Turkey day is right around the corner! But what do you cook for a holiday all about eating turkey, if someone, or maybe even your whole family, doesn’t eat meat? Or, perhaps, you just want to incorporate more healthy options with whole foods that taste great to everyone. Whatever your reason for having a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving this year, this is a great opportunity to get creative and find dishes the entire family can feel good about!
So, to help make it a little bit easier, we have come up with our favorite vegan thanksgiving ideas, plus a few healthy thanksgiving treats for kids! From meatless mains to plant-based pies, we have lip-smacking, tummy-rubbing recipes that are sure to leave every person at your dinner table full and happy!
Any Excuse for Appetizers
No matter the age or dietary choices of your guests, everyone loves appetizers! A plant-based Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to add more whole foods like fruits and vegetables into your meal. So, why not start with a salad! Pick your favorite fall flavors and get creative! Garnish with pumpkin or pomegranate seeds, chunks of roasted sweet potato, lovely plant based oils, and even some freshly squeezed citrus juice for a nice tang and zesty flavor. If you’re looking for Thanksgiving appetizers for kids, we recommend filling up a lined cupcake tin or a charcuterie board with stacked up fruits, veggies, and dips to look like turkeys, leaves, or pumpkins. It never disappoints!
Sweet & Savory Soups
Nothing says fall like a warm, tasty bowl of soup! Luckily, there are a bunch of fun, Thanksgiving flavors that make the perfect soups, and they can all be made plant-based! A few crowd-pleasers are pumpkin soup, butternut squash soup, and roasted corn soup. The opportunities are endless! To maximize nutrition, be sure to make it yourself. Either way, double check to make sure you’re using only vegan ingredients such as 100% pumpkin puree. It can be crucial to make sure there’s no cream, gelatin or other animal products in there. We recommend getting creative by including herbs and spices that bring out the flavors of fall. Our favorite? Pumpkin spice, of course!
Piles of Potatoes
Just because your Thanksgiving is plant-based doesn’t mean you have to give up on the classics! Mashed potatoes are a must! They are already vegetarian, and if you’re making them vegan-friendly, it is a quick swap to use healthy plant-based fats instead of animal fats. Coconut oil, olive oil, plant milks, or plant butter are all wonderful alternatives. For yam or sweet potato mash, we are a big fan of using coconut oil! It is a delightful addition to the sweet flavors. To make it into a Thanksgiving treat for kids, turn the mashed potatoes into tiny turkeys with olive eyes and bell pepper feathers, or use sweet potato mash shaped into a pumpkin with a fresh green pepper stem!
Now, here comes your biggest challenge… A show stopping plant-based turkey alternative. One popular vegan thanksgiving idea is to make a turkey out of tofu. You can get creative with recipes that include a mixture of onion, tofu, potato, spices, and even rice paper to give the vegan turkey a nice, dense center and a crispy layer on top. If you choose to go a different route, don’t worry, you can cook up some mushrooms in place of turkey, or you can make your main a hearty vegan casserole. Our top choice would be mushrooms and wild rice!
Just like turkey, gravy is a Thanksgiving classic. This is something you simply don’t have to forgo! There are some amazing vegan gravy recipes out there to knock the whole tables’ socks off. Maybe you’ll find vegan gravy even tastier than the original! One common recipe uses vegan butter, onion, and soy sauce to keep the flavors classic while avoiding animal products. Another option is a plant-based mushroom gravy! Either way you go, your guests are sure to want to pour it all over their plates!
A few of the most classic Thanksgiving sides are already easy to make vegan! For example, cranberries sauce is another must-have for a classic Thanksgiving meal. However, it is important to check your ingredients carefully! We recommend making your cranberry sauce fresh to make it as healthy as possible and to ensure there’s no gelatin or other animal-products slipped in the can. Another staple side is stuffing. Of course, it doesn’t have to contain meat! Make it yourself using plant-based ingredients and amp up the herbs and spices for extra flavor. For green bean casserole, we recommend using a vegan mushroom cream sauce or going simple with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, instead.
What is Thanksgiving without pie? Not to worry, you can make any of your favorite pies plant-based. A few favorites are pumpkin, apple, berry, or pecan pie. For a creamy filling that is still vegan, use coconut cream in your pumpkin pie instead. You can search up a vegan crust recipe or even go crustless! Looking for a fun way to top it off? Homemade vegan ice cream made with almond, oat, or coconut milk is always delicious. If you can’t go vegan on the crust, go crustless! You can make an apple crisp instead with an oat crumble. Just as yummy and it’s one of our all-time-favorite Thanksgiving desserts for kids. Nutritious and delicious!
At Coastal Kids, we believe that being healthy and incorporating more whole foods into your family’s diet doesn’t have to be a chore. With a good attitude and some creativity, it can actually be a whole lot of fun! So, no matter what dietary choices or restrictions your family has this holiday season, there are ways to get the whole family together around the table to enjoy delicious foods together. If you’re looking for more vegan Thanksgiving ideas, or advice on how to feed your little ones in a healthy way this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out to your passionate and knowledgeable Coastal Kids Pediatrician. To make an appointment, visit us at www.coastalkids.com.