese”-cake too! For a more elevated Thanksgiving dessert, this pumpkin cheesecake by Vegan Blueberry is creamy and delicious. 
  • These salted caramel apple pie bars by Happy Healthy Mama? You better get ‘em before they’re gone. 
  • Often an overlooked flavor on the holiday table, this chai spice cake with orange cardamom frosting is too good to pass up. 
  • The phrase “As American as Apple Pie,” is around for a reason. This recipe by Nora Cooks is a great one to share with your whole family. (She recommends serving it with a scoop of non-dairy ice cream!) 
  • Having a flavored after-dinner drink is always a nice touch on intimate gatherings. This slow cooker spiced apple cider is the perfect ending to a perfect evening. 

Gobble, Gobble! A Turkey-Friendly Thanksgiving

The spirit of Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving is all about spending time together, being grateful, and eating really amazing food. 

For vegans, it is also about extending that kindness and festive spirit to cruelty-free and yummy eating. 

This year, wow all of your guests with these hearty and cozy Thanksgiving dishes. 

Interested in learning more about vegan cooking? Check out this blog about how to make amazing vegan dishes at home

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