Welcoming Vegetarians to Your Thanksgiving Table

You've got vegetarians coming over for Thanksgiving dinner -- what should you serve them?
By: Janel Ovrut Funk
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A 2008 study called Vegetarianism in America, published by Vegetarian Times, showed that 7.3 million people, and growing, follow a vegetarian diet. That means that there’s a good chance a vegetarian may be coming to your Thanksgiving dinner this month. If you’re not a vegetarian, you may be wondering how to accommodate an herbivore while keeping your favorite foods on the table. With a few simple recipe tweaks, you’ll be able to please both the meat and non-meat eaters alike without having to overhaul your entire menu.

Vegetable broth – When cooking recipes that call for chicken or beef stock, like in recipes for soups, stews, and casseroles, simply swap it for vegetable broth. Most of the flavors in both meat and veggie broths come from the spices anyway, so you won’t notice the flavor change one bit. A nice bonus is that it takes far less time to make a vegetable broth than a chicken or beef broth if you’re preparing it from scratch!

Dairy – If your vegetarian guests also don’t eat dairy, swap out the milk and butter for non-dairy replacements like soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and dairy-free spreads like Earth Balance Soy or Coconut spread.

Stuffing – Set some stuffing aside that hasn’t actually been, er, stuffed in the bird. To amp up the filling factor of your bread-based stuffing, you could add toasted nuts and dried fruit.

Omit the meat – If you’re using meat as more of a garnish for certain dishes, like bacon bits on a veggie side dish, keep them on the side for guests to sprinkle on if they wish.

If you have favorite meat-based dishes that you can’t possibly do without, just make sure to have enough well-rounded vegetarian dishes to satisfy all of your guests. Ask your guests ahead of time what they will or will not eat. Many people who call themselves vegetarians have different guidelines when it comes to eating poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Knowing what you can serve in advance will help make menu planning easier and you can rest assured knowing everyone will enjoy your Thanksgiving feast.

Here's a completely meatless menu; sub in meat dishes as needed if you're serving a mixed crowd.

Even though everyone in my family enjoys meat, Thanksgiving is still one of my favorite holidays and I always find plenty to eat. This year I’ll be bringing my 3-ingredient vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for dessert – a total crowd pleaser!

TELL US: What’s your favorite veg-friendly Thanksgiving dish?

Janel Ovrut Funk, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Eat Well with Janel, and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel.  Catch up on her previous posts here.

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