How To Do Thanksgiving as a Vegan

It's almost that time of year again where you get to defend your veganism to your friends and family! Last year was my very first vegan holiday ever since I had made the switch in late October 2019. I wanted to prove to my family that I could still enjoy all the Thanksgiving foods, but without all the cruelty. I learned a lot throughout my first year as a vegan, and while I can't stop the ruthless vegan jokes your family might crack at you, I can share some tips on how to help make this a delicious, animal-product-free holiday.

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Sponsor a Turkey... Or buy some chocolate

The internet is swarming with turkey facts each year, like how 46 million turkeys are killed for this one holiday alone. They love to cuddle, form strong social bonds, and have their own language with over 30 distinct sounds. Though while I chose not to eat turkey last year, my family still had a roast on the table. It was hard to watch and I felt like I couldn't stand by without doing anything. So to counteract their choices, I adopted a turkey!

Through Farm Sanctuary's Adopt a Turkey Program, I have made it a new holiday tradition to donate $35 each year to adopt one of their turkey rescues. And don't worry, you won't actually be adopting them and have a live turkey delivered to your door! It's just an online donation where the money goes towards their feed, shelter, and veterinary care costs. While they didn't send me a turkey friend, they did send me a virtual adoption certificate, which I printed out and hung on my fridge. And if you have a hard time picking which turkey to sponsor, then adopt the whole gang for a $150 donation instead!

Farm Sanctuary turkey adoption certificate

You can also sponsor a turkey from Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary, where you can virtually adopt one of their five turkeys for $120 (one-time) or $10/month, or one from Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary for $144 (one-time) or $12/month. Catskill Animal Sanctuary's Sponsorship Program is another great option where you can choose to sponsor a turkey for $18/month or annually for $216/year.

Trupo Treats Thanksgiving turkey Instagram post

Now if you want to get a little sweet treat in return for your support of rescued turkeys, then consider purchasing Trupo Treats vegan chocolate bars! They are offering a Vegan Rice Crunch milk-chocolate bar, and every Wednesday from now until Thanksgiving, they are donating 46% of their proceeds to a different turkey. And if you don't purchase on a Wednesday, 25% of their proceeds are still donated to animal rescues around the country!

And then of course there is the option to donate directly to a sanctuary that takes care of rescued turkeys. Most donation platforms allow you to add a personal note, so you can request that your donation goes to help their rescued birds. Here are a few reputable sanctuaries to consider:

No matter which sanctuary you decide to support, you can be confident that your money is going to help make a rescued turkey’s life as comfortable as possible.

What to Eat on Thanksgiving

Now that you've supported a rescued turkey and can feel a little better, it's time to talk about food.

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Last year was my very first vegan holiday ever, so I went all-out and made up my own Thanksgiving plate: homemade meatballs, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and mushroom gravy. All homemade, all vegan. I made everything in advance, then heated up a plate while my family was serving themselves dinner. It was pretty easy on the day of, but it was a lot of preparation in advance.

Making your own custom plate is a great option, but plan for at least 1 afternoon or an entire day of prepping. You can also go the easy route and make boxed mac and cheese, use the Gardein frozen meatballs or turkey cutlets, and instant mashed potatoes. I made vegan boxed stuffing too which was very easy and fast. You can make large portions to have leftovers if your family turns Thanksgiving into an entire holiday weekend like mine does. Also, make extras in case any of your family members want to try a bite!

Offering to cook is another way to go. If you love being in the kitchen during the holidays, then offer to take over one or two of the side dishes. It's a a fantastic way to contribute to the family dinner, and almost guarantees that everyone will have at least one vegan thing on their plates. Plus, your loved ones can see you in action and learn how easy it can be to make a vegan dish, which may inspire them to try a few new recipes themselves. Be sure to test the recipe out at home first so you know it'll be a hit!

Opting for a vegan roast can be an easy option, especially if you want to share your vegan dinner with a few family members. I haven't personally tried any of the holiday roasts yet, but after reading many online reviews, these seem to be the public's favorites:

Get Help from your Family

Vegan appetizer: Corn, Bean, and Avocado Salsa

I have been lucky enough to be born into a family that accepts my veganism and can be quite accommodating. Last year, I requested that at least one or two of the appetizers or sides were made vegan so I could enjoy them. After all, cooking an entire 3-4 course Thanksgiving meal for yourself can be a lot.

My mom made a wonderfully colorful corn and bean salsa with tortilla chips, and kept the feta cheese separate from the main salad. We also had a plethora of vegan crackers, chips, veggies, and hummus. I was able to enjoy standing around the counter snacking on some apps while spending time with my loved ones, and not stress about what I could eat. A few other dishes that can easily be made vegan are:

  • Cheese and crackers (splurge on some fancy vegan cheese spreads)

  • Chips and Salsa or Guacamole (already vegan)

  • Veggie Platter (serve with Daiya ranch and hummus)

  • Green Beans (use vegan butter or olive oil)

  • Roasted Winter Veggies (use vegan butter or olive oil)

  • Mashed Potatoes (use vegan butter and almond milk)

  • Sweet Potato Casserole (use vegan butter and almond milk)

  • Salad (keep any non-vegan toppings separate, and serve with a balsamic or vegan dressing)

  • Cranberry Sauce (this is usually already vegan)

Consider Takeout

Many vegan restaurants offer "holiday plates" for during the week of Thanksgiving. Check with some local vegan restaurants in your area to see if they're offering some special meals to go!

You can also run around to a few different vegan restaurants to collect your favorite dishes. Craving that creamy mac and cheese from the place across town? Go pick some up. Want those amazing mashed potatoes from the place by your work? Treat yourself. Picking up some takeout will obviously save you time and energy, which you can then spend on cooking up some other treats if needed.

Don't Skip Dessert!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (no coconut, no cashews)

I made the horrible mistake of not making sure there were any vegan options for dessert last year! I had to sit there while my entire family enjoyed pumpkin pie, cheesecake, cookies, and ice cream. I'm not a huge dessert fan, but when everyone else is eating some sweet treats in front of me I tend to crave them too.

So this year I'm not making that mistake again. I'm planning on making my Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie recipe since I know my family will absolutely love it. I have a few other holiday dessert recipes on my blog that would go over very well in any family.

If you're not one for making desserts or don't have time, a few store-bought options are:

  • Trupo Treats (share the chocolate bars you purchased that help sponsor rescued turkeys)

  • Sweets from Earth (they have lots of options, and you can purchase online)

  • Daiya Cheezecakes (surprisingly amazing)

  • Non-dairy ice cream (there are many options at lots of stores now)

  • Oreo cookies (a great accidentally vegan cookie, though some argue otherwise)

  • Takeout (check with your local vegan restaurants to see if you can buy some desserts to go)

Finally, Enjoy Yourself

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All vegan jokes and ridicules aside, Thanksgiving is meant to be a holiday where you are surrounded by your loved ones, celebrating things that you are grateful for. Sure the whole meal part may be a bit stressful, and I'm sure you'll have to dodge a few anti-vegan comments along the way, but the overall focus of the day should be on each other. Food brings many people together, but can also be a difficult area to navigate, especially if you are a single vegan (or aspiring vegan) in a non-vegan family. Just remember to come to the holiday prepared, brush off the jokes, and don't forget the wine.


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