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How to Feed a Vegan

No turkey for Thanksgiving? No worries


Tofu turkey with stuffing and vegan gravy, kale and olive oil mashed potatoes, and pumpkin corn pudding are sure to please vegetarian Thanksgiving guests. Photo by Jessica Schnall

Katie Persons (CAS’10) hasn’t eaten a bite of meat for nearly eight years. “I gave it up when I was 13,” she says. “At first my parents worried about what to feed me, but I’d always eaten a lot of vegetables, so the transition was pretty smooth.”

Holiday dinners — particularly Thanksgiving, famous for its traditional turkey and meat-laden side dishes — proved to be a bigger challenge. Persons’ solution? “I end up cooking most of the dinner myself,” she says. “I make all of the sides, including the stuffing, without meat. In fact, the only dish on our table that isn’t vegetarian is the actual turkey.”

Most traditional Thanksgiving side dishes can be prepared to accommodate vegetarians — and even vegans — by making a few minor changes, Persons says. Mashed potatoes, vegetable casseroles, and stuffing all make for savory vegetarian alternatives, as does Persons’ favorite dish: green bean casserole.

Meat-eaters who are hosting vegetarian guests shouldn’t worry, but they should do some research and perhaps some extra work, says Kim Hannon, BU Dining Services executive chef for residential dining. “Offer plenty of breads, beverages, fresh fruits, and nongelatin desserts,” she says. “Also, thoroughly read the ingredients of all prepackaged foods, and beware of gelatin, whey, sodium caseinate, and ‘natural flavors,’ which can be animal-derived.”

Hannon also suggests using vegetable oils instead of animal fats for frying and vegetable shortening, such as Crisco, for pie crust. “Substitutions like vegetable broth, soy margarine, and soy milk are great for vegans,” she says. “Just remember to keep your cooking utensils separate to prevent cross-contamination between meat and vegetarian foods.”

Still, it’s nice to have a meatless main dish, particularly if several guests don’t eat meat. Vegetable lasagna, butternut squash stuffed with wild rice, or a hearty vegetarian stew are tasty options. And for purists, there’s always tofu turkey with vegan gravy.

More adventurous chefs can make their own tofu turkey (see recipe below). A simpler alternative, for those with less time or inclination, is buying a Tofurky Roast.

If your Thanksgiving gathering includes any vegetarian guests, you may find some of the recipes below helpful.

Main Dishes

Nut Roast (can be vegan)

2 tablespoons oil or margarine
2 large onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups raw cashews
1 1/2 cups bread
1 cup vegetable soup stock
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 cups prepared herb stuffing or stale cubed bread
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely diced
1 cup chopped green apple
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup dried sage
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 cup vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1. Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil or margarine until tender and remove from the heat.
2. Chop the cashews by hand or in a food processor and cut up the bread. Add the cashews and bread to the onion, then add the vegetable stock, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and lemon juice and put half of the mixture into a small nonstick loaf pan.
3. Make the stuffing: in a large frying pan, sauté the onion and apples in 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter. Add the garlic, sage, thyme, salt and pepper, rosemary, and vegetable broth. Stir well; cook for 5 minutes. Add the prepared herb stuffing or bread cubes and the pine nuts and mix well. Remove from heat.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
5. Layer the stuffing on top of the ingredients in the loaf pan and add the remaining roast ingredients, making three layers of food in the pan.
6. Place the pan on a baking sheet or in a larger loaf pan (in case it overflows while cooking) and cook for half an hour. The top should be browned.
7. Serve with gravy if desired (see below).

Serves 6.

Tofu Turkey with Vegetarian Stuffing (can be vegan)

5 (16-ounce) packages extra firm tofu
Stuffing (see above recipe)
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup tamari
2 tablespoons miso paste
5 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon honey mustard
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1. Mash the tofu and line a medium-size round colander with a cheesecloth or a clean dish towel. Place the crumbled tofu in the colander. Place another cheesecloth over the top of the tofu. Place the colander over a bowl to catch the liquid. Place a heavy weight on top of the tofu. Refrigerate two to three hours.
2. Make the stuffing. See above recipe.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
4. Combine 1/2 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup tamari, miso, orange juice, mustard, and orange zest in a small bowl; mix well.
5. Remove the weight from the tofu. Hollow out the tofu so that there is one inch of tofu still lining the colander. Place the scooped-out tofu in a separate bowl. Brush the tofu lining with a small amount of the miso seasoning. Scoop the stuffing into the center of the tofu shell. Place the leftover tofu on top of the stuffing and press down firmly. Turn the stuffed tofu onto the prepared cookie sheet. Put the leftover tofu side (the flat side) down, and gently press on the sides to form an oval shape. Brush with half of the oil-tamari mixture. Place the sprigs of rosemary on top of the tofu. Cover with foil.
6. Bake for one hour, then remove the foil and baste with the oil-tamari mixture (reserving 4 tablespoons). Bake another hour or until the turkey is golden brown. Place on a serving platter, brush with the remaining oil-tamari mixture, and serve hot.

Serves 10.

Vegetarian Gravy (vegan)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup chopped sweet onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce to form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the broth. Season with sage, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Serves 10.

Side Dishes

Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potato (can be vegan)

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, large stems stripped and discarded, leaves chopped
1/2 cup warm milk, cream, or soy milk
5 scallions, white and tender green parts, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish (optional)
fried shallots, for garnish (optional)

1. Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil and continue boiling for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
2. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chopped kale, and a big pinch of salt and sauté until just tender, about a minute. Set aside.
3. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or fork. Slowly stir in the milk a few big splashes at a time. You want a thick, creamy texture, so if the potatoes are dry, add milk until the texture is right. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Dump the kale on top of the potatoes and give a quick stir. Transfer to a serving bowl, make a well in the center of the potatoes and pour the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with the scallions, Parmesan cheese, and shallots.

Serves 6.

Pumpkin Corn Pudding (not vegan)

1 cooking pumpkin, about 8 to 9 inches in diameter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup cornmeal
4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed, divided
4 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely sliced scallions
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut off the top of the pumpkin. Scrape out the seeds and coarse fibers. Season the cavity with salt and pepper.
3. Place the pumpkin, cut-side down, in a baking dish. Bake until tender, but still firm enough to be filled, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
4. In a dry, medium saucepan over medium-high heat, toast the cornmeal, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
5. In a food processor, puree 2 cups of the corn. In a medium bowl, mix it with the remaining corn and set aside.
6. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the milk until steaming. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cornmeal. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes.
7. Stir in the reserved corn mixture, then stir in the eggs, scallions, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
8. Flip the pumpkin cut-side up and return it to the baking dish. Spoon the filling into the pumpkin. Bake the filled pumpkin for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and browned on top.

Serves 8.

Green Bean Casserole (vegan)

2 1/2 cups soy milk
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
4 (14 ounce) cans cut green beans
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
15 ounces French-fried onions
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
fresh ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a pot over medium-high heat, add 2 cups of soy milk, the sliced mushrooms, garlic, and black pepper. Slowly bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Dissolve the cornstarch into the remaining 1/2 cup of soy milk and add to the pot. Stir well for 5 minutes and remove from the heat.
3. Drain the beans and pour them into a casserole dish. Add about 1 cup of the onions to the beans, as well as the soy milk mixture, and toss. Place in the oven for 35-45 minutes, then top with the rest of the onions and cook for a few more minutes, until the onions are brown. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Garlic Brussels Sprouts (vegan)

20 Brussels sprouts, quartered
20 garlic cloves, halved (or quartered if very large)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

1. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium to medium-high heat and sauté the garlic and sprouts for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the apple cider vinegar and cook sprouts to desired level of tenderness.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

Broccoli Roasted with Garlic, Chipotle Peppers, and Pine Nuts (vegan)

2 pounds broccoli, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
2 chipotle chiles, seeded and minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup pine nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place the broccoli in a roasting pan. Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour over the broccoli.
3. Bake for 10 minutes. Toss and return to oven for 10 minutes more.

Serves 10.


Spice-Kissed Pumpkin Pie (not vegan)

2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons honey

2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups of canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup coconut milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine crust ingredients in a food processor. Press into 9-inch pie pan.
3. Puree 1 1/2 cups of the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor until they turn into a paste. Set aside. Chop the remaining 1/2 cup of hazelnuts and set aside; these will be sprinkled on top after the pie is baked.
4. To make the pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt, and cornstarch. Stir in the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Stir in the eggs and coconut milk. Set aside.
5. Crumble the hazelnut paste on top of the pie crust, creating a layer of hazelnuts that will sit between the crust and the filling. Fill the pie crust with the filling and bake for about 50 minutes. The center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie, and the edges should be set.
6. Serve plain or with a dollop of whipped cream.

Makes one 9-inch pie.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.


16 Comments on How to Feed a Vegan

  • Anonymous on 11.21.2008 at 6:45 am

    Don't feel like cooking a vegan meal?

    As a vegan around the holidays, I’ve found a vegan restaurant on the North Shore which provides vegan holiday meals — Rawbert’s Organic Cafe in Beverly. They offer a box holiday meal which provides a nut-turkey, vegan stuffing (my favourite!), cauliflower mashed “potatoes,” orange-cranberry relish and a piece of buckwheat corn bread. It is very filling, and there is an option to add soup or a slice of a variety of pies — and not only is it vegan, but the entire meal is also gluten free!

    You have to pick up the food before the holiday (they are closed on Thursday) but it is DEFINITELY worth not cooking and saved time. I’ve had their holiday meal for three years, and I love it!

  • Anonymous on 11.21.2008 at 7:22 am

    Why is a University news source writing this publishing such redundant seasonal fark?

    How about focusing on, you know, news about the University?

  • Anonymous on 11.21.2008 at 8:43 am

    Is it really the responsibility of the host to change everything for the preferred eating habits of a single attendee? Should hosts really “do some research and perhaps some extra work” for non-mainstream and non-medically required or religious-based eating habits? And this is speaking as someone who ate vegetarian for years, and still generally avoids meat. Allergies or lifelong religion seems understandable – but if you plan to decline a host’s offer of a meal, I suspect you either shouldn’t go or you should prepare to take care of yourself – and explain why your behavior shouldn’t be considered offensive to the host.

    And “keep your cooking utensils separate to prevent cross-contamination between meat and vegetarian foods?” If you are the vegetarian, sure, why not – but seems extreme to ask of a host.

  • Anonymous on 11.21.2008 at 11:36 am

    Enough excuses

    If you’re going to change your menu or offer special items for people who have “religious-based” eating habits, you better darn well do it for someone who is morally and ethically opposed to the murder and torture of animals. Just because some ridiculous interpretation of a book written by men thousands of years ago says you can’t eat certain things DOES NOT make your dining requests more weighted than those of a person who doesn’t want to participate in the horrific treatment of animals. Religion is a choice, too.

    Either be considerate of all religious and ethical beliefs or ignore them all.

    I bring my own food to Thanksgiving every year, but I only go because my boyfriend wants to see his family. Seeing a dead animal cut up and consumed isn’t exactly appetizing. A host providing veg(etari)an options is more of a compromise than a concession.

  • The coolest kid you'll never like on 11.21.2008 at 1:33 pm

    university news

    How about the fact that there are vegans that go to BU and that they would consider this to be “news” versus “redundant seasonal fark” . And who the hell says fark? seriously. And how is it redundant, I haven’t seen any articles about vegan Thanksgiving dishes. It’s an interesting and creative piece; as a vegan I really appreciate it. Thanks Vicky!

    • K.O on 11.12.2012 at 4:55 pm

      I’ve been perusing BU Today news and other than political articles, vegan/vegetarianism articles are abundant. That is where the poster is getting redundancy from. A lot of the articles also come off as facetious, contentious, or otherwise arrogant towards non vegan lifestyles.

  • Colleen is awesome on 11.21.2008 at 1:40 pm

    The coolest kid you'll never like

    I like the article a lot and as a vegan I appreciate people are considerate of my diet. However, I’d assume most vegans would bring a vegan dish to a dinner versus expect the host to prepare one. And what’s with all the hating on this article? Little too intense for an article about cooking…yikes. Someone called it fark? What the hell is fark? Is that vegan? Can I try some of that? Sweet. Awesome article Vicky!

  • BU Mom on 11.21.2008 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the new recipes. It is so wonderful to try new things to eat. And the Thanksgiving time is a wonderful time to be all-inclusive of all of your friends and family. Fixing some items that may please this person and that person is part of the enjoyment of sharing dishes at a meal. (Or having your guests bring a special dish to share that is made the way they prefer is great too.) Not every dish on the table has to please everybody. The togetherness of cooking and sitting and eating together, spending special time, and being thankful that we all can be together is what this holiday is about. No one needs to demand anything of a host, but this host is open to trying new things for the enjoyment of it, and of the enjoyment of the people who come to share time at our home.
    Thanks for the article!

  • Anonymous on 11.23.2008 at 11:56 pm

    Thanks for the recipes. I appreciate this article as a vegan. I plan on doing most of the side dish cooking for my family’s meal this year and it is nice to have some new ideas.

  • Tim on 11.25.2008 at 4:35 pm

    Mashed and Oiled

    Yum, this is a great variation on a traditional Irish side called Colcannon. Thanks Vicky!!

  • Tim on 11.25.2008 at 5:12 pm

    Kale and Olive Oil

    Yum, a great variation on an old Irish side called Colcannon. Thanks Vicky! And fark, that sounds Irish too.

  • Anonymous on 11.25.2008 at 7:28 pm

    Awesome article!!!! The recipes are great. And for the vegetarian-haters who won’t make something special for the vegetarians you’re entertaining, why bother to invite them in the first place if you aren’t going to accomodate their needs and respect their beliefs? And why not give animals something to be thankful this Thanksgiving for while you’re at it? Ethical reasons are every bit as important as “allergies” and “lifelong religion.” And there are a gazillion vegetarians at BU, so get used to it.

    ps) fark is soo not a word.

  • Vegan Eating Out on 11.26.2008 at 11:49 pm

    Vegan Food

    A good host always accommodates their guests by definition. Even as a vegan I check to make sure I’m not serving peanuts, chocolate, strawberries or gluten as examples to someone with an allergy. It’s also simply foolish and wasteful to serve pea soup to someone that hates peas.

    What’s always surprising to me is how easy it is to modify a dish to suit a vegetarian or vegan diet and people always claim difficulty as if they can’t take 5 seconds to think outside the box. I mean, if you aren’t eating vegetables to begin with you’re probably not healthy.

    I’m glad to see more exposure for the vegan diet as the Standard American Diet is causing a lot of problems for the USA from obesity to health care to CO2 emissions.

    Vegan Diet Eating Out Menu

  • Jean Taylor on 12.18.2010 at 10:57 am

    This is great to see, thanks. You’re making me hungry just reading this! I know you guys have this stuff at Thanksgiving but it’s nearly Christmas and this recipe would do just great for our vegan Christmas dinner over here in the UK! More please!

  • K.O on 11.12.2012 at 4:52 pm

    Best solution: If you don’t invite vegans, you don’t have to cook for them.

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