There has never been a better time to host a meatless Thanksgiving: The huge variety of vegetables and grains available at farmers' markets and specialty food shops is staggering, making it easy to create an incredible vegetarian meal.
Skip the Fake Turkey
Thanksgiving was created to celebrate the harvest, so why center it around a processed meat-substitute? Most people are more excited about the sides anyway, so approach the meal the way Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian vegetarians do, with several different dishes that mix flavors and textures. For inspiration, consider this sample menu.
- Smoky Deviled Eggs
- Roasted Carrot and Red Quinoa Salad
- Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce
- Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Gratin
- Kale Salad with Miso and Pistachios
- Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread
- Any Thanksgiving dessert, except something with marshmallows (or lard!)
Make a Healthy Centerpiece Dish
If you do want one dish at the center of the table, it doesn’t have to be crazy-rich. Sure, you can make the over-the-top Pumpkin Lasagne gilded with loads of heavy cream and Parmesan cheese, but roasted halves of delicate squash filled with fluffy quinoa are equally satisfying but way healthier, leaving more room for pie.
Star Delicious Sauces
For a crazy-simple take on Thanksgiving, roast a bunch of vegetables and cook a couple of different grains, then prepare a few interesting sauces, like the vibrant Mixed-Herb Pesto, smoky Grilled Romesco Sauce and super-savory Mushroom XO Sauce. Let people mix and match for a choose-your-own-adventure approach to a vegetarian Thanksgiving.
Splurge on the Staples
Beans and grains are inexpensive pantry ingredients, but you can use Thanksgiving as an excuse to splurge on extraordinary versions. For instance, California-based Rancho Gordo sells more than 30 types of incredible heirloom beans—from the pink-and-black speckled scarlet runners to the creamy yellow eye beans—that would elevate any bean dish. Bluebird Grain Farms in Washington grows ancient wheat varieties, including einka, a tiny, delicate wheat berry that would be delicious in grain salads, such as the Wheat Berries Salad with Apples, Pomegranate Seeds and Pine Nuts.
Make Your Own Vegetable Stock
Whether you use a stock pot or a pressure cooker, an easy way to make any dish exponentially better is to use homemade stock instead of store-bought when a recipe calls for it. To add even more depth of flavor to a vegetarian dish, try using this Rich Mushroom Stock from the New York City chef Michael White.