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!