Vegan Holiday Dinner Ideas + A New Recipe

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on November 14, 2011


One of my frequently asked questions around this time of the year is always, “What vegan recipes can I make for my upcoming holiday meals that will impress the skeptics?”

Eating vegetarian, vegan, or other special diet can be challenging, especially around the holidays. It doesn’t help matters when “Uncle Joe” is ranting and raving about the lack of turkey on your plate either! Obviously, many traditional holiday foods are based around animal products, but that doesn’t mean that you have to eat dry lettuce all weekend. Even if you are a meat eater, you can still bring along a vegan dish to impress your family as well. And who knows, once you get your feet wet, you just might find yourself hosting your very own vegan holiday dinner!

When I first became a vegan in 2009, I told my family that I’d love to bring a couple vegan dishes to contribute. Not only is the host/hostess usually eager to have help, but it assures me that I won’t go hungry during a meal that should be fun and celebratory. It also lets the cook know that I don’t expect them to spend hours trying to figure out what to make me. Plus, it’s always fun for me to surprise others with just how delicious vegan recipes can be. Well two years and many vegan recipes later, they aren’t so surprised anymore, but I guess that’s a good thing.


On Sundays, I love to cook a big hearty meal and this is even more true during Fall and Winter as the temperatures drop and the evenings darken. This weekend, I used Sunday’s meal to try a new holiday recipe that I could share with you. The recipe is a stunning rice pilaf that would make a great addition to any holiday meal. My inspiration came from a “wild rice stuffing” recipe in Bon Appetit, but I don’t like to call it stuffing because 1) it’s more like a hearty rice pilaf, and 2) I’m not stuffing anything, unless of course you count stuffing this dish in my pie hole. Yes, come to think of it I did a lot of stuffing this weekend.


I’ve never made a rice pilaf quite like this. It’s luxurious tasting while being deceptively healthy and low in oil. The dish only uses 1 tablespoon of olive oil, yet tastes incredibly rich and buttery. Not to mention, it’s packed with antioxidants and other nutrients including cranberries, dried apricots, pecans, and more.

I’ve been looking for a dish like this that I could make for my own holiday dinner and I’m happy to report that I will certainly be making this again at Christmas! I hope you enjoy it too.



Cranberry, Apricot and Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf (GF + vegan)

Stuffing need not apply, this wild rice pilaf is a show stopper! Bring to your holiday dinner to dazzle and impress the toughest critics. The beauty of this dish is that it looks like it is much more time-consuming than it really is. The addition of fresh cranberries adds a very light tartness to the dish that balances out the sweetness from the dried fruit very well. It can also be made a day in advance to help save you time. If making in advance, be sure to leave out the pecans until just before serving and reheat in the skillet.

Inspired by Bon Appetit

Yield: 4.5-5 cups


  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 cups chopped celery + 1/2 cup, divided
  • 1 heaping cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 & 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (be sure to use gluten-free if required)
  • 1 & 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4-1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste) + black pepper as desired
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, thinly sliced


1. Preheat oven to 325F and toast the pecans for about 7-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.

2. Sautee onion, oil, and garlic in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add 1.5 cups chopped celery and cook for another 5-7 minutes.

3. Add wild rice, broth, bay leaf, and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low-medium and then cover with lid. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring once half way through.

4. After 30 minutes, uncover, stir, and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Note that wild rice cooking times can vary a lot so keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

5. Remove bay leaf and stir in the dried fruit. Season to taste and stir in the sliced fresh cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped raw celery. Stir in toasted pecans.

Note: Dish can be made 1 day in advance. Do not add pecans until just before serving. Allow to cool then place in an air tight container in the fridge. Reheat in a skillet just before serving and stir in pecans.


I served dinner with my Ultimate Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf, steamed carrots (mixed with a bit of Earth Balance, Herbamare, pepper, and sage), maple cornbread muffins (working on the recipe), and High Protein Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Vegan Gravy.


I also finally perfected my Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe last week after working on it since late September. Oh, it’s good and well worth the wait. :)


I will share this recipe soon, complete with a step-by-step tutorial on making a perfect lattice pie crust.


Need less to say, we’re going to eat very well this week. Anyone want to come over for leftovers?


Looking for other ideas?

This Ain’t Grandmas Sweet Potato Casserole is one of my favs (this picture does not do it justice). You can prepare it (without cooking) the day before (and place in the fridge), bring to room temperature, and cook it 45 mins before dinner is served.


Brownie Pumpkin Pie with a Crunchy Pecan Streusel Topping is very well-reviewed too.


Now hopefully you can keep your cool, have fun, and give thanks for all your blessings this holiday season.

Stay tuned for a few more holiday dishes coming up! In addition to the pie recipe, I have a few other things planned (maybe a festive harvest salad, a drink, and another fruity side dish) so hopefully they turn out!

What is your biggest hurdle with holiday dinners? Eating healthy? Being veg or gluten-free, etc? Getting along with “Uncle Joe”?

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

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jennifer @ peanut butter and peppers November 15, 2011 at 10:22 am

The Wild Rice Pilaf looks amazing! I love rice and dried fruit together it’s one of my favorite combos. I really do need to make it more and whats even better is you can make a big batch and freeze it. Thats what I do, so when I need a quick side dish or lunch I just pull a bag out my freezer bag and microwave for 2 minutes, it turns out perfect! Love all your recipes. Tried your Vegan Spice Buttercream this weekend and it was fantastic!!


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Hey Jennifer!
I hear you about making more of rice dishes…I never do that and always regret it. It freezes so well usually. Glad to hear you enjoyed the buttercream!


Melissa November 15, 2011 at 11:13 am

The recipe for Wild Rice looks FABulous! Thanks for sharing! Biggest hurdle with holiday dinners is going back for seconds…along with not knowing how others prepared the dishes to know the quality and nutrition of the ingredients.


Katrina November 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

I’m going to send this post to some of my friends. Being vegan doesn’t have to ruin the holidays!


Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY November 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I want to try the mashed potatoes, but I’m pretty sure my omni family would say, this tastes strange. Still I might do it anyway! Everything you made looks delicious though.


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I kinda worried about the same thing…well, my mom made the mashed potatoes for T-giving last year while I was there and she said she liked them better than her own! They were quite a hit. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t just blowing smoke up my ass, haha. But that’s always a possibility!


Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning November 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I’m always asked to bring some healthy dishes. My parents enjoy eating healthy, but some of my siblings are completely ignorant to the concept. Luckily, I’m not tempted by cream and butter-laden casseroles or super rich desserts, and I eat a lot of what I bring. That being said, I always sample all of the desserts… :)


Sonia (the Mexigarian) November 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I Love the walnut loaf. I have made it twice so far, and it’s mostly my Hubby Eric that tears right through it.

Would black rice work instead of wild rice?


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 15, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Hey Sonia, I would expect that most types of rice would work, although the cook time and liquid amounts may differ.

Glad that you both enjoyed the loaf!


Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers November 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Oh my… that pilaf looks heavenly.


Caitlin @ Vegetarian in the City November 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Wow, everything looks amazing. Especially the cranberry rice creation. Yum!! I find it hard to go to a holiday dinner as a guest and find something that suits me. Second issue, not over indulging when i do find something veggie.


Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn November 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Hunnnnngggrrryyyyy. I need to make like the entire thanksgiving dinner one year and show my fam that being healthy and hot doesn’t mean eating a twig.


Pure2raw twins November 15, 2011 at 4:25 pm

can you come cook our Thanksgiving? everything looks wonderful, especially that pie!


[email protected] November 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Your pictures are so pretty, I’m ready for a Thanksgiving feast now…Biggest holiday issue is staying healthy around family


[email protected] November 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I’ve made this Wild Rice Stuffing from Bon Appetit before and it is so good. But I really want to try your vegan version! :) Last Christmas I made your brownie pumpkin pie, alongside your coconut chai lattes (!), and both recipes got rave reviews from everyone. I got the extras since I made them :) Thanks for another great recipe to try!


Kit-Kat November 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm

We actually HAVE an Uncle Joe who is anti-organic, and only eats meat and processed stuff, or things from cans!!! Maybe its because his wife (my aunt) is an extremist who ONLY eats organic. But it makes it really hard. I am the only vegan in my family (I’m 20, second oldest and I’m one of five siblings in a family of seven). My family is semi-vegitarian, but they still eat cheese, yogurt, fish, and chicken (no milk for them or any kind of “red meat”). I still find ways to eat good food, and my family is very supportive on my food decisions….. but not my outer-family! They don’t understand. Oh well, at least I get health benefits!!!


JenATX November 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm

oooooh i love the lattice & crumbly topping on the pumpkin pie… that is not something we do in the States, yet it feels like such a traditional pie topping. cool idea :)


Fatless Formula November 16, 2011 at 4:27 am

I am more fascinated by your picture taking ability rather than the recipes…


Sabrina @ Radioactive Runner November 16, 2011 at 8:48 am

Oh wow, all of these dishes look so good.. the brownie pumpkin pie sounds heavenly!
You must have so much patience in the kitchen… good for you. I wish I could say the same for myself lol.


suzanne November 16, 2011 at 9:03 am

What a great menu! I really want to try your lentil loaf and the brownie (have made the cupcakes 2x already – double batches!). We are going to my sister-in-law’s for Thanksgiving so I will need to pack up some food to bring – it is hard to cook in someone else’s kitchen and they live 8 hours away so we will be staying there. My family has not given me too much of a hard time (and I do not let it bother me. – have been vegetarian for years (though in the beginning just ate salad all the time! – still do eat a lot of that!) and am raising my boyz veg too( though I have cut dairy almost completely out – I am not sure they could do that- cheese lovers that they are! Plus they have chickens so they do eat eggs). Anyway – my problem is I do not feel like others love my food like you describe. Even simple things like pizza crust – everyone will go for the part white one if it is there. It is hard for me to understand b/c I love to eat healthy (mostly!) and it is frustrating to not have others be as enthusiastic. Maybe it is my cooking?:-(
I give you lots of credit for your patience – I get so frustrated with the time, money and energy spent when something does not come out right!


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

hehe yup…I like to cook a lot of food on Sunday and have leftovers for lunches all week.


Carolyn November 16, 2011 at 10:41 am

Going to be doing my first vegan Thanksgiving this year and these recipes look awesome! The Wild Rice looks so yummy and I think I am going to try the lentil loaf too.

If you ever want to try an adaptation to your sweet potato recipe I make something very similar but I also add freshly squeezed orange juice to the sweet potatoes and a splash of bourbon. Super yummy. Its really good without the bourbon too.


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 16, 2011 at 11:14 am

mmm great idea!!


Melody (Redhead in the Kitchen) November 17, 2011 at 10:41 am

Holy Mackerel, I want to eat that pie right now. Can’t wait for the recipe!


Lisa @ Healthy Diaries November 18, 2011 at 10:56 am

Hi Angela, I want to make this tonight. I noticed my rice package says to use 1 part rice to 3 parts broth… Not sure if I should follow that or your recipe using 1.5 cups wild rice and only 2 cups broth. Please let me know ASAP!
thanks so much! :)


Lisa @ Healthy Diaries November 18, 2011 at 11:03 am

Sorry! Just saw there is water as well!


Jessica Champion November 18, 2011 at 11:04 am

Love your blog! I have tried a few of these recipes and am hosting my first vegetarian dinner party this weekend for my birthday dinner! I am going to try out the ultimate lentil walnut loaf and hope everyone enjoys it as much as you and Eric did. My “uncle Joe” has recently been my step mom, the last time we were at dinner together I was explaining how my 2.5 year old son and I were vegetarians and she said “well you are, but he is not” I had no idea how to respond. It drives me crazy as my family would have no problem with me driving through McDonald’s to feed my child lunch but when I take an interest in feeding him a healthy diet I get attitude!!


bitt of raw November 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm

urgent question! need to buy ingredients asap for this. you state wild rice, but in the picture it looks like wild rice blend, not just the black wild rice. is that the case? I’d so appreciate your answer! thanks.


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Hey! Yup it is a wild rice blend :)


Gina November 19, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Hi Angela, I had some bario rice so used that instead. Problem is, it was too moist, at the same time burnt! Very tricky to get the right combination. Do you have any ideas on how to make it fluffier? Thanks.


Chrissy in NE November 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Oh my goodness! I just made your brownie pumpkin pie as a test before bringing one to my in-laws Thanksgiving dinner (and I will be bringing several of your other holiday dishes =) ). It is the best vegan dessert I’ve made! I am so thankful for your blog and all of your wonderful recipes.


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm

That is so great to hear Chrissy!


Laura November 21, 2011 at 11:33 am

Wow! This all looks so amazing! I am new to your website but have been inspired by your story and love the green monsters! I have the same dilemma, I spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend’s family, who live in the country and include meat in almost every meal! I’ve been questioned for a couple years now about being a vegetarian and, to make matters worse, I’m now trying to be vegan. We will see how well this goes over. I always offer to make a side but sometimes I feel like they think I’m only doing that because I don’t like what they are making. O well, hopefully they will come around. I’ve gotten better at explaining why I eat the way that I do. I am so happy to see that I’m not alone! Thanks for all the support!


Recipe ideas November 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm

That sounds delicious and easy!! I love the idea


Jenny November 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

This look amazing!


Summer November 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Thank you for putting so much work into taste tasting, photographing, and writing up your recipes. I cooked your lentil loaf, pilaf, and pecan pie and all were super delicious. Everything turned out perfect. Very proud to be able to make a vegan thanksgiving meal. Thanks very much!!! Happy Thanksgiving.


Summer November 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm

oops…pumpking pie with pecan crust!


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 25, 2011 at 9:46 am

Thank you Summer, Happy Thanksgiving!


Lisa C December 8, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Angela, you rock! We have adopted a nutritarian lifestyle and recently found your site. Your Weekend Goddess salad and the Thanksgiving Rice Casserole were huge hits at this year’s Thanksgiving table! Thanks for all the great ideas that are expanding our repertoire of healthy recipes!


Crista November 20, 2012 at 9:10 am

i featured this recipe on my blog today :) thank you for the Thanksgiving Inspiration!


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 21, 2012 at 10:24 am

thank you, I have my eye on those sugared cranberries!


Nicole November 22, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Angela I made your wild rice for Thanksgiving today and everyone was amazed! Thank you so much!


Johanna December 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Hi Angela,

I found your blog while searching for a recipe to bring to my family’s Christmas dinner. I made the wild rice pilaf and it was a big success! I couldn’t find fresh cranberries so I substituted pomegranate seeds which worked out well. I’m looking forward to trying more of your recipes – they all look delicious! Thanks for inspiring me to try new things!


Angela (Oh She Glows) December 31, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Im happy it was a hit! Thanks for trying it out :)


gwen September 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Do you think if I lowered the cooking time I could sub quinoa for the rice?
I’m planning on making thanksgiving dinner for my family this year so that they can hopefully better understand that eating vegan can be yummy too!


Fiona November 17, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I made this as part of a fall themed lunch for friends after a group hike and everyone really enjoyed it! I didn’t have fresh cranberries which I can imagine would have gone incredibly well. I used a pressure cooker to cut down on time. Great recipe, thank you!


Sue November 16, 2014 at 10:37 am

Your cornbread muffins look great and you note above that you’re still working on the recipe for them….Maple Cornbread Muffins. I was hoping to find that recipe but don’t see it here on your website. Is this one you can share?
Many thanks!


Jane Marshall November 23, 2016 at 10:47 am

Well thank you for all of the wonderful recipes! One of your originals, is always at our home over the holidays….the raw brownie recipe with dates, melted cacao over the top…I am excited to try the pumpkin brownie pie! As you can see I run a Montessori School. One of the things we teach in our Permaculture program is cooking and eating with whole raw foods that we grow in the children’s garden. We LOVE your recipes and your influences are felt as we encourage families to eat healthy!
I get to have 30 people at our Gratitude Feast tomorrow. I am grateful for farmers who do grow NON GMO organic poultry, I don’t like turkey so we brine it. Be grateful you don’t eat it. For two of those birds, I have paid over $100.00. But whatever you do eat, enjoy it and bring no guilt to the table. Your body will thank you for that. It’s a joy to prepare a wonderful meal in meaningful Thanksgiving!


Ranee Franti December 10, 2016 at 5:19 am

Wow! That’s great vegan holiday meals. Next week me and all of my family members will going to visit A Holiday place. So your recipe will help me to give the best attention. Basically when I am free I would like to read your blog page and many times I surprised to my husband and my family. I will update my experience to your blog page to come back home. Thank you Angela for sharing this.


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