While Thanksgiving may not have very positive origins, many people including myself, choose to celebrate it as a day to remember to be grateful for our blessings. Traditionally, Thanksgiving meals tend to be meat and dairy based, however there are so many ways you can incorporate vegan dishes into your feast. Whether you're making a vegan dish so you have something besides turkey to eat at your family's get-together, for a vegan sibling/friend, or throwing a full-on vegan Thanksgiving party, I'd like to give you some tips on eating a vegan, as well as more eco-friendly Thanksgiving meal, starting with some food suggestions.
I discovered vegan roasts a few years ago. There are several options you can purchase at your local grocery store, and they can be the perfect meat replacement for a main dish like turkey. A couple brands that I've tried and enjoyed are Tofurky and Gardein, there are plenty of others on the market now though. Keep in mind that most of these roasts are quite small, so you may want to get multiple if you have several people to feed.
This one is pretty straightforward, just swap any dairy ingredients, like butter, for plant-based options. And as for gravy, which usually contains animal ingredients, there are several vegan recipes online. The vegan roasts usually come with gravy as well, but this may not be enough unless you use it sparingly.
Vegan Mac & Cheese
So I'm not sure if this is a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but who doesn't love mac & cheese? There are plenty of boxed vegan mac & "cheese" options like Dayia or Annie's pumpkin and sweet potato flavor. However, I love making my own cheese sauce with a recipe I first found in one of Alana Blanchard's YouTube videos, which reminds me of nacho cheese! The recipe is as follows:
half cup of soaked cashews
half an onion
2 large carrots
1 large potato
half a sweet potato
3 cloves of garlic
half cup of nutritional yeast
4 jalapeño slices
unsweetened plant milk
Soak cashews overnight or in boiled water until soft
Boil vegetables until soft
Blend all ingredients
Mix into cooked pasta and enjoy!
Tip: Make and set aside some extra sauce if you'll be reheating this dish to avoid allowing it to get dry.
Vegetable based dishes are a great option for sides. Examples of these include green bean casserole or roasted veggies like carrots. Just remember to use oil or vegan butter in place of dairy of course.
Most typical Thanksgiving deserts can be made vegan quite easily, there are many recipes online. Some of my personal favorite are pumpkin cheesecake and apple pie. Corn bread can also be made vegan easily, if that counts as a desert (usually I eat it as a side). Also I recently watched a YouTube video by Mikan Mandarin where she made a vegan carrot cake.
If you don't feel comfortable making your own dishes, consider looking for a local vegan catering service or restaurant that offers catering for Thanksgiving. If you live in the Hudson Valley area like myself, I recommend MindFull Meals Delivery. A quick Google search should show you some options for your area, or you can ask for recommendations in a local vegan Facebook group.
Ditch the Plastic
If you're having a large get-together, it may feel easiest to rely on disposable plastic plates and single use cutlery. If possible, it's much better to use regular reusable plates, bowls and silverware. While it may be a lot to wash afterwards, it could be something everyone can help out with. And if this just isn't an option, try to at least go for paper plates and compostable cutlery (or have guests bring their own reusable options, if this feels comfortable) to help cut down on plastic waste.
While Thanksgiving might not be a huge decorating holiday like Christmas or Halloween, it is nice to get a little festive, especially if you are having guests. If you already have decorations in storage, your most sustainable option is to reuse them. If you don't however, instead of buying cheap plastic decorations, trying using natural items instead. These could be pumpkins, flowers, leaves, pinecones or dried corn. As you may already know, I'm also a huge fan of candles, especially ones that are soy-based like the ones from Lunar Landings. On this same note, skip buying plastic table covers if you can, a cloth one will look much nicer and be more eco-friendly, plus most are easy to wash, or just skip the tablecloth altogether.
Wear What You Already Own
While many of us like to dress up a little on Thanksgiving, and may even consider purchasing a new outfit, this really isn't necessary. Dress up if you wish, but stay comfortable! After all, you're probably just sitting around and eating all day. My go to outfit is usually my pair of velvet leggings with a cozy sweater or cute shirt. There's really no need to waste money or resources on a new outfit to sit at home with, when you likely already have something nice in your closet. And if you really do want to wear something new, consider shopping second hand or buying from a sustainable brand.
Save Your Leftovers
I feel like most people do this already, but always save your leftovers! Throwing away perfectly good food is incredibly wasteful. So let guests take home whatever leftovers they'd like or eat them yourself! Another option is to get creative and use parts of your leftovers to create new meals, such as a sandwich made with leftover vegan roast or mac & cheese with a side of salad.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving this year! If you have any favorite dishes that I didn't mention, there is likely a way to make them vegan if you search online. For any online recipes you use, always be sure to check the ingredients to make sure they are all vegan and ask anyone who may be eating the dish about their food allergies. Remember to be grateful for all that you've been blessed with this year and always!