A Vegan Thanksgiving

Using community-sustained agriculture to meld the traditional with the...not so much.

By Nicole Solomon

As a vegetarian since middle school, I don't find the ritual pardoning of Tom the Turkey very cute. And while I delight in expressing love and celebrating family and friends through food — and relish any occasion to share a festive, delicious meal — the overconsumption at Thanksgiving always leaves me a bit queasy. My partner has passively converted me to veganism, a diet he adopted years ago as a small way of reducing economic and environmental havoc, and having lived all of my life in the US, an expectation of savory carbs to kick off the holiday season feels hardwired into my DNA. So come the fourth Thursday in November, what to do?


Six months ago we joined a local Community Sustained Agriculture program, by which we basically subscribe to local farms, committing to pay a set monthly amount in return for which we get a share of whatever crops they're producing each week. Ever since we've been largely planning our diet around seasonal local produce; it's another way of reducing our footprint and supporting sustainability. This year we decided to do an all-CSA Thanksgiving. It turns out that building the traditional menu around actually fresh vegetables is a no-brainer — the origin of traditional Thanksgiving dishes is what was available pre-industrialization, after all.

In the end, my guests — vegans and carnivores alike — declared the experiment a success. Decadent but ethical, hearty but (kinda-sorta) healthy. And not a shred of tofu!

Total time spent cooking: aprox 6 hours
Total cost of food: approx. $55

If you just can't live without the bird, go humane and organic.

Note on the recipes
(all recipes my own unless otherwise noted):

A few of these recipes call for vegetable broth.  If you join a CSA and feel overwhelmed keeping up with the new vegetables coming in--or just tend to have veggies in your fridge 'til they get wilty and unappetizing--homemade vegetable broth or stock is a great solution. Put any combination of vegetables in a pot, cover with water and let simmer for an hour or more. Then strain out the vegetables and freeze the broth; I especially recommend bagging it in one cup increments. This will keep for months, and whenever a recipe calls for vegetable broth you're all set.

I also recommend saving the vegetables you strain out--puree them in a food processor or blender and freeze them as well. This makes a good base of soups and thick tomato or other sauces.

Almond Butternut Squash Au Gratin

One 2 1/2 lb butternut squash
1/3 cup margarine or butter substitute (or butter, if you don't want to go vegan. And yes, there is such a thing as trans fat-free margerine)
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup ground almonds or almond meal
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup almond or other nondairy milk substitutes

preheat oven to 400.

Grind almonds in food processor

Mix paprika, turmeric and mustard powder into vegetable broth.

Melt margarine or butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour slowly until smooth and bubbly. Slowly add broth and spice mixture, whisking all the while. Whisk in nutritional yeast and keep whisking until mixture is thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes, maybe more. Turn up the heat if it's not getting thick and bubbly. Stir in lemon juice and about half the ground almonds. Turn off heat.

Slice squash in half vertically. Peel and seed the squash. Slice into 1/4 inch slices. Place slices in a pot and cover with water. Bring water to boil and let cook for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Place squash in a 10" diameter casserole dish, gratin dish or baking pan. Pour almond milk over the slices and stir a bit to make sure the slices are all saturated. Pour your sauce on top and stir into the top layer of squash a bit. Sprinkle remaining almonds on top.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.  

Pumpkin Ravioli

1 cup roasted pumpkin
2 tablespoons margarine or butter substitute or butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
dash of white or black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup ground cashews (or nuts of your choice)

(adapted from Fresh Pasta recipe in The Artful Vegan by Eric Tucker and Bruce Enloe, Dessert Recipes by Amy Pearce)

1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour (or fine flour of your choice)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp olive oil


1. One pumpkin will yield way more than the one cup needed for this recipe, so you might want to plan on making a pie, soup, and/or the very easy and delicious Pumpkin Saag in Veganomicon the same week as your ravioli. Or quadruple this recipe; ravioli freezes well. Or just drain, bag and freeze your excess pumpkin.

2. Pumpkin seeds are easily and deliciously roasted. Save and rinse them, toss in oil , spread on a baking sheet and roast at 350 for about 30 minutes, stirring half way through.

3. You can make the ravioli ahead of time;  they keep very well on parchment paper in tupperware in the fridge.

First roast the pumpkin — this can be done a day or two beforehand, just make sure to store the pumpkin flesh in a refrigerated and airtight container. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice your pumpkin in half horizontally and scrape out all the seeds and surrounding stringiness. Place both pumpkin halves cut side down on a baking sheet at roast for about an hour or until the skin is very soft and brown in spots and the flesh is soft and easily separates. Scrape flesh away from skins and let drain in colander.

Melt margarine over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, salt and ground cashews. Stir in pumpkin and cook, stirring and mashing, until your mixture is fragrant and the consistency of stringy, creamy mashed potatoes. Turn off heat and set aside.

Now make your pasta. Sift together flour, salt and basil.  Add oil and water and knead until a stiff dough forms.

If you're going to be cooking your ravioli the same day that you're making them, you'll probably want to put a large pot of water up right about now so it'll be ready to go when you're done with assembly. Add a dash of salt and a dollop of olive oil to the water.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it as thin as you can with a rolling pin if you're like me and don't have a pasta maker (thought if you have a pasta maker, by all means use it). You may want to work with a small portion of the dough at a time.  

Cut your dough into roughly matching squares; I like 2.5". Put aprox 1 tablespoon of your pumpkin filling in the middle of a square, place another square on top, and pinch around the edges to seal. This is a great step on which to enlist the help of family and friends--it will go much quicker with more hands on the job. Place ravioli on parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Gently drop ravioli into a large pot of boiling water. Cook for 15 minutes and carefully drain.

Serve with sauce of your choice. I braised some minced garlic, onion and fresh sage in a few tablespoons of olive oil and Earth Balance butter substitute.

Roasted Potato Beet Salad with Green Beans and creamy balsamic vinaigrette

2.5 lbs mixed potatoes (red, yellow, fingerling — whatever)
2 medium sized beets
1/2 lb green beans
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I like veganaise)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 or 2 grated radishes (optional)
as much fresh dill as you want, or dried if you can't get fresh

1/2 tsp salt or to taste
ground pepper to taste

Note: For this recipe you're gonna be roasting three different vegetables that each need to be in the oven for different lengths of time. The potatoes will need about 50 minutes,  so do them first. prep the beets and put in aprox 15 minutes later, and then the green beans 25 minutes after that. This way you can take everything out at the same time.

Preheat over to 400. Wash and chop potatoes into desired size. Toss with olive oil and and roast for 50-60 minutes. Peel and chop beets. Toss with olive oil  and roast for 40 minutes. Wash the green beans and chop into thirds. Toss with olive oil and roast for 15 minutes. Take everything out and let it cool a little.

While the vegetables are roasting prepare the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise substitute, mustard, vinegar, radishes (if using), dill and salt and pepper. Stir in vegetables, making sure to coat evenly. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled. Be sure to stir well before serving.

Garlicky Kale

One bunch kale, of the type of your choice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic sliced very thin

Wash Kale. Tear leaves in pieces from thick stem. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat and add garlic.  Sauté garlic until fragrant and soft, about 2 minutes. Add kale and cook and toss using tongs until kale is bright green and wilted, about 3 minutes.

Roasted Turnips
(Roasting tips courtesy of Veganomicon by Terry Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Preheat oven to 400

Peel and chop turnips into chunks aprox 3/4" across. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper you may wish to also add sweet spices cinnamon, nutmeg and/or allspice or savory ones like thyme or rosemary. I keep it simple as turnips are so subtly delicious on their own. Place in/on a baking dish or sheet and roast for approx 40 minutes, flipping halfway through, until turnips are tender, browned, even a little caramelized.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Scallion Butter

(From Epicurious)

8 small slender Japanese or Garnet sweet potatoes (4 to 5 pounds total)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter or butter substitute, well softened (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1 1/2 tablespoons miso paste (preferably white, though I used yellow brown rice and it was great)
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion

Original cook's notes:

1. Scallion butter can be made 4 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to warm room temperature and stir before using.

2.Sweet potatoes can be roasted (but not cut) 4 hours ahead and kept at room temperature, covered with foil. Reheat potatoes on a baking sheet on middle rack of a 350°F oven until heated through, about 20 minutes.

My note:
This recipe calls for an oven temperature of 450. As I wanted to roast the sweet potatoes while other things were in the oven, and I was cooking pretty my everything at 400, I actually roasted the sweet potatoes at 400 as well. I left them in a little over an hour, maybe 65 minutes. They turned out perfectly.

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third.

Prick potatoes all over with a fork and put on a foil-lined large baking sheet. Bake until very soft when squeezed, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

While potatoes bake, stir together butter, miso, and scallion until combined.

Slit hot potatoes lengthwise and, using oven mitts, push in sides to puff up potato. Serve with some scallion butter in center of each and with additional scallion butter on the side.

Cauliflower and Mushroom Pot Pie With Black Olive Crust
From Veganomicon by Terry Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz


3 tablespoons margarine
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups unsweetened plain soy milk
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper


1 lb cauliflower, trimmed, washed, and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, diced
1/2 lb cremini mushroom, washed, trimmed, and sliced into large chunks
1 teaspoon sherry wine or white wine vinegar

Black olive biscuit crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch dried thyme
3 tablespoons margarine, chilled
4-5 tablespoons cold water
1/3 cup pitted black olives, chopped coarsely (kalamata recommended)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use a large, oven-to-table Dutch oven. If you don't have one, use a large, heavy-bottomed pot to prepare the filling and a large, deep casserole dish to bake the finished potpie.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan (not the Dutch oven) over medium heat, melt the margarine and sprinkle in the flour. Stir to form a thick paste. Cook the mixture until fragrant, bubbling, and lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Temporarily turn off the heat. Slowly pour in the soy milk, using a wire whisk to stir until smooth. Whisk in the dried herbs, mustard powder, salt, and bay leaf. Turn on the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly with whisk, for 8 to 10 minutes, until a thick sauce forms. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and carrots, and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes until most of the excess liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add the cauliflower, stir briefly, cover partially, and steam for about 8 minutes, until the cauliflower has just begun to soften. Remove the lid, turn off the heat, and set aside.

Prepare the crust while cauliflower is cooking: Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and thyme in a small bowl. With a pastry cutter or two knives held together cut the cold margarine until crumbs form, then drizzle in tablespoons of cold water and mix. Drizzle in additional tablespoons of cold water, one at a time, until a soft dough forms (but careful not to overwork it). Fold in the olives.

Pat out the dough on a lightly floured surface or give it a few rolls with a rolling pin, to form a circle or appropriate shape slightly smaller than the Dutch oven. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into diamonds (you'll be placing small squares of dough over the casserole, rather than one big disc of dough).

Give the sauce a good whisking (no worries if a skin has formed over it), pour into the cauliflower mixture, and stir completely to blend the veggie juices and sauce. Arrange the diamonds of dough over the mixture and brush with soy milk. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and the biscuits are cooked.

Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving, as the filling will be boiling hot straight out of the oven.


I can't wait to try these alicious recipes. Thanks for the article!!

if i celebrated this holiday, i would be so psyched to replicate your feast! perhaps i should do it for another holiday. please most more recipes somewhere?

Ah, butternut squash, where would I be without you?

Thanks for the recipes -- interesting to note that not eating meat indeed has an environmental effect. I was listening to NPR the other night and a report claimed that going vegan has about the same carbon footprint off-set as driving a Prius. Good to remember!

Just what I was looking for! I would love to have a substantive Thanksgiving without relying on ye olde Tofurky -- it just feels so cliched. And fresh, quality produce is always preferable to some prepackaged and frozen product. I used to subscribe to my local CSA, but let it lapse. Perhaps this will get me inspired again!

do you have suggestions for chanukah? i have about 40 friends who are always complaining about the egg and starch-ness of chanukah and we could really use some vegan and vegetable-ish suggestions. write a post on that!