On the last Thursday of November, millions of us will flock to our family and friends' homes to celebrate one of the most festive and food-centric holidays of the year. Although the turkey has been the staple of Thanksgiving dinner (hence Turkey Day), it’s usually accompanied by delectable vegetarian side dishes that can be a meal all their own. A Thanksgiving without a plateful of turkey can actually make Thanksgiving planning and cooking a whole lot less complicated, not to mention more creative and healthy.

The National Turkey Federation says 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving — that's 46 million turkeys. In comparison, 7.3 million U.S. adults follow a vegetarian-based diet, and make part of the 12 percent that don’t eat turkey on the holiday. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a dreaded holiday for vegetarians, and side dishes don’t have to become an after-thought.

There are plenty of vegetarian main dish substitutes that may entice the most carnivorous eaters. Skip the Tofurky, also known as faux turkey, and feast your eyes on these five mouth-watering meatless dishes made with real ingredients, from the appetizer to dessert. These turkey alternatives will ensure you and your guests are more than satisfied with a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

1. Roasted Squash With Shallots, Grapes, And Sage

Servings: 4


2 acorn squashes (about 1 1/2 pounds each)

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound mixed black and red grapes (about 3 cups)

1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons packed small fresh sage leaves

1 1/3 cups cooked spelt, wheat berries, barley, or other whole grain


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squashes in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and reserve, if desired (see note, below).

NOTE: Scoop out the squash seeds and roast them for a nutritious snack.

Brush cut sides of squash halves with 1 teaspoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Place, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Combine grapes, shallot, and sage in a bowl and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper; place around squash. Roast, stirring grape mixture once, until squash is tender and grape mixture is caramelized, 35 to 40 minutes. To serve, fill squash with grain and grape mixture.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart.

2. Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Chimichurri And Almonds

Servings: 3-4


For The Chimichurri:

1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro stems and leaves

1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley stems and leaves

1/6 cup lightly packed mint leaves

1 tablespoon oregano leaves

2 cloves garlic

3/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/8 cup red wine vinegar

3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

3/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For The Cauliflower:

1/2 large cauliflower (1 to 1 1/2 pounds), preferably a colored variety such as purple Graffiti, cheddar, or Romanesco

1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (see NOTE)


To make the chimichurri sauce, combine the cilantro, parsley, mint, oregano, garlic, cumin, red pepper, vinegar, salt, and oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until the herbs are chopped but not pureed. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

To roast the cauliflower, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Trim the bottom of the cauliflower stem so the cauliflower will sit straight in an baking dish or cast-iron skillet that just holds it comfortably. (Leave the leaves on, as they add to the decorative look and are tasty.) Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt.

Bake until the cauliflower is lightly browned and a skewer easily pierces all the way through, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size. Baste periodically with oil from the pan, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature, with the sauce and almonds spooned over it or served on the side.

NOTE: Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan as needed to avoid scorching, until they become fragrant and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate immediately.

Recipe courtesy of The Washington Post.

3. Mini Mac And ‘Shrooms

Servings: 4


Kosher salt

1 pound mezzi rigatoni

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups whole milk

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound wild mushrooms, such as oyster or shiitake, stemmed and sliced

4 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

8 ounces taleggio or brie cheese, rind removed, cubed (about 1 1/2 cups)

5 ounces pecorino cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup cooking water.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until the paste puffs slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking. Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is creamy, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Season with salt. Push to the side of the pan and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.

4. Reduce the heat under the sauce to low and whisk in both cheeses until smooth. Stir in the mushrooms and pasta and toss, adding the reserved cooking water as needed.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden; stir in the parsley. Divide the pasta among 8 small bowls. Garnish with the breadcrumb mixture.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen.

4. Quinoa And Black Rice With Tomatoes, Avocado And Pine Nuts

Servings: 4


1 cup red or tricolor quinoa, rinsed well

1/2 cup black or wild rice, rinsed well

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 small onion, chopped finely

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon cilantro

1 teaspoon chives

2 avocados

1 pint cherry tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


1. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Set aside.

2. Cook the black rice according to the package directions. Set aside.

3. Toast the pine nuts in a 350 degrees oven for 5 minutes. Set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and saute until the onion is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Add the cooked quinoa and rice to the onion mixture, along with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mix well, then stir in the cumin, cilantro, and chives. Remove from the heat.

6. Slice the avocado into 1/4-inch pieces, then slice the cherry tomatoes in half, and fold the vegetables into the grains. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze lemon juice over all. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy of AARP.

5. Pumpkin Pie

Servings: 6


can (16 ounces) pureed pumpkin 1 na

maple syrup 0.5 cup

salt 0.5 teaspoon

ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon

ground ginger 0.5 teaspoon

ground cloves 0.25 teaspoon

ground allspice

optional 1 teaspoon

ground nutmeg

optional 0.5 teaspoon

cornstarch to firm up the pie filling 3 tablespoon

package (10-12 ounces) silken/soft tofu 1 na

9-in unbaked vegan pie shell 1 na


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Blend the pumpkin and sugar.

3. Add salt

4. Spices

5. Cornstarch and tofu

6. Mix thoroughly.

7. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 60 minutes.

8. Chill and serve.

Recipe courtesy of The Kind Life.