Turkey Alternatives for a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

why you should consider vegetarian thanksgiving alternatives

Are you looking for vegetarian Thanksgiving alternatives for turkey this year?

Thanksgiving dinner has its recognizable, traditional dishes.  It may be difficult to vary these recipes and appease everyone, but as we learn more about plant-based diets and the consequences of meat-heavy diets, more people are making a switch.  And you’ll want to be able to accommodate your guests.

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or are planning a meal that may serve meat-free guests, you’ll need to figure out how to serve a filling main dish either alongside turkey, or in place of turkey.  

Luckily for you, there are so many amazing recipes out there.  If you want to go off script for Thanksgiving and create a less traditional meal, have fun with it!  It’s all about the gathering anyway, isn’t it? 

But if you want the traditional feel of Thanksgiving, you’ll have to do some very specific adjustments. Namely to the main dish: Turkey.

why consider vegetarian thanksgiving alternatives to turkey?

1. Americans eat 46 million turkeys for Thanksgiving.  If you’re squeamish about animals being considered food, this is a cringe-worthy fact.

2. It can take 6-8 hours to prepare and cook the turkey.  That’s big commitment.  And what happens to the dinner if it doesn’t come out right?  It’s a risk that can easily be replaced by a less involved main dish.

3. Hosting or put-lucking is a great opportunity to introduce delicious vegan or vegetarian dishes to meat eaters.  There’s a notion (or maybe an exaggerated stereotype) that vegetarian diets mean only eating salad.  What a perfect time to prove that sentiment wrong! (It’s best that you don’t tell people until afterwards that they enjoyed a fully vegetarian/vegan dish without needing to slather it in Ranch and add bacon)

4. Going meatless can save you some money!  Meat is expensive, especially when serving loads of people.  

vegetarian thanksgiving alternatives for turkey

So what are some delicious, meatless replacements for the main food that has given Thanksgiving it’s nickname “Turkey Day”? 

Check out some tasty recipes below. They don’t all resemble a turkey, but they might be more satisfying. And please all your guests, not just the vegetarians.  I searched tons of recipes, and numerous websites, and settled on a few that got good reviews, and were different enough that they might spark some gastronomical creativity if you aren’t a recipe follower (hi.  That’s me.)

The VegDucken, by Epicurious

If you want something that pulls in all the flavors of a traditional, autumnal feast, check out Epicurious’ Vegducken recipe.  It features squash, eggplant and zucchini, and is quite a stunning addition to the plate. It’s healthy, can be vegetarian or vegan, and will be hearty enough to satisfy everyone.

Tofurky Roast:

This tofurkey roast can be sliced and smothered in vegetarian gravy to resemble the traditional favorite.  The recipe even includes a side of stuffing for your tofurkey turkey!  Another benefit- it cooks only for an hour, so you’ll be able to time it perfectly for your guests. 

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnut, Orange, and Saffron

This looks delicious.  (And cheap.)  The flavors suggested for this recipe will shine as the star of a plate and be a welcomed addition to the traditional menu.  Food Network also has another brightly flavored recipe with Cauliflower steaks instead of quarters, which might pique your interest this holiday. 

Dreena’s No-fu Love Loaf:

This mimics a meat loaf.  It’s perfect for those that you’re sure would scoff at the word ‘tofu’.  (They probably don’t even know why they are scoffing, just that it’s the most recognizable ‘not meat’.)  But this recipe seems to be super popular with both vegetarians and meat eaters, with lots of great reviews.  It is made from lentils, cracked wheat, oats and chia seed, and tasty spices. 

And, if you have any leftovers, it’s a perfect sandwich filling!

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

These look really tasty.  One thing that was noted in the comments was the lack of color in the final presentation.  Tomatoes or roasted red peppers, or a sprinkling of cranberries on top would work to add a pop of color.  Turkey is pretty color-less too, so, it shouldn’t be a deterrent.  The most important thing is that they promise to be filling, tasty, and a great replacement for turkey on your Thanksgiving plate.

Vegetarian Lasagna with Tofu-Ricotta

What I love about this is that it is a familiar dish, so you shouldn’t get complaints from the room.  (It’s not easy to please meat-eaters and veggie-based diets in the same meal.)  I love the tofu ricotta recipe and will definitely steal this for other meals.  If you don’t have things like tofu or nutritional yeast, and still want to make a vegetarian lasagna, just follow an ordinary recipe, and avoid adding meat.  If you have a vegan guest, though, be aware that they won’t eat it with eggs and cheese.  In that instance, you might have to make some plant-based substitutions.  Check out this recipe for ideas.  Same tofu ricotta but without the mozzarella, and an addition of red lentils into the marinara sauce. 

vegetarian lasagna

what about other thanksgiving dishes?

If you’re looking for side dishes and other innovative vegan dishes, Vegan Runner Eats has a pretty comprehensive post on a wide range of options.  You’ll have no trouble finding drool-worthy dishes on this page.  But a warning- you might struggle to select only a few from it!

“but i just need meat replacements, not the whole recipe.”

If you’re comfortable designing your own dishes and are just seeking vegetarian Thanksgiving alternatives for vegan or vegetarian guests, no problem!  The Kitchn has an awesome flow chart to help you identify some great meat replacements.  Get your creativity on this Thanksgiving and come up with some of your own dishes.  If you do, please share!  I’m always looking for inspiration.

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