How to Have a Very Vegan Thanksgiving

Shannon Paul

| 4 min read

My husband and I made the decision to try going vegan for 30 days, and that was about 60 days ago now.
We decided to stick with the vegan diet because we both feel really good since making the switch. I wake up in the mornings much easier and my thinking feels much more relaxed and clear. I have also lost about seven pounds, which doesn’t hurt.
When I say “vegan” I’m referring to a whole-food plant-based diet — like the one Bill Clinton has been eating since undergoing bypass surgery a couple years ago. This means no meat, fish, dairy products (including cheese) or eggs of any kind. For me, giving up meat is pretty easy, but avoiding cheese and eggs is a little tougher.
With the holidays rolling around, I don’t really feel tempted to give up my commitment to eating a plant-based diet. Eliminating eggs and butter from my diet also means I have a reason to avoid most of the cookies and other baked treats floating around the office during the holiday season, but don’t worry: there are a lot of really delicious vegan baked goods you can buy from places like Sugar Kisses bakery in Berkley or Avalon International Breads in Detroit. My mom also brought me some Liz Lovely cookies for my birthday last week and the snickerdoodles are to die for.
Needless to say I have plenty of treats — I just need to plan ahead and savor them rather than engaging in mindless eating just because there’s a cookie within reach.
Thanksgiving will be no exception as far as treats are concerned, and yes, there will be turkey at my house for those who want to abide with tradition. My mom is making a few substitutions to ensure her famous corn bread dressing is vegan-friendly — she’s already a pescatarian (fish-eating vegetarian) so it’s not a big stretch for her to make a few more tweaks to her recipe. Substitutions are easier than you might think to help make sure your vegan friends have enough to eat at Thanksgiving.

Easy Vegan Substitutions

Earth Balance for butter: Earth Balance is a brand of margarine most vegans swear by for cooking and baking. It’s totally dairy free and comes in tubs of butter-like spread, or sticks of shortening for baking.
Ener-G Egg Replacer, or ground flax seeds for eggs: Eggs are probably the toughest thing to substitute since they bind ingredients together while adding moisture. Using Ener-G Egg Replacer according to recipe or package directions works well in most cases. In others, adding a little bit of water to ground flax seeds also does the trick.

No Need for Cheese

Many would be surprised how delicious a lot of foods are without cheese. Even pizza can be delicious without adding cheese. Supino Pizza in Detroit’s Eastern Market makes a pie that makes me hungry just thinking about it. It’s not on the menu, but if you ask for the Jess, they will make you a pie with savory red sauce, spinach, kalamata olives and thinly sliced portabello mushrooms. If you like food, you won’t be disappointed.
If you have a recipe that really relies on cheese, Daiya makes shredded cheese that tastes great melted (out of the package isn’t so good, so make sure your recipe calls for something mixed into a hot dish or truly melted). Cream cheese and sour cream is used in many holiday dips and savory treats — feel free to substitute Tofutti brand cream cheese and sour cream substitutes. They’re both delicious choices that are much lighter in the fat and calorie count.

Must Love Veggies

This year, in addition to some of the traditional Thanksgiving fare like sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes, I plan to make oven roasted okra, spinach with garbanzo beans (aka espinacas con garbanzos), garlic and ginger green beans, and my new favorite whole grain: farro with caramelized onions and wild mushrooms.
I can’t wait to see my Georgia peach of a mother try my oven roasted okra — it’s downright addictive and much healthier than the traditional fried stuff. This technique completely eliminates the veggie’s notorious slime factor. And, garlic ginger green beans are a real crowd-pleaser: no one will miss the condensed soup casserole when you serve these up.
Vegan or not, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to eat on Thanksgiving and every day from now on. What recipes are you excited to share with your family this holiday season?
Photo Credit: Charles Masters

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