Vegan Thanksgiving Menu 2009

You won’t miss the turkey—nor the butter, milk, eggs, or marshmallows—in this Thanksgiving meal.

For my November vegan cooking colum, “The Veggie Table,” published in today’s edition of the Virginian-Pilot, I created an entire vegan feast—including a main dish with plenty of protein—that could, quite possibly, satiate even the non-vegans at your table.

The pretty and tasty star of this meal is a creamy puree of baked sweet potatoes and cannellini beans encased inside flakey and buttery Phyllo dough. On the side is my from-scratch version of that old family favorite: green bean casserole with crispy onion topping along with pureed parsnips like you’ve never tried. Simmering them in soy milk for extra creaminess is only one of my secrets. Dessert is a silky pumpkin flan with a salted pecan and faux-caramelized sugar topping. Deceptively decadent, it is even packed with protein and vitamins.

Celebratory and extra-special—yet simple to boot—this menu won’t leave anyone feeling excluded, except maybe the turkey, and he’ll thank you for it.

Note: Each of these recipes is also posted separately with individual photos. For another vegan vegetable side dish to accompany this meal, try my Vegan Maple Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts on this site.

Vegan Sweet Potatoes and Cannelini Beans in Phyllo Dough
Yield: 4 servings (easily doubles)

3 medium sweet potatoes, baked or microwaved until tender
I-14 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons orange or apricot marmalade
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (available at health food stores and some grocery stores near the flour)
1 tablespoon dry or 3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
Garlic salt or powder to taste
Onion powder to taste
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 sheets Phyllo Dough, thawed and covered with a towel
Generous ¼ cup vegan butter, melted
2 tablespoons dried rubbed sage

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scoop flesh from sweet potatoes into a medium sized bowl and mash well. Stir in beans and mash just to gently break them up. Stir in remaining filling ingredients until well combined. Stir together butter and sage and, with a pastry brush, oil bottom and sides of an 8-inch square metal baking pan. Working with one sheet of Phyllo at a time, fold one side down to make about a 9-inch square. Fit into bottom of pan and tuck edges in so that dough fits flat, brushing with sage butter as you go. Repeat 3 more times. Spoon filling onto bottom crust and smooth top. Repeat crust procedure with remaining four sheets, this time laying them on top of the filling to make a top crust. Place pan in center of oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool approximately 10 minutes, and cut into four squares. Serve warm.

Vegan Green Bean Casserole
Yield: 6 servings

9 ounces frozen green beans, thawed in colander, drained and patted dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3-4 stalks celery, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2-3 medium-large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast (available at health food stores and some grocery stores near the flour)
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened soy milk
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Optional garlic salt or powder to taste
Optional onion powder to taste
1 2/3 cups French’s Fried Onion Rings in a can, divided into 2/3 cup and 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 1 ½ quart casserole dish. In a large cast iron skillet or heavy saucepan over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add onion, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt, and sauté, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened. Meanwhile dissolve flour in a few tablespoons of the milk. When vegetables are soft, sprinkle with nutritional yeast and stir well to coat. Add flour and milk mixture plus remaining milk, stir well, and cook for about 3 minutes or until mixture thickens and flour loses its raw taste. Season to taste with next four ingredients. Remove from heat and stir in green beans and 2/3 cup onion rings. Spoon into oiled baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, gently stir, sprinkle top with remaining onion rings and return to oven for 5 minutes. Serve immediately, if possible, so that onion rings are crispy. To do ahead: bake casserole for first 30 minutes, cool to room temperature, and store, covered with foil, in the refrigerator. Reheat in a 350 degree oven, covered, and, when hot, uncover, top with onion rings and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Vegan Lemony Parsnip Puree
Yield: 4 servings (easily doubles)

4 parsnips, peeled, ends trimmed, and cut into ½” thick slices
Unsweetened soy milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled, and diced
2 medium-large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 tablespoon vegan sour cream
Zest of one lemon
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Optional garlic salt or powder to taste
Optional onion powder to taste
Optional Garnish: parsley and additional lemon zest

Lay parsnip slices into large cast iron skillet and pour in enough soy milk to just barely cover the slices. Heat over medium-high to simmering and continue simmering until parsnips are tender and milk has cooked down and thickly coated the parsnips; this may take about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, in a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt, and sauté until vegetables are softened and golden. Place parsnips, any remaining milk, onion and garlic into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add remaining three ingredients and process until smooth, scraping down bowl with a spatula as necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and optional garlic salt and onion powder. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley sprigs and additional lemon zest. If you are not serving the dish immediately, cool puree to room temperature, cover and chill without garnishes. When ready to serve, reheat in microwave, garnish and serve.

Vegan Pumpkin Flan
Yield: 8 Servings

1-12 ounce block of firm Silken Tofu (drained)
½ of a 13 ounce can pureed pumpkin or about ¾ cup
1 cup unsweetened, plain, vanilla or lite vanilla soy milk
2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch (you may alternatively use 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, but the result may be slightly more cakey than custardy)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brown sugar (this is not a really sweet custard, so add another ¼ cup brown sugar if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 teaspoon vegan butter
½ cup pecan pieces
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons water
½ cup brown sugar

Optional Garnish: 1 box Soy Whip

Custard: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8-9 inch round glass or ceramic pie dish. Place all filling ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth and completely combined. Scrape into the pie dish, gently smooth top, and bake 45 minutes (but check every 5 minutes beginning at 30.) Let cool to room temperature and, if not serving right away, chill, covered. Serve chilled or at room temperature with warm topping.

Topping: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter, add pecans and salt, and toast, stirring frequently, until light golden brown which should take a very few minutes. Remove from heat and scatter nuts over the top of custard. In a small microwave-safe cup or bowl, mix together water and brown sugar. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and pour evenly over the top of custard. Serve immediately with or without dollops of Soy Whip.

Optional Garnish: Pour Soy Whip into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat until soft peaks form.

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  1. Mary and Bill Burnham

    Great blog, Betsy! I'm really impressed with the index. How do you do that? (I'm on blogger too)

  2. Hey there~

    Thanks! I'm going to check yours out when it's not so late. 🙂

    My template creates the index automatically from the labels I give each post. Believe me, it's no fancy programming that I did!

    Great to see you the other night. I'm going to respond to you on FB. This has been a hectic week–grades were due today among other things. Whew!

  3. The Voracious Vegan

    What a beautiful menu! This would be such an impressive feast to serve to friends and family, and I seriously doubt they would even notice it was 'missing' any meat! Really gorgeous, thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Thanks, VV! Every year, our families come to our house for a "themed" Thanksgiving featuring traditional ingredients in foods from another country. We've really done some fun ones in the past. However, this is going to be a very small year because, sadly, various family members on both sides aren't able to come. I'm seriously considering serving this menu, though my husband thinks Thai sounds good…and I always love Thai food.

  5. Alisa - Frugal Foodie

    This really is a beautiful menu! It all sounds so delicious, but sweet potatoes really do capture me first 🙂

  6. Oh, thank you. I have to say that I'm smitten with sweet potatoes. Just today, a fellow teacher whose husband is a farmer offered me some sweet potatoes and collard greens for next week. I can hardly wait!

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