By Katie Doyle, Food Editor
I haven’t had a real Thanksgiving since I was in elementary school. Even before I gave up meat in the sixth grade, I’d opt for Stauffer’s macaroni and cheese and Pillsbury dinner rolls instead of turkey and gravy, a tradition I’ve pretty much kept up with since then.
If you’re thinking it sounds like a pretty disappointing dinner, you’re right. And now that I’ve nixed dairy this year, that go-to Thanksgiving meal that doesn’t exactly jive with my diet.
Fortunately, my recent transition to veganism has forced me to be creative when it comes to cooking. And, if there’s ever a good time to cook, it’s Thanksgiving. After all, I can’t think of a better way to test out my chef skills than to cook for my family.
But cooking vegan food for omnivores is a tricky task, especially when the typical Thanksgiving fare—turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie—is so culturally engrained. After scouring the Internet for recipes and pouring through my vegan cook books, though, I’ve realized that it’s not too hard to imitate traditional Thanksgiving flavors and create a delicious vegan meal.
Even better, you don’t have to be a master chef to whip up some of these Thanksgiving fixings, and if you’re in a kitchen where a Thanksgiving meal is already in the works, you’ll likely have many of the necessary ingredients on hand.
I figured I’d share what I’m cooking for Thanksgiving, and maybe you’ll find yourself inspired to create your own vegan dinner. For starters, these garlic mashed potatoes are sure to be a hit, and in tune with Thanksgiving tradition, why not whip up a cranberry relish to add a hint of sweetness to your side dishes?
For an entree, I recommend a glazed lentil walnut apple loaf. Don’t let the name scare you: although it’s one of the more complex recipes, it’s worth the effort, as you’ll end up with a hearty meal with a perfect balance of savory and sweet. You can even mirror those flavors with this walnut-apple stuffing, which is sure to have everyone reaching across the table for seconds.
For dessert, pumpkin pie brownie bites are sure to be a crowd-pleaser, offering traditional fall flavors complimented by notes of cocoa. Or you can stick with a classic pumpkin pie. And surprisingly, the vegan version is a lot easier to make than the traditional one.
Finally, if you’re dealing with picky relatives who might shy away from vegan food simply because, well, it’s vegan, let me share a strategy I learned last weekend when I was visiting my best friend, an omnivore, in Brooklyn, N.Y..
She took me to one of her favorite spots in East Williamsburg, Dun-Well Donuts.
Dun-Well is an all-vegan cafe and bakery, and their donuts have become insanely popular since its opening. But you don’t find the word vegan anywhere in the store. Consequently, the cafe draws in omnivores and carnivores alike, many of whom enjoy Dun-Well’s donuts without realizing they’re eating vegan donuts.
When you’re cooking for omnivores and carnivores, try nixing the word vegan from the description of your food. Once everyone has enjoyed the meal, you can share your secret, but in the mean time let your food speak for itself. Chances are, you and your family will have a delicious Thanksgiving—without even realizing it’s a vegan one.