Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes

Plus, What it was like to Be a Vegetarian in the 70’s

I grew up as a vegetarian in a small town in upstate New York. It was the late 1970’s. I was quite the topic of conversation. My relatives were convinced I would die an untimely death at an early age, due to lack of “proper” nutrition To them, this meant a steady diet of down home meat and potatoes. Of course we now know better. That didn’t help me much then.

The holidays were the worst time to be vegetarian. Every relative under the sun (and we had a lot of them) would gather at our house in the country. I remember explaining over and over that I didn’t eat meat. All of them would insist that I should try their recipe. “Oh, but this is the best turkey ever, you really should try it even if you don’t eat meat, I know you’ll like it.” They just did not understand at all.

Vegetarians have so many choices now. We don’t have to come up with look-alike or taste-alike substitutes for meat. We rejoice in the fact that we are putting healthy food in our bodies and leave it at that. There are many traditional Thanksgiving foods which are not meat based that we can enjoy. I personally try to stay away from copycat turkey.

I serve a variety of meatless side dishes as well as real Turkey for my non-vegetarian friends. I remember my own persecution and therefore have adopted a “to each his own” policy in my house. That being said, here are some delicious vegetarian thanksgiving dishes the whole family will enjoy. I make my “unstuffing” in a casserole dish and bake it in the oven. Walnuts add a surprisingly delicious twist as well as a protein source.


2 cups cubed bread

2 cups bread crumbs

1 large chopped onion

2 cups chopped walnuts

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped cooked carrots

2 tblsp. ground sage

2 tblsp. poultry seasoning

2 tsp. celery salt

2 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. onion powder

2 cans vegetable broth

½ stick of real butter, melted

Directions: Heat vegetable broth and butter to a boil in a sauce pan. Mix together with other ingredients in a large bowl. If it seems dry, add more vegetable broth. Bake in a greased casserole dish at 350 for about 45 minutes or until brown on top.

What would thanksgiving be without sweet potatoes? This recipe substitutes applesauce for some of the traditional gooey brown sugar, but sacrifices nothing in taste:

Applesauce sweet potatoes – Use 6-7 medium sweet potatoes (sliced thin), 2 cups applesauce, 1/3 cup brown sugar or sugar in the raw. Toss all ingredients and bake in a buttered casserole dish at 350 until brown and bubbly (about 45-60 minutes).

Here’s a healthier version of green bean casserole without the processed soup:

Green Bean Almond Casserole

2 pkgs. frozen green beans,

½ cup chopped onion,

½ cup sliced almonds,

½ cup sliced mushrooms,

¼ cup milk,

2 tbsp. melted butter.

Directions: Combine all listed ingredients in a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with a small amount of Parmesan cheese and onion powder. Bake at 350 for ½ hour.

A vegetarian thanksgiving in my house always includes some roasted vegetables. Here are a couple good recipes I’m sure you will enjoy:

Roasted squash – Everyone has a favorite squash, I like to roast 2-3 different kinds in a large roasting pan, covered with foil. This way my guests can choose their favorite. Cut all the squash in fourths. Remove the seeds. Place cut side down in the roaster. Melt 1 cup of real butter in a small sauce pan.

Add to the butter:

1 tsp. Celery salt,

1 tsp. Black pepper

3 cups water

Pour the butter mixture over your squash. Cover with foil, poking two air holes with a fork. Bake at 350 until tender.

Chile and Lime roasted corn – Mix together 2 cups fresh or frozen corn, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup each chopped green and red sweet peppers, ¼ cup melted butter, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. lime salt. Roast in a foil covered pan for ½ hour at 375.

Mashed Potatoes are a given on Thanksgiving. Here’s a recipe with an interesting and flavorful twist:

Potato and Turnip Mash – Use 4 medium potatoes and 4 medium turnips (washed, baked and mashed with skin on). Add ½ cup real butter, 2 tsp. Garlic powder, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, 2 cups heated vegetable stock. Combine well. Serve immediately.

A friend once suggested that I put my unstuffing to use as a stuffing for acorn squash. I tried it It really was quite delicious. Here’s what I did:

Stuffed Acorn Squash – Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Overfill the centers with the “unstuffing” recipe above. Put the two halves together loosely. Wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil. Place in a roasting pan. Bake at 350 for about an hour or until squash is cooked.

This is a great recipe for cranberries that I have been making for years. It uses honey instead of white sugar. It has a very unique flavor.

Honey Orange Cranberries – Combine 1 bag whole fresh cranberries, 1 cup honey, 1 cup orange juice, 2 oranges, peeled and cut into small pieces, 1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until all the cranberries have popped open and sauce has thickened. Delicious served warm.

Not a vegetarian? Why not try these recipes for a twist on your Thanksgiving dinner anyway? What have you got to lose besides that same old Turkey you’ve been serving for the last twenty years?

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