Vegetarians at a family Thanksgiving dinner are accustomed to getting the stink eye, the exasperated sigh, and the classic “I think these mashed potatoes are meat-free…oh wait, I used chicken stock.” On a day that emphasizes indulgence to the point of a bellyache, those who choose to avoid meat are often the odd ones out. Instead of complaining, vegetarians just grin, bear it, and fill up on not-so-satisfying green bean casserole, dinner roles, and pumpkin pie.
Not so this year. Here are 33 of our favorite vegetarian main dishes that are far from boring, tasteless, or the dreaded (and oft-joked about) Tofurkey. A meat-free meal can be just as rich and scrumptious as any classic Thanksgiving dish. Plus, think of all the time you’ll save when prepping, brining, cooking, basting, and stuffing the turkey is out of the picture!
Photo: Earthy Feast
1. Pumpkin Pot Pie
The classic chicken potpie goes vegetarian and seasonal in this spotlight-stealing dish. Instead of meat, roasted pumpkin, carrots, celery, and kale take center stage. White kidney beans give the dish some protein, too. Make the crust a tiny bit healthier by opting for whole-wheat flour and going easy on the Parmesan cheese.
2. Butternut Squash Baked Risotto
This dairy-free risotto uses olive oil and low-sodium broth, not butter and cream, to achieve a rich consistency. With four cups of butternut squash and an entire bunch of kale, this baked dish is an easy way to get your veggies on Thanksgiving Day. Skip the grated parm to make this meal totally vegan.
3. Walnut-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Toasty walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, and sage transform these giant ‘shrooms into a rich, filling meal. Vegan cheese means this bad boy is perfect for vegans gathering around the Thanksgiving table.
4. Stuffed Thanksgiving “Burger”
Eating a burger on Thanksgiving — sacrilege, or genius? We vote for the latter. This all-veggie patty is made from lentils, mushrooms, hazelnuts, cranberries, sage, and thyme. It’s just like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, only on a bun.
Photo: Brooke / The Flour Sack
5. Swiss Chard, Sweet Potato, and Feta Tart with Teff Crust
This beautiful, healthy tart will definitely upstage the turkey on your Thanksgiving table. Sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, Swiss chard, and feta cheese hit their stride when tucked into a whole-wheat and teff crust.
6. Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash Rings
These golden rings of squash look like mini suns filled with a seasonal quinoa mixture. Perfect for a chilly late-fall dinner, right? With cranberry, sage, apple, maple syrup, and apple, the quinoa filling hits all of the autumnal high notes.
7. Mushroom and Barley Pie
Like a pot pie, this dish is made from layers of pastry wrapped around a tasty filling. Since pastry is by definition made from tons of butter, lighten up the filling by using part- or all- skim ricotta and going easy on the butter and olive oil.
8. Sweet Potato Gnocci with Brown Butter-Balsamic Sauce
Who said Thanksgiving dinner had to be a meat and potatoes affair? This creative Italian-inspired dish is a good example of why breaking with the past can be smart (and delicious). Filling, rich gnocci are a good substitute for traditional rib-sticking fair.
9. Pumpkin and Black Bean Casserole
For a healthy, veggie-rich dish, look no further than this fall-themed casserole. Pumpkin balances out the black beans, corn, canned tomatoes, and assortment of flavorful spices. Since it comes together in just 20 minutes, you can prep this dish, toss it in the oven, and then head out for a game of pre-dinner touch football.
Photo: Luise and David / Green Kitchen Stories
10. Warm Autumn Tart
Set a sophisticated tone on Thanksgiving Day with this veggie-loaded tart. Colorful carrots, red onions, sweet potatoes, romanesco, mushrooms, and kale come together to make a dish as healthy as it is beautiful. With a crust made of chickpea and almond flour, this tart is ideal for gluten-free eaters.
11. Vegetarian Vegetable Stew
Those who are serious about getting their veggies on Thanksgiving should bookmark this fresh stew recipe. Combine onion, carrot, celery, Portobello mushrooms, white mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, and parsley to make this hearty, surprisingly filling vegetable soup.
12. Roasted Vegetable Galette
Put veggies front and center with this rustic free-form vegetable tart. Colorful carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, and shallots provide plenty of flavor (and beta-carotene), while the goat cheese crumbles give this dish a salty, rich finish. Experiment with a whole-wheat crust to add some fiber into the mix.
13. Chickpea Roast with Sherry Sauce
Somewhere between a pastry and a meatless version of meatloaf, this impressive veggie main dish will keep vegetarians full on Turkey Day. Chickpeas, whole-wheat breadcrumbs, walnuts, mushrooms, and garlic give the filling a rich, distinctive flavor with plenty of protein.
14. Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Garlic Mashed Potatoes
With spaghetti squash instead of ground beef as its base, this shepherd’s pie is primed for a healthy makeover. Lentils, carrots, celery, and mushrooms up the vegetable ante, while a goat cheese-infused mashed potato topping adds some indulgent Thanksgiving flavor.
Photo: Marla Meridith / Fresh Family Cooking
15. Quinoa Stuffing with Apple, Sweet Potato, and Hazelnuts
For a side dish that’s filling enough to serve as a main course, look no further. Protein-rich quinoa and hazelnuts provide protein and fat, while sweet potatoes and apples lend this dish fiber and lots of fall flavor.
16. Pumpkin and Sage Ravioli
Mix things up with fresh, homemade ravioli filled with seasonal ingredients. The pumpkin puree, fresh sage, ricotta cheese, and nutmeg toe the line between savory and sweet. Serve ‘em with a bit of melted butter and a thin sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
17. Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Who needs meat when you can eat rich, meaty Portobello mushrooms instead? Stuffing them with sautéed tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, spinach, and a sprinkling of goat’s milk feta cheese turns these veggies into a full-on meal.
18. Apple Sage Chickpea Burgers
Once again proving that burgers are totally acceptable Thanksgiving fare, these chickpea veggie patties will probably steal the show. In addition to being protein-rich and low in fat, these burgers are fit to burst with autumn flavor thanks to the apples, sage, and onions.
Photo: Heidi Swanson / 101 Cookbooks
19. Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup
Spice things up at the dinner table by serving — gasp! — soup as a main dish. For an elegant yet filling soup, you can’t go wrong with this flavorful dish made with just six ingredients.
20. Curry-Stuffed Delicata Squash
Indian flavors on the Thanksgiving table? It’s not as strange as it sounds, we promise. Stuff delicata squash with basmati rice, lentils, shredded coconut, raisins, sunflower seeds, and of course, fresh curry powder. It’s a little bit exotic, a little bit non-traditional, but definitely delicious.
21. Pumpkin Chili with Black Beans and Garbanzo Beans
Everyone’s favorite winter meal gets the royal treatment in this festive chili recipe. Instead of ground beef, this version uses chickpeas and black beans, as well as pumpkin puree and canned tomatoes. Don’t forget to serve with cornbread!
22. Kale and Cauliflower Tart with a Cheddar Crust
What happens when you cross a Chicago-style pizza with a vegetable quiche? You get a deep-dish, satisfying vegetable tart that’s impressive enough for Thanksgiving dinner. The healthy cauliflower, onion, tomato, and kale filling plays off the cheddar-infused crust, creating a decadent, veggie-rich main dish.
23. Forest Floor Mushroom-Oat Risotto
No, this recipe isn’t named “forest floor” because it involves leaves, sticks, or anything the cat might drag in. Instead, it calls for two types of mushrooms (with the option to add extra varieties, including wild strains known to be safe), plenty of sage and rosemary, and steel-cut oats. If you’re not familiar with making risotto, it’s worth experimenting before the big day to get the slightly tricky technique down.
Photo: McKel Hill / Nutrition Stripped
24. Maple Tempeh with Herbed Quinoa
Like olives and anchovies, tempeh seems to fit in the “hate it or love it” category. If you’re a fan, this richly flavored dish is ideal for the dinner table. Marinate tempeh in maple syrup, olive oil, and thyme, and then bake. When it’s ready, serve on a bed of herby, garlicky quinoa for a protein-rich vegan meal.
25. Rustic Vegetable Soup with Red Beans and Potatoes
Let soup take a front-and-center role by serving this veggie soup as the main dish on Thanksgiving Day. Instead of turkey, this recipe features kidney beans, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and spinach. It’s a warming, filling way to get your veggies for sure.
26. Vegetable Lasagna Casserole
Casserole doesn’t exactly scream “special occasion dinner,” but this one-bowl meal will make a convert out of any skeptic. Featuring zucchini, carrots, eggs, salsa, and cheese, this Tex-Mex inspired dish is basically a vehicle for vegetables.
27. Festive Chickpea Tart
This veggie-rich seasonal tart looks complicated (aka impressive), but it’s pretty simple to whip together. Save yourself a step by spreading the topping (made of ground chickpeas, cranberries, spinach, sage, walnuts, rolled oats, tamari, and celery, among other ingredients) on a pre-made whole-wheat piecrust. Or go full DIY and make your own from scratch.
28. Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf
If the word “meatloaf” still brings to mind scary cafeteria mystery meat, it’s time to revisit the concept with this filling vegan version. Lentils, toasted walnuts, ground flax, carrot, celery, apple, raisins, and breadcrumbs make this meat-free loaf positively healthful. Top with a sweet-n-sour balsamic-apple glaze.
29. Stuffed Kabocha Squash with Quinoa and Chickpeas
These roasted gourds loaded with leeks, quinoa, chickpeas, currants, and spices are bound to satisfy vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. The best part? It’s basically quinoa salad in an edible bowl, so there are fewer dishes to wash at the end of the night!
Photo: Kelli Dunn / The Corner Kitchen
30. Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells
What happens when you combine an Italian classic and a Thanksgiving classic? You get these delicious, healthy, totally main course-worthy stuffed shells. Butternut squash adds moisture and flavor, so it’s possible to cut down on the cheese for a healthier dish.
31. Sweet Potato, Onion, and Fontina Tart
This rustic tart combines all the colors (and flavors) of fall. It’s a beautiful dish that will surely tempt even the non-vegetarians in the room. When assembling it, alternate rings of sweet potatoes and onions to make a pretty (and yummy) bulls-eye pattern.
32. Chermoula Eggplant with Bulgur and Yogurt
Leave it to the New York Times to get really creative with vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes. This Middle Eastern eggplant dish is totally non-traditional, featuring bulgur wheat salad, raisins, olives, almonds, and a drizzle of Greek yogurt on top.
33. Mushroom and Stout Pot Pies with Sweet Potato Crusts
A savory pie that combines beer, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms is the perfect melding of decadence and healthy food. As a Thanksgiving entrée, this dish is pretty simple and speedy, with just a few steps and minimal dishes to wash.
What's your favorite showstopping vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving? Share in the comments below or get in touch with the author on Twitter @SophBreene.