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What Are the Best Dishes for a Vegan Thanksgiving?

Vegans do not eat any food made from animals or containing animal by-products, including meat, fish, dairy products, and sometimes honey. A vegan Thanksgiving can still include many if the traditional elements of the holiday meal by using creative substitutes for animal-based recipes. Vegans may also use this time to introduce other family members and friends to their lifestyle through non-traditional dishes.

Vegans choose to eliminate animal products from their diet and overall lifestyle for numerous reasons. Some do it because they feel it is a healthier choice, especially when they focus on low-fat and low-cholesterol foods. Others become vegans for ethical reasons concerning the treatment of animals used for food, clothing, cosmetics, and other consumer products. While animal products in many foods are immediately obvious and easy to avoid, others may include subtler ingredients, such as gelatin or eggs, so it is important to inspect ingredient lists before assuming a particular food is safe for vegans.

The majority of the appetizers and side dishes served during Thanksgiving are already free off animal products or by-products, and do not require much adaptation. Green salads made with lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables are good starters, but Caesar-style dressing should be avoided, as it contains anchovies and sometimes dairy. Soups made from vegetables are also good appetizers; butternut squash or pumpkin soups are popular choices that fit the overall thanksgiving theme.

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For those who prefer traditional main course foods for their vegan Thanksgiving, turkey-like products made from tofu or other vegetable proteins are widely available in supermarkets and health food stores. Gravy can be made using a vegetable broth or soy sauce base mixed with herbs and spices. Many vegan gravy recipes also use mushrooms to add flavor and provide a thicker texture. Vegetable lasagna or other pasta dishes also make good main course options.

Like appetizers, many traditional side dishes can be included in a vegan Thanksgiving without much modification. When prepared without butter, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and stuffing made with vegetable broth are all free of animal by-products. Wild brown rice sauteed with vegetables is also a tasty, filling side option. Whole-grain egg-free breads topped with nut butters are good accompaniments to the vegan thanksgiving meal. Margarine or other oil-based butter alternatives may also be used as long as there are no restrictions on excess fat or cholesterol.

Vegan Thanksgiving desserts may require a little more attention to detail, as many pies and cakes contain eggs, milk, or other animal by-products. Pumpkin pie made with tofu rather than eggs can be a good option, as can baked fruit topped with cinnamon and oats. In many cases, the animal products called for by dessert recipes can be replaced with a vegan alternative without significantly affecting the taste. For example, soy milk can be used in place of cow’s milk, and tofu can replace a wide variety of products as it tends to take on the flavor of the other ingredients around it. Cornstarch can be used in place of eggs to provide a thicker texture to certain foods, but in recipes that call for eggs for their leavening properties, xantham gum or backing powder and baking soda should be used.

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