5 Dishes to Make Your Thanksgiving Vegan

butternut squash soup

Thanksgiving is a time when families and friends gather together to share a specially prepared feast, camaraderie, and each other’s company. Why not put a different spin on your Thanksgiving meal this year by incorporating the time-honored wisdom of Ayurveda and embracing ahimsa (nonviolence) by making the meal completely vegan.

The following recipes incorporate the six tastes of Ayurveda—sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent—along with seasonal produce and healing spices making it a heartwarming, delicious, and well-balanced meal worthy of your Thanksgiving table!

The Menu

  • Roasted butternut squash soup
  • Stuffed peppers with a duo of sauces
  • Green beans
  • Candied yams
  • Chocolate date and nut bars

1. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup                                                                                      

Spiced coconut milk combined with the buttery smooth texture of butternut squash equals comfort in a bowl!

Ingredients:

  • 3–4 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 medium apple, chopped (Fuji is a good choice)
  • 1–2 cloves garlic
  • 2–3 teaspoons ginger, chopped
  • 2 1/2–3 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2–3 tablespoons sunflower or grapeseed oil
  • Spice mixture (see below)
  • Salt to taste

Spice Mixture Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne

Reserve half of above spice mixture to coat the butternut squash.

Optional Garnish:

  • 10–12 toasted hazelnuts
  • 4–6 sage leaves, sautéed/pan fried in coconut oil

Directions:

In a bowl, coat the butternut squash with oil and spice mixture.

Transfer to a baking sheet/pan that has been coated with oil. Loosely cover with foil. Roast in oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and roast for another 15–20 minutes, until tender.

Over medium heat, add oil to a stock pot. Sauté onions until golden brown (8–10 minutes).

Add the garlic and ginger; stir and sauté for 1–2 minutes. Add the remaining spice mixture and apples, stirring for another 2–3 minutes

Add water, stir, and let the mixture come to a slow boil. Turn the heat down, add the butternut squash, stir, and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Add salt and stir. Cover the pot and turn off the stove. Let it sit for 10–15 minutes.

Pureé the soup in a blender until smooth.

Return soup to stock pot and add the coconut milk. Over a low flame, simmer the soup for 3–4 minutes.

Serve soup with toasted hazelnuts and pan-fried sage leaves, if desired.

Serves 4

2. Stuffed Peppers with a Duo of Sauces

A feast for the eyes! A multi-textured healthful and delicious main dish—peppers stuffed with saffron rice pilaf studded with nuts and dried fruits, and served with two aromatic sauces that pack a flavor-filled punch.

Ingredients:

  • 4–6 medium bell peppers (red, orange, yellow) 

Stuffing Ingredients:

  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
  • 10–12 strands of saffron
  • Thyme leaves from 6-8 sprigs
  • 1/4 cup mixed nuts—pecans, pistachios, almonds (sliced or slivered)
  • 2–3 tablespoons dried fruit—cranberries, cherries, golden raisins
  • 1 medium apple, diced into small pieces (Fuji is a good choice)
  • 3–4 tablespoons sunflower or grapeseed oil (if not vegan, you can use butter or ghee)
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • Grapeseed or olive oil

Directions:

Add oil to a pot over medium heat. Add the saffron and sauté for about 10 seconds. Add the thyme leaves and sauté for about 5 seconds.

Add the nuts and sauté for a minute or so until golden brown. Add the dried fruits, stir and sauté for 10—15 seconds.

Add the basmati rice and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, ensuring that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the water and stir. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the apples.

Stir, cover, and simmer for 8–10 minutes until rice is well cooked. Add salt to taste and stir.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare the peppers by cutting the top (reserve to close the pepper) and de-seeding the peppers. Brush the outside of peppers with oil.

Stuff the peppers with the rice mixture and cover with the pepper tops. Place peppers on a baking dish coated with grapeseed or olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and let the peppers bake for an additional 15–20 minutes at 400 degrees—the peppers should be nicely browned in spots.

Serve with Green Herb and/or Romesco sauce (see recipes below).

Green Herb Sauce                                                                                                                   

This recipe is inspired by and is from Martha Rose Shulman’s Georgian Cilantro Sauce featured in The New York Times.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried apricots (such as Turkish apricots)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup shelled walnuts 
  • 1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup parsley leaves (1 1/2 bunches), coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup basil, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil (or more, to taste)
  • 1–2 garlic cloves (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup soaking water from the apricots and cranberries, as needed to blend
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste

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Directions:

Put the apricots and cranberries in a bowl and cover with hot water (just off the boil). Let sit for at least 2 hours. Drain, and retain 1/2 cup of the soaking water.

Pureé all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl, and let sit for one hour, allowing all the flavors to marry.

Yield 1 cup

Romescu Sauce                                                                                                       

Ingredients:

  • 4–6 jarred roasted peppers
  • 4–6 plum tomatoes
  • 1–2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds (slivers ok)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

Pulse everything together in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl, and let sit for one hour, allowing all the flavors to marry.

Yield 1 cup

3. Green Beans with Ginger, Cinnamon, Coconut, and Almonds

Traditional green beans elevated: Ginger-cinnamon spiced coconut sauce and toasted almonds make this the perfect fall dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced green beans (2”–3” slices)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sliced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

Add the oil to pan over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the ginger and stir for a few seconds.

Add the cinnamon and the green beans, then stir for 2–3 minutes. Add the water, stir, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and stir. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and allow to cook for 8–10 minutes. Add salt and stir.

Add the toasted almonds on top just before serving

Serves 4

4. Candied Yams

Superfood sweet potatoes combined with spiced maple citrus—delicious enough to be dessert, yet healthy and hearty enough to be part of the meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium or 3 small garnet yams, sliced into 1/2” medallions
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

In a bowl, whisk the following ingredients—orange juice and zest, maple syrup, and spices. Coat baking dish with coconut oil. Arrange the sweet potatoes in dish.

Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes, coating them evenly.

Dot the tops with coconut oil.

Cover with foil and roast in 375-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Remove the foil and roast for another 30 minutes until bubbly and top layer of sweet potatoes are slightly browned.

Serves 4

5. Chocolate Date and Nut Bars

Move over pumpkin pie! So simple yet so divine—antioxidant-rich dark chocolate with healthful nuts and medjool dates make this one healthy and yummy dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 10 medjool dates, pitted and soaked in lukewarm water for 15 minutes
  • 1 cup mixed nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts)
  • 1 1/2 cup melted dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (skip if you use semisweet chocolate rather than dark)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Directions:

Drain the water from the dates.

Add the dates, nuts, and cardamom to a food processor and combine to form a sticky date-nut mixture.

Transfer mixture to an 8-x-8 pan lined with parchment paper. Press mixture into all four corners and press down until the mixture is flat and even.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. Once the chocolate melts, stir in the vanilla and maple syrup. Pour the melted chocolate over date-nuts mixture and spread evenly to cover the mixture

Freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the chocolate layer to set.

Gently slice into bars. Let bars come to room temperature before serving.

Yield 12–16 bars

I hope these delicious and healthful recipes will grace your Thanksgiving table for years to come. I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving! Happy cooking, eating, and communing!

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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About the Author
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Sandhiya Ramaswamy

Ayurveda Practitioner, Educator, and Chef
Sandhiya is an Ayurveda practitioner, educator, chef, and retreat leader. For nearly a decade, she has led hundreds of clients, students, and community members in experiencing the transformative power of Ayurveda through private consultations, workshops, cooking classes, and spiritual retreats. Her practice Alchemy Ayurveda is located in Dana Point, CA. After her MBA, she spent many years in the corporate world—it was an acute health crisis that reconnected her to the healing wisdom of Ayurveda. She went back to school to study Ayurveda, quit her job, and became immersed in Ayurveda full time. Her corporate experience, along with her...Read more