Easy Substitutions for a Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Christmas. It’s the holiday gathering that every foodie looks forward to all year…until they learn that a vegetarian will be at the table. While it may seem like an inconvenience to have your college-age daughter go...

Vegetarian Christmas Dinner
Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

Christmas. It’s the holiday gathering that every foodie looks forward to all year…until they learn that a vegetarian will be at the table. While it may seem like an inconvenience to have your college-age daughter go vegetarian just in time for the holidays, or for a relative’s vegetarian significant other to be welcomed into the family during the holiday season, preparing foods with your vegetarian guests in mind is easier than you may think.  Vegetarian christmas dinner ideas abound online and in the plethora of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks that have recently become popular thanks to testimonials about the health benefits of plant-based eating in documentary films such as Forks Over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

In order to keep the learning curve to a minimum, consider purchasing a vegetarian “roast” at your local natural foods store or online; Tofurky™ and several other brands are available at Whole Foods Market and similar stores. If this option is not available, consider adding an additional vegetable side dish so that your vegetarian guest will have enough to eat.

Tofu Turkey
Tofu Turkey

Following are a few easy substitutions that are sure to please everyone at the table, vegetarian or omnivore.

Mashed potatoes. Make these the same as you would any other day, but substitute a vegan spread such as Earth Balance™ for the butter and either soy milk or almond milk for the dairy (if your guest is vegan).

Gravy. If you’ve ever made a simple pan gravy from butter, flour and broth, you can make a vegetarian gravy. Melt some butter or Earth Balance™ in the pan, caramelize some finely chopped onion or shallot, stir in your flour and then whisk in one to two cups of vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done!

Beans and greens. These are traditionally cooked with meat or meat broth, but they can be made every bit as tasty without animal ingredients. Just sauté them in some butter (or a combination of olive oil and Earth Balance™ for vegans) and add a little bit of minced garlic, salt and pepper. When cooking beans and greens in broth, simply substitute vegetable broth for chicken or beef broth.

Green beans
Green beans

Stuffing. Since fewer and fewer people are filling the cavity of a turkey with the stuffing mix due to food safety concerns, this is a surprisingly easy plant-based re-do. In addition to replacing any butter and broth with Earth Balance™ and vegetable broth, include about one cup each of sautéed diced carrot, celery, onion and mushrooms. To really flavor it well so that no one misses the chicken broth or ground sausage that you might normally be inclined to use, stir in plenty of salt, pepper, parsley, sage (preferably rubbed or ground to assure more even flavor distribution), rosemary and thyme. You might even want to stir in some toasted fennel seeds for a little more sausage flavor without the sausage. Also make sure that any store-bought bread cubes are free of animal ingredients unless your guest does not object to buttered crusts. If your guest is vegan and you normally bind your ingredients with an egg or two, skip it. The stuffing does n’t actually need it, since the gluten from the bread will do an adequate job of holding the ingredients together if you lightly press the mixture into your casserole dish.

Cooking for a vegetarian during the holidays need not be an ordeal. If you use the substitutions described above to prepare your feast, chances are your guest will be overjoyed that you thought of them!

Contact us to learn more about options for a veg-friendly Christmas dinner the whole family will enjoy.