No Turkey, No Problem: A Meatless Thanksgiving

by Veronique Wojcik

Turkey once had a very permanent place on everyone’s family tables at Thanksgiving. But now, more and more people in the United States are turning towards plant-based options for a variety of reasons, from prioritizing their health to trying to lessen their impact on the environment. About 1 in 4 Americans have cut back on eating meat, and young adults are more likely to choose plant-based options. Overall meat consumption is declining, and there are 8 million Americans who follow some type of plant-focused diet, whether it be vegetation, vegan, or even pescatarian. Good thing there are endless options for your meatless Thanksgiving dinner, ranging from replacing the turkey with a mushroom wellington alternative or further spicing up your side dishes.

Going meatless this Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you will have to sacrifice the flavors of your usual beloved bird. There are tons of turkey alternatives on the market nowadays. Your central turkey dish can even be replaced by a variety of main dishes instead, such as a mushroom wellington or a lentil shepherd’s pie. New York Times Cooking has a great recipe for a mushroom wellington by Alexa Weibel. The recipe uses portabella mushrooms, giving it a beautiful umami flavor mixed with a flaky crust. With all these amazing flavors, you won’t even be thinking about turkey.

However, if your heart is set on having your main dish be somewhat similar to turkey, there are many turkey alternatives variations on the market. One great option is Quorn’s meatless roast. It has a mild flavor with a texture very similar to turkey. There is also Tofurkey’s holiday feast roast, which is made of tofu and wheat with a wild rice stuffing in the center. Or, if you are more interested in a home-cooked version, homemade tofu turkeys are just as great of an option! 

While some of your favorite sides may be dependent on a meat component, don’t worry. Classic mashed potatoes with a river of gravy won’t be missing anything with the multitude of great mushroom gravy recipes available online. Some of the best vegetarian mushroom gravies come from New York Times Cooking and Martha Stewart. Melissa Clark’s vegan recipe on NYT is wonderful because her ingredients combine portobello mushrooms, soy sauce and vegetable stock to blend into an umami flavor that will mirror your favorite classic gravy. Martha Stewart takes a similar but more advanced take. She uses three types of mushrooms – portobello, shitake, and cremini – to add a more balanced, in-depth flavor.  

If turkey is completely out of the picture with no replacement, don’t stress. There are many side dishes or desserts that shine just as brightly at your Thanksgiving feast. The options for side dishes are endless; depending on your favorite flavor profile, you can add citrus-glazed sweet potatoes, balsamic brussels sprouts, mac and cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and more! The options are endless, and if you are blanking on sides this year, check out New York Times Cooking and Bon Appetit. You can also spice up your classic desserts by trying a pumpkin flan, an apple-walnut upside cake, or even a pumpkin tahini mousse cake. 

With many options right within your reach, this Thanksgiving will be anything but empty without the turkey. Meatless Thanksgivings are an opportunity to try many exciting alternatives and recipes by your favorite food magazines. Whether it be a replacement with tofurkey or the addition of a pumpkin tahini mousse cake, your plate and your stomach will be satisfied.

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