How do I Prepare a Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

Sheri Cyprus

Pumpkin pie can be prepared in a vegetarian fashion.
Pumpkin pie can be prepared in a vegetarian fashion.

A vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner can be just as delicious as a traditional one. No substitutes taste exactly like turkey, but many of the side dishes and desserts traditionally served at Thanksgiving are flavorful and based around vegetables, fruits and grains. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie can all be eaten in some variation by vegetarians.

Vegetarian meat crumbles are made of textured vegetable protein.
Vegetarian meat crumbles are made of textured vegetable protein.

The first step in planning a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner is to understand the types of vegetarians that will be eating the meal. For example, lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy products while vegans do not. It is possible to find or make vegan versions of traditional Thanksgiving foods such as pumpkin pie. Potatoes can be mashed with a little vegetable broth rather than milk for vegans. Or, try a sweet potato dish made with cinnamon for flavoring.

Meatless stuffing is delicious and can be served to vegetarians.
Meatless stuffing is delicious and can be served to vegetarians.

Stuffing for any type of vegetarian should always be cooked outside the turkey. Also be sure to use different utensils for vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian gravy can be made from vegetable broth. Nuts placed in small dishes next to the vegetarian's plate can serve as a protein source.

Adapt mashed potatoes for a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.
Adapt mashed potatoes for a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.

Some people like the idea of an imitation turkey such as the Tofurkey® product for a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. Some vegetarians may be offended by a product made to resemble an animal while others may appreciate the novelty. Turkey-like protein loaves can be purchased in organic food stores and health food stores. Tofurkey® includes gravy, stuffing and an artificial wishbone.

Tofurkey typically comes with its own gravy.
Tofurkey typically comes with its own gravy.

Ask vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner guests ahead of time not only which ingredients they do eat, but also the ones they don't. Be sure to check the labels of packaged foods before buying to be sure these ingredients aren't in the contents. For example, gelatin is a product made from animal bones that is found in some dips as well as gelatin powders used to make festive molded salads or light desserts. Sodium caseinate is another animal based ingredient that many vegetarians don't eat.

Lentil loaf is a popular meat-less version of meatloaf, which can be served for a Thanksgiving meal.
Lentil loaf is a popular meat-less version of meatloaf, which can be served for a Thanksgiving meal.

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