How vegans and meat-lovers can co-exist at the Thanksgiving table

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Whether you’re trying to turn your diet around or have been living the plant-based life well before it was on trend, you know that Thanksgiving can be a complicated day at the dinner table. However, with more and more African-Americans choosing to eliminate animal products from their diet, being an herbivore in a world of carnivores is certainly welcomed on this turkey-focused holiday. So whatever side of the table you sit on, may these tips and recipes help make Thursday’s dinner veggie lover-friendly.

One Big Happy Family

Whether you are the host or a dinner guest this holiday, the easiest way to make this annual dinner pleasant for both the plant-based gang and the meat-lovers is to simplify things. Meat is often added to holiday staples such as collard greens, but you can still have a flavorful side sans the ham hocks. Really trying to be a crowd pleaser? Then make two separate pots.

In regard to the sides that require extra creaminess — mac and cheese, sweet potato soufflés etc. — the vegetarian guests won’t mind the milky additions. However, the vegans will. An easy alternative to satisfy all is to use milk alternatives such as cashew or almond milk for these dishes. Or the easiest option of all is to just ask the diet-restricted RSVPs to bring along a dish. They are usually pros at making the above swaps flavorful and therefore most likely won’t be offended by your request.

Meat-Free Main Dishes

Starting with the obvious, yes, the turkey may be the main attraction on Thanksgiving day, but if prepared in a slightly different way, many other options can be not only plant-based contenders but also tasty main dishes. Tofurky is a popular one, but for those who don’t like faux meat options, this meatless loaf from Fat Free Vegan goes very well with gravy. The good news is that you will already have most of the ingredients on hand, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and quick oats.

Hide Behind The Sides

Since many vegetarians and vegans hide behind the sides due to their meat-free palette, this area of your menu is easy to recreate. For instance, by adding lentils to your stuffing like Minimalist Baker, you can instantly make this crowd favorite not only vegan approved but also super filling. Plus, it only has nine ingredients total. Or if you’re looking for a creamy and dairy-free mac and cheese recipe, Sweet Potato Soul has you covered with her Brussels sprout-topped version. Speaking of potatoes, any mashed version of this crowd favorite can maintain it’s creaminess with the inclusion of cauliflower and cashew milk blended in. Bottom line, vegan or not, you will love these animal friendly options.   

How To Cheat The Sweet Treats

Now, on to the sweet treats. While flour is a main staple in many pies and cakes, but using an almond or coconut flour will make most desserts gluten-free. Skip the honey and dairy products, and it will be a vegan treat too. This vegan maple pecan pie by Dessert With Benefits will have everyone fooled, and these maple pecan pie bars by Vegan Yumminess are just as delicious too. And don’t worry; if you want to make that sweet potato pie vegan as well, all you have do is try Sweet Potato Soul’s veganized version of her Nana’s recipe.

Don’t Lose The Booze

And last but not least, don’t forget about the spirits! Many people think booze is vegan or vegetarian-friendly; however, how and where it is made plays a big part in this. Beer is typically made from barley malt, water, hops and yeast and so is often suitable for vegans and vegetarians. However, wine requires a closer look — due to the “fining” process’ use of agents such as casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). Most vegetarians don’t mind this inclusion in the fining process, but vegans do. But don’t stress over what vino to serve on Thursday. Vegan wines are easier to spot nowadays, since most wine stores store them in a clearly labeled section. However, if your local winery does not, then VegNews has got you covered. But if you want to serve something harder, here’s some good news — every brand of hard liquor is vegan (except cream-based liqueurs of course).

Happy Vegan/Vegetarian Thanksgiving!

Robbie Ann Darby is a Texas-born, California-raised actress and dancer turned fitness expert. She has over 10 years of experience in the fitness and wellness industries and currently lives in New York City. Be sure to follow her fun and sweaty life on InstagramFacebook and Twitter for more RAD tips!