6 Healthy Alternatives to Turkey for a Plant-Based Thanksgiving

You’ll be thankful you whipped up these impressive turkey-free dishes.

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It’s easy as pumpkin pie to make your Thanksgiving sides from plants. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole are all favorites that are easy to “veganize” by using milk and egg alternatives. The traditional star of the show, however, might pose a bigger challenge—especially if you prefer to skip the faux turkeys and roasts from the freezer aisle. 

Even if you’re far from vegan, here’s why you might consider a plant-based entree for this year’s Thanksgiving: Plant-based dishes tend to be higher in fiber, which might help you feel fuller and avoid overeating (take that, holiday weight gain). 

Plus, plant-based eating helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancers, according to the American Heart Association. Learn more about the health benefits of a plant-based diet here.

Having a plant-based Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you’re stuck with side dishes (although, to be fair, the side dishes are arguably the best part). These impressive plant-based entrees will make you a hero to your guests and your health:

1. Pumpkin stuffed shells with creamy sage sauce

Pasta is always a crowd favorite, and there’s something about jumbo shells that feels special and impressive. The pumpkin mixture that goes inside the shells is seasoned with garlic, thyme, and sage, giving it that perfect autumn flavor—not to mention tons of vitamin A. (Here are other health perks of pumpkin.)

No pasta is complete without sauce, and this one is topped with a creamy sage sauce (without actual cream, of course), roasted hazelnuts, and fresh sage. Find out how to make pumpkin stuffed shells from My Darling Vegan

2. Lentil loaf with mushroom gravy

If you like meatloaf, try this veg option made with beans, seeds, nuts, oats, and mushrooms. It sounds a little crazy, but together, these nutrient-rich ingredients create a surprisingly meaty flavor. Unlike the usual meatloaf, which is high in saturated fat, a lentil loaf is low in fat and packed with fiber.

You could top it with ketchup (if that’s your style), or you can give it even more Thanksgiving vibes by adding a spoonful of umami-rich mushroom gravy. Check out this recipe for lentil loaf with mushroom gravy from A Virtual Vegan.

3. Mushroom and pecan wellington

A welly-what?

Wellington is a popular dish in England; it’s essentially beef wrapped in pastry, which is then cut into slices like a meatloaf. This version swaps the beef with a clever blend of low-cal mushrooms and heart-healthy pecans. The added onion, garlic, thyme, and tamari give this meatless wellington major flavor.

Find out how to make mushroom and pecan wellington by The Delightful Vegans.

4. Veggie pot pie

If you’re serving less adventurous eaters, veggie pot pie is a classic and cozy option that won’t intimidate your pickier loved ones. And really, you can’t go wrong when gravy and pastry are involved. To make your holiday cooking a little easier, a bag of frozen mixed veggies works perfectly in this recipe.

Check out this recipe for veggie pot pie by Nora Cooks.

5. Stuffed acorn squash with wild rice

If thoughts of working with pastry dough make you panic, this option might be more your style. Acorn squashes are the perfect size for making individual entrees that look and taste impressive—not to mention they offer oodles of fiber, vitamin A, and potassium. And what says “fall” more than squash?

To make stuffed acorn squash, you essentially cut one in half, clean out the squash seeds, and bake. Then, you stuff it with a flavorful mixture of wild rice, veggies, beans, and herbs. Find out how to make stuffed acorn squash by the Simple Veganista

6. Veggie shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s pie is a casserole that layers mashed potatoes over lamb and gravy. (Many Americans use ground beef, but that’s technically “cottage pie,” if you ask the Brits.) It’s kind of like pot pie, but with mashed spuds instead of pie crust.

This plant-based take on shepherd’s pie combines lentils and veggies to make a heart-healthy alternative with tons of fiber. If you want, you can even swap mashed sweet potatoes for the topping—but it’s great either way. Check out this recipe for lentil shepherd’s pie by Yup It’s Vegan.

Moral of the story? You’ve got options, and you’re definitely not stuck with an entree-less Thanksgiving. Whatever you choose, one thing’s for sure: These impressive plant-based main dishes will give you and your health another thing to be thankful for.