It’s easy to get so hung up on holiday details that you forget to enjoy the quality time with friends and family. Here are the tricks I use to make our vegan Thanksgiving meal easy, so I can kick back a little bit.
Table of Contents
- A Low-Stress Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
- Vegan Thanksgiving Meal Planning Tips
My sister-in-law lives in Asheville, and for the past few years, she has hosted our family’s huge Thanksgiving dinner at her house. In addition to the omnivores, there are three vegans and four vegetarians, and I was in charge of cooking for the seven of us.
Because we were traveling, I needed to plan foods that either traveled well or that I could make day-of without interfering too much with the rest of the family’s cooking.
A Low-Stress Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
At first, this setup had me pretty stressed out. A vegan Thanksgiving meal for seven with basically no kitchen to work with? But with a little bit of planning, this situation actually led me to plan a super low-key meal.
And you know what? Everyone loved it! Even the omnivores tried the vegan food.
Here’s what we had:
Kale & Broccoli Salad with Cranberries & Macadamia Nuts
You can make this salad up to a full day ahead of time. Just don’t add the macadamia nuts until just before serving.
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Mashed potatoes are another great make-ahead dish that you can make a day or two before your vegan Thanksgiving meal. Warm them in the oven or in the microwave just before serving. You can make my Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes, pictured above, or your favorite vegan mashed potatoes recipe.
You can make the gravy up to two days in advance, too. Just pull it out of the fridge an hour or so before meal time, so it can come to room temperature. Of course, it only takes five minutes to make, so you can whip it up day-of, too.
Yep, you can make this in advance, too! And yep, it uses canned ingredients, because that’s how my family has made it since I was a kid. Just leave out the walnuts, and add them just before serving.
Main Dish: Celebration Roast with Carrots and Potatoes
This is super quick and easy in the Instant Pot! I like to arrange everything in the pot first thing, so I can just turn it on about half an hour before it’s time to eat.
Dessert: Marie Callender’s Dutch Apple Pie
Many of Marie Callender’s fruit pies are accidentally vegan! One of the other vegans brought this for us, and it made dessert easy and delicious.
Vegan Thanksgiving Meal Planning Tips
The key to making a full meal for a big group without losing your dang mind is planning ahead and using every tool in your cooking toolbox. These tricks made my life so much easier:
1. Make as much ahead as possible.
There’s no need to cook everything day-of! In fact, some foods are better if you make them a day or two ahead of time. You can see in my sample menu above that you can make almost everything in advance.
Cranberry sauce is a great example. Make it a day or even two in advance, and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. The extra time gives the flavors more time to marry.
2. Embrace your appliances.
That Instant Pot was a life-saver last year! There was no veggie roast to stir every 15 minutes, and there were no potatoes to mash. I just tossed everything into the pot, turned it on, and walked away.
While the roast cooked, I made the stuffing and even got to play outside with the kids.
3. Choose recipes that reheat and even freeze/reheat well.
This goes hand-in-hand with tip number one above. Things like Ginny’s Plant-Based Sausage Stuffing (pictured above) make day-of cooking so much easier. Cook and freeze weeks in advance, and you can just pop it into the oven on Thanksgiving day.
4. Stick with a few dishes.
We didn’t have a huge spread, but everyone loved the food! Instead of going for quantity, pick simple dishes that you know everyone is going to love. That saves you time both in the kitchen and at the grocery store, since you need to track down fewer ingredients.
5. Serve the food buffet-style instead of setting the table.
This was my sister-in-law’s idea, and it made things so much less stressful! We didn’t have to worry about wrangling kids or who was going to sit where. We just stacked up the plates, laid out the food, and let folks have at it.
She also designated a separate section of the counter for the vegan dishes, so we didn’t have to plate up next to any animal foods. It was a really thoughtful touch.
6. Accept help.
You don’t have to take on the whole meal yourself! Let your friends or family pitch in, especially if they offer.
I got my son to help plan the menu. In fact, the kale salad we had was 100 percent his idea. He shopped with me for all of the mix-ins and helped massage the kale and fold in the fruits and nuts. Not only did his help make my life easier, it meant we got to spend quality time together, and he was actually excited to eat kale!
While we were doing the salad, my mother-in-law kept an eye on the stuffing, so we didn’t have to worry about it boiling over. Even those little bits of help make a big difference as far as stress is concerned.
My other sister-in-law, who is vegan, offered to handle dessert. The Marie Callender pie was her idea, and it was so smart! It made life easier, and everyone loved it.
I think we tend to idealize what the holidays are supposed to be like. By letting go of that picture-perfect Thanksgiving, we were able to pull together a low-stress, delicious vegan Thanksgiving meal and spend more time with the family and friends that we’re so thankful for.