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Holiday Cooking for Vegans

More people than ever are deciding to go vegan, so chances are, one of them will end up at your holiday table looking for something other than that spiral ham. Good news: Our crowd-pleasing recipes and ingredient tips will help you welcome vegan guests with a menu they’ll love.

What’s a Vegan?

A person who is vegan has adopted a plant-based diet and does not eat animal products, including meat, fish, shellfish, insects, dairy and eggs. It may surprise non-vegans to hear, but some vegans even avoid honey, which is made by bees. (Check out some other surprising ingredients that vegans don’t eat .) Not all vegans agree on the same lineup of foods, so what’s a host to do? Always ask what’s on their do and don’t lists before you choose what to cook, just to be sure.

For most, the vegan lifestyle extends past diet into other day-to-day choices. Vegans often opt not to wear clothing and accessories made of animal-sourced materials, such as wool or leather, or to use any products that were tested on animals, such as makeup and toiletries.

What to Serve

Even if plant-powered cooking isn’t normally on your agenda, there are plenty of delicious options that aren’t any harder to make than meat-based ones. Our celebratory dishes are all vegan or easy to tweak with substitutions to make them animal product–free. You might enjoy them so much you’ll include them more often in your regular menus, even if you’re not a vegan yourself.

Appetizers
  • Beet Hummus: Serve this colourful twist on the beloved chickpea dip with sliced veggies or crackers. It looks amazing as part of a holiday spread, and the dip is gluten-free.
  • Baked Falafel Snack Bites: No messy frying for these bite-size starters. A mix of black beans and chickpeas adds a fresh twist — and they taste fantastic with a dollop of that Beet Hummus you already made!
Salads
  • Green Power Salad with Avocado Dressing: Avocado makes the dressing for this salad so smooth, creamy and rich-tasting. It’s gluten-free, too.
  • Quinoa Salad with Basil: A simple grain salad is something everyone at the table can enjoy. To ensure this recipe is vegan-friendly, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, maple syrup instead of honey, and apple cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar (more on this under “isinglass,” below).
  • Make-Ahead Brussels Sprout Slaw with Maple Vinaigrette: Brussels sprouts are just tiny cabbages, so they make excellent slaw. Instead of a creamy dressing, this one features a sweet-tart vinaigrette dressed up with maple syrup and Dijon mustard.
Sides
  • Walnut & Grape Vegan Stuffing: You don’t need turkey to enjoy stuffing! Walnuts give this bread-based recipe a nice crunch, while red grapes add a sweetness that balances the savoury shallots and thyme. Be sure to buy a bread that meets your guest’s dietary requirements — some loaves contain whey, a milk-based protein that is not vegan-friendly.
  • Almond Apricot Brown Rice Pilaf: Yellow curry paste makes this easy rice dish fragrant and super appealing. Use apple cider vinegar in place of white wine vinegar to ensure this dish is vegan.
  • Roasted “Accordion” Potatoes: This side looks as incredible as it tastes, so it’s a must for a special holiday menu. Everyone at the table will be fighting to get their share of the crispy bits from the pan!
Mains
  • Chickpea & Eggplant Loaf with Tahini Gravy: Roasting the eggplant for this loaf gives it deep, rich flavour. The tahini gravy adds an indulgent touch and makes it a hearty, meat-free main. To be sure the dish is OK for vegans, use breadcrumbs that don’t contain whey, which is a dairy product.
  • Vegan Bolognese Lasagna: A lasagna without cheese? You bet! A well-seasoned crumbled tofu mixture makes a delicious substitute for ricotta in this delicious baked pasta.
  • Sweet Chili Tofu Fingers: Seasoned with zesty spices and served with a tangy dipping sauce, these bites make a fun addition to a buffet or a regular weeknight menu.
Desserts
  • Vegan Orange-Cardamom Mousse Squares: You won’t believe how creamy and luscious these squares are. Lightly scented with cardamom and orange zest, they will please vegan and non-vegan sweet tooths alike.
  • Maple Coconut Vegan Shortbread: Traditional shortbread depends on gobs of butter for its taste and texture. Here, coconut oil steps in to create a delicious, crumbly cookie sweetened with maple syrup.

9 Commonly Overlooked Non-Vegan Ingredients

  1. Lard is often an ingredient in store-bought pies and crusts. Look for those made with all-vegetable shortening instead.
  2. Gelatin is made from animal products, and it’s common in marshmallows, frosted cereals and gummi candies. Read labels and choose vegan versions instead. You may also want to research the ingredients in your favourite beers and wines. Gelatin and other animal products, such as isinglass (more on that below), may be used to clarify them. These types of additives often don’t appear on alcoholic beverage labels, so a quick check on the producer’s website should clear up whether your picks are vegan-friendly.
  3. Animal-based broths are often included in the ingredient lists of prepared foods. Choose items made with vegetable broth.
  4. Worcestershire sauce is seasoned with anchovies, which are definitely not vegan. In recipes, try substituting tamari or soy sauce.
  5. Whey is a dairy by-product and is often found in crackers, breads and other baked goods. Choose whey-free versions to serve to vegan guests.
  6. Honey is used to sweeten many packaged foods, so be on the lookout for it on ingredient lists.
  7. Confectioner’s glaze (also known as shellac) on hard-coated, shiny candies is often made from the lac insect. Look for vegan options that skip this coating.
  8. Isinglass, a fish-based product, is sometimes used to clarify beer and wine. Because white and red wine vinegar are made from wine, they could also contain it. If you can’t find a vegan-friendly option, substitute apple cider vinegar.
  9. Caseinate, often found in non-dairy creamers, is derived from dairy. Look for it on labels when you’re shopping for vegan-friendly ingredients.