Super Simple Thanksgiving for Your Very Vegan Friends and Family


Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday for many vegans… with the sights, smells, and endless questioning by concerned family members.  Hosting vegans at your traditional Thanksgiving meal can be equally stressful.  You want all your guests to feel welcome and comfortable.

The important thing is to keep it simple and not draw too much attention to your non-traditional diners.  Try not to think about what vegans can’t eat.  Think about how much we can.  Choose to veganize as many of your side dishes as possible to avoid having to make multiple versions of each dish. 


If gluten isn’t an issue for your family, many types of bread are already vegan.  Just confirm with your baker or double check the packaging.

Salad and Vegetables:

Fresh, steamed, or roasted vegetables are an obvious choice.  Toss leaf lettuce or mixed greens with other fresh vegetables, dried fruit, seeds or nuts for a simple salad.  If you are choosing a pre-made salad dressing, just make sure to read the ingredients.  Several popular brands offer dressings that happen to be vegan.  Some brands are intentionally vegan.  Choose a dressing free of cheese, milk, eggs, fish oil, gelatin, and honey.  If you cook your vegetables, use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. 


Whole, baked russet or sweet potatoes are a great option.  Serve baked potatoes with vegan butter or vegan sour cream on the side (here is an easy recipe for a fabulous raw, cashew-based sour cream:  


If you prefer mashed, vegan mashed potatoes are as easy as substituting vegan options for dairy in your basic mashed potato recipe.

My method for vegan mashed potatoes:

I prefer to use Yukon gold because they add to the creamy texture.  I use 1 ½ to 2 potatoes per person (depending on size).  Thoroughly wash the potatoes and put them in a pot of water to boil.  Do not remove the skins.  Boil until they are fork tender.  Drain the water and let sit until the potatoes are cool enough to handle.  The skins should rub off in your hands… be careful because the potatoes will still be hot.

Place the skinned potatoes back in the empty pot and begin to mash.  My grandmother’s antique potato masher makes perfectly fluffy potatoes.  My husband, however, prefers them to be whipped and obliterated into a paste-like substance.

While mashing, add a few pinches of sea salt and one teaspoon of vegan butter per person.  If I’m adding roasted garlic and basil to the potatoes, I use a teaspoon per person of fruity extra virgin olive oil in place of the butter.  Add a splash of nut, grain, or soy milk if the potatoes seem dry.  I like to garnish with fresh herbs… whatever I have growing. 



There are many processed meat-substitutes that are sold with gravy, sauces, breaded and non-breaded, stuffed and unstuffed.  Check the packaging to be sure that it is vegan.  Vegetarian and vegan are not the same.  An issue to consider with any processed food is the high level of sodium.  Tempeh, fermented soy bean cake, is a low sodium option that requires very little preparation.


To prepare, slice the tempeh in ¼-inch slices and pan fry in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Turn to crisp on both sides.  Remove from the pan when they appear golden and toasty.  That’s it. 



Vegan baking can be involved.  If you are feeling adventurous, there are numerous vegan pumpkin and fruit pies floating around the internet.  Another option is to make a vegan pumpkin spice cake.  Add one can 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) to a box of spice cake mix.  Duncan Hines spice cake mix happens to be vegan, but there are gluten free mixes as well.  Check the label to make sure that there is no dairy, eggs, gelatin, or honey listed in the ingredients.  Combine the pumpkin puree with the cake mix.  Do not add anything else.  Bake according to the box directions.  


Keep it simple and dust with powdered sugar once it cools completely.


Please remember that however you choose to prepare your Thanksgiving, friends and family are there to celebrate with you.  The food is only secondary.  We want you to relax, have fun, and enjoy the holiday.


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Melisa Pulgini
Melisa has 18 years experience working with individuals (infant through adult) with diverse abilities. She holds Pennsylvania teaching certifications in Secondary English Education and Family and Consumer Sciences, Pennsylvania Private Academic Certification, Pennsylvania Director Credential, Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature, post-baccalaureate coursework in Child Development, Education, Curriculum and Assessment, and a Master’s in Professional Writing. As a Certified Instructor through the Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System, registered Child Development Professional Development Specialist, and Child Health Advocate, Melisa provided professional development opportunities to educators. In addition to home schooling her children, Melisa is an author, photographer, and illustrator of juvenile non-fiction and fiction. She enjoys touring historical sites, museums, and botanical gardens with her family.