Simple Recipes for a Frugal Vegetarian Thanksgiving


No turkey? No problem. I've been hosting meat-free Thanksgiving celebrations for the last decade. By the end of the evening, my friends and family are stuffed with amazingly nutritious and delicious foods from soup to nuts. (See also: 5 Simple Ways to Save on Thanksgiving)

This year we're hoping to do it all on a tighter budget. So, here are some recipes that will help you rock a vegetarian/vegan Turkey Day without breaking the bank.


Don't skimp on appetizers. You'll want to offer up something tasty and hearty to your guests while you finish all the last-minute dinner preparations. I keep our appetizers simple. Some dips, veggies, and carbs.


Fondue is a big favorite in my household, no matter the time of year. This Hard Cider and Cheddar Fondue adds a nice twist for the holiday. Though the recipe calls for chicken broth, you can easily substitute in vegetable broth to suit your dietary needs. No hard cider in the house? Just use beer. And to add to the frugality, serve with your bakery's discount day-old bread — it soaks up the fondue better than fresh and costs less.


Most dips you'll find on the table are vegetarian, but this smoky Butternut Squash Hummus is particularly festive. If you don't have butternut squash on hand, you can use acorn, delicata, or even canned pumpkin. Save some pennies (and salt content) by cooking your own chickpeas — you'll just need to soak them the night before.

Veggie Tray

For some visual pizazz, gather a medley of fresh produce, olives, and other foods to make this Turkey Vegetable Tray. It's much less expensive to buy, cut, and arrange the veggies yourself than it is to buy a pre-made tray at the store. Plus, you're giving vegetarians the symbolic turkey on Thanksgiving!

Side Dishes

My favorite part of dinner is making a variety of side dishes that span the spectrum of flavors. You can't go wrong with using fresh ingredients that you buy at your local farmers market. Usually these seasonal ingredients are cheaper than what you'd buy at the store since they don't travel as far from the farm to your table.

Dinner Rolls

We had a Thanksgiving brunch last year in place of dinner. I made these incredible Pumpkin Garlic Rolls stuffed with brie and served with jam. I buy brie at Aldi, where it's incredibly inexpensive, and it does the trick in a dish like this one. If anything, do a more refined jam — I like red pepper for a sweet and savory mix.

Roasted Veggies

Next, serve a simple side of roasted veggies. Any kind will do. We've had great success roasting asparagus, squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and all other vegetables with nothing more than olive oil, salt, and pepper. For a fun twist, try making these Brussels Sprout Kebabs. Just roast the veggie, season, and then arrange on skewers.


Mushrooms are the key to any amazing vegetarian stuffing recipe. They give the dish an earthy flavor and marry well with sage, thyme, and other herbs. This Portabella Vegan Stuffing is simple yet flavorful. If you'd rather not buy stuffing cubes, just cut cubes of any loaf, bake until dry — but not brown — and then use in your recipe.


You can easily make most mashed potato recipes vegetarian or vegan by replacing chicken broth with vegetable and milk or cream with non-dairy substitutes. The gravy, however, can be more problematic. This Wild Mushroom Gravy recipe takes on the same sort of flavors as your stuffing recipe, just in a new way. To make it vegan, use Earth Balance instead of butter.

Main Course

Admittedly, we tend to graze on all sorts of dishes without a hugely defined main course. But for more traditional vegetarians, I have some suggestions that are packed with protein and definitely worthy to place in the center of your table.

"Meat" Loaf

This vegetarian Nut Loaf has become a favorite comfort food in our house. Its components are humble and — for the most part — inexpensive. If the ingredients list is a bit too long for you, there's a simplified Lentil Loaf that we make on weeknights that makes something amazing from frozen vegetables, cooked lentils, crackers, walnuts, and a few other things. It's also cheaper and faster to put together.


Eggs make a solid protein for the Thanksgiving table. The key is transforming them from your breakfast favorite to something more refined. A few years ago, we made this Asparagus Quiche. If you'd rather go crustless, try this Mushroom and Kale Frittata recipe that takes just 30 minutes from start to finish. With either of these recipes, you can double so your finished dish will serve more than 2-4 people.


I love stuffed shells for special occasions. You can get particularly creative with them, too. For example, this Broccoli Alfredo Stuffed Shells recipe goes beyond the usual red sauce and takes just 30 minutes to make. Don't forget to cook your pasta al dente before baking, so it isn't mushy when served. You can add tofu ricotta to this recipe (about 1 heaping tablespoon per shell) for extra protein by pressing a tofu cube until it drains, crumbling with your hands, and seasoning with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon juice.


Most desserts are inherently vegetarian, so this category isn't so specific. It also happens to be my favorite, so I couldn't resist sharing a few Thanksgiving sweet dishes with you — and they're all vegan!

Pumpkin Pie(s)

I make these individual Chocolate Pumpkin Pies every year for the holiday. Peanut butter and chocolate take the dessert to another level — and if you have a peanut allergy, almond butter works just as well. Don't trust yourself to microwave the chocolate? Melt it using a double-boiler on the stove.

Butternut Crisp

This twist on apple crisp will get your guests talking. Prepare butternut squash, apple, and pears for baking by tossing them in a mixture of brown sugar, lemon juice, oat flour, and spices. Then top with an oatmeal crumble. If you don't have oat flour, it's easy to make at home by pulsing uncooked rolled oats in a food processor. Bonus savings if you have squash leftover from any of the other recipes you've made for your meal.

Pecan Pie

Talk about wonderful flavors here, this Maple Pecan Pie recipe will please your vegan and carnivore guests all at the same time — and it contains silken tofu (they'll never know, I promise!). If you're looking to cut costs, use all-purpose flour versus brown rice and vanilla extract versus vanilla paste, but don't skimp on the real maple syrup.

What are you making for Thanksgiving this year? Please share a bite in comments!

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