Expert Tips on Hosting a Vegan Thanksgiving Feast From the Blogger Behind Sweet Potato Soul
Jenné Claiborne, chef and founder of the popular vegan recipe blog Sweet Potato Soul knows a thing or two about making a vegan Thanksgiving the whole family will love. Claiborne grew up in Atlanta around lots of delicious home cooking, but not around many wholesome, plant-based foods. You wouldn't catch her touching a fruit or vegetable in her childhood! Now she whips up fantastic, nourishing vegan dishes that show her Southern roots for her family's Turkey Day—just with a little creativity.
You can get a taste of Claiborne's Thanksgiving favorites at Whole Foods Market this month. The chef and blogger worked with their culinary team to create a vegan Thanksgiving meal for two available for preorder now, with dishes inspired by her upbringing, like spicy cornbread dressing and black-eyed pea fritters. Yum!
And for those of you (like us!) who love to whip up a big ol' Thanksgiving spread yourself, she shared a few tips for hosting a plant-based Thanksgiving with a little less fear and trepidation—from you and from the loved ones who may be skeptical about a vegan feast.
Stick Close to Traditional Favorites
When it comes to vegan Thanksgiving dishes, Claiborne is most inspired by her Nana's cooking that she grew up loving. Throwing a plant-based Thanksgiving is all about serving up comforting, cozy dishes rather than going too far out of the box. "I love making recipes and using ingredients that are familiar to my guests," Claiborne says. "It shows them that they can still enjoy their favorite dishes, just made vegan."
She suggests by starting with your favorite traditional Thanksgiving recipes and swapping out the animal products like butter and cheese for vegan substitutes in pie crusts, stuffing and all the other Thanksgiving classics. Field Roast sausages are one of her favorite meat substitutes, and we are huge fans of Miyoko's vegan butter for baked goods and sides. We swap out chicken or turkey broth for "no-chicken" broth in our creamy vegan Rosemary Mashed Potatoes and our Vegan Cornbread Stuffing.
Related: Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes
Find the Right Alternatives for Your Family's Palate and Recipes
Sometimes it's not as easy as swapping out cow's milk for almond milk. However, this gives you the chance to get a bit more creative in the kitchen. Try using similar flavors to what you are trying to vegan-ize, like mushrooms in place of animal proteins. Claiborne advises using fancier mushrooms, like oyster or chanterelle, to give your dishes a meaty texture and umami flavor. It's also worth looking into some products you may not have tried before, like nutritional yeast or miso, to make your own cheesy-tasting sauces and toppings. (Nutritional yeast gives a wonderful cheesiness to our Vegan Mac & Cheese.)
Making our Vegan Mushroom Gravy with shiitakes and oyster mushrooms will give you all the rich flavor you love in a more traditional gravy recipe, without any animal products. And green bean casserole lovers can still enjoy the creamy, crunchy goodness of this popular side, with our dairy-free Vegan Green Bean Casserole.
Related: The 10 Top Vegan Protein Sources
Have Fun Decorating Your Dishes and Table
"I recommend using bright and colorful ingredients to decorate the table and to cook with, because everyone is attracted to beautiful food," Claiborne says. "I personally like decorating with mini pumpkins, whole persimmons, split pomegranates and seasonal flowers and leaves."
She also loves elevating some simpler vegan dishes, like soups and salads, with flavorful, eye-catching or texture-boosting foods like pomegranate molasses, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate arils, edible flowers, microgreens, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil or a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Presentation is key for introducing plant-based dishes to your family!
If you're up to the challenge, we have a fantastic Vegan Thanksgiving Menu on our site, curated by our meal plan editor, Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D. This menu has you covered for everything from cocktails to dessert to ensure a flawless, plant-based feast. Cauliflower steaks, anyone?
Related: Watch Jenné Claiborne in our Veganize It series, in the episode Learn to Make Vegan Chicken Nuggets That Taste Like the Real Deal.