Planning a Vegan Thanksgiving for One in Isolation

 A reader of Food for Dissertating reached out to me via email to suggest I show what I'm planning for Thanksgiving before I actually eat it, and then do a follow up post afterward, so as to help other vegans plan their solo or isolation holiday meals. I'm unlikely to go all out, but I think I do know what sort of thing I want to have!

I'm not inclined to pull out all of the stops for myself, but there are a few things I really want. Photos have appeared elsewhere on the blog before to give you an idea of what some of these things might look like. For me, the main dish isn't going to be the protein--but nobody really cares about the protein at anyone's Thanksgivng, do they? So I'm truly focused primarily on my green bean casserole and pie.

1. Green Bean Casserole

I made this a few years ago and instantly regretted that I did not make a full batch. Because I was sharing my meal with another person when I had those regrets, I might still cut the recipe in half, but we'll see. I used the recipe found at Post Punk Kitchen.

Green bean casserole has its lovers and haters but ultimately it's tradition and profoundly comforting and I just don't care if the sophisticated people don't like it, because I love it.

2. Mashed Potatoes

I do not need a recipe for mashed potatoes, but if you do, try this:

Peel some potatoes. Cover with water. Add a bit of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until done (15-20 minutes for me, usually). Drain. Add vegan butter (Earth Balance, about a tablespoon per potato) and mash with a potato masher, then stir in some unsweetened non-dairy milk or creamer (about 2 tablespoons per potato). Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. If desired, you can fancy this up with some garlic powder, non-dairy sour cream, and/or chives.

If you can't do that (can't get potatoes or whatever) just follow the directions on some plain instant potato flakes. But be sure to check the package for any other ingredients, because most other than the strictly plain kind will have dairy in them.

3. Wegmans Don't Be Chicken Cutlet

Pictured here with stuffing (listed below), this will be my substitute for a Gardein turk'y cutlet or roast. Neither was available to me. These cutlets go well with the rest of this meal and I don't feel like I want to make a from-scratch main dish if I'm making the green bean casserole and other things while I'm home alone.

4. Herb Stuffing

This one is pretty easy. I hope to get some Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing mix to make on the stovetop according to package directions with some Earth Balance, onions, and celery. I would normally choose between either stuffing or mashed potatoes but Thanksgiving demands both.

5. Gravy

Gravy is the thing that makes Thanskgiving (and is a delight at many other times). I can't decide between this one from Nora Cooks or this one from Connoisseurus Veg, but there will definitely be gravy. If I could just buy some I would, but such a thing is presently impossible. It's not a big deal because gravy is not that hard to make.

6. Crescent Rolls

From a can, of course. I'm no wizard here.

7. Pecan Pie

I have made this pecan pie from Hell Yeah It's Vegan a couple of times and everyone loves it. It is sweet, fatty, and delicious. Due to the pecans it's on the pricey side, but it is, after all, Thanksgiving. I don't know how I would cut the recipe down so I won't try; this will just mean I eat it twice a day until it's gone with a giant dollop of coconut whipped topping (see below) and will make zero apologies for it.

8. Coconut Whipped Topping

I like the Coco Whip kind and it's what I have in my freezer, purchased a while ago because I wanted to be sure to have some for Thanksgiving.

I have also corralled this list of things I won't be making this year, but considered, in case you want to have them. I'm not including things like a Gardein turk'y cutlet; presumably you already know about those. These are the things you could make for yourself.

Main Dish Options

Mushrooms en Croute 

Recipes abound online; I would not try the one I used when I made this since I ended up burning it on the bottom following the directions. Essentially, a mixture of mushrooms and nuts cooked in a log of puff pastry. Super good, but not on my table this time.

Mini Pumpkins Stuffed with Quinoa, Mushrooms, and Leeks

Recipe at Simply Seasonal. Fun and festive for this harvest season, plus it tastes good.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Recipe at Vegan Huggs. This is excellent for Thanksgiving since it has both a sweet and savory vibe, with apples, cranberries, onions, celery, and mushrooms.

Chickpea Cutlets

Recipe at Post Punk Kitchen. This is good if you want something more meaty, but aren't going to buy frozen faux meat. They're good with gravy and mashed potatoes and I figure anything that's good with those things is fair game on Thanksgiving, really. This is less beautiful than some of the other suggestions, but probably more versatile; you can add leftovers to salad or make a sandwich with them.

Side Dish Options

Vegan Potatoes O'Brien Casserole

I developed this recipe early in my vegan life. It's fattening and full of carbs. If you need cheese on your Thanksgiving table, this is a good choice.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

These are super easy. Just wash them and stick them in your slow cooker on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Scalloped Potatoes

Recipe at Nora Cooks. If you're not a gravy person and want to elevate your potatoes, this is another option.

Cranberry Apple Stuffing

Easily veganizable recipe from McCormick. I've made this a lot. I really love it. If you're not going to pour gravy over your stuffing, this is what I would go to first--a glorious mixture of cubed bread, apples, cranerries, onions, and celery. 

Macaroni and Cheese

This has never been traditional for me, but for many people, it's not Thanksgiving without macaroni and cheese. There are as many variations on vegan macaroni and cheese as there are on omnivore macaroni and cheese, so go forth and find your bliss.

Orange Glazed Carrots

This is one of those things where I don't feel like I really need to give you a recipe--there are loads online--but the fruity sweetness of the carrots is an excellent complement to most Thanksgiving meals.

Mushroom Gravy

Although I will be having a smooth gravy this time, I love a good mushroom gravy. You can even buy it ready made. I don't feel like I have to give you a recipe, because there are so many to choose from.

Onion Gravy

Ditto, above.

Cranberry-Orange Relish

This was traditional when I was growing up, but I don't really want to make it just for myself. If you do want something like what we used to have, though, here's a recipe from Ocean Spray.

Cranberry Sauce

This is what was/is traditional for most people, I think. You can make it yourself or buy it in a can; either way, it's almost always vegan. I was bewildered the first time I saw the can-shaped log of red stuff, but it was good! And I may indeed have some at some point soon, just not right now. Because I'm more of a gravy person.

Dessert Options

Apple Pie

What else needs to be said? It's pie. Your favorite recipe is probably already vegan except for butter; use a vegan butter and you'll be golden.

Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Recipe from Loving It Vegan. I believe I have made this cake, though there is no photo evidence, or at least one very similar. If you're not a pie person, this would be lovely for Thanksgiving (or if you're in a situation where you need both pie and cake--I do not judge).

Good luck to all of you as you try to celebrate however you do! Stay safe.


  1. Looks like you have some nice stuff planned! I feel like the sides definitely are the most exciting part for these sort of meals. We don't have yam sham day here (Buffy reference), but we eat a similar sort of meal for Christmas (though out sides are very different).

    1. Christmas is similar to this, for me, though it may be more diverse among the population.

  2. Your potatoes O’Brien are fantastic!

    1. Thanks! It's hard to really go wrong with potatoes and fat.

  3. This is a fantastic roundup of ideas! It looks like your dinner will be great, especially with the green bean casserole!

    1. We'll see how industrious I am on the day I'm supposed to cook it all, but part of the joy is anticipation, so either way, I have gotten something out of this.


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