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How do I Prepare a Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

Preparing a vegetarian Thanksgiving is about embracing the bounty of the harvest. Start with a rich, savory lentil loaf or stuffed acorn squash as your centerpiece. Surround it with sides of roasted vegetables, creamy mashed potatoes, and a tart cranberry sauce. Remember, the key is variety and flavor. How will you reimagine the traditional dishes with a plant-based twist?
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

A vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner can be just as delicious as a traditional one. No substitutes taste exactly like turkey, but many of the side dishes and desserts traditionally served at Thanksgiving are flavorful and based around vegetables, fruits and grains. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie can all be eaten in some variation by vegetarians.

The first step in planning a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner is to understand the types of vegetarians that will be eating the meal. For example, lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy products while vegans do not. It is possible to find or make vegan versions of traditional Thanksgiving foods such as pumpkin pie. Potatoes can be mashed with a little vegetable broth rather than milk for vegans. Or, try a sweet potato dish made with cinnamon for flavoring.

Pumpkin pie can be prepared in a vegetarian fashion.
Pumpkin pie can be prepared in a vegetarian fashion.

Stuffing for any type of vegetarian should always be cooked outside the turkey. Also be sure to use different utensils for vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian gravy can be made from vegetable broth. Nuts placed in small dishes next to the vegetarian's plate can serve as a protein source.

Some people like the idea of an imitation turkey such as the Tofurkey® product for a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. Some vegetarians may be offended by a product made to resemble an animal while others may appreciate the novelty. Turkey-like protein loaves can be purchased in organic food stores and health food stores. Tofurkey® includes gravy, stuffing and an artificial wishbone.

Vegetarian meat crumbles are made of textured vegetable protein.
Vegetarian meat crumbles are made of textured vegetable protein.

Ask vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner guests ahead of time not only which ingredients they do eat, but also the ones they don't. Be sure to check the labels of packaged foods before buying to be sure these ingredients aren't in the contents. For example, gelatin is a product made from animal bones that is found in some dips as well as gelatin powders used to make festive molded salads or light desserts. Sodium caseinate is another animal based ingredient that many vegetarians don't eat.

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    • Pumpkin pie can be prepared in a vegetarian fashion.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      Pumpkin pie can be prepared in a vegetarian fashion.
    • Vegetarian meat crumbles are made of textured vegetable protein.
      By: Vidady
      Vegetarian meat crumbles are made of textured vegetable protein.
    • Meatless stuffing is delicious and can be served to vegetarians.
      By: Brent Hofacker
      Meatless stuffing is delicious and can be served to vegetarians.
    • Adapt mashed potatoes for a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.
      By: Amelia Crook
      Adapt mashed potatoes for a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.
    • Tofurkey typically comes with its own gravy.
      By: Stephanie Frey
      Tofurkey typically comes with its own gravy.
    • Lentil loaf is a popular meat-less version of meatloaf, which can be served for a Thanksgiving meal.
      By: charlottelake
      Lentil loaf is a popular meat-less version of meatloaf, which can be served for a Thanksgiving meal.