Besides giving gifts, the best part of the holidays is making (and eating) food. To help you begin your journey to chowing down on ambrosial holidays feasts, we’re sharing four tips that will help all your guests—vegan or otherwise—enjoy all of the deliciousness found in plant-based cooking. With these in mind, your vegan entrées and desserts will be the stars of any December get-together. Another tip? It’s the holidays, so have an extra slice of whatever you like!
1. Get organized
Let’s face it—some holiday recipes can be complicated, regardless of their ingredients. To remedy this, try preparing parts of the meal in advance. For example, make your sauces and dressings a day before and then store them in the freezer. Doing so allows you to take your time and taste-test each dish until they are just right. Also important? Reading the recipes. This might sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t pay close attention to details. Gathering the ingredients and skimming the directions often isn’t good enough, especially when you’re dealing with time-consuming recipes with hidden surprises. For example, you might need to soak cashews overnight or prepare tofu in a special way before adding these to the main parts of the recipes. Take notes on any special instructions you need to remember, such as when you need to add an ingredient twice, or when something takes longer than it would seem at first glance.
2. Use your (re)imagination
Because of the advancements in vegan cooking circa 2017, there’s no need to stick to old holiday traditions when it comes to other aspects of Christmas cooking. Instead, use the latest and greatest in vegan products to start new ones. A good place to start is nog, a holiday must-have that now comes in a variety of vegan versions. Another holiday go-to is cookies, which you can make on your own. Or just buy a pre-made variety. Even better? Vegan cookie dough and cake batters don’t use eggs, so why not start a new tradition of licking the beaters, scarfing down cookie dough from a spoon, and scraping the mixing bowl clean? That’s a yummy revolution of tradition!
3. Options are everything
Tofurky is the most popular vegan analogue to the omnivore’s turkey and dressing, but that’s just the beginning of the many options that you serve for holiday entrées. Gardein makes a breaded roast that comes with cranberry wild rice stuffing and homestyle gravy, while Field Roast has several options, including a roast with a pineapple mustard glaze and a celebration roast with porcini mushroom gravy. Then there’s Vegetarian Plus, which serves a “vegan whole turkey” shaped (somewhat) like an actual turkey that contains a vegan traditional stuffing with savory gravy. Our advice? Make them all, as serving slices of different roasts to guests can help them discover the types of vegan roasts they enjoy. Luckily, holiday options don’t end with the turkey substitute, as you can try out well-reviewed side dishes such as corn casserole, vegan purée, pumpkin peanut soup, buttery skillet cornbread, and savory holiday pie. Really, the options are endless!
4. Sugar and spices make every recipe nice
New vegans can make the mistake of entering a kitchen with visions of bland salads dancing through their heads. However, when you start to explore vegan cooking, you’ll see that you never have to skimp on festive flavors. Rosemary is tasty in mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, while adding pumpkin spice (ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves) to your favorite vegan chili recipe creates a new spin on a classic dish. On the sweet side, don’t forget the ginger—which tastes divine in cakes, soups, and muffins—or experiment with adding nutmeg to holiday custards and puddings. Nutmeg can also be used to create such varied creations as lasagna and vegan whipped cream. Furthermore, peppermint has a distinct taste that’s often associated with the season, and it can be used to make candy, biscotti, scones, and fudge.
Robin Raven is the author of Santa’s First Vegan Christmas.