Is a Vegan Thanksgiving Taking it Too Far?

Of all the holidays, I love Thanksgiving the most.

Alaska Vegetarian Society Thanksgiving Dinner

Alaska Veg. Society Thanksgiving Dinner

Some people think that sounds weird coming from a long-time vegan. Those who equate Thanksgiving with stuffing themselves with a stuffed turkey may wonder why I would even bother celebrating Thanksgiving. After all, what’s the point if there is no turkey on “Turkey Day?”

I remember a Thanksgiving over 20 years ago when my mother invited me to her home for Thanksgiving. I told her yes, I’d love to come. But I reminded her I wouldn’t be eating the turkey.

She already knew I was vegan, so I thought I was just stating the obvious.

Her reply shocked me. “Don’t you think that’s taking it just a little too far?”

I was shocked because she had been very accepting of my vegan choices until then. But traditions run deep, and my choice not to eat turkey felt like a blow to her sense of tradition.

But we all know that celebrating with family and friends, and enjoying love, friendship, and gratitude are at the heart of Thanksgiving. There is no reason we can’t enjoy this celebration while maintaining our commitment to health and compassion.

I’ll admit that I like tradition, too. It helps me feel connected to people across time and space. But I now know I can enjoy the good parts without compromising my values.

I’ll share what we do, and I invite you to borrow my ideas and add your own.

We get together with about 50 people to enjoy a very traditional-style Thanksgiving dinner — only it is vegan! Our celebration is hosted by the Alaska Vegetarian Society, and this year is our 11th annual vegan Thanksgiving.

Vegan Holiday Roast

Holiday Roast

Instead of turkey, we make our own holiday roast with stuffing. It’s delicious, and makes a wonderful centerpiece dish. You don’t have to make your own – – you can purchase a Tofurky.

Our feast includes mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, yams, cranberries, salads, fruit salad, cooked veggies, hot rolls, fresh out of the oven and pumpkin pie with whipped topping.

There’s nothing missing from this delicious feast except the unhealthy saturated fat and animal suffering.

Another idea for a centerpiece dish is stuffing a pumpkin, or you can make individual servings by stuffing a small squash.

I’ve found that non-vegans enjoy this meal very much, so don’t feel compelled to offer meat to guests at your home when you’re the host.

When you are a guest at someone else’s home, be sure to let them know in advance it you are eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. You can offer to bring a dish or two, which will make it easier on your host as well as making sure you have some healthy choices there.

Just remember that the main purpose in getting together with friends and family is to share time, stories, love, and laughter. Don’t let food get in your way of connecting with others. At the same time, don’t let other people’s food choices dictate what you’ll choose to eat.

Being conscious and committed about our food choices is one of the challenges of the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving. But being clear about our priorities makes it much easier.

What are some ways you’ve found to stay committed to healthy and compassionate choices?
What has worked?
What hasn’t worked so well?
We can all get ideas from each other, so please join the conversation.




13 Responses to Is a Vegan Thanksgiving Taking it Too Far?

  1. Jean November 14, 2013 at 2:55 PM #

    Hi, Delisa,

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful traditions for Thanksgiving! We will be hosting a Food for Life potluck on the Sunday before Thanksgiving where folks can bring any low-fat vegan dishes that they choose. We usually enjoy a mix of holiday and regular foods.

    Perhaps I may bring your roast this year as it’s just so beautiful. Do you have any experience with gluten-free stuffing? I make a gluten-free cornbread that is delicious – wonder if it would work for the stuffing in this recipe?

    • Delisa Renideo November 14, 2013 at 3:45 PM #

      Hi Jean,

      I haven’t made a gluten-free dressing, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t be just as good in this holiday roast as it is anywhere else. After you try it, let me know how it turns out!

      I used to make the roast with 5 blocks of tofu, but that makes a huge roast. So now I use 4 blocks. And I taste the mixture as I mash it up and adjust the seasonings to suit me.

      • Jean November 16, 2013 at 7:17 AM #

        Hi, Delisa,

        I just found this recipe for a quinoa dressing that sounds really interesting so I may try that in the turkey roast.

        By the way when you make your roast for a potluck, how do you keep it warm? Thanks!

        • Jean November 16, 2013 at 7:18 AM #

          Oops – forgot the link: here is is:

          • Delisa Renideo November 17, 2013 at 8:10 PM #

            Mmmmm! This looks really good! Let me know how it turns out!

        • Delisa Renideo November 17, 2013 at 8:09 PM #

          Hi Jean,
          I put a bowl over the top of the roast to protect it, then cover it with a heated pad (I make my own using rice in a sock, and then heat it in the microwave. It holds the heat well.) and then put it in an ice chest. You can also wrap the warm roast (and sock) in a couple of thick towels and put this all in a cardboard box. It will stay warm for a couple of hours.

  2. jane November 14, 2013 at 8:17 PM #

    i’m going to make a turkey in bread. and slice it and put a vegetarian gravey on it. that will be a mixure of wild mushrooms, onions, garlic and flour thickening. I decided to go vegtetarian in May and haven’t had any animal procuct since then. I lost 10 lbs and feel great.

  3. Delisa Renideo November 14, 2013 at 8:19 PM #

    That’s fantastic! Isn’t is wonderful to lose weight so easily, and feel better, when you choose a plant-based diet?

    So are you baking a loaf of bread in the shape of a turkey? Or how are you making the turkey out of bread? I’m very curious . . .

  4. Jaime November 14, 2013 at 9:02 PM #

    I share whatever food I’m eating with my dog. She generally hates it when I choose vegan, but for some reason she absolutely loves the Tofurky roasts.

    • Delisa Renideo November 14, 2013 at 9:06 PM #

      I’m surprised your dog usually “hates vegan.” My dog, Heidi, comes running as soon as I start making a salad or chopping cabbage for our morning cabbage and kale dish. But I’m glad your dog likes Tofurky! Is that what you’re having for Thanksgiving this year?? ? ?

      • Jaime November 14, 2013 at 9:23 PM #

        I’m not sure about Thanksgiving, but it’s what I’m having for dinner right now :)

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