I recently attempted a vegan Thanksgiving dinner in just three hours over on Youtube. The goal: make a gourmet-quality holiday dinner in just 3 hours (no boxed mixes or pre-made foods allowed).
While I typically make 8 to 10 (sometimes, even 12) courses and spend 20 hours in the kitchen, I decided 2020 was too stressful to repeat that. Plus, since many of our Thanksgiving dinners (including my own) will be significantly smaller this year, I wanted to keep the menu on the small side and make it relatively fuss-free.
This five-course vegan Thanksgiving meal consists of three side veggie dishes (or two side dishes and an appetizer, depending on how you look at it), a hearty yet wholesome main dish, and an easy no-bake tart.
Most of these recipes are a bit more modern than classic Thanksgiving recipes for a few reasons. One, I already have several more traditional Thanksgiving recipes on my blog (mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, etc.). And two, my cooking style skews more modern and elegant than traditional.
- Creamy Lentil Stuffed Butternut Squash (main course)
- Sweet Chili-Ginger Brussels Sprouts (side dish)
- Roasted Carrots with Gremolata (side dish)
- Fresh Herb Salad with Sumac Shallots (starter or side dish)
- Salted Chocolate Cream Tart (dessert)
If you want so supplement this meal with something more carb-heavy and indulgent, I suggest either my miso butter mashed potatoes or my wild mushroom stuffing, or some fluffy bread rolls would be divine.
If you work efficiently and make the dessert ahead of time, you can easily make this five-course meal on Thanksgiving day in 3 hours or less.
Whether you make the whole menu or just one recipe, I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes this holiday season!
Creamy Lentil Stuffed Butternut Squash
Roasted butternut squash gets stuffed with a hearty and creamy lentil filling that is packed with umami and punchy flavors (sticky browned onions, lots of garlic and fresh herbs, red wine, tahini, balsamic vinegar). It makes for a hearty and satisfying main course that the whole family will love.
When ready to serve, drizzle with a creamy (and quick) sauce made from the scooped out butternut squash.
- 3 medium butternut squash
- Regular olive oil or avocado oil for roasting
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Creamy Lentil Filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (you will need more oil if not using a nonstick pan)
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh sage leaves
- 2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/3 cup (80 mL) dry red wine (such as Pinot Noir, Shiraz/Syrah, or Malbec)
- 1 cup (190g) green or brown lentils
- 2 ⅔ cups (640 mL) vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
- 2 ½ tablespoons tahini
- 2 teaspoons white miso paste
- 2-3 teaspoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup roasted butternut squash (from the scooped out halves)
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3-6 tablespoons water or vegetable broth, more as needed to thin the sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- Roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C). Slice each butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and sticky stuff with a spoon. Place each squash half, cut side up, on a large baking sheet and rub each with a bit of the oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 45-50 minutes, or until the flesh is fork tender and lightly browned.
- Make the Creamy Lentil Filling. Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and sauté for 8-9 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning but not too often so that they can brown, or until most of the onions are browned. Add the garlic, sage and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine into all of the ingredients, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and pour in the red wine and deglaze the pan, stirring up any browned bits, until the liquid has evaporated and the smell of alcohol has dissipated, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth, along with the lentils, bay leaf, and paprika. Stir to combine and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to maintain a rapid simmer, and simmer until the lentils are just tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the tahini, miso, and balsamic vinegar, and stir until well incorporated. Taste for seasonings, adding about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.
- When the roasted squash is cool enough to handle, use a large spoon to scoop out the flesh from each squash half, leaving a ½ to ¾-inch -thick border around the sides and bottom.
- Transfer 1 cup of the butternut squash flesh to a food processor (set aside the rest for another use, such as a risotto, pasta, oatmeal, or smoothie).
- Reduce oven temperature to 350F° (175°C).
- Stuff the lentil filling into each squash cavity. Add the stuffed squash halves to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until everything is warmed through.
- Meanwhile, make the butternut tahini sauce. To the food processor with the 1 cup squash flesh, add the tahini, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and blend until smooth. Stream in the water or broth, scraping down the sides as you go, until you have a pourable but thick sauce.
- To serve, drizzle the butternut tahini sauce on top of the stuffed baked squash. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
Sweet Chili-Ginger Brussels Sprouts
My holiday table is never complete without Brussels sprouts, so I love coming up with new and fresh ways to serve them. Like these Chinese-inspired Sweet Chili-Ginger Brussels Sprouts! Brussels sprouts get roasted until browned, then doused in a sticky, spicy and slightly sweet sauce with fresh ginger and garlic.
- 1 1/2 pounds (680g) Brussels sprouts
- 2 1/2 tablespoons avocado oil, or neutral cooking oil of choice
Sweet Chili Sauce
- 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha, or other sweet-chili sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, aka rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons avocado oil or neutral cooking oil of choice
- 3 scallions sliced at a bias (white and light green parts only; reserve the dark green pieces for garnish)
- 1-inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, grated
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup roasted cashews, chopped (optional; omit for nut-free)
- 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds or black sesame seeds
- Prep the sprouts. Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C). Wash the sprouts and remove any browned or tough outer layers. Cut the sprouts in half (if any sprouts are large, cut into quarters).
- Roast the sprouts. Spread the sprouts out on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat with your hands. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, tossing after 20 minutes, until the sprouts are nicely browned. If your sprouts are quite small, flip after 15 minutes and roast for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile make the Sweet Chili sauce. Whisk together the tamari or soy sauce, agave, water, sriracha, sesame oil, and rice vinegar in a small bowl until well combined.
- Sauté the aromatics. Just before the sprouts are done roasting (or after they’re done roasting), heat the 2 teaspoons oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring often until golden, about 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make cornstarch slurry: whisk together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water until smooth and. no longer clumpy.
- Add the Sweet Chili Sauce to the frying pan and bring to a simmer. Then add the cornstarch slurry, stir well, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Toss in the roasted sprouts and coat in the sauce. Sprinkle with sliced green scallion tops, roasted cashews (if using), and sesame seeds.
Roasted Carrots with Gremolata
For my next veggie side dish, I chose to make a simple carrot dish because (1) both veggies roast in the oven at the same temperature for the same time, so you save on a lot of time there; (2) I love starchy veggies on my Thanksgiving table; (3) and roasted carrots are so delicious that you don’t need much to turn them into a crowd pleasing side dish.
You do need to use skinny carrots if you want to roast them whole. If your carrots are standard-sized or large, you’ll want to cut them into half or quarters, lengthwise, and then into large chunks.
- 2 to 3 bunches of skinny carrots scrubbed clean and tops removed
- 2 ½ tablespoons regular olive oil
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- Kosher salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Handful of fresh thyme sprigs optional
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
- 2 large garlic cloves peeled
- 2 small organic lemons
- Coarse or flaky sea salt
- Prep the carrots. Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C). If some carrots are thicker, cut them lengthwise in half. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil and maple syrup.
- Roast the carrots. Spread the carrots out on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the oil-maple syrup mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat with your hands. Scatter the thyme sprigs on top. Roast the carrots for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes, until the carrots are tender and deeply browned in spots.
- Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Finely chop the parsley. Use a microplane to grate the garlic cloves directly over the carrot tops, or just finely mince the garlic with a knife. Then use a microplane to zest the lemons on top of this mixture, taking care to not zest the white pith underneath the skin. Chop everything together until well combined, sprinkle with a bit of coarse sea salt, and then transfer to a bowl.
- Once carrots are done roasting, sprinkle the gremolata on top and serve.
Fresh Herb Salad with Sumac Shallots
Since most holiday tables are packed with heavy, rich dishes, I love adding a salad into the mix to lighten things up. You can serve this salad as a starter, or as a palate-cleansing side dish.
And if salad sounds boring for the holidays, keep in mind that this is a fun and non-traditional salad. The base consists of cucumber ribbons, fresh herbs, scallions, and wedges of crisp Little Gem lettuce. The star of the show are the shallots, which get quickly marinated in vinegar and sumac, a spice common in Middle Eastern cooking that’s bright, tangy, citrusy yet a little earthy.
- 1 large shallot, sliced paper thin
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (can substitute red wine vinegar or white vinegar)
- A couple pinches kosher salt or 1 pinch sea salt
- 2 heads Little Gem lettuce
- 1 large English cucumber
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dry roasted almonds, chopped (for nut-free, substitute roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds or hemp seeds)
- 2 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Marinate the shallots. Mix together the shallots with the sumac, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Use your hands to combine and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 30 minutes.
- Shaved the cucumber into ribbons using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler. Slice the Little Gem lettuce heads into quarters.
- In a bowl, combine the shaved cucumbers, parsley, mint, and scallions. Lightly sprinkle with salt. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice and gently toss to combine.
- Transfer the salad to a serving platter or bowl. Top with the quartered lettuce heads. Spread the marinated shallot slices on top and scatter around the chopped almonds. Toss gently and serve.
Salted Chocolate Cream Tart
While pie (and pumpkin) is more traditional for Thanksgiving, I prefer tarts because they’re so much easier and quicker to make. And while I definitely enjoy pumpkin desserts, not everyone in my family does so I often end up making a chocolate dessert, which is guaranteed to satisfy every appetite.
And this salted chocolate cream tart is a no-brainer when it comes to an easy holiday meal. With a no-bake brownie base and a creamy salted chocolate filling, it’s rich and creamy but made with wholesome ingredients and requires no baking. Best of all, it can be made several days in advance for a stress-free holiday.
The hardest part about this recipe: remembering to refrigerate your coconut cream a day in advance.