How To Host a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

making vegetarian mealsThe holidays can be a hard time for people with restricted diets, whether they’re restricted by choice or by force. To be surrounded by piles and piles of holiday meals, treats, candies, and baked goods while trying to stay on your chosen diet plan can seem impossible. However, you can enjoy the holiday season and its deliciousness just as much with a restricted diet as with a regular one. It just takes some creativity and planning.

I am a devout vegetarian and have been for close to five years. I love knowing that my diet limits the amount of suffering animals must face in this world, and that my food choices keep me healthy. I love being a vegetarian, but I can relate to the struggle of being tempted by the fabulous-looking dishes all around me, many of which include meat. The roasted ham, the baked turkey, the bacon-bits-filled mashed potatoes; they all look wonderful every year. But with some amazing recipes and tips I’ve learned over the years of being meatless, I’ve realized that the holiday season doesn’t have to be bland and boring for me. It can be filled with the same amounts of great flavors as anyone else’s holidays. I would like to share with you some of my favorite meat-replacement recipes for the holidays so vegetarians all around can try them, and maybe even some meat-eaters too! Even if you’re not a vegetarian, it’s always nice to have some options present when hosting meals for those that do not eat meat.

Portobello Steaks with Avocado Chimichurriportobello mushrooms

One of my favorite meat dishes from my childhood was always steaks cooked especially for Christmas dinner. If you want to enjoy something like a delicious, hearty steak for your holiday meal, try this recipe from The Minimalist Baker for portobello steaks with avocado chimichurri:

For the mushrooms:
-3-4 large portobello mushrooms (stems removed, wiped clean)
-1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-1/4 tsp smoked paprika
-3 cloves garlic (minced)
-1 Tbsp steak sauce (optional // vegan friendly, like A1)

For the chimichurri:
-1 1/2 cups parsley (finely chopped // either kind will work, but flat leaf Italian parsley is best)
-3 cloves garlic (minced)
-1 medium shallot (minced)
-1/4 tsp red pepper flake
-3-4 Tbsp olive oil (extra virgin when possible)
-3 Tbsp lemon juice
-1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper
-1 small ripe avocado (cubed)

Add portobello mushrooms to a shallow baking dish or large freezer bag. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, cumin, black pepper, paprika, garlic, and steak sauce (optional). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Add sauce to the mushrooms and use a pastry brush to brush on all sides. Marinate on one side for 5 minutes, then the other side for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare chimichurri by adding parsley, garlic, shallot, red pepper flake, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to a medium mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lemon juice for acidity, salt for flavor, or red pepper flake for heat. Add avocado and toss to combine. Set aside.

Heat a grill or a large skillet over medium heat. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes, or until caramelized and deep golden brown. Brush on any remaining marinade while cooking to infuse more flavor.

To serve, top portobello steaks with avocado chimichurri.

Vegetarian Stuffing

Another holiday favorite of mine is the amazing stuffing that we all know and love. I used to fill my plate with it as a child, but now I simply make my own in my own way, with a recipe from Delish that I love.

-4 tbsp. Butter
-1 onion, chopped
-2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
-2 celery stalks, chopped or thinly sliced
-1 small head cauliflower, chopped
-1 c. chopped mushrooms
-kosher salt
-Freshly ground black pepper
-1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
-2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
-1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage (or 1 tsp. ground sage)
-1/2 c. vegetable broth

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until soft, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add cauliflower and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.

Add parsley, rosemary, and sage and stir until combined, then pour over vegetable broth and cover with a lid. Cover until totally tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes.

Serve.

Cheesy Sweet Potato Casserolesweet potatoes

I also love holiday casseroles.  My mom always makes one during the holiday season for breakfast that includes sausage, so I like to make my own without meat from of a recipe that is also from Delish. This cheesy sweet potato casserole is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

-Cooking spray
-1 1/2 c. grated Gruyere
-1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
-2 tbsp. chopped parsley
-extra-virgin olive oil
-1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
-3 garlic cloves, grated
-2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
-kosher salt
-Freshly ground black pepper
-2 1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
-1/4 c. low-sodium chicken stock

Preheat 375 degrees F. Spray large skillet with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup Gruyere, breadcrumbs, parsley and 3 to 4 tbsp olive oil. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter, garlic, thyme, remaining Gruyere, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Fold in sweet potatoes until well coated. Arrange sweet potatoes with slight overlap in the skillet. Pour stock into bowl to collect any remaining bits and pour over potatoes.

Sprinkle Gruyere breadcrumb mixture in an even layer over the potatoes. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 20 minutes. For deeper golden color, broil for last few minutes.

Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Vegetarian Turkey

Lastly, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without enjoying some turkey with family. That’s why I like to make my own vegetarian turkey roast each year, so I can enjoy the holiday meal as well. Here are some of my favorite meatless turkey brands to buy and prepare:

-Tofurkey
-Garden Stuffed Turkey
-Quorn Turk’y Roast
-Harvest Celebration Field Roast
-Vegetarian Plus whole vegan turkey

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Allison ErvinAllison Ervin, granddaughter of company founder Jay Lehman, is passionate about the powerless – children, animals and anyone in need. A freshman at Kent State majoring in international business with a minor in non-profit management, she has served in Indonesia and Central America, teaching English in daycare centers and orphanages. A committed vegetarian, when not studying or cat-cuddling, Allison enjoys painting, listening to the latest music, and thrifting (shopping at thrift and vintage stores).