Want to host a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner? Find 45 helpful recipe ideas, from appetizers to main courses to side dishes!
I look forward to Thanksgiving every single year, and I’m always daydreaming about the menu of healthy Thanksgiving ideas that my family serves up weeks before the holiday happens.
Until a few years ago, my parents host a big, 30-something-person holiday dinner. We’d been doing this with the same five or six families since I was in kindergarten.
Now, my husband and I host Thanksgiving, and it’s so fun to come up with a plant-based Thanksgiving menu!
Whether you’ve recently switched to a plant-based diet or are a veteran plant-based eater, planning a plant-based holiday menu can feel overwhelming.
Take the stress out of planning your plant-based Thanksgiving with this ultimate list of 21 delicious plant-based recipes for your Thanksgiving feast.
Here, you’ll find a round-up of tasty plant-based recipes plus expert tips for building a plant-based Thanksgiving menu everyone will love. Everyone will love these plant-based Thanksgiving meal ideas.
How to create a plant-based Thanksgiving menu
A plant-based diet often falls into one of three categories: vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian.
If you’re following a vegan diet, avoiding all animal products is a must. However, if you’re a vegetarian, you can incorporate some animal products like dairy and eggs.
The most flexible approach to plant-based eating is the flexitarian diet, which allows for animal products while still focusing on mostly plants.
The variations to a plant-based diet make a difference in how you approach your Thanksgiving menu.
No matter if you’re planning for yourself, a family member, or friend who follows a plant based diet, it’s a good idea to have a clear understanding of what foods need to be avoided so you can have a balance of plant-based dishes.
Here are five tips for planning a crowd-pleasing plant-based Thanksgiving menu:
1. Know your plant-based proteins, and plan to offer at least one protein-rich dish. This means incorporating plants like lentils, beans, tempeh, tofu, peas, or other protein-rich sources into a main dish.
2. Add healthy fats. Upping the healthy fat sources in your plant-based Thanksgiving dishes can help make them more filling and satisfying.
Add fats from nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils. Or sprinkle in cheeses and fish if dairy and/or seafood are welcome in your plant-based eating plan.
3. Make your plant-based dishes feel special. Sure, steamed veggies are plant based, but they may not be the best holiday dish. Transform simple recipes by adding something out of the ordinary.
Consider adding a sweet glaze made from a seasonal fruit, or top your favorite veggie dish with roasted chestnuts or another ingredient that’s unique to the season.
4. Make your favorite dishes plant based. While you can’t exactly replace a turkey for a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner, you can transform many traditional holiday dishes into plant-based offerings.
Swap dairy with plant-based alternatives and replace the umami flavors of meat with options like mushrooms, nuts, or smoky spices.
Remember, eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean missing out on your favorite recipes, especially those that define the holiday season.
5. Introduce new flavors and ingredients. While it’s important to keep traditional flavors and recipes on the table after a change to your diet, a holiday meal is also a great time to incorporate new ingredients and flavors.
Use this opportunity to branch out and try something new. You never know, your plant-based Thanksgiving meal may become a crowd favorite made again and again.
If you need plant-based Thanksgiving recipe ideas, I have you covered with these 45 recipes from fellow registered dietitians.
When choosing the best appetizer for your plant-based Thanksgiving, you want to stick to something light enough to keep your crowd interested in the main course to come while also being satisfying enough to curb their hunger.
I love hearty dips paired with fresh vegetables because they’re packed with flavor but aren’t too filling.
1. Thanksgiving Veggie Tray from my own kitchen
Are you looking for a creative, Thanksgiving-themed veggie tray? I have you covered with two creative and fun veggie trays that will be a perfect addition to your table.
Plant-based Thanksgiving dinner main courses should have a few things in common.
Firstly, they can’t be an afterthought. If you’re making a mix of meat and plant-based mains, be sure to give just as much attention to your plant-based options as you do your meat options.
Secondly, they should be satisfying. This means offering a balance of carbs, fat, and protein to deliver a filling course even meat eaters will love.
Check out a few of my favorite mains for a plant-based Thanksgiving.
9. Vegan Mac and Cheese without Cashews from my own kitchen
This recipe could double as a side instead of a main, but it’s so good that I think it deserves the spotlight. Unlike many vegan pasta recipes that use nuts as a base for vegan cheese, this recipe is nut-free and features nutritional yeast, dairy-free cheese, and coconut milk.
11. Vegan Lentil Loaf Recipe (Walnut and Mushroom) by Lettuce Veg Out
If you love meatloaf but are now following a plant-based diet, this vegan lentil loaf is an excellent swap. Walnuts and mushrooms give it an umami flavor, while lentils offer lots of protein for a final dish that’s hearty and satisfying.
Who doesn’t love pasta? If you’re looking for a lighter take on a traditional pasta dish, try this spaghetti squash with pesto. It’s packed with flavor and topped with crunchy pine nuts. This recipe also works as a side dish.
14. Hearty Veggie Seitan Pot Pie by Eat with Me RD
Who doesn’t love pot pie? This vegan take on a traditional favorite uses a mix of veggies and seitan plus a chickpea flour crust. The best part? You can sub any veggies you have on hand. This main dish would be great for Thanksgiving leftovers, too!
Side dishes are arguably the most important part of a meal because they add flavor, color, and variety. I recommend adding multiple sides to your Thanksgiving table so guests can experience the many flavors of the season.
Here are a few of my favorites for a plant-based Thanksgiving menu:
15. Lentil Apple Salad from my own kitchen
This is a perfect fall recipe for your plant-based Thanksgiving table. It features hearty lentils, alongside sweet apples, cranberries, and crunchy pecans.
Butternut squash is a fall favorite, but this recipe has an unexpected twist: pomegranate juice! Simply toss the ingredients together, and roast. It’s a great, easy side when you have multiple other recipes to focus on for the big holiday.
44. Vegan Avocado Chocolate Mousse from my own kitchen
Want a delicious plant-based dessert that’s chocolatey, creamy, and healthy? Enter vegan avocado chocolate mousse. All you need is six ingredients, and this vegan dessert is ready to enjoy in under 10 minutes!
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