Far from being restrictive, limiting, bland or boring, a plant-based diet is abundant and full of flavor, variety, novelty and possibility. We can not only survive but thrive without using and abusing animals, so when delicious and compassionate alternatives are available to choose from, why wouldn’t we?
For me, veganism is about what we embrace and say Yes to, as well as what we walk away from and say No More to. Before I became vegan, all I seemed to see were the things I’d be losing, the things I’d be giving up, and these feelings resurfaced during my first holiday season as a fledgling vegan.
Veganism is about what we embrace and say Yes to, as well as what we walk away from and say No More to.
These days, I am so grateful for what I have gained, and I no longer grieve for the things I’ve given up because those ‘things’ were not things–they were living, breathing beings, and they were never mine to begin with.
As November rushes in, I know that the holidays will present certain challenges as a vegan in a non-vegan world, but I am more sure of this way of life than ever before, and I have more to celebrate than ever before. So bring on the vegan bubbly and the mashed potatoes swimming in gravy. Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am ready for you!
If you’re a vegan looking for tasty, celebratory recipes, or a non-vegan that is hosting a plant-powered person and isn’t quite sure what to cook for them, here are some of my tried-and-true favorites and a few newbies I’m excited to try out this coming holiday season.
Everyone knows that Christmas and Thanksgiving are all about the side-dishes, but how beautiful and mouthwatering are these celebratory centerpieces? If you can’t decide between them, then why not make two or, for that matter, three? I mean, as long as we’re breaking with tradition, we really can make this meal whatever we want it to be….
Chestnut and Cashew Vegan Nut Roast
I made this classic nut roast last year for my first vegan Christmas and my first Christmas at home in Ireland in nine years!
It is tender, nutty and full of flavor. My family enjoyed it as a side-dish (they viewed it more like stuffing than a main meal, but they all agreed it was delicious and happily ate the leftovers over the next few days).
I highly recommend it, and will be making it year after year.
Stuffed Butternut Squash
There are endless variations of stuffed squash to choose from, including the Veg-Ducken for experienced cooks (or the very brave).
Stuffed with wild rice, spinach balsamic onions, roasted peppers, mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, this version by Avant-Garde Vegan looks incredible. I love Gaz Oakley’s enthusiasm, and seeing all the steps in a video makes this meal a little less daunting than it might initially seem.
Mushroom Wellington with Rosemary & Pecans
This plant-based take on the traditional dish comes highly recommended by a friend who has been making it for several years. The recipe is technically vegetarian with notes for vegan substitutions, such as an “egg-less wash” for achieving that golden glow on pastry dishes.
Sorta Classic Pot Pie
Cosy comfort food by Isa Chandra with this (sorta) classic pot pie. I haven’t tried this one yet, but Isa’s recipes are consistently great so I’m confident this is another winner.
(If you’d like to know more about about egg replacements in vegan baking, this is a great guide–with a handy cheat sheet–for vegan egg substitutes and how to choose between them.)
Festive Portobello Mushroom Wellington
Oh man. To say my husband doesn’t like mushrooms is the understatement of the year, but screw that guy, this looks amazing and I might just make it for myself.
No ‘Turkey’ Roast
I’m a fairly confident cook but I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to make anything involving homemade seitan. This looks amazing and totally worth the effort.
Definitely the most labor-intensive recipe of the bunch, but it can (and should) be made in advance, so I might rise to the challenge this Christmas (and fall back on one of the following pre-prepared options if it all goes pear shaped!)
Not everyone has the time, energy or inclination to cook from scratch, especially if you are are the only vegan at the dinner table. Luckily, there are more and more tasty plant-based options on the market every year, so it should be relatively easy to find a vegan main to go with your sides.
- Celebration Roast by Field Roast
- Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute by Field Roast
- Gardein Holiday Roast with Cranberry Wild Rice Stuffing
- Trader Joes’s Breaded Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast with Gravy
- 12 Vegan Thanksgiving Items at Trader Joe’s to Up Your Holiday Feast
If you’re a vegan hosting for the holidays, you can be certain that your side-dishes are safe to eat. But if you’re a guest in someone else’s home, it’s not always the case that a vegetable dish is truly veg-friendly.
When you’re a new vegan, it’s important to remember that our friends and family aren’t mind-readers and many people genuinely don’t know what being vegan even means. Communication is key at any time but especially at the holidays. Don’t be afraid to provide your host with a list of ingredients that are not vegan; even if they’re aware of things like eggs and dairy, they might not think about things like honey or that there are animal products lurking in condiments like Worcestershire Sauce or store-bought salad dressings.
If communication is stressful then come from a place of contribution and show up with a stunning side that’s safe for you to eat and will knock their socks off at the same time. Unfortunately, some people are not receptive to facts and information about animal cruelty, but they will open their mind to a plant-based diet when they see how delicious it can be. Having said that, if cooking isn’t your thing then don’t feel that you have to impress or influence anyone. Being vegan is about aligning your actions with your ethics and your side-dish will be perfect as long as it is a reflection of your values.
Maple Roasted Carrots with Cranberries
So beautiful! Need I say more? Parsnips would work really well too, and I was recently gifted 5 gallons of hazelnuts (!!!) so I’ll use them in place of almonds when I make this at Christmas.
Miso Roast Parsnips on Mustard Butter Bean Mash & Garlic
Oh man, the flavor profiles in this dish are out of this world. I laugh–muah ha ha ha–at anyone who thinks plant-based eating is bland and boring. I’m eating the best food of my life, thanks to good folks like Niki at Rebel Recipes who has a host of festive vegan recipes to make your mouth water.
Roasted Squash Arugula Salad with Crispy Shallots, Macadamia Nut Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Minimalist Baker is no longer completely vegan, but she’s still one of my go-to food bloggers for incredible plant-based dishes, like this lovely salad. Filling and satisfying yet somehow light and refreshing at the same time.
Simple Vegan Dinner Rolls
Pair Minimalist Baker’s perfectly fluffy dinner rolls with a plant-based butter or for mopping up a rich and savory vegan gravy.
The possibilities are endless:
- Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions by Isa Chandra
- Roasted Butternut Squash with Mustard Vinaigrette
- Simple Vegan Stuffing by Minimalist Baker
- Vegan Stuffing Balls by Nadia
- Radhika Desai’s Roasted Vegetable Cornbread Stuffing
You Say Potato, I Say…
Potatoes!!! More potatoes! All the potatoes! Potatoes, potatoes!
I’m not a big drinker, but when it comes to spuds I certainly live up to the Irish stereotype.
With so many delicious and creamy plant-based milks and butters to choose from, potato dishes are one of the easiest to make vegan without sacrificing taste or texture. Oat milk is my favorite, but almond milk is also a good option (coconut or hazelnut milk would not work as well for these dishes). Miyokos European Style cultured butter was an absolute game changer for me–I would choose it over dairy butter even if I weren’t vegan–and it’s now widely available. Earth Balance is also very good, but if you can afford to (and aren’t allergic to cashews), I would splurge on Miyokos for a special occasion.
Vegan Mashed Potatoes
Another keeper from Minimalist Baker. I recommend making a double batch of these creamy garlicy mashed potatoes because, no matter what else is on the dining table, this is definitely going to be the dish that keeps people coming back for more and more.
It’s All Gravy Baby….
A lot of folks lay claim to the holy grail title of Best Vegan Gravy, and I’m sure they’re all worthy contenders, but this liquid gold by High Vibe Lifestyle is my personal favorite. Not only is it the best vegan gravy I’ve ever had, it’s the best gravy I’ve ever had!
- The Best Ever Vegan Gravy by the Avant Garde Vegan
- Wild Mushroom Gravy with Red Wine by Süssholz
- Trader Joe’s Organic Savory Vegan Gravy
- Vegan Mushroom Make-Ahead Gravy, NY Times Cooking
Vegan Scalloped Potatoes
Nora Cooks is another of my go-to food bloggers for consistently great recipes. I haven’t tried these plant-based scalloped potatoes yet, but Nora hasn’t failed me yet, and I’ll be making this cheesy creamy goodness over this year’s holidays for sure.
For an ever so slightly healthier spin on this recipe, check out this Creamy Sweet Potato Bake by Clean Food Crush.
Vegan Christmas Roast Potatoes & all the Trimmings
I adore Gaz Oakley, aka the Avant Garde Vegan. His enthusiasm is infectious and his kitchen skills are top notch. In this video, he cooks up the best crispy roast potatoes and all the trimmings, including roasted zesty sprouts, orange glazed carrots and pan-roasted maple parsnips… So good!
I’m a savory gal and some years I don’t bother with dessert until the day after Christmas or Thanksgiving, much to the confusion and suspicion of everyone else in my family.
My mother-in-law is a wonderful baker and is happy to veganize the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving this year, but when I host at Christmas I have my eye on these sweet beauties.
Raw Pumpkin White Chocolate Tart
Flowers in the Salad is a joy to follow on Instagram. This Pumpkin White Chocolate Tart is but one of many stunning sweets and desserts on her website (her No-Bake Mocha Tart with Hazelnuts is another strong contender).
Salted Caramel Pecan Pie (Vegan & Gluten Free)
I’m addicted to dates and eat one or two with a dollop of almond butter every other day. I was blown away to discover that they make a deeeelicious and nutritious caramel (with the aid of a food processor), and this Salted Caramel Pecan Pie takes the decadence to a whole new level.
Vegan Yule Logs
How adorable is this chocolate Bûche de Noël by Crumbs & Caramel? The vegan mushroom meringues are just too cute.
Or for a spiced and snowy vibe, check out this Gingerbread Yule Log by the Little Blog of Vegan.
The Happy Pear’s Easy Vegan Christmas Pudding & Vegan Mince Pies
My American family are not at all down with the fruitcake-as-dessert thing, so before I was vegan I would just buy a miniature microwaveable version and keep my Irish customs to myself.
Yay for the Happy Pear brothers! Not only have they veganized one of my childhood favorites, they’ve also created a mini no-bake version, aaaaand my other childhood favorite–mince pies.
Last but not least, how vibrant and mouthwatering is this stunning smorgasbord by Cruelty Free Charcuterie?!
I’ve been following (and drooling over) Kat’s beautiful plant-based platters since the summer, but a cheese and fruit board isn’t just for fair weather picnics–this would make a gorgeous beginning or grand finale to your festive vegan feast (or any plant-based party).
The internet runneth over with festive vegan recipes, but for those of you who can never have too many recipes in their back pocket and are addicted to cookbooks like I am, check out these holiday hardbacks for some more ideas:
- The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra
- Vegan Christmas by Avant Garde Vegan, Gaz Oakley
- Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe: Celebratory Recipes and Menus from New York’s Premier Plant-Based Restaurant
And please feel free to share your favorite plant-based holiday recipes with me, I’d love to hear from you!