Thanksgiving is a festive occasion that should be focused on having fun, giving thanks, and savoring a great meal with family and friends you love. However, when you’re hosting, it’s also likely you’ll have to accommodate those with dietary restrictions, and vegans can definitely intimidate even the most confident of home cooks. But don’t let the no-animal-foods-no-animal-byproducts mandate paralyze you in the kitchen.
Below, a few foolproof guidelines to hosting your vegan friends and relatives during the holidays.
Veganize Some Dishes You Already Love
Instead, you can probably easily adjust some dishes you were already planning to make. “This will help the vegan guest feel more included and introduce others to something new and healthy,” says Lisa Robinson-Redd of Red Robin Song Animal Sanctuary.
“Many times, what is frustrating for a vegan is to see a delicious plate of vegetables and learn it’s almost vegan except for the large dollop of butter.” Replace the cow’s milk butter with one of the many healthier plant-based butters like Earth Balance, and nobody will know the difference.
Miyoko's Organic Cultured Vegan Butter, $5.99 at Target
This is another great brand to try.
Related Reading: How to Cook for Vegans as a Hardcore Omnivore
Make this delicious hasselback butternut squash recipe, for instance, and consider doubling the amounts, because while it’s a stunning vegan centerpiece, everyone else at the table is going to want a serving (or two). It’s made with olive oil instead of butter and maple syrup instead of honey, proving that vegan substitutions don’t have to be complicated.
Replace Dairy and Eggs with Ease
While these substitutions may be a bit less intuitive for omnivorous cooks, if side dishes like cornbread and desserts like pudding call for milk, there’s no need to scratch them from the menu. Instead, you can substitute with a non dairy milk. The list is long when it comes to plant and nut based options: oat milk, flax milk, hemp milk, walnut milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, cashew milk.
Related Reading: How to Make Creamy Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes
Eggs, on the other hand, are the only thing standing between many dishes and the vegans who may otherwise devour them. Happily, there are many egg replacements available. Commercial brands like VeganEgg from Follow Your Heart and Vegg, a vegan egg yolk cooking alternative, are so good you’ll never notice the difference. Relative newcomer JUST Egg is another plant-based, cholesterol-free option.
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When veganizing a tried-and-true favorite, take the time to test the modification to your recipe before Friendsgiving. That can help ensure the recipe is as yummy as usual or show you where you need to additionally modify it to make sure it works.
Ask Your Vegan Friend for Help
menu-planning. Just be real and let them know any areas you’re struggling with. Besides, it’s better to learn more about the kinds of foods your friend generally likes to eat on Thanksgiving. That way, you don’t make a commercial vegan holiday roast for someone who doesn’t eat processed food.If you’re unsure what flies and are relentlessly Googling in the kitchen, simply ask your vegan guest for help with
“One of the best things a host can do for the vegan at their Thanksgiving table is to communicate with them,” vegan composer and performer Michael Harren. “Vegans love talking about food almost as much as they love eating it. Not only will you get some great food ideas, but it will give you a chance to connect with your loved one over something that might have once felt like a big difference between you.”
When talking to your vegan friend, you may also want to ask how much they want to share about their lifestyle and beliefs at the dinner. It can be awkward for some vegans to talk about why they chose to be a vegan (which is inevitably asked) while sitting at a dinner where people are eating meat. However, others love talking about it. Be sure to check in to see whether your vegan friend wants you to bring up the topic during dinner.
Vegan Thanksgiving Box, $65 at Purple Carrot
This vegan Thanksgiving feast for four can also be incorporated into an omnivorous spread for more vegan options.
Share Vegan Dishes Without an Announcement
The nice thing about serving vegan dishes (like our Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Fried Capers recipe below, or the Kale and Butternut Squash Salad at the top of this page) at your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving celebration is that all guests can enjoy them. You don’t need to make a big announcement about which dishes are vegan beyond letting your vegan guest know which ones are safe, which should be done in private before the dinner.
“At our guesthouse, we serve people vegan food all the time who are not used to this lifestyle,” says Robinson-Redd. “They so often comment how surprised they are about how great everything tastes. Depending on your other guests, you may not even want to tell them the dishes are vegan. Only let them know after they tell you how great everything tasted!”