The Vegetarian’s Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, no contest. I love having my entire family over to my parents’ house, sipping pumpkin beer with my cousins around a fire, eating buttery rolls and gorging myself on dessert – and it’s the starting point to the Christmas season! Thanksgiving is truly the perfect day. However, Thanksgiving can be difficult for a vegetarian – that is, if you don’t want to fill up on side dishes, dessert and wine. I’ve certainly spent plenty of Thanksgiving dinners with a plate piled high with mashed potatoes and corn, but I’ve come to realize that there are so many protein-filled options for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike to enjoy during holiday dinners.


When the term “vegetarian Thanksgiving” comes up, many people just think of Tofurky – a tofu and soy stand-in for the Thanksgiving guest of honor. While it’s certainly an option, I’m not a huge fan of relying on fake meat substitutes. I prefer to look for a mix of vegetarian alternatives to Thanksgiving classics and new recipes that might not a be a part of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner spread, but bring something exciting and delicious to the table (pun intended).

One such recipe is Baked Butternut Squash-and-Cheese Polenta. While you probably won’t see it on every Thanksgiving dinner table, this dish is warm and savory like every good Thanksgiving dish should be. This dish works wonderfully as a main course for vegetarians avoiding the turkey, or as a tasty side for meat-eaters. This recipe calls for pine nuts, which is an excellent protein boost.


Another dish that serves well as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish is Shepherd’s Pie. This is the dish I’m most excited to try out this Thanksgiving. While Shepherd’s Pie traditionally calls for ground beef, this recipe replaces beef with lentils. Lentils are a great, natural protein source. This particular recipe is vegan, but I intend to add cheese because its my utmost belief that everything is better with cheese.


One unexpected way to get some extra protein in this Thanksgiving is with dessert. Dessert isn’t usually the go-to choice for nutritional value, but by substituting typical ingredients it’s a great option for vegetarians. I’ve written in the past that chickpeas are vegetarian godsends, and that is true for protein-filled desserts as well. From dark chocolate brownies to various types of muffins, there are practically endless ways to incorporate chickpeas into a delicious dessert full of protein this Thanksgiving.


If you’re not fond of chickpeas, Greek yogurt is another spectacular source of protein that can be used in dessert recipes. You can use Greek yogurt to make a delicious frosting (maybe for those chickpea muffins listed above) or in a pumpkin cheesecake that is sure to be a big rival to the traditional pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving.


This Thanksgiving, we vegetarians have no need to confine ourselves to heaping piles of mashed potatoes, corn and rolls. There are so many delicious options for vegetarians full of protein to make this Thanksgiving even more delicious and wonderful than it already is!

The Vegetarian’s Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner

Garbanzo Bonanza: Why Chickpeas are a Vegetarian Godsend

As a vegetarian of almost five years, I’ve come to develop a huge love of garbanzo beans. They’re delicious, full of protein, inexpensive and so versatile. The options with chickpeas are practically endless.

Firstly, garbanzo beans make an absolutely fantastic meat substitute in a lot of recipes. For example, the first time I went to the music festival Bonnaroo in 2014, I was at a loss for what to pack in my cooler. Quick and protein-filled food is a must if you want to grab a bite between shows and not pay $8 for a noodle bowl when you’re camping for five days in the Tennessee sun. Most people’s go-to lunch is a turkey sandwich, which isn’t an option for me. I turned to Google and could not have been happier with what I found. Three words: Chickpea Sandwich Filler. This recipe changed my life. Before becoming a vegetarian I was a big fan of chicken salad sandwiches, and even more so, the convenience of chicken salad sandwiches. Having the ability to make a big batch of this chickpea salad to have for the whole week or take camping is amazing. Furthermore, chickpeas have such a hardy taste that this sandwich is so filling.


While a lot of people like chicken salad, its not quite the crowd-pleaser that buffalo chicken dip is. Yeah, that’s right – vegetarian buff chick dip (cue the angels singing). I have spent so many years, Super Bowl parties and cookouts starring longingly at the buffalo chicken dip. Just earlier this year a fellow vegetarian mentioned that buffalo chickpea dip exists. I had to try it immediately and I was oh-so-happy that I did. I genuinely think that buffalo chickpea dip is even better than the original buffalo chicken dip, and I can absolute guarantee you that its better tasting than using a frozen fake-meat substitute.



In addition to being a spectacular meat substitute in the dishes mentioned above, I’ve found that garbanzo beans are also an excellent addition to many foods to increase the protein. I, like many other vegetarians, have a lot of trouble getting the daily amount of protein that I need. Adding chickpeas to what I’m already eating has really helped me with this. For example, when I make pasta with olive oil and cheese (a meal extremely lacking in protein) I add a can of garbanzo beans.

While delicious in meals, garbanzo beans are also an awesome stand-alone snack. Roasted chickpeas are one of the easiest and most adaptable snacks you can get. Whether you’re looking for sweet or savory, there are so many different types of roasted chickpeas. My personal favorite is cumin-roasted chickpeas, but you can basically use any spices you have laying around to make a delicious and protein-filled snack. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike can agree that there’s nothing like honey cinnamon roasted chickpeas.



All in all, chickpeas are truly a blessing to vegetarians. The options are simply endless with garbanzo beans. They’re a spectacular meat substitute, protein-filled addition to meals and an excellent stand-alone snack.

Garbanzo Bonanza: Why Chickpeas are a Vegetarian Godsend