Cheap and Chic Vegan Cuisine: Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Thanksgiving springs from such a lovely idea. It’s the holiday where we’re reminded to take stock of all that we have to be grateful for. Not being a particularly introspective lot, however, most Americans concentrate on the feasting aspect of the day to the exclusion of all else. Somewhere along the way, the day became inextricably tied to one specific food. “Happy Turkey Day!” the cashier tells you. “Don’t eat too much turkey!” your co-workers say as they head out the door on Wednesday afternoon. Because of all the emphasis on the turkey and its trimmings, it can be difficult for vegetarians with non-vegetarian families to be comfortable at their family feasts. Thanksgiving is also the holiday where their vegetarianism is most likely to be an issue. Many of us choose to eat with other vegetarians instead of going home and dealing with “the bird”. Other folks are very determined to join in their family festivities, and bring along something veg to share. This article is designed to help both groups, plus any non-vegs out there with veg/vegan family members they are trying to feed.

The first dish, Cashew Nut Roast with Herbed Stuffing, is very rich and satisfying, and very easy to make. It contains cashews, which aren’t cheap, but the rest of the ingredients are, so it evens out. It’s cheaper than a pre-made veggie “turkey” and it’s much richer and more delicious in my book. I have made this several times and people always ask for the recipe. I’ve also included a simple mushroom gravy that can be served with the nut roast. As the nutritional analysis will show, the roast is not a dish to eat everyday, but it will knock the socks off anyone who thinks that vegan food is bland, dry, and uninteresting.

If you’d like something that looks more like a turkey, I’ve included a recipe for the “Great Gluten Turkey” that Miyoko Nishimoto published in her “The Now and Zen Epicure” cookbook several years ago. If you make it into a nice oval shape and get the skin smooth, it can look amazingly authentic (frighteningly so!).

A lot of folks like green bean casserole – you know, the one with the canned onion rings on top. Now, I’m not advocating the use of those fatty, full-of-preservatives onion rings, but if you want to make it or any casserole that calls for condensed cream of mushroom soup, I have the recipe for you! If you’re really going for broke, you can even make your own “French fried onion rings” to top the casserole by just slicing a couple of medium onions as thin as possible, dipping them in soy milk, then in flour (wheat, spelt, or rice) with a little salt added and deep frying them until they are crisp.

The mushroom soup is also delicious as a first course if you’re not making green bean casserole.

There is once again a commercial source for vegan marshmallows to top your sweet potatoes with! Pangea ( is carrying their own line of Vegan Sweets marshmallows. At press time, they are sold out, but they are supposed to be getting in a large shipment later this month (October). If you’d like to make your own marshmallows, however, they’re not difficult. I’ve included a simple recipe. (Note from 2007 – Sorry – this has been deleted until a good source of real, vegan gelatin can be established. Emes Kosher-Jel has gone down in infamy as the vegan gelatin that wasn’t vegan.)

Last but not least, I’ve included a cranberry chutney recipe that I adore. As one of the characters in “Pieces of April” says about cranberry sauce, “NObody likes it from the can!” Whomever you’re sharing you day with, Happy Thanksgiving!

General Recipe Notes: Several of these recipes call for “vegetable stock”. You can purchase veg stock in bulk, or use the Rapunzel Organic Vegan Stock cubes, whichever variety you like. I like the pre-salted kind, but I love salt. Use your discretion here. Also keep in mind that the nutritional facts will vary a bit depending on which type of stock, bread, etc., that you use. Earth Balance is always my preferred “margarine” because it has no hydrogenated fat.

General Large Meal Planning Notes: Test your recipes in advance. Read them all through carefully before starting. On the “big day,” have a game plan written out so that you can get dishes on the table at about the same time. Relax. Invite your guests to help. Be thankful you have friends and family to cook for.

Cashew Nut Roast with Herbed Stuffing

Recipe adapted from Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Christmas & PETA
Servings: 12
Preparation Time: 1:30

2 small onions
4 slices bread white preferred
1/2 cup margarine melted
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 cup parsley fresh, chopped
2 large onion chopped
1/2 cup margarine
3 cups cashews raw (unroasted)
8 slices bread white or whole wheat
4 large garlic cloves coarsely chopped
1 cup water or light vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (to taste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (to taste)
lemon slices
parsley sprigs

Set the oven to 400 F and line one large loaf pan with nonstick paper (or use non-stick pans); use some of the margarine to grease the pan and paper (if using) well.

For the most efficient use of your food processor, and the least clean-up, grate the onion for the stuffing first. Dump that into the bowl for the stuffing, replace the grating blade with the “S” blade, and grind your bread slices for the stuffing. You will have about 3 cups of soft crumbs. Add the crumbs to the stuffing bowl. Add the melted margarine and the herbs to the stuffing mixture. Set aside. (Don’t wash food processor yet!)

Using your food processor, chop the large onions medium fine. Melt the margarine in a large frying pan and saute the onions in it until they are soft and translucscent, but not browned.

In the meantime, grind the cashews in the food processor with the bread slices and garlic, until they form a uniform grainy mixture, then add that to the onion, together with the water or stock and add salt, pepper, grated nutmeg, and lemon juice to taste. Be careful with salt/lemon juice balance. (You can wash your food processor bowl now.)

Put half the cashew nut mixture into the prepared pan, top with the stuffing, then spoon the rest of the nut mixture on top. Press lightly and smooth the mixture. Dot with the remaining margarine. Stand the pan in a larger pan to catch any margarine which may ooze out, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned. (Cover the roast with foil if it gets too brown before then.) (Lisa’s note: I like my nut roast crispy and brown on the outside, so I bake it an additional 15 minutes or so. Be watchful, though, as the crust can go from brown to nearly black very quickly.)

Let the roast rest in its pan for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto serving platter. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley. Serve with gravy. Have copies of recipe ready for eager guests.
Notes: You can double this recipe and divide it equally between 3 small loaf pans.

Leftovers freeze very well. You can reheat slices in the microwave, or reheat the thawed loaf in the oven about 30-45 minutes at 350 F.

Per serving : 412 Calories; 32g Fat (67% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 478mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 1/2 Starch/Bread; 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 6 Fat

Great Gluten Turkey

Recipe adapted from: The Now and Zen Epicure, Miyoko Nishimoto
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 4:00

1 yard cheesecloth
2/3 cup Light Nutritional Yeast Flavoring (see recipe)
1 gallon water
1/3 cup Soy margarine or Earth Balance
1/3 cup White wine or additional stock
2 large Chinese bean curd sheets–
– aka yuba
6 cups Dressing of choice up to 8 cups
8 cups Vital wheat gluten flour
6 cups water
1/2 cup Light Nutritional Yeast Flavoring (see recipe)

Mix the flours, water, and Light Nutritional Yeast flavoring mix. Dough should be
firm – add more flour if it is not. Roll the gluten out
into rectangle approximately 15 X 9 inches, place on the spread-out cheesecloth, and loosely fold cheesecloth edges over the dough to meet in the middle (this is to keep the gluten from getting glued to itself during cooking). Then roll the gluten and cheesecloth up lengthwise. Roll the gluten a little loosely to allow for it to expand during cooking, but not too loosely or it will get soft and spongy instead of firm and “meaty.” Tie the ends and around the middle with string.

Place the gluten roll in a large pot with the gallon of water and seasoning and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Turn at least once during cooking. This can be done up to two days in advance. (If you make the gluten in advance, store it in the refrigerator in its broth.)

Prepare your dressing (see recipe below or use your favorite family recipe) and remove the gluten from the stock (which can be used for gravy). Unroll the gluten “turkey” and fill with the dressing or mound the dressing on the baking pan and tuck the gluten around it. You can even cut off a small piece and halve it to form “drumsticks”. Place those beside the main oval “bird”.

Reconstitute the bean curd sheets (yuba) by soaking for 5 minutes in warm water in a wide, shallow dish. They’ll turn white and pliable but will be fragile. Cover the cooked gluten roll with 2 or 3 layers of these. Brush the “turkey” with melted soy margarine on top. Mix the wine or stock with the remaining margarine and use this to baste while baking. Two tablespoons of the yeast seasoning mix may be added to the wine/margarine mixture for more flavor.

Place in a pre-heated 350F oven and bake for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours, basting every 15 minutes with the wine/margarine mixture and the juices in the pan. If it begins to brown too much, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Let cool for a few minutes. Carve and serve with stuffing.

Per serving: 514 Calories, 46 gm. Protein, 8 gm. Fat, 58 gm Carbohydrates.

Light Nutritional Yeast Flavoring Powder

Recipe By: The Now and Zen Epicure, Miyoko Nishimoto
Preparation Time: 0:10
Makes 1 1/3 cups

1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger dry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon taragon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 teaspoons sage
2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder

Pulverize all ingredients in a blender until powdered. Store in a jar in a cool place.
(nutritional analysis not available)

Great Gluten Dressing

Recipe By: The Now and Zen Epicure, Miyoko Nishimoto
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 0:20

2 tablespoons margarine or Earth Balance
1 large onion chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
6 ounces mushroom sliced
1 1/2 pounds bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons sage
1 1/2 teaspoons marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable stock

Melt the margarine in a frying pan. Saute the onions, celery, and mushrooms. Combine with the remaining ingredients, moistening with stock as necessary.

Per serving: 174 Calories, 7 gm Protein, 2 gm Fat, 30 gm Carbohydrates.

Brown Mushroom Gravy

Recipe By: PETA
Serving Size: 24
Preparation Time: 0:15

1 medium onion diced
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
5 tablespoons flour
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water

Sauté the onion in the oil until soft. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 1 minute more. Shake the flour, broth and water together in a jar and add this to the onions and mushrooms. Mix in the soy sauce and stir over medium heat until thick.

Per serving: 36 Calories; 2g Fat (37% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 481mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1/2 Fat

Everybody’s Favorite Cream of Mushroom Soup

Recipe By: adapted from The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook, J.Stepaniak
Serving Size: 4
Preparation Time: 0:30

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound mushrooms thinly sliced
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
4 cups warm water or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh parsley minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup soy milk not low-fat

Place the oil in a 4 1/2 quart saucepan or Dutch oven, and heat it over medium-high flame. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and saute until they are soft, about 4-6 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the warm water or broth using a wire whisk. Work slowly and carefully to keep the mixture from lumping. Then stir in the nutritional yeast flakes, soy sauce, parsley, and paprika. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in soymilk and serve.

Yield : 4 servings.
Notes: To make a vegan version of “condensed” cream of mushroom soup for casseroles, reduce the broth to 2 cups.

Per serving (excluding unknown items): 81 Calories; 5g Fat (45% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 763mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat

Cranberry Chutney

Recipe By: Vegetarian Celebrations, Nava Atlas
Serving Size: 8
Preparation Time: 1:00

12 ounces cranberries fresh
1 cup peeled apples diced
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dried apricots diced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup maple syrup to taste

Place the first seven ingredients in a deep, heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat with the lid slightly ajar for 20-25 minutes, or until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Add maple syrup to taste and simmer uncovered for another 5-10 minutes until thick. Let the chutney cool to room temperature, then store in a sterilized jar, tightly covered but not sealed. Refrigerate until needed. Before serving, bring to room temperature.

Per serving: 97 Calories; less than one gram Fat (3% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Fruit; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates