When I first gave up meat, my mother would panic when trying to plan holiday meals. What could a vegetarian possibly eat at Thanksgiving? My answer: plenty!
Skipping the carne doesn't mean you can't enjoy Thanksgiving. I personally never feel like I miss out on my favorite holiday tastes because it's not the turkey alone but the combination of fall flavors and time spent around the table with familia that makes it feel like Thanksgiving.
While some vegetarians opt for a "tofurky" substitute, I add a meatless casserole or pasta for the main course or skip the entree all together and fill up on classic sides like sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.
Whether you have a vegetarian at the table this month or you are cutting back on the meat yourself, plan to serve a meatless option for every course.
Natalie's Meatless Thanksgiving Spread
- Nuts: Set out unsalted almonds, cashews, and walnuts for a healthy protein-packed snack. Added bonus: nuts are filling so you are less likely to overeat later.
- Raw vegetables and hummus: A classic veggie tray of colorful bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli never gets old. Not only will you save prep time with this simple no-cook starter, many raw veggies have even more nutrients than their cooked counterparts, as I mention in Meatless Monday: A Day of Raw Food Recipes.
- Roasted pumpkin seeds: Prepping for this simple recipe is a great task for kids who like to get their hands dirty!
- Green salad: My family loves the kale salad I share in Meatless Monday: Massaged Kale Salad Recipe. Also try one of these creative salad recipes.
- Pumpkin bisque: My students and I made this soup recipe from scratch this fall. 50 sophomores can't be wrong--it's delicious!
- Winter squash casserole: Hearty and delicious, this recipe is a great main dish that features sabroso seasonal squash.
- Butternut squash pasta: Pasta fans will love the fall flavors in this receta, which I share in American Diabetes Month Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Pasta Recipe.
- Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a power food that can reduce your risk of breast cancer, as I mention in Breast Cancer Awareness Month Meatless Monday: 5 Food Choices to Reduce your Risk. My sister loves brown-sugar sweet potato casserole and I like to bake them with rosemary.
- Garlic mashed potatoes: From scratch, of course! This vegan recipe is delicious. Leave the skin on for added texture, nutrients, and flavor.
- Vegetarian stuffing: Cooked in a casserole instead of inside of the bird, stuffing is my Thanksgiving must-have. Try this sweet cranberry stuffing recipe.
- Pumpkin pie: For the first time ever this year, I used this recipe to make pie from a real pumpkin.
- Pecan pie: My abuela made pecan pie each Thanksgiving with pecans harvested from the trees in the front yard. Every bite brings back great family memories.
Even without the meat, you will still leave the table stuffed!
The purpose of Thanksgiving is to spend time with loved ones and to give thanks--you can do that no matter what foods grace your feast. Let's be grateful for good health and add meatless dishes into your menu not just for the vegetarians in your family but for the extra time with them healthy living allows.
¿Need Meatless Monday inspiration? Click here to read more of my recipes.
A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.
What is your favorite meatless Thanksgiving dish?