Expanding Family Traditions
How to Include those on a Plant-based Diet during the Holidays
Navigating the holidays can be stressful, but when it is a family member’s first holiday on a vegetarian or plant-based diet, ensuring they are included in the customary meals can add another layer of stress. Vegan and plant-based diets are on the rise, so there are plenty of options for food substitutions and ways to include your family members.
Myriad vegan and plant-based products have recently come to market, and their quality has continued to improve. There are artisan plant-based butters and cheeses; tons of alternative milks; and easy-to-grab crackers, cookies, and other snacks. You can easily find delicious recipes online with a quick search.
What about the traditional family recipes and the meat centerpiece? While it may be disturbing for some to see a large hunk of cooked meat in the middle of the table, many vegans and vegetarians are going to be happy enough if they feel included in the meal and not as an afterthought. Include an additional main course, along with the turkey. Consider striking centerpiece dishes such as whole roasted cauliflower, stuffed squash, stuffed shells, or a lentil or chickpea loaf that will satisfy even the omnivores at the table.
Convert sides by using vegetable broth for mashed potatoes and roasting, or steaming vegetables without butter. If your family thinks mashed potatoes cannot possibly taste good without butter and milk, use oat or cashew milk, and an artisan plant-based butter. Oat and cashew milk both have mild flavors and are usually not detected by those who do not eat a plant-based diet. A good cultured plant-based butter made from cashews, almonds, or oat milk will also likely go unnoticed; if you want to ensure they cannot taste the difference, whip in a head of roasted garlic. Top with mushroom gravy as a delicious alternative to turkey or ham gravies.
Most importantly, talk with your family member before planning the meal to see if they have any suggestions on how to turn a recipe into a friendly dish for them. Ask if they would be willing to come over and help cook or if they could bring one or two items with them. Many people on plant-based diets are happy to teach others about the delicious and satisfying world of plant-based food.
Holidays are all about connecting with family. Do not let stress get in the way of including your relatives with plant-based diets. Seek out replacement products and consult your family members on how you can help them enjoy mealtime with family. They will appreciate it.
Here are 6 vegan recipes for your holiday table to get you started…
1. Curried Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin flavors and scents are everywhere this time of year: from coffee and desserts, to lotions and air fresheners. They remind us of crisp fall days with leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the impending jack-o’-lanterns on porches. This recipe, though savory rather than sweet, will fill your belly with autumn warmth.
Curried Pumpkin SoupRecipe by Lisa Anderson
- large pot, blender
- 2 Tbsp. avocado oil
- 2 cups red onion chopped
- 1 large cubanelle pepper chopped
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 cup carrots thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- ¼ tsp. dried sage
- ¼ tsp. dried rosemary
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. curry powder
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 Tbsp. dark balsamic vinegar garlic or hickory smoke-infused
- 1 tsp. sea salt plus more to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cans organic coconut cream 13.5 oz. each
- 2 cans organic pumpkin purée 15 oz. each
- fresh chives for garnish optional
- Heat a large pot on medium-high. Once the pot is hot, add avocado oil and reduce heat to medium. Immediately add onion and pepper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook for another minute.
- Mix in carrot, thyme, sage, and rosemary. Stir together for one minute.
- Pour in broth and add bay leaf. Stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until carrots are tender. Stir occasionally.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Discard bay leaf and transfer soup to blender.
- Blend on high until smooth. Return the broth to the pot and heat on medium-low temperature. Add curry, turmeric, balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, and ground black pepper to taste.
- Place coconut cream and pumpkin purée in the blender until well combined. Carefully pour into the pot with broth. Mix well.
- Cook on medium-low until heated through, approximately 5 minutes. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom of the pot to avoid burning the cream.
- Serve immediately and garnish with fresh chives.
Replace canned pumpkin with fresh, steam-baked pumpkin or butternut squash purée.
Use an alternative plant-based cream such as almond half-and-half or homemade cashew cream.
Add vegan sour cream as an additional garnish.
2. Creamy Pumpkin Gravy
This sauce is a beautiful complement to any festive meal. It is perfect for pouring over pasta and mashed potatoes.
Creamy Pumpkin GravyRecipe by Lisa Anderson
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. avocado oil garlic-infused
- ½ large yellow onion chopped
- ½ large white onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 15 oz. organic pumpkin purée
- 1 ½ cups coconut milk or cream full fat
- 1 Tbsp. dark balsamic vinegar garlic or hickory smoke-infused
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp. Celtic sea salt
- Heat a pan on medium-high heat. Add oil and reduce heat to medium. Add onions. Sauté onions in avocado oil for 2 minutes.
- Add garlic and continue to cook until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant for approximately 1 – 2 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low; add pumpkin and coconut milk. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, frequently stirring, so coconut milk does not burn. Keep covered between stirs as the sauce does splatter.
- Mix in balsamic vinegar and continue simmering and stirring for an additional 5 minutes or until sauce is thoroughly heated and any coconut milk clumps have melted.
- Stir in nutritional yeast and salt. Allow to heat for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir to ensure all is well combined, and serve immediately over pasta, mashed potatoes, or other vegetables.
- Try using both garlic and hickory smoke-infused balsamic vinegar by dividing measurement to ½ Tbsp. of each.
- Substitute a ½ tsp. of black Hawaiian sea salt for the milder gray Celtic sea salt.
- If you are a garlic fan, you can increase garlic cloves to four. Likewise, if you do not care for a strong garlic flavor, you can reduce the cloves to 2.
3. Vegan Butter Rolls
My grandma created a family tradition that is always requested for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. When part of the family moved to Florida, I took on the job of following Gramma’s recipe to make her butter rolls.
The biggest challenge for me came when I was approaching my first holiday season on a plant-based diet. I could not imagine a feast without these melt-in-your-mouth goodies. I also wanted to make sure that the rest of the family could not tell that I converted them. Finding the correct ingredients was key and I have listed the brands that are my personal favorites in the tips below. The result was a delicious roll that tasted identical to its dairy-filled counterpart — family tested and approved.
Vegan Butter Rolls, A Grandma Holiday TraditionRecipe by Lisa Anderson
- 1 serving active yeast
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup plant-based milk cashew or soy
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup vegan butter melted
- 6 Tbsp. vegan egg replacement + 1 ¼ cups cold water see tips below
- additional vegan butter melted
- Prepare dough at least 8 hours prior to baking. Start by heating milk to 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix in 1 Tbsp. sugar. Add the yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
- In a small bowl, mix egg replacement and cold water. Set aside.
- In a large glass or ceramic bowl, sift together sugar, salt, and flour. Create a well in the center of the flour mix. Pour ½ cup vegan butter, egg replacement, and activated yeast mixture into the well. Use a wooden spoon to gently fold the ingredients together. Use your hands to finish incorporating all of the flour. Mix well, but do not knead the dough. It will be sticky.
- Form a dough ball, cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least eight hours.
- Once the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator and divide into three equal parts. Place third of the dough onto a lightly floured surface and keep the remaining dough covered and cold as you work.
- Roll out third of the dough into a 12-inch circle. Lightly dust with flour, as needed, to keep dough from sticking. Brush top side of rolled dough with additional melted vegan butter. Cut 12 equal pie-shaped pieces.
- Beginning with the large end of the pie piece, loosely roll dough until it reaches the point, then form a crescent shape by gently pressing your thumb in the center and folding the ends slightly towards you. Repeat with remaining 11 triangles.
- Place rolls on a parchment covered baking sheet. Keep space between each roll to allow for expansion.
- Repeat steps 6-8 two times for remaining 2/3 of the dough.
- Cover rolls with a clean towel and place in a warm area. Allow to rise for 1 ½ hours or until rolls double in size.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake rolls 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Watch them carefully as they can brown quickly and burn.
- Remove from pan and place on cooling rack. Serve warm or cold.
Butter is a key ingredient in this recipe, and it is important to choose a plant-based butter that mimics dairy-based butter as closely as possible. My personal favorite is European Style Cultured Vegan Butter, unsalted, by Miyoko’s.
There are many ways to make egg replacement. For this recipe, I use a store-bought replacement instead of making my own. VeganEgg by Follow Your Heart is a soy-based replacement, which is non-GMO and gluten-free. To make an “egg” with this brand combine 2 level tablespoons of powder and ½ cup of cold water. The butter rolls require three vegan eggs, which is 6 level tablespoons of powder and 1 ½ cups of cold water. This produces too much liquid. Reducing the water to 1 ¼ cups will create the right amount of egg replacement for this recipe.
Soymilk will work fine as a replacement, but I prefer to make my own cashew milk as it has a more subtle flavor and bakes as well as soymilk. I would not recommend oat milk for this recipe, but if you cannot have nuts or soy, try coconut milk. These substitutions may change the taste and the final outcome of the rolls.
To make cashew milk: in a high-speed blender, blend 1 cup raw whole cashews (soaked for at least 4 hours, drained and rinsed), 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt.
4. Pomegranate and Cranberry Salsa
Cranberries have been a holiday staple in America for over 250 years. Originally cultivated for all sorts of uses by the Native Americans, the cranberry became popular among the English colonists only when honey became readily available, but its use was reserved for well-known English dishes. This salsa, with its peppers and cilantro, puts a Mexican spin on this native berry and will brighten up your holiday table or appetizer buffet.
Pomegranate and Cranberry SalsaRecipe by Lisa Anderson
- 12 oz. fresh cranberries
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro roughly chopped
- ½ pomegranate jewels (arils) only
- 1 fuji apple peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
- ½ large white onion roughly chopped
- 1 large poblano pepper roughly chopped
- ¼ cup maple sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 lime juiced
- Add all ingredients to a food processor.
- Process on high and pulse as needed until the mixture resembles a finely chopped salsa.
- Place in a bowl. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Chill longer if you have the time, as this allows the sugar to blend with the cranberries.
- Serve with vegan cream cheese and plant-based butter crackers or scoop with tortilla chips.
5. Cookie and Cream Cheese Balls
A plant-based diet is often synonymous with health, but there are times when cravings take over. Satisfy them this season with chocolate-covered cookies and cream cheese, topped with peppermint.
Cookie and Cream Cheese BallsRecipe by Lisa Anderson
- 1 package 14.03 oz. chocolate cookie sandwiches
- 8 oz. vegan cream cheese
- 12 oz. vegan dark chocolate chips
- 1 tsp. palm shortening
- 7 pieces hard peppermint candy crushed (optional)
- water for boiling
- Place cookies in a food processor. Pulse until semi-fine crumbs are produced.
- Add cream cheese and process until cookie crumbs and cream cheese are well combined. Transfer filling to a bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Remove filling from refrigerator. Using a small spoon or scoop, create 1 – 1 ½ inch size balls. Place each ball on the wax paper leaving some space between them.
- Repeat until filling is gone. This will create about 20 cookies. Return cookie sheet to the refrigerator and allow to chill while you prepare the chocolate.
- Add a small amount of water to the bottom of a double boiler. Cover with the top boiler. Bring water to a boil on high heat. When the water reaches a roaring bubble, reduce the heat to low.
- Place shortening and chocolate chips in the top boiler. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat immediately.
- Remove cookies from the refrigerator. Cover each ball with chocolate and place back onto wax paper. Sprinkle with peppermint candy before the chocolate begins to harden.
- Chill for 1 hour or until chocolate is solid.
- Oreo cookies are technically vegan, but if you would prefer something that is intentionally so, there are plant-based versions readily available at your local organic market.
- Try different toppings, such as cocoa powder, gummy worms, sprinkles, or a cherry.
6. Chocolate Chip Cookies
Crisp, but not too hard, and full of flavor. Store in the freezer and dunk straight into your coffee for a delicious treat.
Chocolate Chip Cookies: Vegan, Dairy-Free, and Gluten FreeRecipe by Lisa Anderson
- 2 Tbsp. arrowroot flour
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. Coconut cream full-fat
- ½ cup coconut palm shortening
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. Swerve® sugar replacement granular
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. Swerve® brown sugar replacement
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups oat flour
- ¼ cup cassava flour
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 ¼ cups vegan chocolate chips 7 oz.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together arrowroot flour and coconut cream until smooth. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat together shortening, sugars, and vanilla until creamy. Add in coconut cream mixture and stir until combined.
- Sift together oat flour, cassava flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients, ½ cup at a time, to the wet ingredients. Mix until flour is absorbed and the dough forms. Add in chocolate chips.
- Form 2-inch round balls from the dough. Place on the baking sheet and slightly flatten the dough with your palm. Continue until the cookie sheet is full. Leave space between each cookie to allow for any spread during baking.
- Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned but still soft. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 until dough is gone.
- Store in an airtight container on the counter or freeze for up to three months.
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Lisa is the creator, editor in chief, and creative director of The Chews Letter magazine. Lisa's work has been featured in Designer Original, In Fitness and In Health, and several community magazines. Find her on Instagram: @lisaandersonmedia | Clubhouse: @landersonmedia Follow The Chews Letter: @thechewsletter.com