The holidays are hard for vegetarians. When turkey, ham, corned beef, and pork roast are highlights of the holiday dinner, what do vegetarians eat?
It can be especially difficult for new vegetarians, or for parents cooking for their veg-head children.
In fact, I wished someone who is newly vegetarian a "Happy Thanksgiving" recently, and his reply said it all:
“Happy No-Turkey Day!” he said. “Only sides for me!”
This was his first holiday as a vegetarian, so I understood that the prospect of abstaining from turkey at a meal that celebrates a bird as its centerpiece, was feeling pretty real.
It can be downright scary to face the holidays as a vegetarian.
Food is such an important part of the holidays, and even if you don’t enjoy meat, you still very much want to be included in the family’s celebration.
What to cook?
I also know from my family’s experience that meat eaters don’t know what to cook for veggie people.
Even if you are a vegetarian who wants to make a holiday dinner, it can still be hard to find good vegetarian holiday recipes.
This post is dedicated to all of you out there who want to bridge the culture gap during the holidays. I hope you’ll discover new holiday traditions that your family loves.
The vegetarian holiday recipes below are designed to mimic traditional holiday foods so that it still feels like you are having something just as special as turkey.
Here we go!!!
Vegetarian pot pie
One of your best vegetarian holiday options is a classic vegetarian pot pie topped with a pastry crust. Meat-based versions of this have been enjoyed in the United States since at least the late 1700s.
Mine features a savory root vegetable stew with all the sage, oregano, thyme, and/or rosemary you can handle, thickened with a milk roux.
When you use purchased puff pastry, this dish comes together in less than 30 minutes, plus about 25 minutes for baking. It tastes like you spent much more time on it though, and isn't that the best kind of recipe?
The vegetarian pot pie tastes pretty amazing with mashed potatoes, and the best part is that the saucy stew doubles as a vegetarian gravy.
With this vegetarian pot pie you really don't need to do anything else to make your holiday dinner special.
Or you could also make a vegetarian gravy. It isn’t hard to make a vegetarian gravy that’s full of balanced umami flavor. This recipe uses olive oil as the fat, and mushrooms for the main savory punch.
Once you’ve got the main course, and your most important mashed potato and gravy combo taken care of, you are pretty set as a vegetarian.
Quinoa lentil loaf
Last year I made quinoa lentil loaf for Christmas dinner at my family’s house. It is another very good option for a vegetarian main course.
I like this recipe for the same reason that I enjoy the vegetarian pot pie.
The main ingredients are easy for anyone to understand: brown lentils, quinoa, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, green pepper, raisins, tomato, mustard, and walnuts.
A savory glaze topping pops with umami flavor due to American diet staples like ketchup, maple syrup, and Worcestershire sauce.
Quinoa lentil loaf is a highly satisfying substitute for turkey for a vegetarian holiday dinner. It also goes great with all those sides that we vegetarians typically look forward to.
Vegetarian holiday sides
Let’s talk about some of those vegetable sides that your family loves and enjoys.
As my new vegetarian friend said, “only sides for me.” That is because of the best things about a holiday dinner, even if you don’t make a special vegetarian main course, is the sides!
Stuffing is the most obvious one. Everyone loves stuffing! To make a vegetarian stuffing, all the cook needs to do is refrain from cooking it inside the turkey.
A compromise solution (or a way to please everyone if you are, in fact, cooking turkey), is to leave some of the prepared stuffing aside for the vegetarians and bake it separately in a small casserole dish.
Now let’s talk potatoes.
If you are a more adventurous cook, the aforementioned mashed potatoes with vegetarian gravy can also be jazzed up with extra vegetables.
I absolutely love mashed potatoes with celeriac or turnip root mixed in. Just boil the roots together and mash as normal.
Or do you need a carb-free option for your guests? You could try cauliflower rice. I’ve got options in my recipe for cauliflower rice with butter and onions, or a simple cauliflower and olive oil, that would go nicely with your holiday dinner.
Roasted asparagus is always an elegant side that’s available in stores for the holiday as well. Check my recipe for some unique facts about asparagus.
A fancy green salad topped with seared tomato cherry bombs and apples also makes for a welcome contrast to the earthiness of any main course you serve. This is the pretty salad you see in my dinner plate photos.
Please Everyone At The Table
The best thing about all these vegetarian holiday dinner recipes is that they taste so good that everyone at the table will enjoy them.
So dive in, mix and match, and enjoy your time with friends and family.
When you give thanks or pray before your meal, be sure to congratulate yourself for cooking a beautiful dinner 🙂