Holiday celebrations are meal-centric; the slowly cooked meats served on these sacred days are looked forward to for the entire year. The days leading up to our respective religious and secular holidays are carefully planned to allow ample time for the perfect cooking, basting and seasoning schedule to roll out without flaws. However, while many look forward to the perfect meaty meal, those who don’t partake in flesh feel a little left out. For the vegans and vegetarians in our families, here are eight holiday dinner hacks to make you happy and the other guests jealous.
1. Turkey – If you’re not a meat-eater during this meat-heavy holiday, you’re going to have to substitute an entree. Try grilling or sautéing a large portobello mushroom in some olive oil and seasonings for that big meaty taste. I would splash some white wine over it while cooking and serve it with a healthy dose of vegetarian mushroom gravy for extra succulence. You can also purchase Tofurkey if you enjoy soy-based meats and want to have a closer substitute.
2. Ham – Another meat readily found around the holiday table is ham, which you can also find in a veggie meat variety. If you’re looking for a more gourmet substitute, bring back that mushroom cap and glaze it with a mixture of olive oil, herbs, brown sugar and a few drops of liquid smoke to mimic the sweet flavor of traditional ham before cooking.
3. Mashed Potatoes – This dish is hotly debated; some prefer their mash to be thick and chunky, so you can recognize it started as potatoes. Others prefer their mash cooked so fine that it has a light, whipped texture that nearly dissolves when the gravy is poured overtop. However you prefer them, you can indulge to your heart’s content if you trade the milk and butter for vegetable oils and dairy substitutes. You can also take the potatoes out of the mashed potatoes and use boiled cauliflower mashed with Greek yogurt for a sour kick.
4. Gravy – You can have the fanciest gravy in the room if you want to. Try out some Thyme Cabernet Gravy made with half an onion, three cloves of garlic, 2 cups of veggie broth, brown rice flour, thyme, nutritional yeast and ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon of Cabernet wine. You can drench all of your veggie and vegan holiday favorites in this. Sharing it with carnivores is optional.
5. Stuffing – Down here, oyster stuffing is truly the king, which is just fine for pescetarians. Vegetarians and vegans will have to opt out of the seafood flavoring and stick with a traditional, yet non-meat and non-dairy, stuffing. Instead of egg in your stuffing, use ¼ cup applesauce per egg. For a thick texture, use lentils. Be sure to load it with finely chopped veggies like onion and celery for a savory flavor. And season with your favorite fall herbs like sage and rosemary.
6. Yams (Sweet Potatoes) – Whatever you prefer to call them, yams are a staple item, yet are quite versatile in how they are used in dishes. My family favorite is quartered, smothered in butter, nutmeg and cinnamon and baked with a layer of marshmallows. If you like them this way too, but don’t want that dairy, simply use the applesauce again, canola oil, Greek yogurt or even avocado.
7. Green Bean Casserole – Luckily, you don’t have to change this recipe too much. Just replace the butter with olive oil, add some fresh mushrooms, use vegetable broth and add almond or soy milk for the creaminess. Make sure that your favorite brand of fried onions is free from animal products and you’re ready to bake.
8. Pumpkin Pie – This pie is non-dairy and no-bake! Use 2 cups pitted dates, 2 cups raw nuts, and ¼ cup oats for the crust. Then use your favorite vegan pumpkin pie filling (canned or freshly made), and refrigerate until chilled.