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Thanksgiving menu: Vegan, centerpiece-worthy recipes

These vegan recipes are worth a place on any Thanksgiving table.

More Thanksgiving menus: Make ahead | Last minute | Simple | With a twist | Americana | Cooking for two | Vegetarian | Calorie conscious | WaPo Favorites

Fennel, Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

This salad showcases fall’s freshest ingredients. It is light and refreshing, yet flavorful enough to sit comfortably on the Thanksgiving table with the stuffing, gravy and turkey. Because the fennel is a digestive, it’s nice to have this salad at the end of a meal.

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large or a few small fennel bulbs, with stalks attached
  • 1 medium head radicchio, cored and cut into thin slices
  • 2 Asian persimmons (such as Fuyu), peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted (see NOTE)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (sold in packs in the produce department), for garnish

Whisk together the orange juice, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a large bowl until emulsified.

Trim any fennel stalks flush with bulb, reserving some of the leafy fronds on the stalks to garnish the salad; discard the stalks. Cut out and discard the core of fennel bulb(s), then cut the bulb(s) lengthwise into thin strips to yield about 2 cups.

Add the persimmon cubes, fennel strips, chopped hazelnuts and radicchio slices to the bowl; toss to coat evenly with the dressing. Garnish with the fennel fronds and pomegranate seeds.

*NOTE: To toast the hazelnuts, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 300-degree oven for about 8 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to promote even (yet light) browning.

Squash and Apple Puree

This bright-tasting side dish can serve as an alternative to mashed potatoes and can easily be made vegan by replacing the butter with a vegetable-oil spread, such as Earth Balance.

  • 5 1/2 to 6 pounds medium-size butternut or acorn squash
  • 2-inch piece peeled ginger root, cut into 1/4-inch coins
  • 3 to 4 medium apples, such as Honeycrisp or Fuji, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black or white pepper
  • Finely grated zest from 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or ground cinnamon
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (see headnote)

Fill 2 large pots with 2 inches of water in each one; place each pot over high heat. Place a large steamer basket or pasta-pot insert for the squash, and a steamer basket or fine-mesh strainer for the apples (to keep the apples above the water, you might need to place the strainer on an upside-down bowl in the bottom of the pot).

Cut the squash into 1-inch-thick rounds or into quarters, and discard the seeds and stringy bits (no need to peel). Place the squash, flesh side down, in the larger steamer basket, along with 4 or 5 slices of ginger; cover and steam for 15 to 20 minutes or until the flesh is tender. (After 10 minutes, check the water level in the pot and add water as needed.)

Meanwhile, place the apples in the smaller steamer basket, or insert in the second pot along with 3 or 4 slices of ginger; cover and steam for 15 minutes or until the apples have almost disintegrated.

Transfer the apples to a large mixing bowl, discarding the ginger. Transfer the steamer basket or insert with the squash to the sink, discarding the ginger; let cool until just warm enough to handle, then use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the pieces and add to the bowl. Discard the squash peel.

Use a potato masher or an immersion (stick) blender to puree the mixture to the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the orange zest and ground ginger or cinnamon; mix well. Stir in the butter (to taste) in several additions, tasting as you go.

Serve warm; or let cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to reheat before serving.

Corn Bread Apple “Sausage” Stuffing

Feel free to make this moist, slightly sweet stuffing for the entire Thanksgiving table, not just the vegetarian/vegan guests. The vegetable protein sausage is a good substitute for the real thing.

  • 7 ounces vegetable protein sausage, such as Gimme Lean brand (or other soy sausage), crumbled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 3 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into small dice
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into small dice
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into medium dice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried sage)
  • 20 ounces (8 cups) dried corn bread stuffing
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, preferably no-salt-added
  • Kosher salt

Grease a large nonstick skillet with cooking oil spray, over medium-low heat. Add the vegetable protein sausage and stir to coat; cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until browned.Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large baking dish with cooking oil spray.

Heat the oil in the same (now empty) skillet, over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the celery, onions and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, then stir in the apples, thyme, dried basil and sage. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fruit has softened a bit.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the cooked vegetable protein sausage. Add the corn bread stuffing, then add the broth and stir until the mixture is evenly and thoroughly moistened. (A pinch of it in your hand should hold together.) Season lightly with salt, stirring to incorporate; taste and season again, as needed.

Spread the stuffing mixture evenly in the baking dish, packing it lightly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp on top. Serve warm.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Chimichurri and Almonds

Especially if you find a purple, orange or green variety, a whole roasted cauliflower makes a centerpiece-worthy dish for a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving.



  • 1 cup lightly packed cilantro stems and leaves
  • 1 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley stems and leaves
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons oregano leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  • 1 large cauliflower (2 to 3 pounds), preferably a colored variety such as purple Graffiti, cheddar or Romanesco
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (see NOTE)

To make the chimichurri sauce, combine the cilantro, parsley, mint, oregano, garlic, cumin, red pepper, vinegar, salt and oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until the herbs are chopped but not pureed. Taste, and add more salt if needed.

To roast the cauliflower, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Trim the bottom of the cauliflower stem so the cauliflower will sit straight in an baking dish or cast-iron skillet that just holds it comfortably. (Leave the leaves on, as they add to the decorative look and are tasty.) Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt.

Bake until the cauliflower is lightly browned and a skewer easily pierces all the way through, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size. Baste periodically with oil from the pan, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature, with the sauce and almonds spooned over it or served on the side.

NOTE: Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan as needed to avoid scorching, until they become fragrant and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate immediately.

Mushroom and Stout Potpies With Sweet Potato Crusts

These deeply flavored, satisfying beauties will make the vegans (or vegetarians) at your Thanksgiving table happy, because they’ll each get something special rather than being told to forage among the side dishes. Bake them in large (8-ounce) ramekins, individual cast-iron cocottes or even big coffee mugs.

  • 6 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil), plus more for greasing the ramekins
  • 4 large shallot lobes, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium leeks (white part only), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, plus extra thyme sprigs for garnish
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 pounds mixed mushrooms (such as cremini, portobello and shiitake), stemmed, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons spelt flour or whole-wheat flour (may substitute all-purpose flour)
  • 2 cups stout or other dark, heavy beer
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari or other soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease eight 8-ounce ramekins or the baking dishes of your choice (see headnote) with a little oil and set on a baking sheet.

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the leeks and all but 1 teaspoon of the thyme to the pot and cook for another 2 minutes, until the leeks are tender. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pot all at once. Cook until the mushrooms are collapsed, tender and glistening, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms, stir and cook for about a minute, until the flour no longer tastes raw.

Pour the stout into the pot, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the vinegar and tamari. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat until the mixture is gently bubbling and cook until the liquid is reduced and as thick as gravy, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the olives and chopped parsley. Season the mixture lightly with salt and pepper.

Divide the mushroom mixture among the ramekins. Layer the sweet potato slices on top, overlapping the rounds as you go, until there are 2 solid layers of sweet potatoes on each dish. Brush the sweet potatoes with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and sprinkle equally with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the 1 teaspoon of pepper and the remaining chopped thyme.

Cover the ramekins with heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake the potpies for 30 to 40 minutes or until the mushroom mixture is bubbling and the sweet potatoes are tender. Remove the foil, turn the oven to broil, and return the pot pies to the broiler for just a minute or two, until the sweet potatoes are nicely browned. (Watch carefully, so they don’t burn.) Garnish with the thyme sprigs. Serve hot.

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

SERVINGS: 8 – 10
  • 1 prepared graham cracker crust, such as Keebler’s Ready Crust Graham, 2 Extra Servings
  • 15 ounces (1 can) pumpkin puree
  • 1 pound (2 packages) cream cheese substitute, such as Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (plain)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the pie plate containing the graham cracker crust on a baking sheet.

Combine the pumpkin puree, cream cheese substitute, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, cloves and ginger in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender. Puree until smooth, then pour into the pie shell.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until just set; the center might jiggle slightly.

Cool completely, then refrigerate overnight or for at least 3 hours before serving.