The 14 Best Plant-Based Thanksgiving Side Dishes
It’s no secret that the stars of the Thanksgiving table are typically the side dishes. While the turkey (or a meat-free alternative) may be the centerpiece of the meal, it’s the side dishes that bring those satisfying tastes and textures that will have us sleeping on the couch just after the plates are cleared.
But what truly sets Thanksgiving side dishes apart from other holiday spreads is the use of seasonal fall ingredients. Butternut squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts, beets, potatoes, and cauliflower are in abundance and can be transformed into everything from soups and casseroles to tarts and gratins. These ingredients are also great for plant-based cooking, and their versatility can help round out the Thanksgiving meal, which can sometimes be a little, well, beige.
This Monday, start brainstorming some ways to incorporate some more plant-based side dishes into your holiday spread. We’ve got a list of tasty recipe ideas to spark that imagination, but we encourage you to think outside the box and get creative with your combinations.
This recipe for Buffalo cauliflower from Laura Lea Balanced is an excellent way to slip more vegetables into your Thanksgiving feast. The flavor and texture of the air-fried cauliflower is similar to a nugget, making it a good option for eaters of all ages. For the Air Fryer Buffalo Cauliflower recipe, click here.
No Thanksgiving table is complete without stuffing. Thankfully, making a plant-based version isn’t too tricky. This recipe from Build Your Bite gets its herbaceous flavor from ground sage, thyme, and oregano as well as copious amounts of fresh garlic. To really amp things up, use a rich vegetable stock and some good bread. For the Best Vegan Stuffing recipe from Build Your Bite, click here.
Macaroni and cheese is always a crowd pleaser. This creative recipe from Simply Vegan Blog uses carrots and potatoes—ingredients you likely already have on hand—to create a smooth, dairy-free macaroni and cheese sauce. Using vegetables instead of dairy can also help boost the nutritional profile of typically “unhealthy” dishes. For the Carrot Mac and “Cheese” recipe from Simply Vegan Blog, click here.
Another classic side dish, this dairy-free creamed spinach recipe from Loving It Vegan is smooth, satisfying, and totally plant-based. The spinach gets its creamy texture from a mix of coconut cream, vegan butter, and flour. A sprinkle of nutmeg, black pepper, and nutritional yeast rounds out the flavor. For the Vegan Creamed Spinach recipe from Loving It Vegan, click here.
A list of Thanksgiving side dishes wouldn’t be complete without mashed potatoes. This plant-based version from Simple Vegan Blog uses non-dairy milk and vegan butter to create a silky texture. But the real secret is adding cloves of garlic directly to the water used to boil the potatoes, which infuses the spuds with the essence of garlic. For the Garlic Mashed Potatoes recipe from Simple Vegan Blog, click here.
For a stunning Thanksgiving centerpiece, give your guests a feast for the eyeballs with this harvest vegetable tart. Using a cookie cutter helps create colorful leaves from all sorts of seasonal root vegetables, like parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. Assemble the ornaments atop the tart and fill the rest with a creamy vegetable medley. For the Harvest Vegetable Tart recipe, click here.
A properly prepared Brussels sprout is a taste you don’t soon forget. The tiny cruciferous vegetable takes very well to roasting, and its subtle vegetal flavor pairs brilliantly with sweet and tangy ingredients, like maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. This recipe from Sharon Palmer uses both, as well as cranberries, hazelnuts, and smoked paprika. The result is the ultimate blend of sweet and savory. For the Maple and Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Sharon Palmer, click here.
Let’s not kid ourselves, you can never have enough gravy. This recipe for mushroom gravy from Love and Lemons recreates all the meatiness and texture of traditional gravy using tamari, cremini mushrooms, and vegetable broth instead of beef or chicken stock. Make a jug of this stuff and pour it over everything. For the Mushroom Gravy recipe from Love and Lemons, click here.
Bring some extra fall flare to the table with this seasonal smashed butternut squash recipe. The addition of pomegranate juice and seeds provides a boost of sweetness and a bit of texture. This dish is also a little bit on the lighter side, which is always nice given the typical heaviness of the Thanksgiving meal. For the Pomegranate-Smashed Butternut Squash recipe, click here.
Add another appetizer to the holiday platter with this pumpkin curry hummus. The recipe is similar to traditional hummus, but with the addition of canned pumpkin purée and a teaspoon of curry spice. For the Pumpkin Curry Hummus recipe, click here.
Carrots give you one of the best bangs for your buck, but they’re also a breeze to prepare and make delicious. This recipe for roasted carrots from Feasting at Home is just the right amount of sweet, heat, and spice, using cumin, orange zest, Aleppo chile, and cinnamon. For the Moroccan Carrots recipe from Feasting at Home, click here.
For those unfamiliar with spoon bread, think of it as a creamier cornbread with the texture of bread pudding. This plant-based version from Make It Dairy Free is loaded with corn flavor, thanks to the use of corn meal, corn flour, and creamed corn (you can use canned corn if a vegan version of creamed corn isn’t available). Non-dairy milk and coconut cream contribute to the spoon bread’s velvety texture. For the Spoon Bread recipe from Make It Dairy Free, click here.
This recipe from Budget Bytes is a simpler version of the classic sweet potato casserole. Although it isn’t loaded with marshmallows, the crunchy walnut topping does contain a sweet combination of brown sugar and cinnamon. For the Streuseled Sweet Potatoes recipe Budget Bytes, click here.
Another crowd favorite, green bean casserole adds a nice splash of color to typically drab Thanksgiving dinner plate. This recipe for green bean casserole from Minimalist Baker achieves its creaminess by making a mushroom gravy of sorts, using mushrooms, garlic, shallots, vegan butter, and non-dairy milk. For the Vegan Green Bean Casserole recipe from Minimalist Baker, click here.
Click here for more Meatless Monday recipes. When posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.