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50 Vegan Thanksgiving Ideas

50 Vegan Thanksgiving Ideas

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Being vegan can be extra tough around the holiday season, especially one that revolves so heavily around turkey. But this collection of vegan Thanksgiving ideas, ranging from main dishes and sides to salads and desserts, can help even the most unfamiliar cook whip out some vegan dishes with confidence. Free of meat, dairy, and eggs, these recipes draw on seasonal produce, plus hearty grains and legumes, to make a meal so good that guests won't even hesitate to embrace the vegan menu.

Kale, Jicama, and Orange Salad

Kale, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, fennel, and cranberries are just a few of the in-season foods that contribute to this collection of vegan recipes. With rich main dishes, satisfying sides, refreshing salads, and sweet desserts, you won't be missing out on anything by serving up a plant-based meal.

This salad pops with color and texture from juicy citrus, creamy avocado, and crisp jicama. Dark, bumpy kale fits the mood, but you can substitute any lettuce you like. We love the pink hue of Cara Cara oranges in the salad, but regular navel or even blood oranges (in keeping with the spooky theme) would also work. Sturdy lacinato kale will become perfectly tender when dressed and left to stand at room temperature. Coating the avocado in the dressing first will keep it from browning while you're out having fun.

Acorn Squash with Pomegranate and Kale Tabbouleh

This is a fun dish to "carve" at the table, as each person gets one wedge to enjoy as a side dish. For an entrée take, give each person half a squash.

Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad

It may seem too good to be true, but it's not: This impressive plate requires only 5 ingredients (water, oil, salt, and pepper are freebies). Microwaved sweet potatoes are sliced into medallions, brushed with oil, and lightly seared so they become satisfyingly steak-like. The creamy, nutty sauce adds richness, and the lemon-dressed arugula-chickpea salad bulks up the plate beautifully. In place of almond butter, you can use any nut butter you like—try peanut, cashew, or sunflower butter. And if canned chickpeas aren't in your pantry, try cannellini or navy beans.

Butternut-Cauliflower Coconut Curry

A range of textures—crunchy peas, tender vegetables, and silky coconut broth—makes this cool-weather main incredibly satisfying. The chickpea mixture can also be a delicious gluten-free snack: After baking, toss with a little kosher salt, ground cumin, and ground red pepper. Serve with Cilantro-Chile Couscous.

Pickled Onion Slaw

A quick slaw makes a tangy side that pairs with an assortment of main dishes. Our homemade version keeps the cabbage crisp. We use honey to sweeten ours.

Roasted Kabocha and Kale Salad

Kobocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, is the sweeter cousin of the pumpkin. The vivid orange flesh of this winter squash is tender and rich, with a flavor reminiscent of a sweet potato. While the shell is very hard when raw, it becomes very tender when cooked, making peeling optional. It's wonderful here, dressed with olive oil, coriander seeds, pepper, and salt.

Smoked Barley, Beet and Grapefruit Salad

This CL–perfected stovetop technique makes smoking food easier than ever (though the salad is still tasty if you choose not to smoke the grains), and smoke is such a fun flavor to apply to unexpected ingredients like barley. A sweet vinaigrette, earthy beets, and the intense citrus twang of grapefruit balance the robust smoky hit of the grains for a memorable salad. To make sure you're getting the whole-grain version of barley, look for hulled, and skip past pearled.

Sage-Roasted Carrots and Turnips

Wrap the vegetables in a foil packet so they steam gently and are easy to flip all at once. Place the packet right on the floor of the oven so the vegetables cook through quickly.

Roasted Broccoli with Pistachios and Pickled Golden Raisins

Some version of broccoli, usually laden with cream and cheese, lands on many a Thanksgiving table. But this dish, with its beautifully balanced flavors, is much lighter—and vegan.

Tempeh with Charred Peppers and Kale

Ever tried tempeh? This soybean-based veggie protein is a great option for vegetarian or vegan sandwiches and wraps because of its firm texture and incredible flavor adaptability. We love it here with a quick soy sauce hit, layered over earthy kale. Got leftovers? Pile this tempeh and veggie combo into a whole-wheat wrap for a perfect to-go lunch.

Brandied Preserved Figs

This recipe will work with any fresh figs you have, such as Brown Turkey, Calimyrna, or Black Mission. Enjoy them as a simple dessert on their own, served with ice cream or yogurt, or as a salad topper. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.

Vegetable Paella

"Paella may sound like something fancy, but it is a humble dish, made from ingredients that are fresh and healthy," says star chef José Andrés, whose restaurants in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, and California helped spark America's celebration of Spanish cuisine. The classic Spanish rice dish is a crowd-pleaser in his celebrated restaurants and at home. The heat for this paella starts high and reduced gradually, making the rice perfectly al dente and then crisping it at the bottom.

Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

There's something about the sweet anise flavor of fresh fennel and bright citrus that go so well together. Citrus grows all over Italy, from blood oranges to grapefruit to lemons. It is a dominant flavor in the cuisine. Let the salad stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving. This allows the dressing to penetrate the vegetables and tenderize them a bit for a less aggressive crunch.

Grapefruit Granita with Pear-and-Pom Relish

No need to relegate icy treats to the summertime. This granita will make a fantastic addition to your holiday get-togethers.

Spaghetti with Spinach-Avocado Sauce

Move over, pesto: You're not the only sauce worth going green for. Pureed avocado makes this dish positively irresistible. Garnish with extra basil leaves, if desired.

Roasted Cranberries and Grapes with Rosemary

Your relish is going to get a much needed revamp with the addition of grapes and rosemary. Black grapes have thicker skins than red grapes, and they'll hold up better under the broiler.

Shaved Apple and Fennel Salad with Crunchy Spelt

Simply put, apples and fennel are right together—the flavors are so complementary. We love the way the paper-thin slices intertwine and then get interrupted by bright hits of parsley. Canola oil may seem like an odd choice, but we wanted to keep the flavors clean and straightforward; you can always use olive oil if you'd like the vinaigrette to assert itself.

Sweet Heat Green Beans

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

We use sambal oelek to add kick to fresh vegetables, tossing it in crispy green beans and mixed with honey for the perfect sweet-meets-spicy, Asian-style veggie dish. Serve this as a side or bring it to a potluck for a flavorful surprise.

Tahiree Vegetable and Rice Casserole

This ancient dish traces its roots to India's Kayastha community, who developed it as a unique variation of biryani. In tahiree, rice and other elements cook together, while biryani rice is cooked separately and then layered with meat and vegetables.

"Toast the rice, as you would in risotto, to draw out fragrance and add nuttiness. Add garam masala toward the end so it doesn't get bitter," Saran says.

Baby Carrots with Herb Dressing and Olives

Look for baby carrots with some of the green tops attached; reserve and chop for tossing with the steamed carrots. Carrots should be about the width of your thumb; halve larger ones so they cook evenly. Steaming is gentler than boiling and faster than roasting. And, because the carrots are less caramelized, the fresh herbs stand out more.

Graham Cracker-Apple Crisp

Photo Courtesy of Oxmoor House

This crisp is just as delicious for breakfast as it is when served for dessert. The combination of gluten-free oats and graham crackers gives the topping a unique texture that complements the soft apple filling. Substitute whipped coconut cream for the whipped topping, and you've got a dairy-free dessert.

Whole Roasted Carrots With Black Lentils and Green Harissa

Cajun spiced lentils serve as a delicious protein component in this vegan meal, but what really makes this dish shine is the green harissa drizzled on top. The Tunisian-like sauce brings spice, tang, and bright herbiness to the sweet winter carrots.

Carrot Hummus With Cumin and Almonds

Bright, beautiful carrots give this dip its gorgeous hue, while a pinch of paprika adds a slight kick of spice.

Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad

Get 7 grams of protein in this speedy side salad that comes together in a flash.

Cranberry-Whiskey Sour Slush

Is it a drink or dessert? Who cares? It satisfies both cravings.

Smoked and Spiced Pecans

Try this recipe sprinkled on top of a simple green salad.

Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Currants

Photo: Christopher Testani

Grains, nuts, and dried fruit are typical in the Sephardic community—Jews who immigrated from Spain, Yemen, and the Mediterranean. (Ashkenazic Jews brought bread and potatoes from Eastern Europe.) Quinoa is a modern twist. Dried currants are smaller and less sweet than raisins, but either will work in this dish.

Miso Roasted Cauliflower

Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Claire Spollen

Boost your cauliflower with this powerhouse ingredient that lends savory depth to this dish.

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pickled Rye Berries

Something rather lovely happens when you soak the chewier whole grains (such as rye or wheat berries) in a pickling brine; the tangy notes make the chew that much more enjoyable.

Intense Fruit Gelées

Use your favorite flavor of fruit concentrate or puree from We tried and liked pomegranate, tangerine, cranberry, blood orange, and Meyer lemon.

Braised Artichokes, Favas, and Carrots in Creamy Lemon Sauce With Fennel

We love the artichokes in this dish—they add their unique flavor and somehow make everything taste just a little sweeter. The olive oil emulsifies with the braising liquid to create a silky sauce that deliciously coats the bright spring veggies. Thin lemon slices, charred and caramelized in a cast-iron pan, make a nice garnish.

Roasted Whole Carrots

Oven roasting surrounds vegetables with dry, hot, even heat that heightens flavor, browns and crisps exteriors, and cooks interiors to perfect tenderness.

Chocolate-Sea Salt Breadsticks

If you have leftover pizza or bread dough, put it to delicious use.

Simple Blistered Broccolini

Broccolini has a milder flavor than broccoli and tastes delicious roasted and simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Carrot "Tabbouleh"

Fresh carrots stand in for bulgur in this no-cook, gluten-free side dish. You can use white wine vinegar in place of lemon juice.

Cranberry-Almond Bark

Photo Courtesy of Oxmoor House

This addictive chocolate confection is a spectacular way to blend cranberries and almonds. You can also vary the recipe with other dried fruits, such as raisins, apricots, figs, or cherries. Wrap in clear plastic and tie with a dark green ribbon for a lovely holiday gift.

Haricots Verts with Carrots and Sesame

Slender haricots verts need little embellishment. Here they're tossed with a good dose of carrots and sesame seeds. Once it's cooked, the flavor mellows considerably. If you can't find the tiny French green beans, substitute regular green beans and increase the cook time in boiling water to five minutes to ensure they're done.

Roasted Beet Hummus

The beet flavor (if not the color) in this dip is very subtle, with a nutty edge from walnuts and walnut oil and concentrated sources of fat and flavor. Pair with crunchy crudités.

French Apple Tart

This free-form apple tart is easy, spectacular, and evocative of the season.

• • Make it Vegan: Use a vegan pastry dough—one made with vegetable shortening—and leave off the crème fraîche.

Green Beans with Dried Cranberries and Hazelnuts

Every plate needs a little green on it. Blanch the beans ahead, and store in the refrigerator to eliminate a task from the Thanksgiving Day prep list.

Parsnip Ribbons with Miso Vinaigrette

A little sweet, a little salty, a bit of toasty, and a touch of tang—the makings of a grade-A salad.

Wine-Poached Pears with Raspberries

Simmered in sweet white wine, raspberries deliver fancy flavor. This fruity dessert is fast to make but has a subtle touch of sophistication.

Roasted Fennel with Rosemary Breadcrumbs

Instead of roasted root vegetables or Brussels sprouts, try roasted fennel. Fennel has licorice notes that mellow in the oven, becoming slightly sweet. A splash of cider vinegar at the end brightens the dish.

Portobello Frites

This spin on the bistro staple steak frites offers plenty of umami satisfaction in the form of juicy, meaty portobello mushrooms and a savory wine sauce. Finishing the sauce with a touch of vegan butter gives it luxurious and velvety consistency.

Spicy Stir-Fried Mushroom Bruschetta

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Fenugreek really highlights the earthiness of the mushrooms in this dish, an ingredient found in many curry powders. Omit if you can't find it. Even though the jalapeños are seeded in this appetizer, the dried chiles and ground red pepper deliver plenty of spicy heat. This dish is inspired by flavors from the northern mountainous region of India (Kashmir), whose people brought their love of mushrooms with them when they settled in Delhi. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Make a double or triple batch of the mushroom mixture and serve over warm chickpeas for a cozy, flavor-packed entree.

Roasted Eggplants with Herbs

A simple preparation yields irresistible results with roasted eggplant. Use very firm, small eggplants; if young and fresh enough, they won't be bitter.

Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip

Creamy beans and sweet sun-dried tomatoes offer the perfect texture and flavor combo in this simple dip. You can prepare a day ahead and bring to room temperature before serving. For a more formal presentation, serve on bagel chips garnished with rosemary sprigs. For a casual gathering, serve in a bowl with crackers or bagel chips for dipping.

Apple-Cranberry Crisp

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

This delicious dessert not only tastes great, but is chock full of nutrient-rich fruit and whole grains as well. It's equally good warm or cold, and whipped coconut cream makes a nice topping.

Cauliflower Hummus with Green Olives

Adding curry-roasted cauliflower to creamy, dreamy hummus makes for a flavor-packed dip that's good for you, too.

Gluten Free Vegan Zucchini Lasagna

Oh, lasagna, that ultimate comfort food. Creamy, cheesy, and flavorful. Now, what happens if you want to make a gluten-free or (heaven forbid) vegan version? Well, two wonderful foods, zucchini and tofu, step into the picture. Thinly-sliced zucchini is a great stand in for noodles. When salted, the excess moisture is drawn out, leaving you with a lasagna just as firm as the noodle version. Mashed tofu, when seasoned correctly, is eerily similar to ricotta, but with significantly less calories and fat.

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