Veganizing Thanksgiving

November 15, 2012

Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw eats a mostly raw, vegan diet without losing time, money, or her sanity. Let her show you how to make "rabbit food" taste delicious and satisfying every other Thursday on Food52.

Today: Gena shares some of her favorite ways to veganize Thanksgiving, and a recipe for stuffing that will satisfy everyone at your table. 

Vegan Stuffing

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“What do you eat on Thanksgiving?” is one of the most frequently asked questions about being vegan. Fortunately, the question is easy to answer. Vegan options abound even on the holiday commonly known as “Turkey Day,” and not one of them has to involve Tofurkey. 

Ah, Tofurkey. It’s the quintessential vegan faux meat, and yet so many vegans -- myself included -- feel that imitating meat on Thanksgiving (or any time, really) is a lot less fun than coming up with new and exciting meat-free dishes. If creating something new isn’t your thing, you can simply work to veganize a lot of your standards. Think about your favorite Thanksgiving dishes -- turkey may be at the top of your list, but you probably also love yams, green beans, Brussels sprouts, and cranberry sauce. Nearly all can be easily adapted to fit a vegan diet; all it takes is a little bit of creative interpretation. 

Whether you’re hosting a vegan for Thanksgiving this year, or you simply want to try your hand at a meat and dairy-free dish, let me share some of my favorite ideas for a memorable vegan feast. 

Cranberry Sauce

Side dishes:

• Cranberry sauce: If you make this with evaporated cane juice or demerara sugar, it’ll be 100% vegan (and you won’t even have to tweak the recipe too much!).

• Whipped coconut sweet potatoes: Mash 3 pounds sweet potatoes with a tablespoon or two of coconut oil and coconut cream (the thick part that condenses at the top of a can of coconut milk) along with salt and pepper to taste. Bam! Who said anything about butter?

• Brussels sprouts and apples make a terrific vegan side: just roast in olive oil, and there you have it. 

• Veganize this green bean casserole by using oil in place of butter, and unsweetened non-dairy milk instead of half and half (cashew milk is a good bet for this recipe).

• Braised red cabbage—cooked down in apple cider vinegar, a touch of sugar, red wine, salt, and pepper—is a fantastic vegan side dish.

Vegan Shepherd's Pie


• Try stuffing acorn squash with wild rice or another grain of choice.

• Consider vegan shepherd’s pie.

• Make a giant soup or stew with root vegetables and legumes, and serve with crusty garlic bread.

• Try baking a polenta torte, and smothering it in sautéed mushrooms. To make mushroom gravy, simply use oil and non-dairy milk (almond, rice, or soy) in place of butter or regular milk. 

• If you want to get really ambitious, you can whip up some perfect vegan pie crust and make tofu pot pie—just be sure to use non-dairy milk wherever milk is called for.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie


• Now is the ideal time for perfect vegan pie crust and vegan pumpkin pie.

• Make a simple apple crumble using coconut oil (at room temperature and solid) in place of butter for the crumble topping.

• Try some poached pears with coconut milk in place of cream.

• Silken tofu and cocoa powder whip up beautifully with a little agave nectar to make an easy chocolate pudding. And this genius chocolate pudding happens to be vegan, top it with some whipped coconut cream. 

• Speaking of chocolate, did you know that most dark chocolate (65% or darker) is vegan?

And let’s not forget about stuffing. 

I like a hearty and tasty stuffing as much as the next gal, and I have spent years perfecting a vegan version. The following stuffing was brought to Thanksgiving dinner last year and quickly gobbled up by my omnivore family; I’ve put some finishing touches on it since, but the base (apples, butternut squash, onions, and fresh herbs) has stayed the same. Fragrant, savory sweet, and seasonal, it is the perfect celebratory dish for a holiday that truly does accommodate every way of eating.

Vegan Stuffing

Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprout, and Bread Stuffing with Apples

Serves 6

1 pound butternut squash, cubed
1 pound brussels sprouts, halved
1 medium gala apple, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoon coconut or olive oil, divided into 2 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
10 slices hearty bread of choice: crusty sourdough, dry cornbread, whole grain, or, if you’re gluten free, millet bread will all work nicely. Prior to preparing the recipe, leave the bread out for a day to become slightly dry, and cut it into cubes
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage 
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pecans or walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

52 Days of Thanksgiving
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52 Days of Thanksgiving

Top-notch recipes, expert tips, and all the tools to pull off the year’s most memorable feast.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Echo Brooke
    Echo Brooke
  • Muse
  • Nozlee Samadzadeh
    Nozlee Samadzadeh
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Echo B. November 22, 2020
Thank you for sharing these recipes, Gena.

Many years ago you shared a raw vegan mushroom and walnut stuffing that no longer exists online. Do you happen to have a copy of it somewhere? I didn’t write it down and would like to share it with someone and perhaps make it again, I made it many years in a row:)
Muse November 18, 2012
That looks spectacularly wonderful...I really love brussels sprouts!
Nozlee S. November 15, 2012
brussels sprouts INSIDE the stuffing! that sounds so amazing!!