How to Have a Vegan Thanksgiving That Tastes at Least as Good as Your Mother's

Thanksgiving is known for gratitude, yes, but it's also known for being accompanied by a particularly delicious feast. However, turkey is the official mascot and main course of the day, not to mention there are a number of dairy and egg landmines lurking throughout the menu, so what are you supposed to do if you're vegan? It can be tricky to navigate, but with a few simple adjustments, you can enjoy the traditional fare along with the rest of us — a whole vegan Thanksgiving menu? Now that’s something to be thankful for!

I've enlisted the perfect guide for this meatless voyage: holistic health coach and vegan extraordinaire, Jenna Coker-Jones. Her company is called Jonesin’ for Life and, in addition to being a health coach, she does these Healthy Happy Hour events in Los Angeles, which are basically like live cooking shows where she demonstrates how to make über-healthy vegan and gluten-free menu items that don’t sacrifice taste. (Seriously, mouthgasm, no joke.) For her it’s a lifestyle, so she likes to make both the preparation and the eating an enjoyable experience. Full disclosure: I’ve attended several of these, and can tell you firsthand and completely objectively, she’s a worthy guru. She'll be our Sherpa in the quest to make Thanksgiving vegan-safe and tummy-approved.

We are truly #blessed. Here goes...

MASHED POTATOES

To vegan-ize your mashed potatoes, simply swap out the milk and butter with vegan substitutes. For milk, Jenna recommends Califia Farms Unsweetened Almondmilk, because its "creaminess can't be beat!" As far as butter, she suggests Earth Balance for its taste and consistency, plus there's also a great soy-free option.

HOT TIP: If you want a mashed potato alternative that's even healthier, consider a mashed root vegetable mix — sweet potato, rutabaga, and butternut squash is a delicious combo. Bonus, it's super easy: just bake or roast your selected veggies, and then blend them with fresh herbs and spices (try rosemary, garlic, and thyme). My mouth is watering already...

GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

Instead of cream of mushroom like the traditional recipe calls for, melt some vegan spread in a skillet and sauté fresh chopped mushrooms, garlic, and onions in it — then add a little almond milk and cornstarch until it's the consistency of a thick soup. Combine your pre-steamed green beans, and bake in the oven until bubbly.

French fried onions are always a great topper, but when Jenna's cooking for her fam, she uses a gluten-free flour to dredge the onions in before frying them in olive or coconut oil. Damn... is it too late to join her family?!

CRANBERRY SAUCE

Technically, cranberry sauce is already vegan — but it's loaded with sugar, so there's definitely room for improvement. To get the tangy, sweet flavor you're used to and still be healthy about it, take your favorite recipe (try this one), and swap stevia for the sugar.

Jenna likes to freestyle on this dish — she makes a simple syrup out of stevia, crystalized ginger, and fresh squeezed juice from an orange, then adds raw cranberries to the pot and leaves it on the stove until they pop. Mmmm, a tart and delicious alternative!

PUMPKIN PIE

Although you can make your own vegan pie crust from scratch, this is one area Jenna recommends saving time and energy on by purchasing a packaged version. Her favorite is the Wholly Wholesome gluten-free pie shell (they also sell full gluten varieties for those of us blessed with standard model intestines).

For the filling, try this delectable vegan pumpkin pie recipe, OR take the one that's been in your family for years and just sub out the dairy and eggs. Remember, you can always reduce sugar by replacing it with stevia, molasses, or coconut nectar. And no excuses: here are one, two, three different ways to make vegan whipped cream!!!

TURKEY... BUT NOT TURKEY

The turkey is always the centerpiece at Thanksgiving, so navigating this main dish as a vegetarian can be tricky, to say the least. Last year, Jenna managed to nail it with a vegan play on beef Wellington that was a huge hit. By wrapping slices of Field Roast Celebration Roast in puff pastry, you can bake up the perfect serving size of faux T-Day delight for each of your guests — omnivores and herbivores alike.

WARNING: If you're gluten-free, you'll want to avoid this — the Celebration Roast is made primarily of wheat gluten. Sawwy!

And last, but not least...

GRAVY

No Thanksgiving is complete without the gravy. Well, Jenna's got us covered on that, too, with this vegan and gluten-free original recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 small to medium-sized red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine (recommended: Earth Balance Soy Free)
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp tamari (soy sauce can be used if gluten is not an issue)
  • 3-4 tbsp corn starch (recommended: Kingsford)
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Melt the vegan margarine in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add mushroom and onion, and sauté until the onion softens, but before caramelization occurs. Two to four minutes should do the trick.
  2. Add vegetable broth and tamari. Add the corn starch a tablespoon at a time, stirring regularly to prevent clumps, until desired thickness is achieved. Three tablespoons will be a little more fluid, but remember the gravy will continue to simmer as you season, which will thicken it slightly. For those who love a thick gravy, four tablespoons is probably as high as you'd want to go.
  3. Your gravy base should be approaching a boil. Lower the heat until it's just barely bubbling.
  4. Now comes the fun! Add in garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, pepper, and salt. Taste as you go to find the perfect blend for you. (If you'd prefer the gravy to thicken a bit more, leave it on low heat for an additional five to 10 minutes, stirring regularly to allow some of the moisture to escape.)
  5. Enjoy drizzled on top of your favorite protein or homemade rolls. Perfect over a Thanksgiving Field Roast!

Say what? Oh, everyone's drooling? That's a wrap on vegan Turkey Day, folks. Thank you, Jenna! Your work here is done.

Images: alyssa riley, Quinn Dombrowski, Jessica Rossi, Nomadic Lass, Ernesto Andrade, lila dobbs/Flickr; Jonesin' for Life