10 Turkey Alternatives for Vegetarians

November 13, 2012

Being a vegetarian on Thanksgiving can be a bit scary. The thought of announcing to a table of omnivores that you won't, in fact, be eating the centerpiece that your host spent the better part of a day sweating over for your enjoyment is nerve-wracking enough to make you consider staying home and fixing yourself some rice and beans. 

Hosting vegetarians, I'm sure, can be stressful as well. The gracious host that you are, you want everyone to feel welcome and leave satisfied. Stuffed, even. But what do you serve to those that pass on turkey? A feast of side dishes likely won't disappoint anyone, but if you'd like your vegetarian friends to feel special, rather than ostracized or imposing, we've rounded up ten flavorful, meat-free dishes that will satisfy even the most skeptical omnivores.  We've even thrown in gravy and stuffing to boot -- you wouldn't want any of your guests eating gravy-less potatoes.

The best part of all of this? Vegetarians like pumpkin pie. And pecan. And apple. Just please, whatever you do, hold the Tofurkey. 

Shop the Story

French Onion Tart from Jennifer Perillo

onion tart

Lentil Cakes Tikka Masala from thirschfeld


Leek and Greens Tart with Cornmeal Crust from fiveandspice


Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Gallette from lorinarlock


Vegan Lentil Shepherd's Pie with Parsnip and Potato Mash from Gena Hamshaw


Deb Perelman's Mushroom Bourguignon from Genius Recipes

Collards and Cheese Pasties from hardlikearmour


Pear and Smoked Gouda Dutch Baby from fiveandspice


What We Call Stuffing: Challah, Mushroom, and Celery from MrsWheelbarrow


Vegetarian Mushroom Thyme Gravy from sticksnscones



Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • natalie.d.roman
  • kelpey
  • Summer of Eggplant
    Summer of Eggplant
  • ATG117
  • susan g
    susan g
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



natalie.d.roman November 16, 2012
I'm going to differ here with the "thanksgiving is great for vegetarians" party going on in the comments. I was vegetarian/vegan for 6 years and never enjoyed the holiday. Maybe it's because I grew up in the Midwest where everything contains animal products of some sort. Green beans? Fried in bacon fat. Stuffing? Made with chicken broth AND bacon. Etc. Etc. Etc. Also, I got tired of having sides all the time. Everyone else gets to have a big hearty entree, and I wanted one, too!

This is a great list! Lots of inspirational ideas to make for my co-op.
kelpey November 16, 2012
I agree with the others--there's already a feast of vegetarian sides at every Thanksgiving I've been to. That being said, I know my hosts have often stressed about having a main entree for me, as if the presence of a turkey I didn't want to eat would somehow create a deep personal void that could only be filled with a meat substitute. It's nice to provide this list of suggestions for hosts like that, but really, we like sides, and most of us don't want to make a big deal about not eating meat. Some of us are health-conscious, too, and wouldn't want to feel obligated to eat a load of dough and cheese, (especially if we're saving room for pie), although that French Onion Tart recipe is mouth-watering. Long story short, if we want a specific vegetarian entree, we'll be happiest if you let us bring it ourselves.
Summer O. November 14, 2012
I was a vegetarian for 25 years and Thanksgiving is the most accommodating holiday without trying to be accommodating. There are already so many side dishes (usually vegetarian at our house) that I never needed a special dish to make up for the turkey and gravy. Now, vegan is a whole other challenge. But my experience is Thanksgiving is a great vegetarian feast, just omit that centerpiece.
ATG117 November 13, 2012
I personally don't like it when people think they need to make something special for me, a vegetarian, especially because that may make me feel pressured to eat something I may otherwise have chosen not to. So I'd prefer to eat what I can--sides are great--and if I'm less than satisfied, there's always something I can always grab when I get home.
susan G. November 13, 2012
Actually, being a vegetarian is lots of fun. When we redecorate the table, the centerpiece can be any of the wonderful foods I've been lusting for on food52.
[email protected] November 13, 2012
Thanks for thinking of the vegetarians!