Make Thanksgiving Delicious, Fun … and Vegan!

Joanna Prisco has covered food, travel and lifestyle stories for ABC News, Fathom, Food Republic, Flaunt, Gather Journal, The New York Post and Yahoo Food, among others.

For Chloe Coscarelli, of NYC vegan restaurant by CHLOE, Thanksgiving is what ultimately made her family “lean into” not eating meat. “When I went vegan, the rest of the family wasn’t, so my mom had to make me a separate plate for Thanksgiving,” recalls the chef. “Everyone was so intrigued by my little meal, and it was so delicious, it really made my family want to eat vegan.” Now that she is a chef, Coscarelli looks forward to the holiday as a time to experiment.

“I have a captive audience and I don’t like to stay too traditional,” she says. “I like to do a meatloaf made out of different types of grains, herbs, and spices. Sometimes I will use lentils and tempeh. And at my restaurant I’m serving a Thanksgiving burger. It’s served on a potato bun with sauteed kale, rosemary gravy, sage and mushroom stuffing, a lemon-caper seitan, and, of course, a homemade fresh cranberry sauce. Very simple, juicy, with lots of familiar flavors going on but fun and different.”

Erin McKenna, whose eponymous vegan bakery Babycakes has locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and Orlando, never really liked traditional Thanksgiving dishes growing up and admits to eating a bowl of cereal or peanut butter sandwich instead on more than one occasion.

Now that she is older, however, she has incorporated a few vegan-ified classics into her own. “My favorite things to prepare are this really decadent and crisp stuffing, Sweet Potato Sage Rolls, and Vegetable Pot Pie!” says McKenna. “Thanksgiving is all about the side dishes, to me at least, and I think they are the most interesting part of the meal.”

But don’t expect to dig into pumpkin pie for dessert at the McKenna household. Instead? “Van Leeuwen’s Vegan Mint Chip Ice Cream,” says the baker. “Totally not traditional, but after a big meal I think nothing goes down as nicely as ice cream.”

Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway of the popular blog Thug Kitchen like to keep their Thanksgiving celebrations as chill as possible, which sometimes means not advertising to carnivore guests that their dishes are meat- and dairy-free. “At a dinner a few years ago, we didn’t tell anyone that everything was vegan,” says Holloway. “As long it tastes good, people don’t care.”
Davis concurs. “I like to do individual pot pies and no one is mad about a buttery-tasting crust,” she says. “We also like to do a thing called PJ-Thanksgiving. You’re going to be eating a lot, so you might as well show up wearing your pajamas. It’s what we all want to be doing anyway.”

“Where I’m from in the South, meat eaters eat veggie plates,” says Kathy Hester, author of The Easy Vegan Cookbook. “I grew up loving a plate of veggies for a meal. For Thanksgiving, that might mean double baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon and vegan marshmallows, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, or green beans with almonds, and cauliflower with a vegan cheesy sauce!”
The dishes are the complete opposite of bland. “Being vegan doesn’t mean you feel deprived,” Hester continues. “Mashed potatoes – add olive oil and blend cashews and water in your blender to make a plant-based crème; your potatoes will be just as deliciously rich.”
Cara Brotman goes all out on Thanksgiving with a multi-course meal spotlighting her favorite vegetables. “At my house,

Thanksgiving begins with butternut squash soup,” says the author of Love on a Plate. “Then an un-‘Chicken’ Kiev which is made from a stuffing of corn and sunflower seeds and spices, rolled up in marinated coconut meat, then dehydrated for a few hours. I also will have ‘dark’ meat – oyster mushrooms marinated in garlic and oil then dehydrated a couple hours. When it’s finished I pile six or so pieces on top of each other and when your fork hits it, it’s like the tenderest most un-meat-like thing you’ve ever had.”

Meanwhile, Moon Juice Cafe and Apothecary owner Amanda Chantal Bacon’s holiday has a real West Coast vibe to it. “California has such an abundance of fruits and veggies. Highlights include persimmon and pomegranate arugula salad, roasted kabocha squash, braised leeks, and a raw cranberry sauce sweetened with honey.”

Favorite sides are also the easiest to make. “I love garbanzos stewed with olive oil and warming spices like cinnamon, fennel, cumin, Arbol chile, and ginger,” she adds. “And roasted sweet potatoes whipped with garlic, pink salt, and coconut oil is divine.”

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