How Vegan Chefs Think Outside the Tofurkey for Thanksgiving

"It's all about translating 'traditional' holiday foods, or at least what tradition is to you, and hitting the right notes: smoky, gingery, savory, earthy."

Prep Thanksgiving Ingredients
Photo: Anchiy/Getty Images

Vegan Thanksgiving fare has progressed far beyond the confines of Tofurkey, although we're not knocking it—it was a legitimate answer to what was, at the time, a dearth of options. Now, however, the opposite problem presents itself: there are an overwhelming number of amazing products and recipes to choose from. As the big holiday approaches, we talked to some of the most well-known vegan chefs in the country to get their favorite Thanksgiving approaches.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Make a pot pie.

Moskowitz, former Brooklyn-based host of The Post-Punk Kitchen and author of Veganomicon, was something of trailblazer in the vegan canon, helping to make plant-based cooking accessible and dare we say, cool. She weighs in:

"I always make a pot pie. It's the ultimate in comfort and the perfect balance between something very special and something very homey. The moment you place a pot pie on the table, all eyes are on it imagining digging through that flaky crust to get to the deliciousness inside.

The holidays don't have to be fussy, they're more about simple comfort food… just more of it than usual! Being vegan doesn't mean skipping out on all of those familiar flavors and aromas. In fact, many people get even more into the holidays so that we can share our cooking with loved ones.

Stuffing with fresh herbs, baked golden. Rich mushroom gravy. A green bean casserole with creamy cashew bechamel and of course fried onions are not to be missed. Sweet potatoes with lots of ginger and maple.

It's all about translating 'traditional' holiday foods, or at least what tradition is to you, and hitting the right notes: smokey, gingery, savory, earthy. All these simple flavors that come together on the plate in a blissfully sloppy and delicious way, bringing back warm memories."

Herb-Scented Mashed Potatoes
Con Poulos

Tal Ronnen: Go all out with the traditional side dishes.

Ronnen, whom you've probably seen cooking on Ellen, helped Oprah prep for her 21-day vegan cleanse. At his L.A. restaurant, Crossroads, A-list customers include Jay-Z, Beyonce and Katy Perry. His current fall menu is heavy on the fungi, featuring grilled maitakes with white wine caper butter sauce, and a carbonara with smoked and dried porcinis that provide the mimic the umami of guanciale.

"I'm a sucker for traditional Thanksgiving side dishes! Whether I'm at the restaurant, where we serve a spectacular Thanksgiving meal, or at a friend's home, I love making plant-based versions of these dishes. Classic stuffing, mashed potatoes, porcini gravy, cranberry cabernet sauce, these are the components that really make Thanksgiving shine."

Chloe Coscarelli: Make sure that no one at your table misses the meat.

Coscarelli is founder of vegan fast casual concept By Chloe, which has locations in L.A. and New York. For Thanksgiving, she's a fan of portobellos stuffed with garlicky lentils with thyme, all topped with breadcrumbs. She also has been known to make brussel sprouts roasted in maple syrup, with hazelnuts.

"I have served an all-vegan Thanksgiving to the most die-hard carnivores and no one misses the meat," she tells The New York Times. "You don't need animal products to capture the spirit and savory flavors of Thanksgiving on your table. I personally think that a vegan Thanksgiving is more exciting than a regular one—there's always something new and it's not just the same old spread. The plates are pretty darn clean when we get up from the the table."

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