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There are worse things in life than not being able to eat the Thanksgiving turkey or take a bite out of Aunt Clarise’s famous pumpkin pie. But when the whole country is happily gathered around the holiday table, it can feel pretty isolating to be a person who can’t join in because of food restrictions (by choice or necessity).
Vegans—who choose to eschew all animal products and byproducts for environmental, health, and/or ethical reasons—are particularly hard-pressed to find viable fair amidst traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Luckily, this roundup of healthy, vegan recipes is here to help. Pick and choose your favorites from the list below for a delectable holiday meal that will have even meat-eaters reaching for seconds. Bon appétit!
Photo: What Would Cathy Eat?
1. Wild Mushroom Croustades
Healthy fats from olive oil combine with garlic, onions, thyme, wild mushrooms, and(to match the festive spirit of the holidays) some sherry. Slices of crusty French baguette make this dish the perfect comfort food in colder weather.
2. Fresh Apple Tarts with Phyllo
Pretty, bite-sized tarts draw from very few ingredients: raisins, vegan margarine, tart apples, sugar, phyllo dough, and some booze (Armagnac, cognac, or rum — take your pick). They’re sweet enough to eat as a savory dessert, but savory enough to eat as a treat to whet the appetite.
3. Cumin Apple Chips
These sweet-and-savory, crunchy-and-chewy chips are as fun to eat as they are tasty. Cumin, cinnamon, and sugar dust tart apples for a surprising and healthy mix of flavors: Cumin has been shown to relieve indigestion and hypertension, while cinnamon (a superfood in our book!) has been shown to fight inflammation.
4. Flaxseed Crackers
Raw crackers? Believe it. Flaxseeds, carrots, ginger, garlic, curry powder, cumin, olive oil, cilantro, water, and tamari or miso paste make for a healthy, crunchy, surprisingly tasty dip transporter.
Photo: Ricki Heller
5. Coconut Crusted Tofu with Creamy Green Curry Dipping Sauce
These fancy little bites are vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, and grain-free — and yet we’re willing to bet they taste great. Coconut, green curry paste, and pineapple and lime juices make for a flavorful (and healthy!) pre-dinner snack.
6. Fig and Olive Tapenade
This recipe may be simple, but it will make you feel all kinds of fancy-schmancy. Kalamata olives, dried black mission figs, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and (our favorite) one cup of sauvignon blanc combine to give this healthy tapenade a savory kick.
7. Vegan Spinach Dip
This bright green dish will pop on any table. Superfood spinach combines with garlic, lemon juice, parsley, arugula, and raw cashews for a healthier take on this classic appetizer.
8. Squash Parsley Dip
Celebrate fall with the seasonal flavors of butternut squash. Combine it with garlic, parsley, lime juice, paprika, and nut butter for a creamy, flavorful, protein-packed dip.
Soups, Salads, and Sides
Photo: Minimalist Baker
9. Vegan Biscuits
These fluffy biscuits are just begging to be slathered in cranberry jelly. They’re incredibly simple, too, and use nothing but all-purpose flour (choose whole-wheat if you’re feeling extra healthy), baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, non-dairy butter, plain almond milk, and lemon juice.
10. Sun-dried Tomato and Butternut Squash Bisque
Easy to prepare and tasty to eat? That’s our kind of soup. Seasonal butternut squash combines with superfoods garlic and leeks, heart-healthy olive oil, sundried tomatoes, cumin, and coconut milk, which contributes to the creamy texture.
11. Vegan Corn Chowder
Believe it: It’s possible to make a vegan corn chowder. The secret lies in cashews, which add creaminess and thickness without the dairy. The soup contains other good-for-you ingredients, too, such as carrots, onions, and bell peppers. Bonus: The recipe also includes instructions for making homemade sourdough croutons.
12. Quick Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
Perfect for cold November weather, this hearty chili is almost filling enough to serve as a main course. Sweet potatoes, olive oil, cumin, oregano, black beans, and a variety of vegetables combine to make a flavorful, protein-packed, and nutrient-rich soup.
13. Broccoli Spinach Quinoa Soup
This pretty green bowl gleans its color (and a whole lot of nutrients) from spinach and broccoli (lots of it!), and protein from quinoa and vegan cheese (yep, that’s a real thing). Minced garlic, potatoes, onion, and tahini add flavor, substance, and creaminess, to boot.
14. Vegan Cornbread
Coconut oil adds buttery texture and healthy fats to this vegan cornbread recipe, which also draws on cornmeal, all-purpose flour, almond milk, and apple cider vinegar. Two tablespoons of maple syrup add a touch of sweetness. Serve with the vegan chili listed above — and welcome to vegan food heaven.
15. Autumn Kale Salad
This salad will convince everyone that greens deserve a place at the Thanksgiving table. Seasonal kale combines with some rather interesting ingredients: watermelon radish, shallot, black grapes, spiced nuts, beans, and lemon juice. The result is a hearty, healthy, and weather-appropriate salad.
16. Candied Lime Sweet Potatoes
Thin slices are an unusual way of preparing sweet potatoes — and the result is delicate, popping with color, and all-around beautiful. Sweet potatoes get a sweet-and-savory kick thanks to molasses, lime juice, ginger, black pepper, and a vegan butter substitute.
17. Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage Citrus
Colorful butternut squash needs little adornment in this simple dish: Just roast it, add some sage, and you’ve got a healthy, seasonal side.
18. Green Beans with Lemon-Almond Pesto
No Thanksgiving would be complete without green beans, but traditional green bean casseroles are loaded with dairy. This recipe eliminates the animal products but keeps the green beans, roasting them before topping them with a combination of garlic, almonds, olive oil, and lemon juice.
19. Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Spicy Dressing
This beautiful, fall-colored dish is the perfect healthy comfort food, but still fancy enough to impress guests. Roasted colorful combines with onions, raisins, hot chili sauce, cumin, parsley, cilantro, and chickpeas, resulting in a veggie-packed, spicy, and protein-infused side dish.
Photo: James Ransom / Food 52
20. Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing
This vegan stuffing is so beautiful, you’re unlikely to miss the traditional stuff. Butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, apples, shallots, onion, celery, cranberries, walnuts, a host of herbs and seasonings, and (of course) a hearty bread all combine to make colorful, wholesome, good-for-you take on the Thanksgiving classic.
21. Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Brussels sprouts are a classic fall dish, and luckily they’re easily made vegan. This dish keeps it simple, adding just a little balsamic vinegar, a little coconut oil, and some salt and pepper to taste.
22. Vegan Gravy
Depending on what main entrée you’re serving, you may not miss the gravy at the table. But if you do find yourself in need of the Thanksgiving staple, fear not: This simple recipe is vegan-approved. The recipe calls for a particular brand of flour, but feel free to use any kind of all-purpose flour (even gluten-free!).
23. Glazed Ginger and Tamarind Carrots
This fancy-looking side is sure to be a crowd pleaser (unless the crowd doesn’t like carrots). Gluten-free and vegan, these carrots are glazed with a combination of tamarind paste, coconut nectar, olive oil, ginger, and sea salt before being roasted to perfection.
24. Caramelized Beets
Toss these bad boys with olive oil and salt before baking and drizzling with balsamic. The result should be crisp, slightly tangy, and impossible to stop scooping.
25. Saffron Mashed Potatoes
Vegan or not, everyone deserves mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. This bright golden recipe is just the ticket. Potatoes combine with vegan margarine, flour, non-dairy milk, coconut milk, garlic, and saffron, which lends this dish its warm, buttery color.
26. Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Yet another Thanksgiving staple, cranberry sauce is a welcome addition to any vegan feast. This recipe keeps it simple with fresh or frozen cranberries, water, optional lemon zest, and sugar. That’s all, folks!
Photo: Fine Dining Lovers
27. Aubergine Tower with Tofu and Vegetables
It’s the Eiffel tower! It’s the Empire State Building! No — it’s a tower of eggplant and tofu! This veggie-packed main dish isn’t just a good way to make sure guests eat their vegetables; it’s also really fun to look at. Onions, zucchini, tomato, carrots, red pepper, and eggplant add vitamins to the tower, while tofu provides a nice kick of protein.
28. Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice Salad
This dish is so beautiful and filling, you may not need to serve anything else. Acorn squash gets roasted and then filled with a wild rice salad made with pecans, cranberries, basil, and the juice of two navel oranges.
29. Seitan Stuffed with Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, and Raisins
It may look like some type of strange bread, but don’t let its appearance deceive you: Seitan, a popular meat alternative derived from wheat gluten, takes the place of turkey in this protein-filled centerpiece. The seitan is stuffed with a mixture of vegetables, dried cranberries, walnuts, soy sauce, whole-wheat bread, and super-healthy chia seeds. It may not be turkey, but it’ll probably still inspire a nap on the couch!
30. Maple Glazed Tempeh, Squash, and Brussels Sprouts
Tempeh (another popular vegetarian protein) takes center stage in this protein-packed main dish, while Brussels sprouts and acorn squash add vitamins and color. The whole shebang is marinated in a sweet-and-savory mixture of soy sauce, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and cayenne pepper before baking.
31. Red Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn
This bright salad gets its color from superfood kale, fresh corn, red peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes, flavor from garlic, scallions, paprika, rosemary, and cumin, and protein from quinoa. Choosing red quinoa adds a dark, earthy color to this light, healthy dish.
Photo: Angela Liddon / Oh She Glows
32.Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf
“Lentil loaf” may not sound all that appetizing, but we’re confident this recipe (and its photo!) will change your mind. It may not be meatloaf, but it’s packed with protein thanks to lentils (a Greatist-approved superfood). It also gets a flavor jolt from garlic, onion, and apple, and satisfying crunch from walnuts, carrots, and celery.
33. Potato and Portobello Mushroom Gratin
Here’s a dish that will make guests ooh and ahh: It’s beautiful and healthy, too! Multiple kinds of mushrooms combine with potatoes, garlic, and several seasonings (think parsley, thyme, and rosemary) for the perfect cold-weather meal.
34. Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tart
Once again, sweet and savory combine in beautiful harmony. A whole-grain pastry crust kicks up the health factor, as do butternut squash and protein-rich tofu (choose a non-GMO variety; research suggests it’s the healthiest way to consume soy products). Mushrooms in maple sage brown butter taste as delicious as they sound, and fresh nutmeg adds earthy, grounding flavor so the crust never becomes too sweet.
35. Baked Leek and Sweet Potato Gratin
This hearty, comforting dish is reminiscent of lasagna, but with may more nutritional punch: Leeks, garlic, potatoes, rosemary, and just a bit of breadcrumbs combine in layers of savory goodness. Note: To make this dish truly vegan, be sure to leave out the cheese or choose a vegan cheese replacement.
Photo: May I Have That Recipe?
36. Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Just look at that color! Not only is this ice cream beautiful; it’s also dairy-free. In place of regular milk, the recipe calls for non-dairy milk, coconut milk creamer, and coconut milk yogurt. And of course, it’s loaded with pumpkin pie spice. Bonus: the recipe can be made with whiskey or bourbon, to boot. Happy holidays!
37. Crustless Pumpkin Pie
No Thanksgiving — even a vegan one — would be complete without pumpkin pie, and that’s where this recipe comes in. It’s vegan, it can easily be made gluten-free, and we’re willing to put money on the fact that it’s delicious. Bonus: The recipe is incredibly healthy as-is.
38. Maple Pecan Pie
Yes, this blogger assures us: vegan pecan pie can be done. You’ve got your standard pie ingredients: sugar, vanilla extract, crust, pecans — but things get shaken up a bit (and vegan-ified) with the addition of silken tofu (well hello there, protein!) and non-dairy milk. Pure maple syrup? That’s just the icing on the, er, pie.
39. Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Fresh Raspberries
Avocados in a chocolate dessert? Yes, it can actually be delicious. Two of our favorite superfoods — dark chocolate and avocadoes — combine with cocoa powder, agave, vanilla extract, and a dash of cinnamon for an incredibly healthy dessert. Add fresh raspberries on top for a dash of colorful garnish.
Photo: Minimalist Baker
40. Gluten-Free and Vegan Apple Crisp
This lovely dish takes advantage of fall’s apple production and puts a vegan and gluten-free twist on an old classic. The base is incredibly simple: apples, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. The crumbly topping is made from a combination of gluten free flours, gluten free oats, almond meal, some brown sugar, still more cinnamon, and a bit of non-dairy butter for that familiar buttery taste.
41. Cranberry Sorbet
Here’s a sweet, simple way to cleanse the pallet after a great meal, and it’s in line with the Thanksgiving theme of cranberries, to boot. Fresh or frozen cranberries combine with sugar, water, and lemon and orange juice — and that’s it!
42. Chai Spice Snickerdoodles
Cookies are a holiday staple, so we’re glad to have found this seasonal option for our vegan friends. The flavorful topping is what makes these so special: Ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and a bit of sugar combine for that familiar spicy, chai flavor.
43. Pumpkin Gingerbread with Spiced Buttercream
We might not be able to wait until Thanksgiving to make (and eat) this one. Pumpkin, maple syrup, coconut oil, blackstrap molasses, chia, walnuts, cloves — these are a few of our favorite things. Combined, they make for thick slices of filling gingerbread. The spiced buttercream icing on top? Well, that’s just heaven.
44. Pumpkin Spice Rice Pudding
These beautiful pudding cups serve as the perfect finale. Arborio rice combines with almond milk, cinnamon, orange zest, coconut or almond milk, pumpkin puree, and a host of spices (think cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger) for an elegant end to a wonderful meal.
Originally published November 2013. Updated November 2015.