Easy Thanksgiving Dishes Made Vegan, Gluten-Free, and More

Dishes for vegan and gluten-free diners can be way more exciting than a pile of vegetables.

More and more people are passing up the turkey on Turkey Day, it seems. As people increasingly watch their waistlines, debate the ethics that surround meat consumption, or choose to follow a regimented food lifestyle, home cooks are seeking meat-free recipes for Thanksgiving. Similarly, the rise of allergy awareness like sensitivity to dairy products or gluten leaves common ingredients — and in many eyes, essential ingredients —  such as bread and butter off limits. If you’re in need of inspiration for cooking with alternate ingredients this Thanksgiving, RJC’s lead commissary cook Josh offers creative ideas for cooking for people who are vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free that will leave the whole table eager to discover your custom recipes.

I don’t ever use alternate ingredients in my cooking — I always eat meat, bread, and butter.  Should I be intimidated trying to cook for people with dietary restrictions, especially on Thanksgiving?

“You should not be intimidated at all! Instead of thinking of what you can’t cook with, think about what you can cook with. Think about the vegetables and fruits that are in season, think of things that grow locally, and think of what dishes go well with Thanksgiving.

What is a good substitute for turkey on Turkey Day?

“Unless you buy pre-made entrees, such as tofurky, tofu is still the go-to protein. Because it has little flavor on its own, I suggest a bake-in marinade made with a concentrated mushroom-onion stock, garlic, fall herbs (like sage, thyme, a little juniper, and/or bay), and a little oil. If you want to get a little fancy, you can wrap the tofu in rehydrated tofu skin, or yuba.

I only know how to make gravy from the Turkey juices in the roast pan. And I’d rather not buy pre-made, meatless gravy. How do I make vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free gravy from scratch?

“Vegetarian and vegan gravy is easy! You can make a roux with oil instead of butter, and if you want to avoid gluten, you can use cornstarch as a thickener. You can use a vegetable stock for a base, but my favorite base is mushroom and carmelized onion.

I go Paula Dean on my mash. What’s a good butter substitute for potatoes?

“Instead of enriching the potatoes with butter and cream, you can use extra virgin olive oil, and either almond milk or soy milk.

I traditionally bake stuffing inside the bird. It seems pretty obvious that in order to make a vegan stuffing, you just bake the bread, stock, and veggies in a pan. But I’m stuck on what to do to make my stuffing gluten-free.

“There are two ways to approach this. You can make a bread stuffing with a gluten-free bread, such as a rice bread or a 100 per cent rye. The process is very much the same — you will just have to be more careful not to over moisten the stuffing mixture, as it doesn’t have gluten to hold the mixture together. Secondly, you can make a rice-based stuffing, which by its very nature is gluten-free. The rice stuffing can also easily be vegan.

I promise to not add bacon to every dessert I make. How do I make my Thanksgiving desserts vegan and gluten-free?

“The easiest way to handle this is to look for vegan or gluten-free pie crust in your local grocery store. If you wish to make your own crust, there are also vegan and gluten-free recipes to be had, but bear in mind that it will take more planning in the shopping phase of your prep,  as well as a possible quality issue — replacing gluten in a dessert can be a finicky process.

Do you make a crowd pleasing Thanksgiving dish that’s gluten-free, wheat-free, or vegan? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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