Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Thanksgiving Side Dishes

rice salad
Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Truth is, vegetarians don’t have it all that bad on Thanksgiving. It may be Turkey Day and all, but everyone knows Thanksgiving is all about the sides, and many of the best ones are meatless. The only thing you need to keep in mind if you’re cooking for vegetarians on Thanksgiving or are going meatless yourself is that sometimes meaty ingredients lurk in vegetable dishes like soups and casseroles. If you’re doing the cooking, you can easily substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock, and if you’re a vegetarian guest at a meal, just ask a lot of questions — those bacon-braised Brussels sprouts might be a favorite side for everyone else at the table, but you might want to skip it.

The best way to make sure there are veg-friendly dishes at the Thanksgiving table is to make some yourself. The host will appreciate the gesture, and you won’t starve; everyone will have reason to give thanks. I personally wouldn’t recommend a tofurky; they scare me, frankly. Your best bet is to make something mainstream that everyone will love — but make lots; you can count on the other guests gobbling up whatever you bring along with the meatier parts of the feast.

A Healthier Take on Dressing

You can make a vegetarian version of stuffing or dressing, but face it, the more you fill up on heavy bread dishes, the less room you’ll have for pie. Make a brown rice salad instead; serve it warm, cold or at room temperature.

Get the Recipe: Autumn Rice Salad With Dried Fruit and Nuts (above)

Go Big and Go Fancy


This is likely the only dish that’s sure to upstage the turkey — and probably the pies and sides, too. Move over Turducken, there’s a new ‘ducken in town: sweet potatoes surrounded by stuffing, leeks and packed into a squash.
Watch How to Make it: Veg-Friendly VeggieDucken

Dessert Meets Side Dish

There’s no meat here, but there’s plenty of buttery, spicy, crunchy, dessert-like topping on these sweet potatoes.

Get the Recipe: Southern-Style Candied Yams With Gingersnap Crunch

Surefire Crowd-Pleaser

I make butternut squash soup every year for Thanksgiving; it’s become the part of the meal that everyone looks forward to. I make the same soup recipe each year, but vary the toppings each time. This year it’ll be ginger cream and a sprinkle of chopped toasted pecans and candied ginger.

Get the Recipe: Squash Soup

Vegetarian Main or Meat-Lovers Side

Rachael Ray’s hearty lasagna is loaded with butternut squash and pumpkin puree, plus escarole and lots and lots of cheese. It will serve as a main course for vegetarians, but you can be sure everyone else at the table will load some onto their plate next to the turkey and sausage stuffing. To make this recipe completely meatless, use vegetable stock instead of chicken.

Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Lasagna

More of Our Best Thanksgiving Vegetarian Recipes

Share your tricks for going meatless on Thanksgiving!