Why and How to Add Vegan Options to Your Holiday Spread.

Hint: It’s not just for the vegans.

Preparing the perfect holiday meal can be a daunting task, especially with more and more people choosing vegan, either full-time or just trying it out. Here are some reasons to make your holiday dishes vegan, and they are not just for vegans!

First: It’s good for the planet. Eating more plants naturally leads to eating fewer animals. Over time this leads to less fossil fuel being consumed to grow plants that only feed animals destined for food.

Second: colorful dishes will impress your guests. The fruits and vegetables of the season, and those traditional holiday meals, are literally all the colors of the rainbow! Cranberries, apples, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, brussels sprouts, beets, eggplant, and cauliflower will make your table more vibrant and exciting.

Third: Curb the holiday bloat! Vegan versions of customary dishes are still tasty, but don’t lead to the celebration meal hangover. Eating animal-free will improve the cholesterol of your guests. People tend to gain weight during these months due to high-calorie foods, so try versions with reduced sugar, salt, and fat to reduce the bloated feeling. Your guests will appreciate it! Their New Year’s resolutions are just around the corner and may include going vegan!

Finally, you can be a hero to your vegan guests. Members of your family and friends may want to eat vegan without drawing attention to themselves. Even though holiday foods are special, vegans still want to eat vegan and will appreciate that you made vegan dishes without being asked.

How to Easily Add Vegan Options to Your Holiday Spread

While this may seem daunting to some, cooking vegan is easier than you think. Here are some tips to get you started. Change does not have to be hard, so embrace your creativity!

First, brush up on what vegan is (and what it isn’t). Vegans eat everything that comes from plants, including beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables, plus they eat mushrooms which are fungi, and some minerals such as salt. They don’t eat anything that is from an animal, whether blatant, such as meat, fish, poultry, or harder to know categories, such as all the words used in dairy: milk, cheese, casein, whey, and more. Eggs, gelatin, and honey are also products from animals.

To begin, start with side dishes. It’s easy to make a vegan version of most holiday side dishes with a simple switch of ingredients, while keeping the classic flavors by using familiar herbs and spices. The best part is most guests will never notice! Then, pick one vegan main dish, even if you simply buy vegan burgers and stack them creatively with a garnish of fresh parsley! Finally, choose a dessert to round out the meal.

To find recipes, just do an online search for “vegan” with the name of what you desire to prepare, or start with links to recipes on AmericanVegan.org blog: sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, twice baked potatoes, potato au gratin, dressing, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, roasted brussels sprouts, stuffed artichokes, roasted carrots, fennel casserole, split pea soup, biscuits, rolls, cornbread, corn pudding, cheesy corn casserole, mac and cheese, spinach-artichoke dip, cranberry sauce, pasta salad, and minestrone soup, just to name a few.

Prepare a vegan main dish. Instead of, or in addition to the traditional main dish, try these vegan options: Tofurky, BBQ seitan, shepherd’s pie, vegan meatloaf, cauliflower steak, vegan lasagna, pasta with roasted vegetables, bean burgers with gravy, and acorn squash stuffed with quinoa pilaf.

Remember dessert. Simple ingredient swaps make converting desserts to vegan a cinch. Try out these classics: pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, shoofly pie, oatmeal-raisin cookies, apple strudel, rice pudding, coffeecake, chocolate cupcakes, baked apples, pumpkin cake, cinnamon rolls, poached pears, stuffed dates, and vanilla or chocolate cake.

One final reason to consider vegan dishes at your holiday table: vegan options can be easier and quicker to prepare. You may find you like vegan options better than nonvegan ones. When you know a vegan will be joining your celebration, you can confidently go through this holiday with the knowledge that vegan or not, everyone will be eating well at your table.

Photo: courtesy of Vegan Chef Lenka Catering