Vegan Holiday Recipes + My Tips For Navigating the Holidays as a Vegan

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on November 19, 2012

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While many of you in the US are putting the finishing touches on your Thanksgiving plans, many of us Canadians are already starting to think about our December menus. Here are some of my favourite vegan holiday recipes that could suit many holiday meals, or perhaps simply a comforting dinner on a cold night!

See below for my tips on navigating the holidays as a vegan.

Soup & Salad:

Mushroom Millet Soup with Cheezy Garlic Bread

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Holiday Soup for the Soul 

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Spiced Red Lentil, Tomato, and Kale Soup

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Holiday Salad with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette

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Main Course:

Glazed Lentil Walnut Loaf

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High Protein Mashed Potatoes (also see my red lentil version on VegNews)

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Cranberry, Apricot and Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf

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This Ain’t Grandma’s Sweet Potato Casserole 

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Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Rosemary and Garlic

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Almond Pecan Parmesan

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Herb & Cheese Drop Biscuits

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Dessert!

Vegan & Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

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Serve with Whipped Coconut Cream if you’d like…

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Sinless Sticky Toffee Pecan Pudding

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Pumpkin Gingerbread with Spiced Buttercream 

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Pumpkin Pie Brownies

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Breakfast:

What to do with leftover pumpkin pie? Meet Vegan Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Casserole!

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Baked Apples Stuffed with Cinnamon, Date, Pecan Oatmeal

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Sweet Potato Breakfast Casserole

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Gift Ideas:

Slow Cooker Naked Apple Butter

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Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter with Hemp, Flax, and Chia or 2-Minute Apple Cinnamon PB

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Homemade Pumpkin Butter From Scratch (or from a can)

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I’ve received many questions over the years about how to navigate the holidays as a new vegan. The first year I was “coming out” as a vegan, I recall being so anxious about holiday get togethers! It was the first time I was seeing many family members and I was nervous about explaining it to everyone. Thankfully, I anticipated it to be much worse in my own mind than it actually was, but that isn’t to say that I didn’t have my fair share of critics, comments, and questions too.

Here are some of my tips for navigating holiday dinners as a vegan:

1. If you will be eating at a family members house, let them know well in advance that you eat a vegan diet so there aren’t any surprises on the day of. Don’t be afraid to explain it clearly as it’s not unusual for someone to think a vegan still eats butter or eggs. It’s also helpful to remind them what you DO eat! Often people can assume that vegans have a super restrictive diet, so it’s helpful to let them know all the foods that you do eat – vegetables, fruit, legumes, beans, grains, nuts/seeds, oils, soy, herbs/spices, etc or remind them of foods that are naturally vegan.

2. After letting the hosts know, offer to bring a couple vegan dishes so they don’t feel like they have to scramble to find vegan recipes. A couple good options are the lentil loaf and the Cranberry, Apricot and Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf. For the lentil loaf, I suggest slightly undercooking it the first time if you plan on reheating it in the oven just before serving (so it doesn’t dry out). If you are traveling from afar, offer to help prepare a couple vegan dishes the day before. This again would be helpful to plan out before you arrive.

3. What if you are hosting the meal as a new vegan? When I hosted my first vegan Thanksgiving back in 2010, I let my guests know that the meal would be 100% vegan – and of course delicious! If you don’t want any animal products at your meal, make this clear in advance or you might find Uncle Ted showing up with his turkey the morning of.

4. Challenge some of your open-minded guests to “veganize” one of their favourite recipes and bring it to the dinner. Make this into a competition for the “best vegan dish” at your holiday meal and award a prize to the winner each year! How fun would this be?

5. What to do about naysayers? There will always be naysayers, comments, or questions about why you eat a vegan diet – and it’s good to be able to explain it to others in a few words. Just like they tell entrepreneurs to be able to describe their business in a single sentence, it’s important to be able to communicate why you are a vegan. Plan for these questions and you won’t be thrown off by them at the dinner table. If you are feeling really uncomfortable or cornered by a critic, you can always suggest that you discuss it after the meal. It’s easy to feel outnumbered as a vegan around the holidays, so I like to keep my sense of humour. Crack a joke right or sarcasm right back to a naysayer. It doesn’t need to be so serious.

6. A delicious vegan dish can tame even the toughest critic. Win them over with the food. ‘Nough said!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic as well! Do you find it difficult to navigate the holidays as a vegan? What tips would you give to new vegans?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

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Sarah November 24, 2012 at 8:08 am

Looks so delish!! Have a question as a fellow vegetarian…..what are your thoughts on all the bad press for brown rice. Am torn because my family and I eat a lot of brown rice, i use brown rice syrup at times to sweeten my kids baked goods or puddings. They love rice noodles, cereal, cakes, teh works. Curious what others think of arsenic issue in brown rice.
Sarah

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Meg November 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm

“Win them over with food” is right! My fiance and I are eating more meatless dishes (we aren’t vegan, just trying to eat healthier over all), and inviting family over for hearty, filling meatless meals or bringing a tasty meatless side to a family gathering is a nice, non-combative response to the family carnivores. It’s hard to keep up the “rabbit food” jokes if they’re munching on yummy, filling meatless dishes.

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Radhika Sarohia November 26, 2012 at 2:53 am

Lovely pics!! Your vegan holiday dishes look scrumptious :-D

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Andrea November 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Angela, Thank you! The holidays are a very hard time to be vegan, you’re used to being surrounded with the love and support of your family at this time of year, but on this issue we’re often left in the cold! I got around this by bringing my own vegan dinner to our family Thanksgiving, since the only thing I could eat otherwise was green beans! However, your glazed lentil loaf & sweet potato casserole were big hits! Thanks for all the virtual support & great recipes!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 27, 2012 at 9:23 am

Aw that is so awesome, thanks for letting me know!

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Jackie November 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I made the pecan pumpkin brownie pie and everybody loved it. I never told them it was vegan!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 27, 2012 at 9:15 am

Im happy it was enjoyed Jackie!

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schmei November 27, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I’m not vegan but I’m responsible for organizing a lot of work get-togethers and I make an effort to serve food everyone can eat, so we usually have a lot of vegetarian/vegan offerings. My tip for new vegans is please give your host/ess feedback! If there is something at an event that you can eat and that you enjoy, say something about it! Sometimes clueless non-vegans need a little encouragement and feedback to know if we’re on the right track or if that vegan squash soup is a terrible idea. :-)

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Julie R. November 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm

I made your sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving and everyone (none of us are vegans) raved about it! Even I was amazed. I doubt I will ever make it the “old” way again, with eggs and all the other stuff. Yours was just too good! And easy, so thanks. I am enjoying gradually trying out your recipes. The ones I have tried have been delish. Going to try the red lentil/kale soup soon!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 28, 2012 at 9:08 am

Im so glad to hear that Julie!

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Christina December 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Hi Angela! I really enjoy looking at all the recipes on your website and trying them. There have been days when I live off your recipes. :)

I would like to become more confident making up my own recipes. Salads and veggie dishes are easy, but I don’t have a lot of knowledge about baking (cookies, cakes, etc.) and I don’t know what ingredients to use and how much. Would you make a post with your tips and instructions on how to make up your own recipes, particularly baked goods? That would be great!

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Sara December 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Wow, how did I not find your blog until now? I LOVE your taste in food! I will need to bookmark so many of your recipes! I am a new almost-vegan (and new vegetarian in general!) and definitely looking to build my recipe stash! I might have to make the mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, and maybe even the pecan dessert to contribute to my omnivore family’s dinner…. BTW I blog about my new lifestyle and will definitely link to your recipes if I make any of them if that’s okay!

And to the Texans, I’m an army wife and stationed here for awhile. I love Texas a lot, but I know what you all mean about them adoring meat and butter!! I went along with family to a very rustic Texas BBQ place (for quality time!) and the guy working there looked at me like I had 10 heads when I politely declined a free sample of meat due to being vegetarian, LOL!

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Beth September 21, 2014 at 4:59 pm

I really enjoyed this page and I gave credit to you on my blog. I have a lot of trouble dealing with holidays and I am a struggling Vegetarian. My family is less than supportive and I am over whelmed with stress from sept until about jan 15..due to the various birthdays AND holidays all lumped together.

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mollie October 14, 2014 at 8:19 am

Hi! Thanks so much for this master post! I’m not feeling quite as overwhelmed and anxious. We’ll be doing a ‘everyone brings something to the table’, but none of it will be vegan, so I’ll be bringing several dishes (and I like to give homemade cookies and such as gifts as well), that I want others to enjoy as well. I’m feeling very nervous and uncomfortable about it, but now I’m seeing all of these great options and am more confident it’ll all work out :)

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Lyn November 5, 2015 at 10:35 pm

So follow up question: I generally make my own stuff to eat, and EVERYONE asks me about it and this actually makes me really upset, singled out, and uncomfortable, but can’t think of a good way to get everyone to BACK OFF. I DON’T want people asking about my food, I DON’T like being singled out like that… short of bursting into tears in frustration or eating in a corner by myself how do I make it STOP?

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Zara Stone December 12, 2015 at 9:03 am

These recipes are wonderful and they are so many! Whoever says that vegan diet is limitted must be crazy :) Thank you!

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