As an on-again off-again vegetarian, I've had my fair share of meatless Thanksgivings. And every time, my carnivorous counterparts are aghast: How can you do Thanksgiving without the turkey?!? Quite easily, in fact. The bird may be the word on Thanksgiving, but with green bean casserole, stuffing, gravy—all of which can easily be made vegetarian (or vegan), by the way—it’s hard to really feel deprived.
Besides, Thanksgiving turkey can be so very bland. I’d much prefer a creative and flavor-filled vegetarian main dish, like stuffing-filled winter squash; pumpkin baked with leeks and Gruyere cheese; seitan stuffed with walnuts and cranberries; or fried pumpkin wantons.
For inspiration, here are 18 vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes, from sides to main dishes to desserts. Just remember: Friends don't let friends serve Tofurky.
Curry-Stuffed Delicata Squash
We’ll start with meatless main dspicishes and work our way up to vegetarian sides, stuffing and gravy. First up: Delicata squash, stuffed with a curry-spiced lentil, raisin, nut and rice blend from Big Girls, Small Kitchen.
Image: Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Lentil & Millet Loaf
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Acorn squashes become so much more than fall decorations when you fill them with cranberries, spinach, hemp seeds and spices, like in this idea from Healthy Blender Recipes.
Image: Healthy Blender Recipes
Fried Pumpkin Wontons
Non-vegetarians may be a little weary of lentil loaf. But who can disagree these with crispy fried pumpkin wontons from The Gourmand Mom?
Image: The Gourmand Mom
This Thanksgiving ‘roast’ by Your Vegan Mom is made from seitan, a type of vegetarian/vegan mock meat that’s made from vital wheat gluten. Seitan is one of my favorite meat substitutes, because the texture is much less icky than tofu and it holds flavor better.
Image: Your Vegan Mom
Vegetable Lentil Loaf
Last loaf, I swear! But blogger The Simple Veganista promises that this is the ultimate veggie-lentil loaf, so I had to include it. The ketchup, vinegar and maple syrup glaze does give it a little something special…
Image: The Simple Veganista
Mock Duck Cassoulet
If you’re feeling fancy, try your hand at this “mock duck cassoulet” from The Chubby Vegetarian. A cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooker casserole dish that originated in France and usually contains sausage, goose or duck. This one compensates with vegetarian mock duck (available at Asian markets) and Field Roast faux-sausage.
Image: The Chubby Vegetarian
Tofu Skin Roulade with Sage Mushroom Stuffing
If you’re feeling really fancy, you could make this tofu skin roulade with sage-mushroom stuffing from Veggie Belly. “The tofu skin forms a golden exterior with great texture, and the stuffing inside is moist and mushroomy,” the blogger says. Bonus: It can be made a day ahead of time and reheated in 10 minutes on Thanksgiving day.
Image: Veggie Belly
Seitan Stuffed with Walnuts, Dried Cranberries and Mushrooms
A twist on the stuffed faux-turkey idea, using seitan instead of tofu. “The stuffing ingredients are very flexible,” writes Susan Voisin of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. “Mushroom haters, feel free to substitute another vegetable or just leave them out. Walnut haters can use another type of nut and cranberry phobics can use dried cherries, raisins, or no fruit at all.”
Image: Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Vegetarian Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie
I don’t think you can go wrong with a flaky, savory vegetarian Shepherd’s pie from Gourmandelle.
Leek and Gruyère Bread Pudding Baked in a Pumpkin
And I realllly don’t think you can go wrong with a cheese-stuffed pumpkin, like this one from The Bojon Gourmet. The spectacle alone is stellar, but also: OMG Gruyère cheese and leeks and bread crumbs and YUM.
Image: The Bojon Gourmet
Obviously, no Thanksgiving meal is complete without gravy. Most vegetarian gravy sold in stores is not so great, but it’s not hard to make good vegetarian gravy at home with this recipe from Life & Kitchen.
Image: Life & Kitchen
Another take on veggie gravy, from the blog I Love Vegan. This one is incredibly easy, with just five ingredients.
Image: I Love Vegan
Slow-Cooker Potato Stuffing
Typical stuffing recipes rely on meat or at least meat broth. Here’s a vegetarian (and gluten-free) stuffing option from Hungry Hungry Hippie that uses potatoes and vegan sausage instead.
Image: Hungry Hungry Hippie
Tofu and Mung Bean Stuffing
This vegetarian stuffing from Quiche a Week is made with tofu and mung beans, which sound disgusting but are actually quite good. It’s also lower in calories and carbs than your average Thanksgiving stuffing.
Image: Quiche a Week
Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary, Pecans Gorgonzola Cheese
Pecans, rosemary and cheese take butternut squash from so-so side to everyone’s-gonna-want-some in no time, via Kalyn’s Kitchen.
Image: Kalyn’s Kitchen
Roasted Grape, Goat Cheese & Honey-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Roasted grapes? Uh-huh. When cooked, the grapes become soft and less tart. Throw them in a salad or pair them with sweet potato, honey and goat cheese a la this recipe from How Sweet It Is.
Image: How Sweet It Is