Twelve years ago, my life changed after reading a book by Kim Barnouin. Tears streamed down my cheeks after reading behind-the-scenes reports from undercover journalists revealing the horrifying treatment of animals on factory farms. I am certain that I had just eaten a chicken sandwich for dinner prior to my nightly reading. But that night, I decided to go vegan cold turkey.
I didn’t know what being vegan would be like, but that information upset me so deeply, I wanted to do everything I could to not contribute to the mistreatment of animals anymore.
And so my vegan journey began.
At first, I didn’t know a thing about cooking because everything I ate came from a box, bag or from the freezer. Without meat as a main, what would I eat? I had to un-learn everything I’d known about food. At the time, I lived in Cleveland with family, including a self-proclaimed “carnivore” uncle who ate the typical midwestern diet of steak and potatoes. Family poked fun at my sensitive nature, which made holidays especially uncomfortable, but my conviction remained unwavered.
I remember my first Thanksgiving as a vegan. We gathered at my grandmother’s home and I offered to bring a dish to share, but she would not allow it. So, I came prepared with my own hummus and veggies and sat proudly with my unique, but simple plate of animal-friendly foods. I laugh now, thinking back on that holiday as I was so new to veganism and still learning my way around the kitchen. My cooking skills have grown significantly, and I have made many vegan Thanksgiving meals since, mostly from scratch.
A vegan-friendly Thanksgiving isn’t all that hard to accomplish if you’re willing to have a bit of patience and do a little research. As interest in veganism has increased, so has the market for plant-based, animal-free products. A vegan novice these days won’t face as many challenges as I did and so many others before me.
I challenge you to try these vegan swaps.
Rather than using our feathered turkey friend as the main dish, opt for one of these vegan alternatives: Field Roast brand Celebration Roast, Gardein’s Holiday Roast or the most affordable Turkey-less Stuffed Roast from Trader Joe’s.
Daiya makes a good packaged vegan and gluten free macaroni and cheese, but I recommend this recipe: The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese (Classic, Baked) found on Loving It Vegan.
Most homemade dinner rolls are “accidentally vegan,” but here’s a tried and true recipe: Vegan Dinner Rolls found on Nora Cooks.
For mashed potatoes, follow a traditional recipe, but swap out the dairy for vegan options. I like unsweetened soy or almond milk — I would avoid coconut milk as it can add a hint of sweetness. As for butter, the number of plant-based butters has grown significantly since I became vegan. I have tried most of them and Miyoko’s brand has the closest flavor notes as dairy butter, but is often the most expensive.
My favorite Thanksgiving dish is stuffing, and this is my go-to recipe: Vegan Cornbread Stuffing (GF) found on Jessica in the Kitchen.
For dessert, if you want to buy packaged pies, many of Marie Callender’s pies are “accidentally vegan,” including the Dutch Apple Pie, Lattice Apple and Peach Pies. Whole Foods typically sells vegan pumpkin pies. Top your pie with dairy-free ice creams, truwhip or cocowhip. I would avoid the spray cans as my experience has not been so positive in the past.
However you celebrate, and whatever you celebrate, I hope you enjoy.
Elicia Hesselgrave is a vegan, animal-lover and contributor for Colorado Community Media.
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