Moving Beyond ‘Traditional’ Holiday Fare

As easy as it is to be vegan in these times of abundant food choices, there are certain situations in which social expectations present us with specific challenges. Thanksgiving is probably one of the most difficult times of year for many vegans in the US, as the pressure of returning home for the holidays can lead to feelings of anxiety around the issue of dining with non-vegan loved ones.

Of course, if families are able to work together, and non-vegans are willing to open their minds to the possibility that vegan food can be perfect for a holiday celebration, there’s no reason that anyone should have to feel uncomfortable, as this article explains.

Last year at this time, I published a recipe post with a menu of ‘replacements’ for some of the traditional holiday dishes. From stuffing and gravy to pumpkin pie, many of the dishes that we associate with holiday meals can be easily veganized.

But there’s no reason that holiday meals have to resemble the old traditions that center around a practice many of us consider quite barbaric. This Thanksgiving, why not dress up your holiday table with some festive delights that have nothing to do with the traditional menu? As long as the foods are beautiful and delicious, who’s to say what a Thanksgiving table should contain?

In the following pages are a selection of recipes that are aesthetically beautiful, mouth-wateringly delicious, and will offer your guests and family an opportunity to enjoy a peaceful holiday menu that will delight the taste-buds of all.

Image: Suat Eman /

Stuffed Baked Potatoes
yields 15–17 potatoes

10 lbs. large potatoes
4 cloves garlic
6 Tbsp. oil
3 Tbsp. tamari (or to taste)
4 cups mushrooms, sliced
12 large onions, diced
45 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
4 cups organic firm tofu, rinsed, drained & mashed
1 tsp. sea salt
paprika, for sprinkling

1.  Bake potatoes in the oven. When soft, make a slit in the top of each potato, and another crossing it. (Don’t slit all the way to edges.) Push both ends towards the middle, opening the potato & loosening it from its skin. (Use a towel to protect your fingers from burning.) Allow them to cool.
2.  In a blender or processor, blend garlic in 3 Tbsp. oil and 1 Tbsp. tamari. Pour into a large frying pan.
3.  Add mushrooms and sauté. When finished, drain liquid from mushrooms and put it in the food processor. Set the mushrooms aside in a large mixing bowl.
4.  In the frying pan, sauté the onions with a dash of tamari, water and 23 Tbsp. nutritional yeast.
5.  Using a food processor, purée half of the onion sauté with two cups of mashed tofu, 2–3 Tbsp. oil, 2 Tbsp. tamari, 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast. Add to the mushrooms in the large mixing bowl. Repeat this step. Mix in the sea salt.
6.  Scoop the potatoes out very carefully (don’t hurt the shape of the skins, for stuffing purposes). Mash potatoes together with the tofu-mushroom mixture.
7.   Stuff each potato skin with this mixture. Sprinkle with paprika and bake again at 325° for 2530 minutes.

Spinach Tofu Philo Bonbons
serves 4

1 package philo dough wraps (whole wheat or regular)

Spinach Filling
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cups spinach, chopped

Tofu Filling
1 lb. (2 cups) organic firm tofu, rinsed & drained
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. dry mustard

1. Put stock, onions and garlic in a skillet, over medium heat. Cook until soft. Add mushrooms and spinach and let simmer for several minutes.
2. Drain the sauté, remove from skillet and set aside.
3. In a bowl, mash tofu into a chunky batter and combine with oil and the seasonings. Add spinach filling and mix.
4. Spread one full sheet of philo wrap flat and lightly oil using a pastry brush or spray lightly with a vegetable oil spray.
5. Fold sheet in half. Place about 3–4 Tbsp. of filling in the center of each philo piece. Wrap dough around filling like a tortilla, then pinch the ends like Christmas crackers. Alternatively, fold into a triangle and gently bend in half. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet or use baking papers.
6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 until all the filling is used. (You will have extra philo dough.)
7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350° for 20 minutes, until golden-brown.

Stuffed Tomatoes
serves 6

6 large tomatoes
3 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. stoneground mustard
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp. tahini
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
sea salt, to taste
1 cup basmati rice, cooked
curly lettuce, to garnish plate

1.  Slice half an inch off the top of the tomatoes and scoop out the insides using a sharp knife and a spoon. Save the insides in a bowl. Turn the tomato shells upside down on a paper towel to drain for five minutes.
2.  Add the remaining ingredients to the tomatoes in the bowl, except the rice and lettuce. Stir and allow to marinate for 10 minutes.
3.  With a slotted spoon, remove 1/3 of the mixture and set aside for later as a garnish. Stir rice into the remaining mixture and allow to stand for another five minutes.
4.  Arrange the lettuce on six salad plates. Spoon the rice mixture back into the tomato shells, and place one on each plate. Top with remaining tomato mixture garnish and serve at room temperature.

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
serves 3

12 bunches asparagus, trimmed
1 cup soft organic tofu, rinsed & drained
1/8 cup oil
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. miso (blonde)
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
1 Tbsp. arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1.  Cut or break the hard bottoms off the asparagus stalks. Steam the asparagus in a steamer basket until soft (approximately five minutes). Place in a casserole dish.
2.  In a blender, blend remaining ingredients and pour into a small pot. Simmer and stir frequently for about 10 minutes until thickened. Do not boil. Pour over asparagus.

Creamy Artichoke Dip
serves 5

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 lb. mushrooms
68 artichoke hearts, steamed
4 oz. (1/2 cup) organic firm tofu, rinsed & drained

1.  Sauté the onions, garlic and mushrooms in oil. When soft, remove from frying pan.
2.  Place steamed artichoke hearts and the sauté into a food processor, using the “S” shaped blade and blend until smooth. Add tofu and blend again. Season to taste with favorite seasonings, i.e. garlic powder, sea salt, sweetener. Blend. Chill before serving.

Gentle World is a non-profit educational organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. Incredibly Delicious: Recipes for a New Paradigm contains many more tips to make the transition to veganism easy and delicious! Visit for more information.

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rosemary weston
rosemary weston4 years ago

this is an issue that will become more and more common as more people become interested in becoming vegan or at least cutting back on animal based foods. at the same time traditions are very much a part of us...that's what traditions are about. i would like to find a happy medium there somewhere, using substitutes where possible...not pretend substitutes, but foods that can satisfy and we can enjoy in place of a large carcass of a dead bird in the middle of the table. if you are inviting vegans, let them know what you are planning. i would asked it that information weren't given to me. vegan side dishes that are traditional can be found, substituting a few ingredients.

Natalie J.
Natalie Away J.5 years ago

They sound great, thanks.

Tiffany Lambiase
Tiffany Lambiase5 years ago

thanks for post

Rose N.
Rose N.5 years ago

Thank you for posting.

jacquie lynn

sharing healthy, plant-based versions of those recipes that have been handed down for generations IS a way to honor our ancestors, & i am thankful for the opportunity to do so during the holidays!

Edith B.
Edith B.5 years ago

The stuffed tomatoes and asparagus recipes would be great at any meal. Thanks.

Angel Flinn
Angel Flinn5 years ago

It's always best to add nutritional yeast at the end of cooking, wherever possible. In the recipes where it's cooked, it's really only being used as a seasoning.

Allegra W.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thank you for the recipes!

Anne K.
Anne K.5 years ago

Toni Clark - The idea of "moving beyond the traditional" is to be respectful, empathetic, and compassionate towards other living beings that suffer and are killed for the dining pleasure of humans.

Lynn C. - I have the same question regarding nutritional yeast. I always add it after cooking, but I wonder if it's nutrients survive heat?

Kay L - If you have a natural foods store (health food store) in your area, you should be able to find the "exotic" ingredients there. I buy nutritional yeast in the bulk food section of my tiny local natural foods store. I picked up some tahini today on sale half price.

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS5 years ago

As usual, rather complicated recipes calling for exotic ingredients that are not easily found in small town groceries, things like stoneground mustard, arrowroot powder, nutritionial yeast, tahi and super expensive curly lettuce (bought just to be a garnish?!?). I think I'll stick to the traditional, easier, cheaper to prepare dishes and spend the time saved cleaning house before the company arrives. If I have vegans coming, their dishes will be prepared with plain, ordinary vegetable margarine and shortening using the old-fashioned simple recipes of my ancestors.