Vegan Thanksgiving Survival Tips

thanksgiving survival tips for vegans

If you can’t or don’t want to have your own all-vegan/vegetarian Thanksgiving, chances are that you’ll run into some issues when the big day comes. Usually these problems sprout from two sources: food and family. (And/or friends, depending on your living situation!) Luckily, with a little preparation and some mental strengthening, it isn’t so hard to make it through such a meat-heavy holiday.

preparing food

The most effective way to change people’s minds about veganism, in my experience, is to show them that the food is amazing. People will eat just about anything, and when they realize it’s just as good as the standard dish, walls come down. (Or at least start to crack.)

If you don’t cook, eat before dinner or offer to bring snacks like vegetables, hummus, or crackers. Get yourself a couple of vegan thanksgiving classics, like a roast from Trader JoesTofurkyGardein, or Field Roast.

Offer to make sides. These are usually very minimal prep, are easy to make vegan, and nobody will really know the difference. Roast some vegetables in oil, like beets, squash, brussels sprouts, sweet potato, mushrooms, and more. Make mashed potatoes, heat up some corn, bake some rolls, or try your hand at a vegan green bean casserole. These will give you so much to eat and they don’t take much time at all to whip up.  

Bring a dessert! Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, chances are that most of the desserts at your gathering will not be vegan, so you’ll probably want something. As a bonus, everyone will eat dessert, no matter what kind, so you can show people that vegan dessert is just as good as the kind they’ve always known. We usually bring a pie or cookies, and I remember that at our very first Thanksgiving after we went vegan, our pie and cupcakes were the first desserts gone! :) If you’re looking for good dessert recipes, I would suggest Isa’s site for a wide variety of easy recipes.

If you’re not sure, or are lousy at prep like I am, get together some last minute/minimal or no prep foods. I’m talking about bringing a vegetable tray from the store, pickles and olives, a crusty loaf of bread, or a mix of nuts. (Pistachios are my favorite because they give me something to do with my hands when I’m in an uncomfortable conversation with someone.)

dealing with people

Speaking of uncomfortable conversations, let’s talk about when I first went vegan. Holidays were kind of unbearable. People asked me really offensive questions, they backed up their arguments with untrue myths, and they were generally excited by picking on me. Looking back on that now, I realize that I should’ve been the one to be more mature about the whole thing. 

My family and friends knew nothing about veganism, and their questions were mostly genuine and curious. Those that weren’t were from people who just wanted to rile me up, and now I can laugh their rude remarks off along with them. I should’ve been there to answer the questions, respond to the myths with information, and playfully insult my jokingly-insulting uncle right back. Think of thanksgiving (and christmas and new year’s eve and any other big holiday) as a way to bridge the gap between their understanding and your knowledge and compassion.

So the biggest tip I can give any vegan or vegetarian here is to not immediately react with anger or annoyance or shame. Prepare your words beforehand by educating yourself on any topic that might come up. (These bingo cards are pretty indicative of a Thanksgiving dinner, and most come with responses! And I also love Colleen-Patrick Goudreau's take on Thanksgiving for vegans.) Maturity and progress come from understanding. When you remember what you might’ve been like before learning about the animal industry, you might be more understanding of their stubbornness and incredulity. When they understand that vegan food isn’t as gross as they thought, or that some of what you’re saying makes sense, they might not be so quick to judge next time. 

This does depend on the kind of people you’re having dinner with - whether they’re extremely logical, very funny, open-minded, whether they’re activists or farmers or conservatives - you’ll have to keep your own situation in mind and apply your knowledge to your own group of family and friends. 

What specific questions do you have about dealing with big food-heavy holidays? (We have years of learning-the-hard-way and lots of time this week to help!) Or do you have additional advice for others? Let us know in the comments! :)

Muddy Buddies

vegan muddy buddies (aka puppy chow)

If you know anything about me (or at least take a look at our desserts section), you'll know that I hate baking. The thought of mixing flour and sugar and leavening ingredients in a bowl makes me break out in hives. On the other hand, I love eating sweets. I'd be happy to eat them all day long, as long as someone else made them. (Sorry friends!)

So to get my sweet fix, I often turn to no-bake solutions. Muddy buddies (or puppy chow, if you like) is one of the most frequent seen in our house besides homemade candy bars, because it's so easy to make and we always have the ingredients on hand.

If you've never made them before, or would like to have a quick and easy sweet snack for yourself or an upcoming holiday party, try this out!

vegan muddy buddies (aka puppy chow)

Ingredients

These can vary based on what you have in your pantry, what you like, and how coated you like your muddy buddies to be.

I like mine to be a little thinly coated because I don't like peanut butter that much (as shown in these photos), so increase the amount of liquid ingredients a bit if you want them thickly coated. Similarly, increase or decrease the amount of chex-type-cereal depending on how many add-ins you add in :)

  • 7 cups chex-type-cereal
  • 1-2 cups add-ins (anything you like! we use pretzels, candy, nuts, seeds, other kinds of cereal, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and whatever else we can find)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (check the bag's ingredients to determine if they contain milk, but most don't)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (you could instead use almond butter or cookie butter for something a little different!)
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter/margarine
  • 1-1 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar (see here for more info on vegan powdered sugar)

Instructions

  1. Combine the cereal and add-ins in a big paper bag or extra-large bowl. (The paper bag is infinitely easier here than the bowl, FYI.)
  2. Melt together until consistent the semi-sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter, and margarine in either a double-boiler, makeshift double boiler, or microwave. 
  3. Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal & add-ins, and mix to coat. If you're using the bag, just fold over the top and shake. If you use the bowl, stir with a spoon.
  4. Once coated, immediately pour in the powdered sugar and mix again to coat everything.
  5. Pour and serve! This makes enough for a party. :)
vegan muddy buddies (aka puppy chow)

DIY Vegetable Broth

diy vegan vegetable broth

Now that cooking-all-the-time season is here, I thought I'd share a short tip here for making your own vegetable broth. It's very simple and you can make a lot from it! Include the broth in soups, gravies, stews, and much more.

First, how to get the ingredients for this: we use scraps from other meals that have been frozen for this purpose. Get a plastic bag or container and fill it with onion skins, carrot and celery ends, leeks that are about to go bad, and whatever else you can scrounge up, keeping it frozen as you go along. This is the absolute best part of making your own stock - it can be free and no-waste if you like. Sometimes we add in fresh ingredients, like the ones pictured here that came in our CSA box. 

The mixture can really be anything you want, and should be if you're using frozen vegetable ends and pieces. You can certainly add or subtract ingredients here, but this is my favorite ratio for general use.

diy vegan vegetable broth

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 leeks
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 small potato
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • about 10 allspice berries
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • a couple of sprigs each rosemary, thyme, sage
  • 1-2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • water

Instructions

  1. Loosely chop up all the ingredients into a dice, except for the spices and liquids. 
  2. Heat a large soup pot with the oil in the bottom. Toss in the onions, leeks, and garlic and let them cook down until translucent, stirring every so often. (About 10 minutes.)
  3. Add in the rest of the ingredients and cover with water.
  4. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pot with a lid. Let cook on low for about 2-3 hours. (If you'd like to use a slow cooker instead of the stove top, do step two as normal, then put everything together in the slow cooker and cook for the same amount of time on medium heat.)
  5. Check the pot every so often to stir and add in more water if necessary. (Just keep the lid on and there shouldn't be much, if any, water loss.)
  6. When it's done, strain out all of the vegetables and spices and pour the broth into a sealable container for future use. When I really want to get a lot of liquid out of the vegetables, I'll sometimes add in another pot-full of water and cook it all over again, but you will get a less-rich broth this way.
  7. Refrigerate your broth for up to a couple of weeks, or freeze into ice cube trays and store in a sealable bag or container in the freezer for a longer storage time. Good luck and enjoy!