How to Survive Thanksgiving As a Vegetarian

How to Survive Thanksgiving As a Vegetarian

Not So Much Gobble, Gobble

Halloween has come and gone. I can hardly believe it. It seems like before Halloween stores were already beginning to prep for the holiday season. As soon as November 1st hit, everyone was already starting to get into the Christmas cheer. I’m all for being festive and breaking out my Christmas decorations, but I like to take my holidays as they come. Has everyone forgotten about Thanksgiving? Let’s work on that holiday first before decking the halls.

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving because it is such a warm and loving family holiday. My mom has hosted Thanksgiving at our house since I can remember. I love helping her cook and set up for it. The past two (almost three) Thanksgivings have been different for me since I have become vegetarian. I never was really fond of turkey so it wasn’t a big adjustment, but it was still an adjustment.

Vegetarians, vegans, and other people who don’t eat meat may view Thanksgiving as a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Thanksgiving should be about spending time with loved ones, not about turkey. I’ve come up with a few tips for how vegetarians can survive Thanksgiving dinner.

The Sides

One thing about Thanksgiving that you can count on is that there is going to be a ton of sides at your family’s dinner table. Some sides will have meat in them, but there’s a good chance most of them will not. Believe it or not, you can make a¬†meal out of side dishes!¬†Every good vegetarian knows how to¬†make the most out of any meal that’s centered around meat – and that is through side dishes.

Here are a few side dishes that are almost always vegetarian that  you can add to your Thanksgiving dinner plate:

  • Mashed Potatoes – Can Thanksgiving even exist without mashed potatoes? Mashed potatoes are a staple for Thanksgiving! Most of the time, they’re made with butter and milk, and sometimes a bit of cheese. This is definitely a great, traditional Thanksgiving side to include in your meal. Just be wary of putting gravy on your potatoes, as more likely than not the gravy is made with some sort of animal broth or fat.
  • Cooked Vegetables¬†– No matter where I am or what I’m doing if there are cooked vegetables available, I can make a delicious meal. You can put cooked vegetables on a roll with some cheese to make yourself a sandwich. Or, you can mix them into the pasta dish to make your own pasta creation.
  • Cheese¬†– Cheese is a simple solution for vegetarians to get protein and calcium in. I guarantee you will be able to find cheese somewhere at Thanksgiving to add to your meal. Take some leftover cheese from the cheese and cracker appetizer plate. Sprinkle some grated parmesan on top of your mashed potatoes. Or, simply ask your Thanksgiving host if she has any cheese in her fridge she’d be willing to spare for you (she will probably say yes!).
  • Salad¬†– It’s very clich√©, but, yes, you can probably eat the salad included in your Thanksgiving spread. If that garden salad looks appetizing to you this year, go ahead and eat it. Just remember that it’s Thanksgiving so you can eat anything you want!
  • Bread and RollsBread is the best part of any meal, and it’s (almost always) vegetarian. Whether you like it plain, with butter, or as sandwich, you can indulge on the world’s greatest carb at your Thanksgiving dinner!
  • Pasta and Mac and Cheese¬†– I don’t know about you, but pasta is basically a staple in my diet. My family’s Italian, so we¬†always have some sort of pasta dish for Thanksgiving. Some pasta dishes may call for meat, but there’s a good chance one of your relatives remembers you’re a vegetarian and decided to leave it out. Mac and cheese is also a classic Thanksgiving side. Definitely, take a scoop of pasta or mac and cheese for your dinner plate.

Here are a few Thanksgiving side dishes that are probably not vegetarian:

  • Stuffing – As safe as you might think stuffing is, it’s often stuffed inside the turkey to cook with the meat. If it isn’t, it is often made with the turkey juices or some sort of animal broth.
  • Gravy – As mentioned before, gravy is typically made with animal broth or fat.
  • Soups – Again, something that could be so simply made vegetarian but is often not meatless. A lot of soups use chicken broth as a base. Some soups may also have bacon bits or other meats in them.
  • Anything with Meat-Looking Parts in It – If something kind of looks like meat in a dish, it might be. But then again, it might be some sort of pepper that’s passing for a pancetta. It can get confusing, so either use your judgment or ask.

If there’s any chance grandma was feeling a little fancy this year and might have¬†decided to throw bacon into one of the side dishes, kindly clarify it with her before putting it on your plate. She loves you, obviously, but she might forget that, yes, bacon is still meat and, yes, you still don’t eat meat.


The easiest way to avoid the awkwardness of “I can’t eat anything on this buffet table” is by bringing your own dish. The best way to make sure you have something to eat at Thanksgiving is by bringing it yourself. After a few years of vegetarianism (plus years of pickiness before that), I’ve learned that it’s better to bring my own dish that I know I like and I know I can eat.

Don’t just bring the dish for yourself. Share it with everyone! Warm your family up to the idea of vegetarian food by giving them a taste of it. ¬†Grandpa will probably be eyeing up whatever dish you bring. If he has a stubborn attitude towards vegetarianism, don’t even bother telling him it’s meatless. Ignorance is bliss!

Here are a few ideas of what to contribute to your Thanksgiving dinner:

Drinks and Desserts

One thing that you can count on is that almost every drink and dessert at Thanksgiving is going to be vegetarian. There are a few exceptions. Some beers aren’t completely animal-product-free. Also, beware of dishes with Jell-O or marshmallows. Two foods that both have gelatin in them.

But, for the most part, you don’t have to worry that your booze and sweets aren’t vegetarian. So you know what that means! You’re free to drink as much as you can handle (make sure you know your limits), and eat as many sweets as your stomach possibly can handle!


Now that you know you will be able to eat something at Thanksgiving, aren’t you excited for it? Give this holiday its needed attention before breaking out the Christmas tree. Enjoy a day filled with food, fun, and family. It’s Thanksgiving! Don’t be afraid to ask for seconds!

Fill up your plate, my Dolls!

Set the mood for a nostalgic Thanksgiving with a few throwback songs. Read “Current Playlist #3: Throwback Thursday.”

To get a more in-depth look at the world of The Porcelain Doll, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Also, check out my Facebook page, YouTube channel, and poetry blog.

8 thoughts on “How to Survive Thanksgiving As a Vegetarian

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