Help! The Rabbits are Coming for Thanksgiving: 6 Ways to Feed Your Vegetarian Guest

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If you're hosting the Thanksgiving dinner this year, you might have started your menu in the last couple of weeks. But then you found out one of your guests is *gulp* a vegetarian. You think everything has just blown up in your face. How do you impress your brother's girlfriend (if indeed you want to impress her) when she doesn't like turkey?

I've been to 31 Thanksgiving dinners in my lifetime. I'm happy to say I have progressed from the only-olives-on-the-fingers stage. And I have some advice to offer.

6 Ways to Serve a Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Remember you are probably already serving foods that are naturally vegetarian. Think salads, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce or another relish. One year I served this wonderful green bean recipe from Moosewood Cooks at Home. Make sure you have a colorful variety of naturally veggie dishes, and you're farther along than you thought.
  • Consider serving meat on the side as optional ad-on. For example, if those deviled eggs must be laced with bacon, perhaps you can top a few halves with bacon bits instead of stirring them into the mash.
  • Consider a fruit-bar dessert. Desert can be hard for a vegan individual who doesn't eat any animal products, including dairy and eggs. Sometimes we serve homemade apple sauce with optional toppings. These may include bananas, ice cream, cool whip, cinnamon, raisins, or warm caramel. You can also serve small cups of creamy frozen banana ice, also a Moosewood Cooks at Home recipe, Toppings for this all-fruit ice cream include peanut butter, pomegranates, or chocolate chips.
  • Easily label the foods or give the guest(s) a tour of the dishes that are vegetarian-friendly. I've been to work events where foods were not easily labeled. And just when I got a salad on my plate I saw the meat that had shaken down to the bottom of the bowl in transport. A similar situation at your function might cause embarrassment as it did at mine. And if the salad is the last item on the buffet, the whole plate might need to be scrapped. Save time, food and happiness by making it easy to distinguish the platters.
  • Ask the vegetarian guest to bring a special dish. Maybe a main course. My in-laws have a friend who is on the raw food diet. When she is invited to events, the friend simply brings a raw walnut loaf that gets rave reviews. Here's a similar recipe. The guest has a main course to color her plate, and she has the opportunity to share a fun new recipe with the other guests.
  • Consider making something vegetarian that wasn't previously considered vegetarian. I'm thinking specifically about mashed potatoes here. While mashed potatoes are vegetarian, with the milk or cream, they are not vegan. Consider an alternative recipe like garlic-rosemary mashed potatoes. I've made this often, even mixing sweet and white potatoes together.
  • Bonus Thought: Bread is rarely vegan. Here's the recipe for brown-and-serve rolls that I'm using this year. It's my normal wheat bread recipe turned into rolls!