Talking Tofurky: When Vegetarians Come to Your Thanksgiving Dinner

November 19, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Article Print This Post Print This Post

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Thanksgiving is a time for family and feasting. In most households, the turkey is the spotlight in the middle of the table. And, when you’ve got a non-meat eater at table, some cooks get thrown into a panic because they have trouble thinking beyond the turkey. I’ve written about it before and I’ve written about it again, but it continues to be one of the most frequent questions I get: I’ve got a vegetarian coming over for dinner, what do I do?

I understand completely, cooking outside your comfort zone can be daunting. To have to whip up new things that are pleasing for a crowd can make anyone anxious. Trust me, the last thing the vegetarian wants to do is make you nervous about serving them or make you have to go through extra work. With just a few small adjustments, considerations and changes you’ll be A-OK. And, you’ll make it through the holiday just fine.

  • Find out early in your planning process what “kind” of vegetarian they are. Some will eat eggs, some will not. You’ll also need to find out if they are a vegan so you can make further adjustments to your cooking. It may seem like a daunting question, but the answer you get will help you focus on what you’ll need to prepare for. It’s basically equivalent to finding out that Uncle Bernie is allergic to walnuts or Grandma is a diabetic.
  • Ask the vegetarian what they like most about the Thanksgiving meal and ask them for their favorite recipes.  I’m sure they’d be glad to share. In fact, if feasible, I bet they’d love to contribute something to the meal. The more non-meat dishes you have on the table the better!
  • Remember that vegetarian and vegan food is edible, interesting and delicious. The other people at the table will also be eating it, as well. I say that because you need to be mindful of portions. As a vegetarian, side dishes for omnivores become our main dishes. That said, try to steer the meat-free dishes first to the vegetarian so that they can get enough on their plate. I’ve gotten worried a couple times when the vegetarian dish rolls around the table and hits me last leaving me to scrape out a couple spoonfuls.
  • Don’t blindly invest in a Tofurky. While they may be a whimsical and fun item, they really are a matter of taste and should not be a substitute for other dishes that would be more appealing. Unless the vegetarian thinks it’s a good idea, just don’t do it. Trust me.
  • I’ve talked about this a lot on Veggin’ but it bares repeating: chicken stock and beef stock are not vegetarian friendly. And, please, don’t try to hide it or pass something off as meat-free when you’ve used it. I’ve been victim of an upset tummy or two because someone swore it was vegetarian but didn’t tell me that chicken stock was used. If the only meat item in your recipe is the broth, you can easily substitute the meat broth for a vegetarian stock. (It’s in the same place you find your meat stock.)

Tofurky: It may seem like an easy and attractive solution...not so.

  • Get creative. Consider doing baked potatoes and provide various toppings that your guests can use including vegan toppings (sour crea, butter) to choices for gravy. Make some corn on the cob and have a choice of unique seasonings. Have a selection of breads and crackers and provide various flavored olive oils for dipping.
  • Many stores now have an organic section. There you’ll find a lot of products labeled vegan or vegetarian – sauces, gravies, ingredients, etc. Use those products for inspiration as many already have recipes on the back.
  • One thing that I like is when my host pulls me into the kitchen and points out (before it goes on the table) what’s meat-free. That way, the host doesn’t have to go through the big announcement and explanation in the middle of the meal. The other guests won’t get distracted, can eat what they want without the interruption of, “Hey, Megabeth! You can eat, this, this and this. But, not this. So sorry!”

In the end, the adjustments you make to your recipes and dishes you serve could be such a hit that you may put them into your regular cooking rotation.

Now that you’ve armed yourself with some tips and tricks, it’s time to check out some Thanksgiving recipes courtesy of Veggin’.

I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!


Veggin’ Recipes Suitable for Thanksgiving

Also, check out my archives for more ideas.

Vegan Gravy: The Best Vegan Cheesy Gravy Recipe Ever



Side Dishes

Main Dish





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