The Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving Vegan Substitutes 

 November 15, 2020

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner and whether you are catering for a vegan who is coming to dinner or veganizing the whole dinner, this post is for you!

For each traditional thanksgiving dish we will tell you if it's usually vegan or not.  And if it isn’t, we'll let you know what the the usual main non-vegan culprits are.

We'll also give you a couple of alternatives if it usually isn't vegan.  We'll offer you 2 options:

  • one will be easy.  Either it can be purchased or ordered, or it's super easy to substitue the non-vegan ingredient;
  • the other will be something a little bit slower, something made ‘from scratch’ and perfect for those home chefs amongst us that have the time and the inclination to go all out;

The following dishes are all in alphabetical order, for, hopefully, easy retrieval.  Enjoy!

Apple Cider (Hot)

We’re super pleased to tell you that in most apple cider punch recipes, there’s nothing non-vegan about them. Hurrah!  We really like this recipe by All Recipes.

Apple Pie with ice cream and/or whipped cream

It’s usually the fat in the pastry crust that makes an apple pie not vegan. They might use lard or butter and perhaps brush up the top of the pie with milk or egg.

Easy: We suggest Marie Callender’s Apple pie that consistently gets good reviews, but you will find that most shop-bought apple pies are actually vegan.  Alternatively, you can buy a pie crust or two and quickly whip up an apple pie.  For the ice cream, vanilla is best and we love So Delicious’ version which is available in most supermarkets.  For the cream, you can buy whipped or aerosol cream easily. We like this one by Silk.

SlowThis apple pie by Sweet Simple Vegan includes a homemade crust made with coconut oil.   If you decide to make homemade vegan ice cream along with all the other Thanksgiving dishes, you'll definitely have our respect, especially considering there are so many amazing ice creams you can buy at your local supermarket.  But in case we have some over-achievers out there, we recommend this coconut based ice-cream by The Kitchn.  For the cream, you can make your own with this recipe for whipped cream from Minimalist Baker

Candied Yams

vegan candied yam

source: Conscious Living TV

Candied Yams are unfortunately not usually vegan as they can contain a lot of butter.  Plus if they are covered with marshmallows then those will have gelatin.  However, we're happy to tell you that they are very easy to veganise!

Easy: Simply veganise your favorite recipe by using vegan butter and marshmallows.  We like Earth Balance original buttery sticks and Dandies mini marshmallows

Slow: For a more decadent and from-scratch recipe, then try this Candied Yams recipe with marshmallows from Conscious Living TV.


vegan cornbread

source: Minimalist Baker

Cornbread is not something that we personally cook for our Thanksgiving feasts so I was very shocked to see just how un-vegan friendly traditional cornbread recipes are! They seem to contain a lot of eggs, buttermilk, and a lot of butter.  That’s okay because we can find lots of other recipes that are easy and vegan.

Easy: This cornbread recipe from Yoko’s kitchen is made and cooked in one bowl!

Slow: This cornbread from Minimalist Baker is a little more involved due to making the vegan buttermilk by adding something acidic to the soy milk and having to wait a while, but it sure looks amazing and worth the effort!

Cranberry Sauce

We spent a long time looking for a non-vegan cranberry sauce recipe and we just couldn’t find one!  That's because Cranberry sauce needs no veganizing!  It already is!

Dinner Rolls

Dinner rolls are definitely a staple on Thanksgiving and what makes them different to regular rolls is that they are very soft, fluffy and usually shiny on top.  Unfortunately it's because their ingredients usually include warm milk and a lot of  butter.   That simply won't do, so here are some alternatives:

Easy: Vegan Richa has a fantastic recipe for dinner rolls without the need for yeast, which of course makes everything a lot easier.  Iif you want to buy some, then Arnold’s has some without milk products

Slow: We love this dinner roll recipe from My Minimalist Vegan (amazing food photography by the way). This replaces all that traditional butter and milk with vegan versions.


We absolutely love gravy and our Thanksgiving dishes are usually swimming in a huge pool of it.   Sadly, most gravy usually isn't vegan as it is made from the juices (yuk) of whatever meat was cooking nearby, and very often the broth used will be from chicken.  Many gravies also contain butter as well. 

Easy: Good news!  There are LOTS of vegan gravy mixes that you can buy from your local supermarket or online.  Some of them are already prepared and you just have to heat them through, while others are in powder form requiring you to simply just add water, whisk and heat.  We really love this gravy from Tofurky.

Slow: This one is time-consuming, but totally worth it. Our family have been making this gravy for nearly 30 years.  It’s by Rose Elliot, a vegetarian cookbook writer who has been cranking out incredible recipes for decades.   Her recipe is available online here and from what we can tell, the book that it was published in is no longer in print. This receipe requires yeast extract (which is very important in this recipe) and soy sauce (although keep it to just one tablespoon of the 1-2 suggested). This recipe goes in the slow category because you have to strain the gravy (do not blend it otherwise it will have a less pleasing consistency) and you also have to cook it for about 20 minutes.  However, It's easily doubled (and we have quadrupled it in the past) and can be frozen very easily.

Green Bean Casserole

This rather interesting dish is usually not vegan because it contains lots of butter and milk.  Boooo!! 

Easy: it's easy to veganise your traditional recipe.  Simply replace the butter with a vegan one and replace the milk for rich non-dairy milk (consider purchasing oat or soy milk as these are usually thicker than nut milk).

Slow: This recipe from Loving it Vegan is delicious and much healthier than other recipes (if calories are something you are worried about during Thanksgiving!).

Jello Salad

vegan Jello Salad

source: My Quiet Kitchen

We must admit that this isn't really something that's traditional in our household.. we'd never even heard of it!   But yep, it's definitely a thing!   We did realize, however, that the word ‘salad’ is a bit misleading because there usually aren't any vegetables in it.  It seems like the non-vegan ingredients in this salad are usually the gelatine in the jello, while cream cheese and cream are also often found.

Easy:  It seems like jello salads are not something you would usually buy ready-made and if you have a favorite recipe, you can easily veganise it by simply using vegan jello!  We like the strawberry one from Simply Delish.

Slow: Word of warning: this one is epic!  It has multiple layers, starting with a pecan crust, then a cream cheese filling, all topped with a jelly-like topping and strawberries, which is in this case made with Agar-Agar, a sea vegetable that has jelly-like properties. To make this Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Salad, get yourself over to My Quiet Kitchen and make this much loved - although rather strange! -- dessert.

Mashed Potatoes

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

source: Short Girl Tall Order

Mashed potatoes are simply a must-have at Thanksgiving.  We like them drowning in gravy and, ideally, they should be rich and fluffy (and of course vegan!).  Traditional mashed potatoes are usually not vegan due to the butter and a splash of milk being added while mashing, while some like to up-level their mashed potatoes by adding things like cheese, sour cream and even bacon.  Let’s bring it back to basics:

Easy: it's easy to veganize your favorite mashed potato recipe by subbing the butter and the milk, but you can make it even easier by buying instant mashed potatoes.

Slow: we love this mashed potato recipe by Short Girl Tall Order that includes loads of caramelized onions, which of course takes some time to get them nice and sweet. We think this recipe would be a welcome addition to any Thanksgiving table and we also love the presentation idea!

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is a delicious addition to the Thanksgiving table, but it is decidedly not vegan. It uses eggs to hold the filling together, butter for flavor and also possibly more butter in the pastry base. 

Easy: OK… we admit it was a bit of a challenge to find an easy solution for this.  You can find vegan pecan pies to order online, but they usually require pick-up as mailing pies is probably not super ideal 😉  It is certainly worth doing some research online to see if any vegan bakeries near you are making pecan pies to order.  If you do want something easy to make and pecan inspired, you can try these cookies, or alternatively, you can try a vegan pecan pie recipe with a shop-bought crust that is very often vegan. 

Slow: we love this pecan pie recipe from Lazy Cat Kitchen which even includes a recipe for a pasty crust too!  This is the recipe to make if you want to wow your guests or make your vegan guest feel super special and loved.

Pumpkin Pie

This delicious pie is usually not considered vegan due to the crust which might contain lard or butter, and the pie itself which has lots of eggs, cream, and milk.  No worries.. we've got your back:

Easy: We love this recipe by Nora Cooks.  It’s very popular, having been shared over 21,000 times, and has only 9 ingredients!  You can make this recipe even more quickly with a shop-bought pie crust.  Just like Nora won’t judge you, we won’t either 🙂

Slow: We put this pumpkin pie recipe from A Virtual Vegan in the slow category because not only does it involve making the pie crust from scratch but also has a salted caramel sauce. It's hugely worth the time and effor though! 

Pumpkin Soup

vegan Pumpkin Soup

The traditional appetizer for Thanksgiving is a smooth and thick pumpkin soup, which unfortunately usually contains cream and non-vegan stock.

Easy: It’s very easy to veganise your favorite recipe by replacing the broth with a vegan one and using a vegan cream.  Or alternatively you can make a thick cashew cream by soaking raw cashews in water overnight (or boil them for 10 minutes in a pinch). Don’t forget that you can often find frozen and peeled/chopped pumpkin in the frozen section of your supermarket, or you can find a recipe that includes pureed pumpkin.

Otherwise, you can buy a pumpkin soup already made. We like this one from Pacific Foods.

Slow: Roasting your pumpkin really does make the whole process a little more time-consuming but on the positive side, you don’t have to peel the pumpkin (as you can simply scoop out the pumpkin when it is cooked through and cooled). This recipe by Cookie and Kate is delicious and do not be put off by the coconut milk. You don’t taste it at all!

Roast Turkey

Ah, the centerpiece of the meal. There’s nothing you can do to veganise a real turkey (obviously) but there are plenty of ways to create an incredible alternative.

Easy: We actually wrote a whole blog post on our favorite vegan roast alternatives that you can buy, so check that out for all the low-down!

Slow: We also wrote a blog post for our favorite homemade vegan turkey alternatives, but as far as we're concerned, the prize simply must go to Miyoko Schinner (yes the woman who makes that amazing cheeses that sports her name) for this Unturkey.  Miyoko used to make these to sell many years ago, but now she is busy with cheeses, so the only way you can get this epic turkey substitute is to make it yourself.  I made this for a Christmas party potluck a couple of years ago and it was quite the showstopper (with the added stuffing)!  Such is the devotion to this recipe, someone even created a whole website to it and Miyoko seems to approve!

Roasted Vegetables

roasted vegetables

Obviously, this is going to be vegan and whoever takes away the veganess of this side dish will have us to answer to! 🙂   Already vegan! 

Easy: The easiest way to make this dish already vegan is of course using a bag of frozen root vegetables, which are easily available at your supermarket.

Slow: The most time-consuming part of this side-dish is tracking down all the root vegetables, peeling them, and of course, the actual time needed to roast them. However, we love this roasted vegetable recipe from Toria Avey because it is so brightly colored and contains parsnip as well as beets!


Stuffing is usually not vegan because it's cooked inside the turkey...  Veganizing it isn't as simple as cooking it out of the Turkey in a baking dish because the recipe itself can often contain butter, eggs and chicken broth.  That simply won’t do for our vegan friends.

Easy: you can buy a pre-made version which is often accidentally vegan (although you might need vegan butter or stock to reconstitute).

Slow: This version from Toshi’s Table is in the fancy category because you have to source slightly unusual ingredient like fennel.  It also contains tempeh, fresh sage, and dried cranberries.  

So there you have it!  Nearly everything you'll need for an awesome vegan Thanksgiving. And, if you're already thinking about Christmas, we've got that covered too! Check out our guide to vegan roasts.

Now, we'd love to hear from you!  Do you have any favorite recipes or vegan alternative to any of our dishes above?  Did we miss your traditional favorite?  Let us know and we might add it to an article update in the future! 

Let's have a discussion in the comments below.  We'd love to hear from you!

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