Picture this. It’s a day before Thanksgiving and you learn that a surprise guest is coming to your Thanksgiving celebration and she is vegan.
“How the heck am I going to feed this woman?” you ask. “Do I need to buy a tofurkey and fake cheese?!”
I’ve been that vegan and no, you don’t need to buy a tofurkey and fake cheese for me. Most of us plant eaters will be happy sucking down a bunch of delicious side dishes, but to ensure those are dishes we can eat, you just need to make a few tweaks. You’ll not only accommodate any vegan who walks through your door this Thanksgiving — or any gathering for that matter — but you’ll keep your non-vegan guests happy, too.
1. Dip Dairy-Free
Vegans – and many non-vegans – don’t eat dairy, so when you are setting out your lovely plate of crudité as an appetizer before the big feast, include a dairy-free option such as hummus which is really easy to find at any grocery store.
If you are in the mood for preparing your own dip, you can try my Darn Good Dip, which looks like regular dairy-based dip. Kids and adults, and everybody has gobbled it up (pun slightly intended).
It’s made with Just Mayo, a dairy-free mayonnaise, scallions, fresh basil, lemon juice, garlic, sea salt, and ground black pepper. It’s not just vegan, but also gluten-free.
2. Put It on the Side
I would be boasting a vegan shoe collection that would rival that of Imelda Marcos if I had a nickel for every time I was at a gathering where cheese was added to a dish yet could have easily been left on the side. That goes for butter, salad dressing, meat, and more. So think of your guests — whether they are vegan or may have allergies or any other dietary need — and put it on the side.
For example, when serving salad, serve a non-dairy option that you might already have in your fridge such as balsamic vinaigrette.
If that isn’t handy, you can make your own dressing with ingredients you probably already have on hand. Try my Simple Salad Dressing which is made with vinegar, lemon, sea salt and black pepper and is a snap to whip up.
3. Hold the Butter
Holding the butter is good for all of us, not just plant eaters! So when preparing vegetables, instead of sautéing in butter, use canola or olive oil, or better yet, steam them. It’s the healthiest option, plus some vegans don’t consume oils. For those guests who must have their butter, offer it on the side as I described in Tip #2.
Not sure what vegetable to prepare if you can’t use butter? Try my husband John’s Easy Asparagus Spears. All you do is massage olive oil into asparagus spears, add sea salt, and broil the spears on each side for 5 minutes.
4. Replace the Cow with a Plant
If you are preparing a dish like mashed potatoes that traditionally includes cow milk, add milk from a plant, such as soy, almond, or coconut milk. You may already have one of these options on hand or you can buy a can of coconut milk or non-perishable soy or almond milk now to be on the safe side. And if you don’t use it, donate it to a food pantry.
Try my recipe for Moo-less Mashed Potatoes now and experiment with a plant-based milk you like. While we usually have soy milk in our fridge, I’m not a fan of it, so when I make mashed potatoes, I use coconut milk. And believe it or not, the potatoes do not taste coconutty and don’t make me feel as if I should be eating Thanksgiving dinner in a tropical paradise (but that is a lovely thought).
Finally, remember to serve butter on the side! If you want to purchase dairy-free butter, Earth Balance Buttery Sticks are easy to find. Other toppings you could add in place of butter that you may already have in your fridge or pantry include:
- canola oil
- olive oil
- diced red onion
- Old Bay seasoning (that’s a nod to my Maryland peeps)
5. Offer a Non-Dairy Dessert
While you are shopping in the freezer aisle for ice cream, pick up some easy-to-find dairy-free sorbet. It’s a healthy and light option for all your guests, not just your token vegan.
But if you want to get really wild and prepare your own vegan dessert, my Secret Chocolate Cake is sure to be a crowd pleaser for everyone at your gathering. The first time I baked it, my husband and two sons devoured it in an afternoon. I think I got a half slice.
What’s the secret in Secret Cake? Beets!
If you can, talk to your vegan in advance to discuss your menu and learn what she does and doesn’t like. You don’t want to invest in some vegan cheese only to learn that she can’t stand the stuff. Also, encourage her to bring a dish of her own that everybody will enjoy.
Let me know how it goes! Leave your comments below.