Welcome to Planning a Vegetarian Thanksgiving. Maybe you're newly vegetarian, or just flirting with it. Or maybe you have family members who follow a vegetarian diet and you want to throw a vegetarian Thanksgiving to honor their choices.
Whatever your reasons, the decision has been made for a Vegetarian Thanksgiving - or Mostly Vegetarian Thanksgiving.
Whether or not you plan to serve turkey or not (to satisfy the meat eaters at the table), the key to pulling off the biggest meal of the year (and actually enjoying it) is to get organized.
From planning your menu and cooking it, to handling challenges to your dietary choices, this 6 - week Vegetarian Thanksgiving email series lays out everything you'll need, including printable schedule and checklists.
So let's tackle this holiday together like pros, one week at a time.
📧 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.
Let's get started!
🗓 One Month Ahead
Roughly 1 month before Thanksgiving, I recommend sitting down to plan your guest list and how you want to announce that you'd like to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving this year.
This means you also need to decide if you want the feast to be 100% vegetarian. For example, only allowing cheeses made with vegetable rennet. Condiments can bring surprises too, like Worcestershire sauce, which has anchovies as an ingredient.
Decide whether you'll make the entire dinner yourself, or if guests will be invited bring their favorite Thanksgiving dishes.
All this can be tricky landscape for Thanksgiving dinner, since it's a holiday steeped with long-honored food traditions. Some guests may feel that it's just not Thanksgiving without the turkey, or without Aunt Bell's special stuffing that has sausage in it.
So decide now on the path(s) you want to take. And read on for things to consider and ways to present a vegetarian Thanksgiving to the carnivores in your tribe.
📝 Create your guest list
Do you plan on having a crowd, many sitting casually around the living room? Or will it be a smaller affair of up to 10 who can sit comfortably around your table?
Will there be younger children?
Will some guests spend the night or the long weekend in your home, or at a nearby inn?
Would you like to host Thanksgiving at a rental house on the coast or in the mountains where everyone will stay and cook together? I did this one year to celebrate Thanksgiving and a milestone birthday, and it was fabulous fun!
Once you make these early decisions, and you've talked to at least some of them about a vegetarian Thanksgiving (see that section below), make it even more festive by sending either paper invitations or an evite. Even if you're planning on a Thanksgiving dinner for 6.
✅ Place your rental order
If you plan on a crowd, you might need to rent chairs, tables, extra glasses, plates or flatware. Rental companies get busy for Thanksgiving dinners, so it's best to plan ahead and get that order placed.
If you plan to rent a house as a lovely escape with friends and / or family, find a place that has a good-sized kitchen that's well appointed. And get it booked.
🌱 A Vegetarian Thanksgiving
It's possible not everyone in your crowd will be as excited about a completely vegetarian Thanksgiving as you are.
It's part of human nature to enjoy traditions rooted in our childhood. So many of us all around the world use dishes from our past as a touchstone to reawaken treasured memories. It's one of the things that unites us.
And that doesn't even include the annual contests in families of the newest, bestest way to cook the turkey.
So, if you want the vegetarian Thanksgiving you envision, here are some ways to present it to your family and friends.
🦃 Handling Reluctant Carnivores
- Float it out first to a few prospective guests who you think will be totally onboard. They can help create excitement around your idea with others who might be a tough(er) sell.
- Create a sense of adventure of trying something new, and discovering new traditions.
- Focus on the harvest, and talk up ways to use fall veggies. Fall vegetables are so whimsical in shape, especially squash, making them ideal main dishes and table decorations. (More about that in Week 5.)
- Provide ways to vegetarianize favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. And plant-based meats have come a LONG way in the past few years.
- Stress that many Thanksgiving side dishes are already vegetarian, or easily made so. Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles, rolls, and even stuffing. And as for the gravy, there are some great mushroom based gravies I'll share in Week 3.
- Plan a show-stopping entree, so that no one will even miss the turkey. (More about that next week.)
- Turn your vegetarian Thanksgiving into a cooking party, if your kitchen can accommodate that. This works particularly well if you all rent a house on the coast to celebrate together. This helps to make everyone feel involved, as some might not be as familiar with prepping some veggies.
- Set a theme. One year, a group of us rented a house on the California coast and had a Southwestern Thanksgiving. I got the idea in Sunset magazine, and we used their menu and recipes. Everyone signed up for a dish, and then we all cooked together in the big kitchen in the house. They were all familiar dishes, but with a Southwestern twist with peppers and seasonings.
- Stage a contest for most creative, most gorgeous, best tasting dishes with fun prizes.
- Present a food tasting of dips for veggies with several dips.
Bottom line, they need to be excited about having a vegetarian Thanksgiving. The novelty of it. Make it fun, so that everyone WANTS to do it.
Start your planning, and I'll see you next week as we brainstorm the menu.