As the leaves change from green to golden and the air gets cooler, we’re getting excited for those yummy autumn flavors like apple, maple, cranberry, pumpkin, and squash. With Autumn comes Thanksgiving—a time to gather with friends and family, celebrate the good food of the season, and take some time to practice gratitude for what we have.
As a vegan, it can be a little awkward showing up to a Thanksgiving feast with a turkey placed in the center of the table, while your friends and family munch on something that used to be alive. Not to mention the barrage of questions you get as a vegan surrounded by a table of omnivores.
Why not turn the tables this year and host your own vegan Thanksgiving? By hosting a vegan Thanksgiving, you get to choose the menu and you get to choose who you invite (no rude or noisy family members if you don’t want them).
Tips For Hosting A Vegan Thanksgiving
Hosting a feast, vegan or not, can be stressful and time-consuming, regardless if you’re a seasoned pro or if this is your first time hosting a vegan Thanksgiving. There are a ton of moving parts (or food, we should say): you need to clean up, set the table, buy groceries, prepare all of the food, and cater to the many dietary restrictions of your guests. Not to mention, the various personalities that’ll all be gathered around your table.
Here are seven tips for hosting a vegan Thanksgiving:
Make a plan
There’s that saying, “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.” Now, making a vegan Thanksgiving feast isn’t life or death, so if you mess up, who cares? But if you make a plan, you’ll eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress that comes with hosting.
To make a plan, open your Notes app on your phone or grab a pen and paper. Answer the following:
- How many people are coming?
- What are their dietary restrictions (gluten-free? or allergies?)
- Where are you going to serve the meal?
- What’s your comfort level in the kitchen?
- Do you have go-to recipes?
Once you’ve figured that out, start creating your menu. Determine what can be made ahead and what needs to be cooked or baked on Thanksgiving Day. Also, find out how many baking dishes you have and how many of them can fit in the oven at once. Then create a schedule. Work backward from when the meal will be served.
Nothing will ruin your day (or weekend) more than taking on more than you can handle—alone. Be realistic when you assess your cooking abilities. Are you a good cook, but a terrible baker? That’s fine. You can work with that. Unable to Great British Bake your way to a final meal? That’s what friends are for.
Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring a dish to offload some of the work. If someone offers to pick up alcohol, let them. If your Aunt REALLY wants to bring her favorite green bean casserole, let her. Inviting your guests to bring their own dishes lets them feel more involved in your vegan Thanksgiving. They’re also less likely to scoff at the idea of a fully vegan Thanksgiving. If they bring their own dish and it isn’t vegan-friendly, have them label it appropriately.
Start early on non-food prep
You don’t need to just make all the food, but you need to prepare the table. That includes checking on all your serving dishes, silverware, plates, table cloth, etc. Make sure you have enough for every guest. Checking on this before Thanksgiving Day gives you a chance to replace anything broken or missing.
Anything that needs to be cleaned (like the tablecloth you haven’t seen in over a year) can be done before the big day. If you’d like to decorate beforehand, consider a nice tablecloth, some decorative napkins, and a simple flower arrangement to place on the table. You don’t have to go overboard to make it elegant.
Buy your groceries
Once you’ve decided on your menu, make your grocery list. Pick this up before Thanksgiving weekend because everyone’s going to want to get their shopping in that Saturday and Sunday before. Go Thursday evening to pick up everything you need. This will help you avoid any food shortages from all the other shoppers.
Make as much ahead as possible
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving Day to make all your vegan dishes. That’s bound to stress you out to the point where you won’t even enjoy the day. And there’s nothing wrong with making food ahead of time and warming it on Thanksgiving Day.
When you’re planning your menu and schedule, see what vegan dishes can be made a day or two before. Make those Saturday and Sunday, so all you have to do Monday is warm them up in the oven.
One aspect of hosting a vegan Thanksgiving feast most people forget is setting boundaries. Examples of setting boundaries would be requiring your guests to RSVP, letting them know if they can stay overnight or if they’ll have to find other sleeping arrangements. It’s also letting people know to not arrive a few hours later only to distract you while you’re making final preparations.
Put your needs first when it comes to hosting and let your boundaries be clear and known to your guests. This will not only make your day less stressful, but it can help prevent any drama.
Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. If you like hosting, make sure you set yourself up for success so you continue to like hosting. Make a plan, accept (and ask for) help, set boundaries, and make things ahead of time and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself as much as your guests will when they arrive.
Recipes For A Vegan Thanksgiving
A vegan Thanksgiving does not have to be a whole bunch of side dishes. We know it didn’t used to be like this. We remember you had the choice of a tofurkey which tasted like plastic and even cut like plastic. It was fake meat and that’s exactly what it tasted like.
If you went to a relative’s house for Thanksgiving, you were stuck eating the carrots, green beans, and salad—unless they were drenched in cheese. In that case, you brought your own little meal, and everyone sort of just gawked at you like you were from another planet.
Luckily, plant-based meals are making waves and we have so many delicious cruelty-free Thanksgiving options to make. We found some stomach-growling recipes online to help you start brainstorming your vegan Thanksgiving menu.
Vegan Thanksgiving Drinks
If you really want to go all out, consider some of these fan-favorite drinks. If you don’t want to come up with a drink, get a middle-shelf red and crisp white wine to serve alongside the food. Or, let a friend or family member bring the booze. If someone offers to help, let them. It’ll make your life so much easier.
Vegan Thanksgiving Appetizers
Vegan appetizers are a great way to keep your guests entertained while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. This is also one of those things that you could easily buy some crackers, nuts, and a veggie tray for guests to nosh if you don’t want to cook or bake appetizers in addition to everything else.
- Spinach and Artichoke Dip Cups
- Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds
- Roasted Garlic Parmesan Mushrooms
- Savory Sweet Potato Bruschetta
- Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
- Panzanella Salad
- Falafel With Cranberry Pear Dip
- Pumpkin Hummus
- Gluten-Free Magic Skillet Cornbread
Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Roasts
This is likely where your meat-loving guests will be most skeptical. “Thanksgiving without the turkey?!” Once they get a taste of one of these recipes, they’ll be too busy devouring the meal to have anything bad to say about there being no dead bird front and center.
- Lentil Loaf
- Stuffed Roasted Butternut Squash
- Pecan Mushroom Wellington
- Walnut And Almond Nut Loaf
- Stuffed Acorn Squash With Quinoa And Kale
- Cranberry Mushroom Lentil Loaf
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- Stuffed Seitan Roast
Vegan Thanksgiving Dishes
Ahhh, the side dishes vegans are always stuck with at the carnivorous Thanksgiving meals. Only this time, you’re in charge and you can spice these up any way you want. Your guests will love them too.
- Sweet Potato Mac N' Cheese
- Green Bean Casserole
- Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
- Vegan Gravy
- Lentil Mushroom Walnut Balls With Cranberry Pear Sauce
- Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing
- Scalloped Potatoes
- Cranberry Sausage Stuffing
- Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts
- 5-Minute Vegan Creamed Corn
- Vegan Creamed Spinach
- Simple Vegan Dinner Rolls
- Veggie Salad With Broccoli And Mushrooms
- Thanksgiving Power Bowl
- Sweet Potato Casserole
Vegan Thanksgiving Desserts
It won’t be a vegan Thanksgiving without mouth-watering desserts. If you know of a bakery that already makes vegan desserts, opt for that instead. You don’t have to bake everything, especially when there’s a place that’s already perfected vegan desserts. But if you do want to really own your vegan Thanksgiving, here are some desserts sure to make anyone a vegan dessert connoisseur.
- Vegan Pumpkin Pie
- Vegan Cheesecake
- Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
- No Bake Caramel Apple Tartlets
- Over-The-Top Mini Pecan Pie Tarts
As with any host, you can decide what happens throughout the day. Set your own traditions if you’ve never been a fan of the family’s. Want to join one of those “Turkey Trots” they do? Get your guests to sign up with you! If you’d rather avoid those 5Ks, what about exploring your local trails after your meal? You can also use this start to jumpstart a gratitude practice.
Whatever you decide, know that you’re making a difference when you host a vegan Thanksgiving. You may even inspire a friend or family member to make the switch to a more ethical lifestyle.