The beauty of Thanksgiving is all in the food, especially when you consider the sheer variety of different tastes, flavors, and textures on offer. For your friends and family that have sworn off meat, though, that Thanksgiving table starts to look pretty bare once they realize that you’ve incorprated bacon fat, schmaltz, or chicken stock into just about every single dish.
If you’ve invited vegetarian (or vegan) friends to the party, you shouldn’t make them feel left out. There’s no need to whip up a Tofurkey or try to start experimenting with nutritional yeast-based cheese—just put a few sides on the table that vegetarians and omnivores alike can enjoy. These five dishes will all be great at your Thanksgiving table, and your vegetarian relatives won’t just have to subsist on rolls all day.
Carrots are a totally seasonally appropriate vegetable, so they won’t look out of place on your Thanksgiving table. In fact, if you use rainbow carrots, you’ll have a visually appealing and delicious dish. A few tablespoons of honey, melted butter and a healthy dash of sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce) will create a great caramelized glaze in the oven while your carrots roast away. If you’ve got vegan guests, substitute maple syrup for the honey.
When halved and roasted in the oven, halved acorn squash is a beautiful side dish that is served in its own bowl. Mix together nuts, brown sugar or molasses, chunks of apple, and butter, stuff them into the cavity of a roasted acorn squash, and drizzle with a healthy glug of olive oil before serving. Cheddar cheese and dried fruits (like currants, figs, or raisins) are also excellent additions.
If you’ve got a vegan guest, the mashed potatoes are probably going to be out thanks to all that butter and milk. Offer them a delicious alternative with a quick parsnip puree, made with olive oil and sage — two ingredients you’ll already have on hand this time of year. If you end up with leftovers because the rest of your relatives don’t know what the hell a parsnip is, use the leftovers to make (also vegetarian) parsnip “latkes.”
You might actually be able to fool your meat-and-dairy consuming Thanksgiving guests with this delicious twist on traditional mac n’ cheese that’s infused with butternut squash. The squash creates a creamy sauce that makes the “cheese” in mac n’ cheese optional, which is great news for vegan and dairy-free guests. You could, of course, also prepare the dish with plenty of grated cheese, milk, and cream if you’ve only got vegetarians in attendance.
On many Thanksgiving tables, the presence of corn pudding is mandatory. If it’s not part of your annual tradition, this year is as good as any. It’s already vegetarian, and perfect for those who won’t be getting their stuffing (or cornbread dressing) out of the back of the turkey. Probably best to just go ahead and double this recipe if you’re feeding a crowd — it’s going to be a hit with everyone.
You’re probably not going to have time to core and chop an entire head of cauliflower into florets, but most grocery stores have already done the work for you and sell convenient little bags that will save you tons of time on turkey day. Toss the cauliflower with plenty of red pepper flakes, salt, and olive oil, and roast until you’re ready to eat the entire pan before your guests even arrive. Get creative with the toppings based on what you’ve got in the kitchen — tahini and lemon juice mixed together makes a great dressing, or you could just sprinkle the whole thing with parmesan and lemon zest and call it a day.
Amy McCarthy is Paste’s Assistant Food Editor.
Main photo: Michelle@TNS CC BY-NS-NA