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How to Do Thanksgiving Without the Turkey

For many vegetarians or people just looking to cut back on meat, Thanksgiving can seem like a minefield of beloved carnivorous dishes with just a side salad for the non-meat eaters. Even Brussels sprouts are covered in bacon bits and mashed potatoes are enriched with turkey gravy. While those dishes may be delicious, Thanksgiving does not only have to be fun for the carnivores at the table. There is a myriad of delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes available for you to cook and eat at Thanksgiving, even if they are slightly less iconic than a classic turkey. Also, these dishes are perfect for the meat-eaters who actually hate turkey, because there are many who find it dry or lacking in flavor, and are looking for other, more delicious, entree options to fill them up instead.

If you are looking to rock the boat a little and show up to Thanksgiving with a delicious vegetarian main or side, try one of these recipes:


  • Stuffed Whole-Roasted Cauliflower

In a previous article hailing the power of cauliflower, I included a whole-roasted cauliflower recipe that is absolutely delicious. The only issue is that it did not quite fit the Thanksgiving flavor profile. This new recipe consists of a cauliflower stuffed with Thanksgiving stuffing, just like you would do with a turkey, making it perfect for a wonderful autumnal meal!

  • Quinoa-Stuffed Butternut Squash

If this tells you anything about how delicious this recipe is, I actually made this dish for Thanksgiving last year and everybody at the table loved it (even the carnivores). Try making this aesthetically beautiful, tasty, and festive stuffed squash for a filling Thanksgiving entree that everybody will keep coming back to for seconds.


  • Goat Cheese-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I feel like stuffing things with other delicious things is the biggest and most delicious Thanksgiving trend, embodied by many of these vegetarian dishes. If you are craving cheese on Thanksgiving try these delicious stuffed mushrooms, perfect for your vegetarian (not vegan) friends. If you are serving vegans however you can just try using cashew ricotta or other vegan cheeses on the market to replace the goat cheese and satisfy everyone’s needs.

  • Lentil and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie sounds extremely British and, even though Thanksgiving is an extremely American holiday, this recipe is still absolutely perfect for embodying the flavors of the occasion. Lentils are extremely protein-rich, especially if you aren’t eating meat, and the sweet potatoes are extremely hearty, ensuring your guests won’t be leaving hungry. 

  • Chili Polenta Pot Pie

Chili is one of the most quintessential fall foods out there, and it is delicious even when it is not made with ground beef. Because chili is so warm and hearty it is not only perfect for the fall, but perfect for Thanksgiving. This chili polenta pot pie turns the classic soup into a delicious, filling entree for your Thanksgiving table.

  • Roasted Vegetable Galette

Fall is one of the best seasons to purchase fresh, autumnal vegetables straight from the farmers market. This galette takes those seasonal veggies and wraps them up in a flaky, delicious pastry shell to create a rustic, hearty Thanksgiving entree free of any meat products. Also, if you want to learn more about eating seasonally, check out this article.



  • Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

Traditional sweet potato casserole is covered with marshmallows, which are actually created using gelatin (a product made from pig bones), making even that sweet side dish not vegetarian-friendly. This delicious scalloped sweet potato dish is an equal, if not better, replacement for that traditional recipe.

  • Creamed Kale

I would say kale has become the official mascot of vegans and vegetarians everywhere. Also, it’s superfood status has raised its popularity even more in recent years, as it is touted for its high amounts of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin K. By combining that nutrition with a luscious cream sauce, this recipe for creamed kale topped with crispy shallots gives you the best of both worlds.  

  • Cauliflower Gratin

While most Thanksgiving recipes seem to take forever to bake, this cauliflower gratin recipe can be whipped together in under an hour, and most of that time is spent with it in the oven. Also, if you want to make an entirely cauliflower-themed Thanksgiving you can pair this delicious side dish with the aforementioned stuffed cauliflower entree. 

  • Vegan Gravy

Gravy is essentially the mortar that ties the bricks of Thanksgiving together, and sadly most people think of gravy as an only meat affair. This vegan gravy recipe will change your mind around entirely about the possibilities and limits of gravy. The umami richness achieved by this vegan gravy, without any help from meat products, is so craveable that it will leave you dousing your entire plate with it. 

  • Honey-Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Beets

As I mentioned earlier Brussels sprouts are so often adorned with bacon grease to add flavor, but meat it not necessary to cook a delicious sprout. This vegetarian beet and Brussels sprout dish combines the wonderful textures and flavors of both those vegetables to create the ultimate vegetable side dish. Also, it is just a bonus that you can eat as much of this delicious dish as you want without feeling gross or overly-stuffed after the meal. 



  • Kale and Chickpea Salad

I mentioned earlier the sad, wilty side salad often left as an afterthought for vegetarians or vegans at a Thanksgiving meal, but this salad is nothing like that.  The roasted garlic cloves and crispy, spiced chickpeas add a new level of heartiness, spice, and just all around flavor to this dish. While “salad” may not scream Thanksgiving, this side dish is the perfect compliment to the deeper savory and sweet flavors that are emblematic of a Thanksgiving meal. 


After reading through the seemingly endless variety of vegetarian and vegan Thanksgiving options it seems that the turkey is not as necessary as many would like you to believe!

While there are plenty of good meat-based dishes at a Thanksgiving meal there is just as much room for absolutely delicious (and very filling) plant-based entrees and sides. Bring these to your next Thanksgiving and wow your friends or family with the depth of flavor achieved simply with plant-based ingredients. 

If you do end up making any of these recipes for the holiday season make sure to DM us pictures of them @teeninsidermag on Instagram. We love to see you get involved and excited in the kitchen, especially during this time of year, when food brings people together (and not just the meat-eaters)!


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