This Thanksgiving will be marking two milestones in my life. Not only is it my first Thanksgiving since becoming vegan, but it will also be our first time hosting. We’re admittedly only having my mom and grandma over, but I’m still embracing my first introduction to the world of holiday hosting and, to be honest, I’m grateful that I’ll be eased into it my first year.
Now, to broach the elephant in the room, no there will not be a Thanksgiving turkey at our meal. That’s probably going to be the biggest difference between our meal and the traditional meal. I see a lot of ridiculous alternatives online and I can’t always tell if they’re supposed to be a joke or if they’re actually serious. I guess I’ll just say, if you’re having a vegan or vegetarian at your meal and you want to make sure they have enough options to eat, please don’t present a baked cabbage as a replacement for turkey. Also, a salad arrangement in the shape of a turkey is not going to do the trick. Many vegans want to indulge for the holidays just like most people do. If you’re eliminating a protein, replace it with another protein.
There are fake turkey products available from brands like Gardein and Tofurky. If you’re interested in going a less traditional route, you can make things like meatloaf or meatballs with lentils instead of meat. Or honestly, do whatever you want. I know people feel obligated to maintain tradition, but you’re really not. Do what works for you and your family.
A couple of other easy ideas and replacements:
There are many things the quickly become vegan by simply swapping butter for vegan butter or regular milk for almond/oat milk, etc.
If you need marshmallows for sweet potatoes or a fluff, the brand Dandies are wonderful. In my opinion, they’re just as good if not better than regular marshmallows. They also have a lot of delicious looking vegan recipes on their website.
Instead of making gravy with turkey drippings, make a mushroom or onion gravy.
If you need to make a whipped topping, you can use aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas) instead of heavy cream.
If you want to forgo a standard meat replacement you can sneak your protein in elsewhere. Tofu can be blended up and mixed into things like mashed potatoes, gravies, etc. You won’t even notice it’s there, but you’ll ensure that you get some protein in the meal.
I’d really like to stress one thing in particular that seems to go by the wayside in discussions about veganism at holidays and other family affairs. It does not need to be all or nothing! If you have a tradition of making your great-great-grandmother’s famous green bean casserole every Thanksgiving and it’s loaded with cream, butter, etc. but it has sentimental value to follow her exact recipe, you can still make that and limit what other animal products you use in other dishes. Reducing your consumption of animal products is not pointless. You are still contributing to a lower demand, which will only benefit animals in the long run. The idea that if you can’t or aren’t willing to be a “perfect” vegan then you shouldn’t bother to try at all is damaging and counterproductive to the mission of what veganism is all about. As it is, 46 million turkeys are killed annually for Thanksgiving alone. Many people don’t even like turkey, but continue to purchase and eat it for the holiday out of tradition. Now, what kind of sense does that make?