Veggie Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is just days away, and those with vegetarians or vegans coming to dinner (maybe for the very first time) may be asking themselves, “What on earth do we feed them?” as they start defrosting the turkey and finding old family recipes.

Yes, there is Tofurky, and it’s not bad, as far as meat substitutes go, but why not make something home-cooked? I’m a vegan partly because I like good cooking, and it’s fun and challenging to create satisfying, nutritious meals using only plant-based foods. Pretend meat doesn’t taste like real meat – if you’ve eaten both, you know what I mean. When omnivores hear “vegan” or “vegetarian”, they often think of those meat substitutes and wonder how on earth we can live without meat.

Enter delicious, crispy lentil-chickpea cutlets! They take only a little time to prepare, and most of the work can be done ahead of time. There are only a few ingredients and they are sure to be a hit with everyone, even the meat eaters! Check out the recipe below, at the bottom of the post.

As for the rest of many classic Thanksgiving recipes, they can be easily modified with very little effort to accommodate veggie-loving guests:

  • If you’re having green bean casserole, and vegans are coming to dinner, save out a serving of green beans for each of them and then steam them up. Serve tossed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little sea salt.
  • Baked sweet potatoes/yams with marshmallows on the menu? Leave off the marshmallows on a portion of them – they contain gelatin. The natural sweetness of the yams will shine through.
  • Try a new way of preparing collard greens – slice them into thin strips and saute in olive oil or a combination of olive oil and vegan margarine (or butter if you are serving vegetarians) with some garlic, until wilted and tender. Toss in a little salt and pepper. Also tasty if you add capers, toasted pine nuts, and so on. If you like the flavor of the ham hock that collard greens are traditionally prepared with, add a tiny bit of liquid smoke. Or heck, reserve the veggie servings of collards once they are cooked, and then toss in diced ham for the omnivores.
  • Check the ingredients before you buy stuffing mix, as it may contain powdered chicken broth. If you are making your own stuffing from scratch, prepare it with vegetable broth, and bake some separately in a dish alongside the stuffed turkey.
  • Pumpkin pie is usually vegetarian, but it contains dairy and eggs, so make sure to have another tasty dessert available if vegans are coming – try Peach and Dried Cherry Tartlets, or use the oil crust recipe from the tartlets to make a full-size apple pie (it makes enough for a top and bottom crust). Trader Joe’s also has little individually-sized apple blossoms in their freezer section – they’re vegan and ready to pop right in the oven and bake. Serve with soy, rice, or coconut ice cream for a very special treat.

I’m guessing that armed with these ideas, you can probably come up with a ton of other ways to modify favorite recipes to be vegan- or vegetarian-friendly. Happily, cranberry sauce, salad, many bread rolls (sourdough or french rolls are good choices), and any steamed veggies, should all be a-OK without extra effort. Your veg family and friends will thank you!

It’s recipe time!! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Lentil-Chickpea Cutlets

Makes about 12-14 cutlets, enough for about 4 people with 1 or 2 side dishes, or more if there are a ton of sides on your table!

The recipe calls for chickpea flour. In Sunnyvale there is an Indian food and spice section at the Lucky grocery store down the street, and I bought mine there. If your town doesn’t have chickpea flour at the local supermarket, it is also available at Indian markets, or at your local Whole Foods (Bob’s Red Mill has a lot of specialty flours.) I imagine it would also be available at a health or bulk food store as well.

Feel free to experiment with the spices. Fresh herbs of many kinds would also be very tasty in this dish.


  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils, plus a little cooking broth (see “How to cook lentils” below)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided


Mix chickpea flour, spices, and salt together in a large bowl. Add lentils, onion, garlic, and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and mix to combine. The mixture should be sticky, kind of like cookie dough. If it is crumbly and won’t hold together, add a little of the lentil cooking broth to the mixture until it is the right consistency. You can stop here for day-ahead preparation and refrigerate the mixture overnight.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Drop mixture by tablespoons into the pan, spreading out each one a bit, into a patty. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 3 minutes on each side, or until nice and golden brown. (Spray the uncooked top with a light mist of olive oil before turning for nice, even browning.) Serve immediately.

How to cook lentils

Rinse and pick over 1 cup dried green, black, or brown lentils. (Not red – they will disintegrate while they cook.) Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover by about 1″. Add a bay leaf, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, a few whole allspice berries, and salt and pepper to taste. (The spices are optional but very tasty – put the coriander and allspice in a small cheesecloth bag tied with string for easy removal.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat, allow to cool a few minutes, then proceed with the recipe above.

If you don’t want to cook lentils from scratch, Trader Joe’s has precooked black lentils available in their refrigerated section (with the herbs and vegetables) which are good. If you use these, add a tablespoon or two of water, rice or soy milk, vegetable broth, or lemon juice along with them, since they do not have any broth of their own.

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