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Vegetarian Thanksgiving: What to do for a Main Dish?

Updated on November 6, 2013

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving Can Mean Many Different Things

I grew up vegetarian, and always loved thanksgiving. I never felt I was missing anything by not eating meat. And now that I've seen other thanksgivings with lots of meat involved, I appreciate the fact that we weren't chained to the house tending to a turkey for hours and hours! The long walks in the crisp fall weather with my family on Thanksgiving are some of my favorite memories.

I offer a few ideas here about what to do for a main dish if you are having a vegetarian thanksgiving. And of course often there are a few vegetarian guests among many meat eaters, so these ideas can help make sure all guests have enough to fill their plates.

All vegetarians are different, but on the occasions I was the only vegetarian, I was always happy just filling up on side dishes and saving extra room for pumpkin pie! So depending on your situation, a vegetarian Thanksgiving might just mean that the vegetarians don't eat the turkey. But it can also be nice to have a special vegetarian main dish. I hope these ideas help!

Vegetarian Main Dish #1: Quiche

Personally, I think this is the best and easiest option. If you're making pumpkin pie (and for everyone's sake, I hope you are!), you will already be making or buying a crust. You can just use the same crust for the quiche. For the filling, you can get really creative and it's hard to mess up a quiche. You can also use many of the same ingredients you are using for your stuffing or for side dishes in your quiche.

Recommended crusts:

  • For a store bought crust that works for both pie and quiche, Epicurious recommends the Wholly Wholesome Organic Whole Wheat crust.
  • For a home made crust that works for both pie and quiche, there are tons of recipes online, including many that can be made vegan (generally using oil instead of butter).

Ideas for quiche filling:

  • Spinach mushroom - this is a classic quiche but you can get really creative with it. There is a recipe on 101 Cookbooks which is a great example. It uses onion, garlic, mushrooms - all of which I would also be using in a stuffing, but also some more creative ingredients like tofu, rice wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes. It doesn't have cheese, but that could be nice for a vegan option. There are also lots of other recipes online with cheese, which would be my first choice!
  • Tomato basil - this is a great quiche that is warm and filling. There are many recipes online. Again, there are many ingredients that are probably already a part of stuffing or a side dish.

Basic instructions for making quiche crust

Vegetarian Main Dish #2: Veggie Pot Pie

This is another great main dish option for vegetarians. It's homey and comforting, which is so important for Thanksgiving! And it also includes so many ingredients from stuffing or side dishes. It's a little more labor intensive than a quiche, because you might want to use the specific pot pie crust recipe, and you need to have the crust go over the top of the pie, so it's not as much of an option to use a store bought crust. But it might be worth it.

  • The classic veggie pot pie includes onion, mushrooms, garlic, potatoes, carrots, and celery. And it's easy to delete or add ingredients based on your preferences. It can work well (and be easy!) to make one big pot pie in a lasagna or casserole dish, so you don't need to worry about getting any special pans or baking dishes.
  • Ina Garten has a recipe online that is pretty decadent (but I didn't expect anything less from her!) and calls for chicken stock, but you can easily substitute vegetable stock. Personally, I think Thanksgiving is a great time for decadence, and I would go for her recipe.

This is not meat!
This is not meat! | Source

Vegetarian Main Dish Idea #3: Seitan (vegan)

The idea of seitan seemed very odd and unappealing to me until I tried it. Wheat gluten? Seitan? What does this even mean? But once I tried it, I loved it. I actually think it's a far better meat substitute (in terms of chewiness and heartiness) than tofu. I think tofu is as much of a substitute for meat as cereal is. But I digress. You can make your own seitan or buy it at the store. And it is probably the easiest in terms of almost completely overlapping with ingredients that would already be used for the turkey or stuffing, and not having to deal with a crust. It also has the added feature of being vegan, which can be a plus or a minus, depending on your guests. My family always loved loading up on the cheese, but some vegetarians don't, and if you have a mixed vegetarian and vegan crowd, this will work for everyone.

So Many Options, So Little Time

There are many other options to consider (lasagna, the infamous tofurky, casseroles), but I won't go into detail about any more. I think any of the above three would make a great main course, and sometimes more suggestions just make it harder to decide!

And if anyone else has any other favorites, please share in the comments!


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    • twoseven profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Victoria Lynn - Thanks so much for the comment! I am so glad it gave you some ideas, and that is the beauty of vegetarian dishes - everyone can eat them! They can make really nice sides to a meat-filled Thanksgiving as well :)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      The title caught my eye and made me curious. I'm not a vegetarian, but I love veggie meals. I love quiche and often make spinach quiche. I hate tofu, and I've never heard of the other kind. I love meat, so I'll keep eating that, but I always like learning about more veggie ideas. :-)


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