Here are some guidelines to help you create the best menu for this year's Thanksgiving Day feast, so that THIS year will be relaxing and fun for you. The suggestions cover how many dishes to serve based on how many people will be coming, and all the things to take into consideration before finalizing your menu.
Guest List and Menu Planning Checklist Printables are included below for your convenience!!
First let's review the schedule for this short Vegetarian Thanksgiving email series. And I've added a link to the first newsletter sent out last Monday, for those of you who missed it! ⬇️
📧 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Email Series
Here's a quick look at the email series schedule that we'll work through together, so you won't feel like your life is being held together only by a slender paperclip.
Week 1 (October 17): Guest list and handling reluctant carnivores.
Week 2 (October 24): Meal brainstorming and things to consider.
Week 3 (October 31): Finalize menu and create a 3-week plan (with Printable Planning Sheet).
Week 4 (November 7): Activities 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.
Week 5 (November 14): Things to do 1 week before Thanksgiving.
Week 6 (November 21): Checklists for the final days leading up to the big feast.
Pulling off a flawless Thanksgiving dinner that you can actually enjoy is like a symphony. Everything appears effortless and beautiful on the surface, but behind the scenes there's a lot of hard work, and lots of advanced preparation.
Do I Really Need to Start Planning Thanksgiving NOW?
You may think, "yeah I get it, but I have paw-len-ty of time". I'm famous for this. But trust me, time will go at least twice as fast as you think. At least.
And if you're accommodating the menu to any food allergies and sensitivities of your guests, you may need to start planning earlier than you think. After all, you might need this extra time to purchase specialty ingredients online or in stores.
Left to the last minute, or even the last 10 days before Thanksgiving, speciality items may be out of stock at your favorite stores.
So get out a notebook, your calendar or planner, and a pen, and let's do some brainstorming for your Thanksgiving feast. Taking 20-30 minutes now will save you a lot of stress later.
Things to Consider in Planning the Menu
#1. Food Sensitivities
We talked about creating a guest list last week, so now you have at least a general idea of how many guests will be sharing your table. Now create a list of everyone's names, and list their food allergies and sensitivities in a separate column.
Common ones include issues around gluten, dairy, and nuts, as indicated in the below printable. GF = Gluten Free, DF = Dairy Free, and NF = Nut Free. There may be other sensitivities in your crowd, so feel free to add them when you print it out.
GUEST LIST PRINTABLE : just click on this link and print !
One important aspect of planning your Thanksgiving dinner party is deciding your budget. You can have a delicious meal with lots of options, and put together a gorgeous table without breaking the bank if you plan ahead.
In fact, eliminating the meat is generally a huge savings you're starting with right out of the gate. Especially if that meat is turkey.
The New York Times reported last week that Thanksgiving 2022 is shaping up to be a tough one for turkey. Between inflation and the fact that fewer producers are raising turkeys, home cooks could pay more than twice as much for a turkey this year versus last year!!
#3. How Many Different Dishes Will You Serve?
Part of the answer to this question is how many guests you will have, and how many leftovers you want. If you have family and weekend guests staying with you, you might want more leftovers than if you live alone.
Here are my rules of thumb for a table of 4 to ensure there's something for everyone.
- 2 appetizers
- 3 sides
- 1 vegetarian main
- 1 dessert
Here are my rules of thumb for a table of 6 - 8.
- 2 appetizers
- 3 - 4 sides
- 1 vegetarian main
- 1 dessert + ice cream
Here are my rules of thumb for a table of 8 - 12.
- 2 - 3 appetizers
- 4 - 5 sides
- 1 - 2 vegetarian mains
- 2 desserts
#4. Key Considerations Before Finalizing the Menu
So, where do we start in creating the menu? Here are some considerations, along with a Menu Planning Check List printable, that I've found valuable through the years, when sifting through recipes to create a menu.
- Consider your kitchen space for preparing and storing food ahead of time, and for cooking on Thanksgiving Day.
- Make the main dish a showstopper, especially for guests who might miss their roasted turkey.
- Include a core of family favorites. Make a list of those favorites.
- Plan for a variety of veggies, and steer away from those that are divisive. I've found in my own family, for example, that you either love beets or firmly believe they are a carrier for vampire cooties.
- Choose a mix of dishes you can make (or at least assemble) 1 week ahead, 2 days ahead, and 1 day ahead. This way, you can focus on just a couple dishes (ideally) on the big day.
- Don't experiment with too many new dishes. Going with a couple is fine, but plan a practice run with them to minimize Thanksgiving Day surprises (and meltdowns).
- Include dishes that taste great at room temperature, so you won't have to worry about everything having to be piping hot.
- Try to use special ingredients more than once. For example pomegranate arils.
MEAL PLANNING CHECK LIST PRINTABLE: just click on this link and print !
Pot Luck Note
If guests will bring dishes to share, decide which dishes, and plan to give them guidelines on how to make them vegetarian without losing their deliciousness, if needed.
A number of side dishes are naturally vegetarian, or can be easily made that way. For example, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, bread and desserts.
Or, if you allow some meat, they can bring pre-cooked bacon, for example, to sprinkle on individual servings of a dish for the meat eaters.
Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu Ideas
Now that we have that all out of the way, let's talk food!
The early focus at this point, since it's still October, is brainstorming the main and side dishes. Appetizer, dessert and cocktail planning can wait another week or 2, while you solidify the main meal.
Main Dish Ideas
I recommend at least one vegetarian main dish that everyone will share, depending on the size of your party. Ideally, it's gorgeous as well as delicious, since this is the star of the table. Bonus points for something (like squash) that includes stuffing.
Pleeeze say no to tofurkey, and make this meal about celebrating the harvest with fruits and veggies as the stars.
Below are some ideas to get you thinking. As a note, the stuffing for each of these recipes can be either entirely or partially made ahead, saving you some of that Thanksgiving Day stress we've avoiding this year.
Pomegranate-Glazed Hasselback Butternut Squash
Stuffed Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Fig and Apple Stuffing
Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce
Stuffed Cinderella Pumpkin with Greens and Cheese (Food and Wine)
Mushroom Wellington (Spruce Eats)
Fig Carrot Stuffed Kabocha Squash (Taste of Home)
Nutty Wild Rice and Shredded Brussels Sprout Stuffed Mini Pumpkins (Half Baked Harvest)
Side Dishes Ideas
Common Thanksgiving side dishes include mashed potatoes, sweet potato casseroles, cranberry sauce, dressing (also called stuffing, depending on where you live), green beans casserole, and Brussels sprouts.
Oh, and gravy. Lots of gravy.
Your family favorites may differ from this. For example, many people include a pasta dish.
Here are some of my tried and true favorites for our family Thanksgiving table. Most of them give you the option of making them ahead and storing in the freezer or refrigerator, or cooking them up on Thanksgiving Day.
Green Bean Casserole (Vegetarian Keto Low-Carb)
Butternut Squash Casserole with Apples (Crumble)
Perfect Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
Perfect Classic Potatoes Au Gratin (with Poblanos)
Spiralized Sweet Potatoes and Apples in Browned Butter
Boozy Cranberry Sauce with Pears and Raisins (this recipe was featured in Parade Magazine a few years ago)
Maple Candied Carrots with Currants (this recipe was featured on Food Network a few years ago)
Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Caramelized Onions
(Gluten-Free) Pumpkin Pie Spoon Bread
Next week I'll share a sample menu that I'd like to use, and a 3 week plan with printables you can use for your own menu.
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