There is nothing quite like holiday meals. Family, food, and conversation. However, it can be a extremely stressful trying to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs. Whether you’re going with a full plant-based meal or just hoping to get a dish or two to add to the table, this vegetarian holiday meal guide is here to help.
How to plan a vegetarian holiday meal
When thinking about the meal, I like to think about a few different elements including but not limited to:
Greenery: even though salad isn’t a traditional holiday dish, it’s become one for me. I find a fresh salad can balance all the rich food that often finds it’s way to the table. The salad doesn’t have to be overly complicated either! It could be a bit of greens, a sprinkle of nuts, and a nice dressing.
Protein: this is important. One of the things I find lacking in most vegetarian dishes at a non-vegetarian event is the concept of protein. For meat-eaters, it’s easy but for vegetarians, it’s not always obvious. Bulk up on beans, don’t shy away from nuts/seeds, and remember even some grains, like quinoa, carry a nice bit of protein.
Richness Balance: Going back to the idea of adding salad to the table, not everything has to be overloaded with cheese, butter, and cream. The beauty of a vegetarian holiday meal is that the vegetables can really shine.
Easy to include vegan/GF
When planning for a vegetarian holiday meal, you might need to include some vegan or gluten-free options. This shouldn’t be a huge deal! Most of the vegetarian dishes I’m listing in this post have vegan/gluten-free alternatives.
Most vegetarian-friendly dishes can make the leap to vegan with a few simple swaps. And as for gluten-free, it’s often a matter of switching grains and using a solid 1:1 gluten-free flour. I find if I’m trying to accommodate different people’s dietary needs, I go with something that is gluten-free/vegan.
A few favorite gluten-free/vegan recipes:
I think one of the biggest challenges with holiday meals is convincing family that it’s okay to switch things up! If your family has their favorites, try just adding one or two new dishes into the mix. We definitely keep the green bean casserole around but add in a couple dishes of roasted vegetables and salads. This way, everyone is happy!
You don’t need to overhaul all of the holiday dinner. Strike a balance between traditions and new ideas. If something doesn’t work out, that’s okay!
A few of my favorite non-traditional adds to the table include:
Over the years, I’ve seen my fair-share of sad, want-to-be turkey main courses for a vegetarian holiday meal. I’m not a huge fan of the 1:1 replacement. I’d rather make something that is beautiful and delicious, even if it doesn’t fill the turkey void.
If you wanted to stick with a main that looks almost as impressive as a turkey, the whole-roasted cauliflower route can work. There are also things like this butternut squash vegducken or this pre-made celebration roast. Full disclosure about the vegducken: it looks beautiful but I’ve never made it!
I prefer to stick with easy items. Quiche, pasta, risotto, or squash topped with beans. This is just the beginning. A few of my go-to main-course holiday recipes:
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
Whole Roasted Tikka Masala Cauliflower
Roasted Carrot Polenta with Sage and Walnuts
Farro Risotto with Walnut Cream and Roasted Butternut Squash
Roasted Red Kuri Squash with Cannellini Bean and Spinach Salad
It can be all about the sides
Of course, with a well-planned menu, a meal can also be all about the sides! If there’s three to for solid side options, I can easily be happy. Best of all, this is a great way to appease everyone! Upgrade your sides to be colorful and vegetable-heavy while keeping some of your traditional items! A few side options:
Spiced Delicata Squash with Amaranth and Yogurt
Sweet Potatoes with Miso Citrus Dressing
Beet Wild Rice Salad with Pistachios
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Manchego
Garlicky Yogurt Green Beans with Walnuts
Pan-Fried Turnips with Thyme and Breadcrumbs
Just go for it!
Whether you're looking to completely overhaul your meal or just add a couple veg-friendly dishes in, just remember it doesn't have to be hard. Keep it simple. Lead with produce. And don't be afraid to add a new tradition into the mix!