Easy vegan Thanksgiving recipes, plus tips to add flavor and texture to vegetables

These dishes amp up the flavor of seasonal produce.

November 23, 2022, 12:24 PM
PHOTO: Vegan stuffing from Love and Lemons for Thanksgiving.
Vegan stuffing from Love and Lemons for Thanksgiving.
Love & Lemons

Turkey may take top billing on most Thanksgiving menus, but with so many delicious seasonal vegetables and plant-based recipes, the options to add vegan dishes to the table this year are abundant.

And don't forget to save room for dessert with two delicious options from the Korean Vegan.

Vegan Choux Farci - Stuffed Cabbage

Chef Jason Pringle, the executive sous chef at Montage Healdsburg in the heart of California wine country, shared this popular stuffed cabbage recipe that uses grains and lentils with fresh herbs and spices to have a rich and flavorful vegan-friendly option on the holiday table.

Ingredients

1/2 cup Black Forbidden rice, uncooked (other large grains, such as farro, may be used)

1 1/2 Cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (any type)

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup small diced onion

1/2 Cup small diced carrot

1/2 Cup small diced celery

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 sprigs thyme, picked and chopped

1 teaspoon Smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon each fresh chives, parsley, tarragon

2 tablespoons chickpea miso (or white miso)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large Savoy cabbage

Directions

Bring the broth to boil. Add the forbidden rice, reduce heat, and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes. If not using right away, place in a storage container and refrigerate.

Heat a large sauté pan with olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until caramelized. Add the onions, carrots, thyme and garlic stirring, until the onions soften, about 4 minutes. Add water by the tablespoon if needed to prevent sticking. Add the rice, cooked lentils, and all spices. Cook, stirring, for two minutes. Add the miso, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Season with fresh herbs, salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut around the core and carefully remove about 10 of the largest leaves. If the stem ends of the leaves seem thick, use a vegetable peeler to slice away some of the thickness. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the leaves. Boil for 2 minutes or until tender. Remove each leaf carefully and allow to drain and cool in a colander.

Oil a deep 7-inch soufflé or baking dish. Place the largest of the cabbage leaves bowl-side up the dish, positioned so that it covers the bottom and part of the sides. Repeat with 2 to 4 more leaves until the bottom and sides are covered. Place a layer of rice-lentil filling in the bowl created by the cabbage, using 1/3 of the filling. Smooth it evenly so that it spreads to all sides. Top it with a cabbage leaf. Repeat with two more layers of filling alternating with a cabbage leaf. Top with a cabbage leaf, bowl side down, and tuck it in around the sides. Using a large spoon or your hand, press down on the leaf, packing in the filling and making sure there are no air bubbles.

Steam for ten minutes and heated through. Alternatively, you can be baked at uncovered for 30-40 minutes. Remove. Carefully insert a table knife against the edge of the dish and run it around to make sure there are no stuck-on edges. Place an upside-down serving plate on top, and invert the casserole onto the plate. Serve hot.

PHOTO: Stuffed acorn squash topped with pomegranate arils.
Stuffed acorn squash topped with pomegranate arils.
Love & Lemons

Love and Lemons food blogger Jeanine Donofrio, who specializes in developing vegan and vegetarian recipes, shared a selection of her favorites that would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving spread.

Donofrio told "Good Morning America" there's "two ways to go" if you're looking to lean towards vegan-friendly food this Thanksgiving.

"Having an all sides Thanksgiving is fun because I think Thanksgiving is all about the sides anyway," she said. "Or I start with a beautiful main dish that's a seasonal produce, like a stuffed acorn squash," which she said has become "a go-to" as a fall dinner or at the holiday table "because it's an impressive main dish, it's a centerpiece, it's seasonal and it's beautiful."

Donofrio said "it's not as much about creating a meat replacement" as it is "cooking with some love and attention and seasoning the vegetables really well to make the vegetables really flavorful."

It also doesn't mean you have to forgo Thanksgiving classics. "It's not hard to make really familiar foods that don't scare people who are maybe not on board with a meatless thing," she said.

"You can make vegan stuffing, mashed potatoes without cream or dairy, or cauliflower mashed potatoes that are whipped up that I think are just as delicious," she continued. "I have a mashed potato recipe where I didn't use cream or butter -- I use olive oil."

Check out her full recipes to enjoy this holiday season, below.

Vegan Stuffed Acorn Squash

PHOTO: Stuffed acorn squash topped with pomegranate arils.
Stuffed acorn squash topped with pomegranate arils.
Love & Lemons

"I think people are intimidated by squash because it's hard to cut," Donofrio said. "Get a sharp knife and if it's a little bit too hard to cut, soften it in the oven first. It can seem intimidating but the oven does most of the work for you -- and then it becomes soft and tender -- there isn't really any any work."

Ingredients2 acorn squash, halved8-ounce package tempeh1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling1/2 yellow onion, chopped8 ounces cremini mushrooms, diced3 garlic cloves, minced1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts1 tablespoon tamari1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar1/2 tablespoon chopped rosemary1/4 cup chopped sage1/3 cup dried cranberriesParsley and a few pomegranate arils, for garnishSea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out and discard the seeds from the squash. Place the squash halves on the baking sheet, and drizzle them with olive oil and pinches of salt and pepper. Roast cut-side up for 40 minutes, or until tender.

While the squash roasts, cut the tempeh into 1/2-inch cubes, place in a steamer basket, and set over a pot filled with 1 inch of water. Bring the water to a simmer, cover the pot, and steam for 10 minutes. Remove, drain any excess water, and use your hands to crumble the tempeh.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper and cook 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in the crumbled tempeh, garlic, walnuts, tamari, apple cider vinegar, rosemary, and sage and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, adding 1/4 cup water as the pan gets dry. Stir in the cranberries and season to taste. Scoop the filling into the roasted acorn squash halves and garnish with the parsley and pomegranates.

Vegan Stuffing

PHOTO: A pan of vegan stuffing for Thanksgiving.
A pan of vegan stuffing for Thanksgiving.
Love & Lemons

"This vegan stuffing recipe is best when it's made with dry, day-old bread. I recommend buying or baking your bread one to three days in advance so that it really soaks up the savory flavor of the onion, celery, mushrooms, and herbs," she wrote alongside the recipe on her site.

Ingredients6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided1 cup coarsely chopped cipollini onions3 cups chopped and stemmed mushrooms, mix of shiitakes and creminis3 garlic cloves, minced2 stalks celery, diced1/4 cup chopped sage, plus 8 leaves for garnish2 tablespoons minced rosemary2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar5 cups cubed crusty ciabatta and nine-grain bread*3 lacinato kale leaves, coarsely chopped or torn2 cups vegetable broth, plus more for reheating1/4 cup dried cranberriesSea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease an 8-by-12-inch or 9-by-13-inch casserole dish.

In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper, and let the mushrooms cook until they begin to soften, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Add the garlic, celery, sage, and rosemary, and cook until everything is soft and the mushrooms are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the balsamic vinegar, stir, and scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the bread and the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and toss to coat. Add the kale and cook until it begins to wilt, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the broth and stir.

Transfer to a casserole dish and pour the remaining 1 cup broth evenly over the stuffing.

Sprinkle with the dried cranberries, remaining whole sage leaves and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or until ready to serve.

Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta

PHOTO: A bowl of vegan butternut squash pasta.
A bowl of vegan butternut squash pasta.
Love & Lemons

Ingredients1/2 small butternut squash, halved vertically, and seededExtra-virgin olive oil2 shallots, coarsely chopped (½ cup)3 garlic cloves, unpeeled3/4 cup water1/2 cup raw cashews1 tablespoon nutritional yeast1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar10 fresh sage leaves1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus a few leaves for garnish12 ounces rotini pastaSea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Drizzle the squash with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Wrap the shallot and garlic cloves in foil with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and place on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until the squash is soft.

Scoop 1 cup of the squash flesh and transfer to a blender with the shallot, peeled garlic, water, cashews, 2 tablespoons olive oil, nutritional yeast, vinegar, sage, thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Blend until creamy.

Cook the pasta according to package directions in a pot of salted boiling water. Reserve 1 cup of the hot pasta water.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Stir in the sauce, adding 1/2 to 1 cup of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce and coat the pasta. Season with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt. Top with freshly ground black pepper, a few thyme leaves.

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Polenta

PHOTO: Vegan mushroom polenta with chimichurri.
Vegan mushroom polenta with chimichurri.
Love & Lemons

Prep time: 15 minsCook time: 45 minsServes 4

IngredientsFor the polenta1 cup stone-ground polenta4 to 4 1/2 cups water, divided2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1/2 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste

For the sautéed mushrooms2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil16 ounces mixed mushrooms, sliced or chopped Heaping 1/4 teaspoon sea salt1 tablespoon rice vinegar1 tablespoon tamari1 garlic clove, minced or grated1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragonFreshly ground black pepper

Chimichurri, for drizzlingMicrogreens, optionalRoasted chickpeas, optional

Directions

For the sautéed mushrooms: In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Let the mushrooms cook, without stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. This will help them get a nice golden brown sear.

Give the pan a good shake or two and continue cooking the mushrooms, stirring only occasionally, until soft and well-browned, 5 to 8 more minutes depending on the size of your mushrooms. Turn the heat to low and stir in the rice vinegar, tamari, and garlic. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with fresh tarragon. Serve hot.

For the polenta: In a blender, pulse the dry polenta to make the granules less coarse. This gives the polenta a creamy texture and helps it cook faster. Remove from the blender and run your hands through the dry polenta to make sure there aren’t any lumps.

In a medium pot, bring 3 cups of water to a high simmer. Slowly whisk in the polenta. Add 1 more cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. If your polenta is very thick, whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup water. The polenta should be creamy.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the olive oil and sea salt. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Season to taste and serve hot.

Assemble hot polenta in bowls. Top with sautéed mushrooms and drizzle generously with chimichurri. Top with microgreens and roasted chickpeas, if desired. Serve with additional chimichurri on the side.

Vegan cooking substitutes and alternatives

PHOTO: Ingredients to make vegan butternut squash pasta.
Ingredients to make vegan butternut squash pasta.
Love & Lemons

"Cashews are a magical vegan ingredient -- they replace cream really well, especially if you have a powerful blender," Donofrio said.

"Coconut milk can also be a good replacement for cream," she added, "and other times it's just the vegetables pureed, like beans and potato, which can both get really creamy."

She also suggested adding nutritional yeast for both flavor and a cheese-like, creamy texture.

Vegan ingredients to add flavor

"Thanksgiving can get bland, so I just sprinkle pomegranate on everything," Donofrio said. "They're pretty and they're so flavorful -- I always say add a pop of pomegranate."

"In the creamy mushroom polenta there's tamari and vinegar," she added. "I use balsamic in the mushrooms so they're really flavorful."

Vegan Thanksgiving desserts

Add something sweet to the vegan menu with these two recipes from Joanne Molinaro aka The Korean Vegan.

Pecan Paht Pie

PHOTO: The Korean Vegan's pecan paht pie.
The Korean Vegan's pecan paht pie.
Kelly McCarthy

"Paht means sweet red beans in Korean," Molinaro told "GMA" of the main ingredient in the recipe that she kept under wraps until her debut cookbook was released. "Thanksgiving in my house is always kind of a contentious time -- there's a group who wants traditional American fare and an older generation who wants the Korean classics -- I wanted to create a recipe that spoke to both sides of our family."

"The red bean paste is far less sugary than the typical custard-like filling of a traditional pecan pie, I knew my family would instantly appreciate the familiar flavor," she continued. "I presented my little pie that Thanksgiving, and since then, I have been asked to make it every year."

Serves: 8 to 10

IngredientsFor the pie crust:1 1/2 cups (210g) all purpose flour (see note)1 tablespoon sugar1 teaspoon salt2/3 cup (152g) cold vegan butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

For the pie filling and topping:3/4 cup (300g) brown rice syrup6 tablespoons soy or oat milk1 cup (320g) paht1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar4 tablespoons (57g) vegan butter, melted and cooled1/2 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups (220g) chopped pecans3 1/2 tablespoons (35g) potato starch1 cup (110g) pecan halves

InstructionsMake the pie crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse while adding the butter, a few pieces at a time. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to form.Shape the dough into a ball. Do not handle more than necessary. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but best if overnight.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.Make the pie filling and topping: In a medium bowl, combine the brown rice syrup, soy milk, paht, brown sugar, melted butter, salt, vanilla, chopped pecans and potato starch.Place the pie dough between two sheets of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pie dough gently until it is large enough to line a 9-inch pie pan. Ease the crust into the pan and trim any excess dough at the edges with kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife. Pour in the filling. Top the filling with pecan halves.Transfer the pie to the oven and bake until the pie filling sets (i.e., doesn’t jiggle too much), 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool the pie on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving.

Easy vegan snickerdoodle cookie recipe

PHOTO: Easy plant-based, gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies.
Easy plant-based, gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies.
The Korean Vegan

Molinaro said JUST Egg was the key ingredient to help this plant-based and gluten-free cookie come together.

Ingredients 3/4 cup white sugar 5 tbsp vegan butter (slightly softened) 1/4 cup JUST Egg (liquid) 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup sweet white rice flour (regular rice flour will NOT work) 1 cup finely ground almond flour 1/4 cup potato starch 2 teaspoons cream of tartar 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda Pinch of salt 1/2 cup chocolate chips 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a hand-mixer or stand mixer, mix together the sugar, JUST Egg, and vanilla extract. Then add the sweet white rice flour, almond flour, potato starch, cream of tartar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and mix until a dough forms. Next, add the chocolate chips (if desired) and incorporate into the cookie dough with a spoon or spatula. In a separate bowl, mix together cinnamon with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Scoop out enough dough to create a ball the size of a gumball. Coat the surface of your ball with the cinnamon sugar before placing it on your baking sheet (lined with parchment paper). Make sure the dough balls are at least 2 inches apart (they will spread). Bake in the oven for about 11 to 13 minutes. Allow them to cool for about 2 minutes before enjoying.

Recipes reprinted courtesy of Joanne Molinaro, The Korean Vegan.

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