By Noah Kaufman
Updated November 24, 2014
Credit: © Jason Ondreicka / Alamy

Tofurky—that mass of meat alternative that mysteriously finds its way into the public consciousness every Thanksgiving is riding quite a high. It is more popular than ever with over 340,000 eaten last year alone. True, that distribution doesn’t compete with the massacre of 46 million turkeys, but considering we’re talking about a loaf with the consistency of a new sponge, a few hundred thousand seems like a rousing success.

But why is Tofurky a loaf? Wouldn’t it be more appealing if it at least resembled a turkey slightly? To find out more, we contacted its makers, Turtle Island Foods. It turns out the company is trying to replicate turkey, just not the whole bird you usually eat on Thanksgiving. Tofurky is meant to look like a “turkey roll,” which is what it sounds like: a turkey breast that is spread with stuffing and rolled up jelly-roll style. The reason they chose to go the roll route has to do with process and price. Tofurky is made through something called co-extrusion—an automated process that squirts the soy into a casing and then fills it with stuffing. Yum. That sort of simple automation lets them keep the price relatively low (about $16 online). If traditional presentation is important to you, Turtle Island pointed us toward vegetarian alternatives that do look like actual turkeys. They just cost more to make. Vegetarian Plus makes some that go for about $50 a piece and as long as you’re just photographing your Thanksgiving spread and not eating it, no one will be the wiser.

But you know, all this talk of automated processes and molding has us wanting to avoid turkey imitation altogether. So here are 28 Thanksgiving recipes made with real vegetables that are totally extrusion-free.