We haven’t talked much about the eco-benefits of eating a meat-free diet. To be clear, we think that what you eat is entirely your business. But the carbon footprint of meat is actually quite massive. If you think about it, what goes into meat isn’t just the end product, it’s also all of the feed, grass, water and energy needed to raise the animal before it’s slaughtered. A few years ago, we laid this math out in specific for the carbon footprint of a holiday goose (or turkey if you will). And while we obviously encouraged you to consider meat-free alternatives, we didn’t actually give any! So this year we’re sharing our favorite meatless Thanksgiving menu. It’s not fully vegan, though a few adjustments could make it so.

The “Meat” Product: The Gardein Holiday Roast

We rarely if ever advocate for a specific brand of anything on this blog. After all, we have an intrinsic distrust of large brands. But after several years of experimenting with meat-free options to accommodate at least a portion of our holiday guests, we’ve determined that Gardein’s vegetarian holiday roast is ample, delicious and by far the best option out there. The outer shell is Gardein’s grain-based meat substitute and the inside is stuffed with cranberries and wild rice stuffing. There’s even a vegetarian gravy that you can serve with it. The best part is that the prep is actually quite easy. You put it in the oven and … wait. We will give you two warnings, though. Firstly, the packaging claims that it feeds eight, but we’ve seen four people devour it quickly. Secondly, it’s not cheap. In fact, it’s significantly more expensive than an actual turkey. But for the health of you and the planet it’s better – and delicious.

The Vegetables: Just Have Lots of Them!

What’s the key to a successful vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner? Lots of vegetables! We load up the table like it’s a giant Roman feast with every type of vegetable we can think of. Perhaps we’ll even take a picture this year! But for now, here is a list with links to recipes of the ten vegetable dishes we had on our table last year.

  • A Giant Salad: We go big on the salad. If it can be put into a salad, it is put into a salad. We dress with balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper and let the herbivores go to town.
  • Maple Brussel Sprouts: Brussel sprouts are on-trend. You’ll find this recipe often with bacon, but we like this version that opts for hazelnuts instead.
  • Green Bean Casserole: We grew up on this and it’s a holiday must. But we know better than to use powdered soup and canned beans so we opt for this healthier but still delicious recipe.
  • Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows: We presume we don’t need to link for this one! Despite the marshmallow calories, it’s a holiday essential. We use fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned.
  • Roasted Garlic Asparagus: We love this served hot and fresh, but as a side benefit it’s also great a day or two later cut up and added to a salad to give a little boost of garlic.
  • Fresh Cranberry Salsa: Yes, technically this is a fruit. We’ll be honest. There’s only so much traditional cranberry sauce that we can eat. But we love this saucy salsa take on cranberries.
  • Mushroom Soup: We like having a hot soup on the table. Especially as bellies get more full it’s a way to keep the warmth of food going without having to overfill yourself. We use this vegetarian recipe.
  • Gingered Carrot with Kale Ribbons: It’s healthy, delicious and beautiful to look at. Plus it gets some ginger into the flavor palette which is great for offsetting that feeling of overeating.
  • Pumpkin Curry: We obviously think that a holiday meal isn’t complete without a tribute to the famous pumpkin! We like to mix it up a bit with a curry representative on the table. This is the recipe we use, but there are plenty more out there.
  • Butternut Squash Risotto: A little more effort in the kitchen, but something a little heartier for all the vegetarians to chow down on. Obviously substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock in this recipe.

Everything Else!

Of course, while the bulk of our table is beautiful, colorful and flavorful vegetables, we don’t forget all of the staples. There are plenty of dinner rolls and a separate dessert table that makes the local bakery look understocked.

You don’t need meat to have a successful holiday dinner. You need love and family and good food. So you can do that without meat in the picture. Plus, think of the gigantic upside in that without turkey in the mix you won’t collapse in exhaustion right after the meal. You’ll have plenty of energy to encourage your guests to do the dishes for you while you enjoy a glass of wine!

Did we miss a meat-free Thanksgiving recipe that you love? If so, tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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hoto Credit: Barbara L. Hanson via Flickr