The Ultimate Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner Guide
Listen, Thanksgiving can be overwhelming. I know it, you know it, we all scream it every year. And yet, it’s such a special time for us all – the beginning of the holiday season, and an opportunity for friends and family to come together and enjoy a delicious feast. It would be a shame for the rushing and the food prepping and the menu planning to overshadow the sense of gratitude, happiness and togetherness that fills our homes and kitchens at this special time of the year.
So I’m here to give you the full game plan to make this VEGAN Thanksgiving the best one yet. From meal planning to what to do with all the leftovers – this is the ultimate vegan Thanksgiving dinner guide.
- Dishes You Can Prepare In Advance
- Vegan Thanksgiving Appetizers
- Vegan Thanksgiving Main Dishes
- Vegan Thanksgiving Side Dishes
- Thanksgiving Desserts
- Setting the Table
- How To Use Thanksgiving Leftovers
- Recipes from Happy Herbivore Cookbooks
How To Plan Ahead
I’m going to let you in on a little secret:
The only way to cook all the food on your list and still stay sane is to plan ahead.
And I don’t mean just a measly post-it with a few notes scribbled on it. I mean proper, Ina Garten-style meal planning.
“But where does Ina Garten come into this?” you might ask.
Well, I was browsing one of her cookbooks a while ago. And while Ina doesn’t cook anything I can really eat, there was this one tiny (but 100% life-changing… and sanity-saving) tip that jumped out at me.
Ina writes out a “game plan” for each and every meal she makes. It’s scarily precise – she plans everything down to “5:30pm preheat oven to 350ºF”. And as she attests, writing your game plan down makes a huge difference!
So don’t just keep a list in your head. Write it down – heck, even color code it if it will make your life easier!
Whenever I cooked big feats or multi-dish meals, I used to keep a list of all the recipes I would make, and I’d typically spend a minute or two thinking about the order in which to cook things. There was no precision, no specific order, no Ina-level organization. (It also usually evolved into chaos and me running around trying to complete everything just in time.)
But once I started writing down a proper Game Plan (yes, with capital letters): BAM! Suddenly, everything ran smoothly, and I could enjoy the Thanksgiving dinner preparations (and the dinner itself) calm and relaxed.
Here’s part of my Thanksgiving dinner game plan:
It’s great isn’t it? It removes all the stress out of planning and keeping things organized on the day. BUT… it gets better!
Because I want YOUR Thanksgiving to be just as relaxed, I’m sharing my Thanksgiving Game Plan right here, right now!
Download your FREE Thanksgiving Game Plan
Includes 10 recipes, a shopping list, and step-by-step game plan.
So, we’re all set with the planning. (Take a big breath in, and relax. We’re over the biggest hurdle now.)
Dishes You Can Prepare In Advance
Sure, planning your Thanksgiving day out down to the minute will make things easier. But if you can reduce the number of tasks you need to complete on the day… well, your Thanksgiving has just gotten a whole lot better.
This is where dishes you can prepare in advance come in. Meals you can prep the day before and pop into the fridge AND meals you can cook a week (!!!) before and freeze until the big day.
Here are some of the dishes that I plan to prepare in advance:
- Cranberry Sauce (can be prepared a week before and frozen)
- Butternut Soup (cook the day before and keep in the fridge)
- Pumpkin Pie (should be baked the day before and refrigerated overnight)
- and so many more!
If these recipes sound amazing (they are), then you will want to have a look at our Thanksgiving Game Plan Menu!
Now, we have our game plan and our prepared dishes. We’re ready to absolutely ace Thanksgiving!
The Best Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes
There’s this idea that vegan Thanksgiving can be lacking… 1000% not the case! Vegan Thanksgiving food is vibrant and nourishing and just so darn delicious!
Let me prove it to you… here are some of my all-time favorite vegan Thanksgiving dinner recipes – from appetizers and main dishes all the way to desserts.
Vegan Thanksgiving Appetizers Guaranteed To Impress
First impressions matter in food just as much as they do in a job interview. They set the precedent for the rest of the meal, and often serve as the ice breaker – after all, most people like to talk about food. And while the main course (and dessert) are usually the stars of the show, appetizers are an excellent opportunity to tease your guests’ taste buds with amazing flavors and textures.
But don’t make life too complicated for yourself – choose appetizers that are quick and easy to prepare, while packing the maximum flavor punch. Here are a few ideas:
Everyone loves chips, and this healthy vegan variation on your usual fired potato chips makes for an excellent appetizer when paired with a delicious dip (see below for some great ideas). Get the recipe here.
If kale chips don’t quite do it for you (or you want to add more variety), these baked oil-free corn chips are quick and easy to make, and are the perfect accompaniment to a variety of dips and drinks. Get the recipe here.
Lightly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside – and the perfect thing to nibble on while sipping a drink. These zucchini sticks make a perfect quick Thanksgiving appetizer recipe that’s bound to impress your guests. Get the recipe here.
The perfect dip for your kale and corn chips – made in about 2 minutes, it’s creamy, incredibly delicious and an instant hit with just about everyone. Get the recipe here.
We all love our devilled eggs, don’t we? Well, I’m here to tell you that there is a DELICIOUS vegan version, and you’ll definitely want to include it in your Thanksgiving dinner. Get the recipe here.
Another excellent addition to your dip selection, this guacamole recipe is a healthified version of a typical guacamole, using edamame instead of avocados. This nsures that while creamy and delicious, the “edamole” is lighter – leaving plenty of space to indulge during the main course and dessert. Get the recipe here.
Okay, dips in general are pretty awesome. But a pizza dip… now that’s on a whole new level. Made in under 10 minutes, this recipe will make you a Thanksgiving superstar. Get the recipe here.
We’re getting into fancier territory here. Nothing says special occasion quite like an artichoke dip – and let me tell you, this one is DELICIOUS. Get the recipe here.
Just give me a nice crusty piece of bread and some of this mouthwatering olive tapenade… I’ll be more than happy. And your guests will feel the same. With subtle notes of garlic, capers and oregano, this olive tapenade makes a memorable addition to every Thanksgiving menu. Get the recipe here.
We all love food on sticks. It’s a fact. So what better way to make your Thanksgiving dinner more interesting than to include some baked vegan corndogs. Your guests will love them – after all, it’s food on sticks! Get the recipe here.
Vegan Thanksgiving Main Dishes That Will WOW Your Guests
The star of the show. The main event. The WOW element of any Thanksgiving dinner. The main dish is where the magic happens – and because we’ve mastered planning and meal prepping, that magic is effortless and stress-free.
Here is a selection of some family favourites – these vegan Thanksgiving main dishes have been perfected through the years, and carry so many lovely memories with them. They are a blend of healthy and decadent, nourishing and delicious.
Overflowing with spices, these cajun chickpea cakes will add a burst of flavor to your Thanksgiving table. Quick and easy to make, they are a low-stress main dish option that will impress your guests. Get the recipe here.
The name says it all, doesn’t it? These “chickenless nuggets” have all the deliciousness of a nugget – without the chicken. With a crispy golden brown crust, these vegan nuggets are the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving menu. Get the recipe here.
A creamy fall-inspired acorn squash and apple soup that will delight your taste buds and impress your friends and family. Get the recipe here.
With the days getting shorter and colder, soups and stews are always a welcome addition to the Thanksgiving table. This year, give this cassoulet a try – it’s bursting with veggies and herbs, and super easy to make! Get the recipe here.
Who doesn’t love a good lentil “meatball”? (Everyone does. It’s just a fact.) And even better, to create a truly impressive Thanksgiving centerpiece, why not make a lentil “meatloaf” by shaping the lentil meatball mixture into a loaf? Get the recipe here.
On the topic of meatloaves, if you’re sticking with small, adorable and flavor-packed, I can’t recommend these Meatloaf Bites enough! They’re a family favorite, and everyone loves them! Get the recipe here.
This African Kale & Yam Soup is as hearty as it is delicious. And with the abundance of spices, it’s the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dinner! Get the recipe here.
For a spicy twist on your Thanksgiving dinner, include this curried pumpkin lentil soup. With aromatic notes from curry powder, garam masala and cayenne pepper, it’s utterly delicious and easy to make. Get the recipe here.
A showstopper of a dish, this vegan quiche recipe will impress your guests and leave their taste buds tingling. Packed full of vitamin-rich greens, tofu and spices, this greens quiche is an excellent choice for your Thanksgiving menu. Get the recipe here.
Yes, you’ve read that right. Lasagna. Rolls. With a name like that, you know it’s going to be good. (Actually, scratch that. It’s going to be freakin’ awesome.) Get the recipe here.
Vegan Thanksgiving Side Dishes and Condiments
If the main dishes are the stars of the show, then the side dishes play the supporting roles. While not as flashy, the side dishes are just as important as the “showstoppers”. They need to complement and elevate the main course – so have a good think about flavors and textures that go well together.
The perfect side dish will ensure that the meal is balanced and satisfying on all levels. Here are our top choices for the best vegan Thanksgiving side dishes and condiments:
A lighter alternative to the traditional mashed potatoes, these cauliflower mashed potatoes are super delicious – and they will leave more room for dessert! Get the recipe here.
These easy maple glazed vegetables make the perfect Thanksgiving dinner side dish. Plus, this recipe is ideal for preparing a wide range of veggies – so get creative! Get the recipe here.
This one is a family favorite – and with good reason. If there is such a thing as a perfect side dish, this Green Bean Casserole might just be it. Get the recipe here.
The spiciness of gingers adds a whole new dimension to the collard greens, and makes this recipe a delicious Thanksgiving side dish. Get the recipe here.
This Citrusy Cranberry Sauce is a swankier (and simpler) version of the traditional cranberry sauce, with only 3 ingredients – but all the flavor. Get the recipe here.
We all love gravy – and this is an absolutely mouthwatering vegan gravy recipe that will have you reaching for seconds… and thirds. Get the recipe here.
Because why stop at just one type of gravy!? This mushroom gravy is hands-down one of the best vegan gravy recipes I’ve ever tasted, and I’m sure you’ll love it. Get the recipe here.
Thanksgiving Desserts (Or How To End The Thanksgiving Dinner With A BANG)
Now, the main dishes may be the showstopper of a successful Thanksgiving dinner, but the dessert is the most memorable part of it. Not only is it the last part of the meal, it’s most people’s favorite part as well. And with good reason – fall desserts deserve a special place in all our hearts. The abundance of spices (especially pumpkin spice!!!), the pies and the pumpkin flavor everywhere you look… it’s the season of delicious desserts.
In fact, there are so many possibilities, choosing the perfect Thanksgiving dessert can become a rather stressful experience. To make your job easier, here are some of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving desserts:
No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without mouthwatering desserts, and these pumpkin bean bars fit the bill. With ingredients like pumpkin puree, maple syrup and peanut butter – you know they’re going to be amazing. Get the recipe here.
Let’s be honest: at this time of the year, we only have one thing on our mind – pumpkin. And this easy pumpkin bread recipe will fulfil all your pumpkin cravings in one fell swoop. Get the recipe here.
Ah, the dish we’ve all been waiting for. The crowning glory of every Thanksgiving dinner: the pumpkin pie. Well, this recipe won’t disappoint. It’s delicious, aromatic and, on top of it all, easy to make. Get the recipe here.
This gorgeous, rustic cake is the perfect dessert for anyone who’s not a huge pumpkin fan. Filled with apple chunks and warming notes of cinnamon, it’s bound to be a hit at your Thanksgiving table. Get the recipe here.
While carrot cake is an evergreen dessert, the cinnamon in these delicious cupcakes ensures that they will fit perfectly onto any Thanksgiving menu. Get the recipe here.
This one doesn’t need any explanation or justification. It’s cheesecake and everyone loves cheesecake. Plus, this vegan cheesecake recipe can be prepared well in advance, making it the perfect stress-free dessert choice for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Get the recipe here.
Trust me on this. Incorporating sweet potatoes into muffins makes them ultra soft and decadent, and the addition of cranberries and cinnamon makes them about as festive as it gets. Get the recipe here.
Let’s be honest, no dessert selection is complete without at least one chocolatey treat. These chocolate cupcakes are moist and utterly delicious – you’ll love them! Get the recipe here.
Speaking of every chocoholic’s best dream… these pumpkin swirl brownies are about as good (and delicious… and mouth-watering) as it gets. Get the recipe here.
And for even more recipes, you can download our FREE Thanksgiving Game Plan that also includes a useful shopping list and a step-by-step game plan for a perfectly timed meal.
Download your FREE Thanksgiving Game Plan
Includes 10 recipes, a shopping list, and step-by-step game plan.
Setting the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner Table
Okay, you’ve got your game plan and your recipes. But we’re not quite done yet. Setting your Thanksgiving table is just as important – it has to give your guests the feeling of warmth and coziness, while still maintaining an atmosphere of celebration and festivity.
The exact table arrangements and ornaments will depend on the size and shape of your table, the room it’s in, the number of guests and your unique style. But there are a few handy tips and tricks when it comes to creating a beautifully laid Thanksgiving table.
1. Choose your color palette. You can go with the warm tones of fall leaves, or choose a crisp, minimalist blue-and-white color scheme. For best results though, go with a combination of both. The layering of cool and warm tones will create a beautiful contrast, much like an autumnal forest against the clear blue sky.
2. Pick your tableware. Once you’ve chosen your color scheme, start thinking about the plates, cutlery, glasses and napkins. Again, go as elaborate or as minimalistic as you like. I bet you have pretty much all you need already at home, so no need for crazy shopping sprees! For extra interest on your Thanksgiving table, choose mismatched plates that still have a common color theme.
3. Design the table centerpiece. You don’t need a large budget to create a stunning Thanksgiving table centerpiece. Look to the nature for answers and inspiration. Pumpkins, squashes, golden yellow and orange leaves, apples and other fall produce can be combined into the most stunning centerpieces. In choosing the arrangement, pay attention to the shape of your table, and always leave enough room between the table settings and the centerpiece so that your guests will feel comfortable.
4. Add your personal touch. This can be through little gifts for your guests or quirky Thanksgiving-themed place cards. It’s the little things that will make your guests feel appreciated, and your Thanksgiving dinner extra special.
How To Use Thanksgiving Leftovers (In The Most Delicious Ways Possible)
So you’ve survived the Thanksgiving dinner – and now, you’re left with the aftermath. I’m speaking, of course, of all the leftovers.
I’m usually not a fan of leftovers, but Thanksgiving leftovers have an extra special place in my heart. (What can I say, I’m a glutton for mashed potatoes and gravy!) Plus, I’ve found so many creative ways to repurpose my leftovers into new exciting dishes!
Here are some ideas on how to give your leftovers a delicious makeover:
- Cornbread: Last year we had a ton of cornbread leftover (I'm not really sure how that happened – it’ SO GOOD), so I repurposed it into a "Chorizo" and Cornbread Stuffing. (You can find the recipe in HHC, p. 196).
- Sweet Potatoes: Leftover sweet potatoes can be turned into a brand spanking new meal (use your meal plan recipes as your guide — we used sweet potatoes many times as an entree, as well as in our breakfast and dinner recipes). Or you can make twice-baked sweet potatoes, which are always a hit!
- Bread: Use leftover bread to make our favourite French Toast, Bread Pudding (HHA, p. 156) or Marmalade French Toast (EHH, p. 40). You can also make croutons and bruschetta (like the delicious Breakfast Fruit Bruschetta featured in the meal plans!)
- Mashed Potatoes: I like to prepare a makeshift Shepard's pie from leftover mashed potatoes, and everyone absolutely loves it! I usually add some green beans and other veg (whatever you have on hand, really), and the leftover mushroom gravy that I thin it out with broth + almond milk.
- Cranberry Sauce: I'm almost embarrassed to admit how much I like baked tofu covered in cranberry sauce! Give it a try – you’ll love it. Leftover cranberry sauce is also excellent as a topping for pancakes and Courtney's Waffles (HHA, p. 160).
- Corn: You can use leftover corn to make Corn Pudding (HHC, p. 173) or Aztec Corn Soup (HHC, p. 61).
- Stuffing: Take some of that leftover stuffing and stuff some mushrooms! Just replace the pesto in the Pesto-Stuffed Mushrooms (HHA, p. 99) with the stuffing, and you’ll have the most delicious meal!
- Green beans: Give those green beans a makeover by turning them into a mouthwatering Skillet Green Bean Casserole (HHA, p. 270).
- Pumpkin Puree: Not sure what to do with all that leftover pumpkin puree? See my post on 8 different ways you can reuse pumpkin puree for inspiration!
But wait, there’s more! Our Happy Herbivore cookbooks are FULL of delicious vegan Thanksgiving recipes – here are a few to tickle your taste buds.
Our Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes from the Happy Herbivore cookbooks
Happy Herbivore Holidays & Gatherings:
- Butternut Soup 3 Ways (p. 12)
- Thanksgiving Loaf (p. 15) <— way better than faux meat!
- Mushroom Gravy (p. 16)
- Thanksgiving Gravy (p. 16)
- Mashed Potatoes 12 Ways (p. 18)
- Asparagus Casserole (p. 19)
- Cornbread (p. 19)
- Skillet Green Bean Casserole (p. 19)
- Traditional Stuffing (p. 20)
- No-Sugar Cranberry Sauce (p. 23)
- Sweet Potato Casserole (p. 23)
- Fat-Free Pumpkin Pie (p. 24)
- Stuffed Acorn Squash for Two (p. 24)
- Pumpkin Cheesecake (p. 26)
- Rum Cake (p. 40)
- "Cheese" Ball (p. 46)
- Black Eyed Pea Collard Greens (p. 61)
- Creamed Kale (p. 65)
- Creamed Spinach (p. 65)
- Brown Gravy (p. 87)
- Beet Salad (p. 120)
- Savory Glazed Carrots (p. 123)
- Mini Pumpkin Pies (p. 27) << you read that right!
Happy Herbivore Light & Lean:
- Olive Gravy (p. 34)
- Classic Cornbread (p. 55)
- Butternut Soup (p. 106)
- Cajun Corn Chowder (p. 111)
- Chipotle Harvest Chili (p. 115)
- Pumpkin Chili (p. 118)
- Lemony Asparagus (p. 183)
- Easy Mashed Potatoes & Gravy (p. 187)
- Quick Gravy (p. 188)
- Everyday Mushroom Gravy (p. 189)
- Deviled "Eggs" (p. 203)
The Happy Herbivore Cookbook:
- Cornbread (p. 49)
- Sweet & Spicy Butternut Soup (p. 59)
- Garden Chowder (p. 71)
- 5-Spice Harmony Bowl (p. 122) (*perfect for those dining solo!)
- Seitan Pot Roast (p. 133)
- Torkey (Tofu Turkey) (p. 152)
- Baked Shells & Cheese (p. 156)
- Corn Pudding (p. 173)
- Mashed Potatoes (p. 190)
- Traditional Stuffing (p. 195)
- Cornbread Stuffing with Chorizo (p. 196)
- Dijon-Herb Green Beans (p. 199)
- Thanksgiving Gravy (p. 255)
- Cranberry Sauce (p. 267)
- Pumpkin Pie (p. 218)
- Pumpkin Cheesecake (p. 221)
Everyday Happy Herbivore:
- Glazed Pumpkin Biscuits (p. 57)
- Harvest Cornbread (p. 65)
- Quick Sweet Potato Soup (p. 94)
- Cauliflower Pumpkin Curry (p. 146)
- Greens Quiche (p. 152)
- Quick Pumpkin-Sage Pasta (p. 199)
- Roasted Carrots (p. 221)
- Rainbow Greens (p. 235)
- Apple Fritter Cups (p. 248)
Happy Herbivore Abroad:
- Colcannon (p.60)
- German Potato Salad (p. 63)
- Mediterranean Chard (p. 67)
- Savory Glazed Carrots (p. 74)
- Roasted Tomato Pilaf (p. 124)
- Asparagus Quiche (p. 162)
- Stuffed Acorn Squash (p. 254)
There you have it, folks! I bet you feel a whole lot more relaxed now, ready to take on your Thanksgiving dinner like a pro. And if you haven’t yet: be sure to download your FREE copy of the Thanksgiving Game Plan, where we’ve done all the organization and planning for you!
Download your FREE Thanksgiving Game Plan
Includes 10 recipes, a shopping list, and step-by-step game plan.