Vegetarian Thanksgiving main dishes, sides for your holiday spread

While the Thanksgiving meal almost always revolves around turkey, those who don’t eat meat don’t have to settle for a boring meal.

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, are taking a break from eating meat or are just not a fan of turkey, there are several ways you can make a tasty Thanksgiving spread without meat and without giving up flavor.

Vegan influencer Dominique Side gets it. She has been vegan for over 6 years and has gotten the hang of navigating holiday meals made for meat eaters.

“I usually bring something with me,” Side tells USA TODAY. “It depends on where I’m going. Some of my family and friends have really embraced the fact that more people are entertaining plant-based (diets). So, they’ve since made adjustments if they know they’re inviting me over, which is great.”

Side also suggests it’s not very difficult to accommodate plant-based diets this holiday season, it just requires a little bit of extra thought.

Here are some ideas and recipes to accommodate your vegan and vegetarian friends this Thanksgiving.

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Many classic Thanksgiving sides are already vegetarian (or can easily be made that way!)

Side says simple swaps have helped make many Thanksgiving dishes into vegan-friendly meals. For example, Side says the cornbread dressing she makes was originally seafood-based.

“But when I became vegan, I transitioned to using mushrooms in its place,” she said. “So when I make my cornbread, I use an unsweetened applesauce in place of an egg. Then I use plant-based milk instead of regular milk,” Side said.

Side even has a trick to make dishes that use smoked meat, like collard greens, vegan.

“I use liquid smoke to add to the seasonings when I’m doing dishes that I would ordinarily put smoked meat in,” she said, noting grains and beans.

Here are some more classic sides that you can make small tweaks to accommodate your non-meat eating pals.

Recipes for unconventional vegetarian sides

If you want to really impress your vegetarian friends, you can try mixing in some nontraditional sides to your holiday spread with these recipes.

Wild Rice Pilaf from Love and Lemons: Blending chewy, nutty wild rice with caramelized roasted sweet potatoes and umami shallots, this is the perfect meal if you’re not into turkey. The recipe can be customized to include your favorite veggies.

Citrus, Beet, and Arugula Salad with Halloumi Croutons from Food&Wine: This light and filling salad is sure to be a hit.

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Vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish recipes

Some holiday spreads could even swap the turkey centerpiece for a vegetarian or vegan entrée. Here are some ideas.

Broccoli Manicotti with Burrata from Feasting at Home: Pasta is a always a filling main course so this dish is sure to satisfy.

Tahdig With Cranberries and Herbs from Sohla El-Waylly, featured on Bon Appétit: This flavorful Persian rice recipe blends cranberries and woody herbs into a delicious dish.

Mushroom Wellington with Rosemary and Pecans from Feasting at Home‘s Sylvia Fountaine: This dish can be made in stages across several days, so you don’t have to rush to put it together on Thanksgiving Day.

Don’t forget the dessert

Desserts are often already vegetarian, but Side says many desserts can easily be made vegan simply by subbing regular butter for a vegan butter.

“Peach cobbler is my absolute favorite and probably the easiest thing to make vegan, and people don’t even know it. That’s really dependent on finding a pipe press that doesn’t have lard in it, which again is simpler than people think. Other than that all the other ingredients are vegan,” Side said.

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