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Vegan alternatives and substitutes for favourite Thanksgiving classics

Photo by KayCie Gravelle

Turkey, mashed potatoes, buttered beans, and apple pie; people look forward to these Thanksgiving dinner staples practically all year. But when you’re a vegan like me, traditional Thanksgiving meals will most likely result in a half-empty plate.

On my first Thanksgiving as a vegan, my mother made the entire feast sans dairy and eggs. It was my favourite meal I have ever eaten, not just because it tasted incredible, but also because she made it totally vegan. However, not everyone’s parents are so accepting of vegan diets and many have no idea what veganism even is.

So, what are vegans to do come Thanksgiving or Christmas if they don’t have vegan-friendly chefs at home? All of the following options are usually available at most grocery stores, including Loblaws, Metro, and natural food stores.

The most convenient way for a vegan to replace a turkey is to buy a pre-made meat alternative. There is the famous Tofurky, but it’s a bit overpriced at about $15 per roast. It’s not the tastiest alternative either. Gardein makes a great stuffed “turk’y” called the Holiday Roast, which serves eight people. They also have Savoury Stuffed turk’ys, which are individual servings with two per package. They come with little packets of vegan gravy, which are delicious. However, one packet is not nearly enough to smother your whole plate.

Making your own gravy is quite simple. Better Than Bouillon makes two non-meat alternatives to beef broth: Vegetarian No Beef Base and Superior Touch Vegetable Base. Simmer a tablespoon or so in a saucepan with some water. Add flour as needed to thicken the mixture. Your arteries will thank you for not loading up on turkey fat and cholesterol, though the veggie bouillon bases are generally high in sodium, so take it easy.

When it comes to potatoes, beans, peas, and corn, simply substitute the butter for a vegan alternative. Becel Vegan Margarine and Earth Balance make wonderful butters, and the latter is available in both tubs and stick form.

My mother makes a mean turnip soufflé, and she makes it vegan without any sacrifice to flavour. All it takes is vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, vegan butter, and a powdered egg substitute. There are numerous brands of egg replacement, and a little goes a long way so it will last way beyond Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Other cheap and easy egg substitutes include applesauce, mashed bananas, and soaked chia seeds, though it depends on the recipe. Bananas are wonderful in baked sweets like pumpkin cupcakes, and applesauce is delicious in bread stuffing. For the stuffing, you’ll also need vegetable broth and vegan butter.

Though it might seem obvious, make sure that if the Thanksgiving chef is cooking a real turkey, he or she doesn’t cook your stuffing in the bird.

Thankfully, some traditional recipes are already vegan. Most cranberry sauces are just boiled cranberries and sugar. You can use raw organic cane sugar if you want to be sure that animal products weren’t used in the refining process.

For dessert, many pre-made pies in the bakery section are already vegan. Some contain butter or eggs, but a few of them have no animal ingredients whatsoever. Warm them up in the oven and enjoy them with a scoop of ice cream. Soy Delicious Purely Decadent or Coconut Bliss are best, but Tofutti is another option—if you’re desperate.

Most importantly, don’t forget about leftovers. Be sure to prepare enough to eat for the days following Thanksgiving. Reheating mushy turnip and eating turk’y sandwiches for a week should be every vegan student’s dream.