This year will make the second Holiday season that I've been vegan. Whether it's a holiday or a family gathering, I'm always left to cook my own meals. This was something I had to get used to. Growing up, family functions consisted of one or two people cooking, the family eating, followed by jokes, fun, and laughter. When I made the choice and commitment to be vegan, I had to learn that I was also signing up to prepare, cook, and bring my own food to every family function. While I'm no pro at preparing holiday meals to fit a vegan lifestyle, I will say, ya girl can still throw down in the kitchen! With that being said, I wanted to prepare this quick little blurb to either help a fellow vegan, or someone trying to put love into action this season by preparing a vegan meal for their friend or family. So without further a due, here are a few holiday favorites, made vegan! Oh, and just an fyi, most of my substitutions are based on my Gran's recipes because she's the head chef in our family, so feel free to play "Grandma's Hands" while reading this!
My family can't imagine a holiday without a turkey and some country ham. Clearly I have been delivered from this evil spirit because this makes my second vegan holiday. I've learned that the necessity for these meats are not just to have a given protein source. They also depend on parts of the ham, the turkey juice etc. to help flavor and season other side items for the meal. I hate to be the one to say this, but meat eaters can't cook. Well let me rephrase this, they can't properly season food. The dependency on meat to flavor food is crippling. I'm sure many are thinking, "If you don't eat ham or turkey, what do you eat?" Let me first start by saying, you technically don't need a replacement. With all the holiday favorite side items, you have enough to make a full plate of food. Thanksgiving is one of the holidays people literally glorify gluttony. However, if you need a turkey/ham replacement I suggest either a vegan roast or jackfruit. This year I'm going to pair my jackfruit with my dressing, throw some gravy on it and get down with the get down!
Here we have the ancient old debate, Stuffing vs Dressing. I have had stuffing maybe once or twice in my life and it made my flesh crawl lol. It wasn't because the food wasn't good, but I'm accustomed to what I'm used to and I won't accept this dish unless the celery and onions either finely cut up or have gone through a food processor. Dressing isn't hard to make vegan, like most food, it just requires a few substitutions. (Please keep in mind that in this section and most, I won't be giving a full recipe rather providing the ingredients to make the food and how you can substitute with vegan options.) Back on topic- My Gran's dressing recipe calls for toasted white bread, cornbread, turkey juice + broth/stock, celery, onion, poultry seasoning (some people use sage), salt + pepper (dynamic duo), and egg. So here's the vegan substitute: white bread, cornbread (no dairy and egg of course), vegetable broth/stock, celery, onion, poultry seasoning, salt + pepper, and either use flax eggs or "just eggs".
For gravy, my Gran usually uses turkey juice + stock, corn starch (for thickener), boiled eggs, and left over poultry. Honestly, if you throw a little extra seasoning in there, your vegan gravy will be completely fine. I can't stress this enough, you don't have to be as dependent on meat, when seasoning or adding flavor as you think. For your gravy, use veggie stock/broth, seasoning, and thicken it to your liking with starch. For extra flavor you can add Bouillon Cubes.
Leave the ham, hammocks, back fat, and all the other types of pork ALONE! You don't need it. Between all the seasonings in the world, I can promise you, your greens and cabbage will be full of flavor. The beauty of seasoning is you can mix and match in a sense. However, I urge you to add the majority of your salt last. Add a little in the beginning when your food is cooking down, but add the most of it at the end. What you don't want to happen is you add too much salt in it in the beginning, the greens or cabbage cook all the way down and become the poster child for sodium. High blood pressure and cholesterol will be rebuked this season- IN JESUS NAME! If you prefer spice, a little red pepper doesn't hurt.
5. Mac and Cheese
I'll be the first to admit, when it comes to Mac and Cheese, well vegan mac, I cheat. I have ZERO shame in my game. I am absolutely head over heals with Daiya cheese. I buy a box of their mac and cheese + a pack of their shredded cheddar and shredded mozzarella. I prepare the mac on the stove according to normal standards (adding vegan butter and choice of plant milk to achieve desired creaminess). After that's prepared, I add it to a pan layering, mac and cheese, shredded cheese, and repeating until the pan is filled and shredded cheese is left on top. Keep in mind, you can add a flax egg or just egg to the mac and cheese to add more consistency.
6. Potatoes (Sweet and Mashed)
When it comes to potatoes in general, I feel like the substitutions are basic. You can boil potatoes to normal standards. Replace your milk and butter with vegan options. In terms of sweet potatoes, most people use sugar, cinnamon and possibly nutmeg. Now that I'm vegan, I rarely use sugar, white or brown. I replace sugar with agave nectar. That goes for food, desserts, etc. If a recipe calls for 2 cups, use 1 cup of agave nectar. Your taste buds won't feel neglected at all.
I honestly don't do a lot of baking anymore now that I'm vegan. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of ways to cook desserts vegan. They even sell vegan cookies in stores now. My favorite holiday dessert has forever and always been pecan pie, however you choose to pronounce it. My favorite recipe comes from Karo Dark Corn Syrup. It calls for Karo Dark syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, pecans, and pie crust. Your vegan replacement would look something like this: Karo Dark Syrup, flax eggs/just eggs, agave nectar, vegan butter, vanilla, pecans, and dairy/egg free pie crust.
I hope this was helpful. Just remember, vegan food is true soul food. Happy Holidays!