6 Meat-Free Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving

Delicious plant-based roasts can make your holiday meal enjoyable for vegetarian and vegan diners.

Published September 19, 2022
Tofu Turkey served for Thanksgiving Dinner

Turkey is often considered the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving meal. But many plant-based eaters are eyeing vegan and vegetarian alternatives to the traditional bird. By choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving with a meat-less main or side dish, you can help the environment in a small, achievable way. This is one way to give thanks to the world.

Eating less meat is linked to less food waste, along with less strain on the environment to produce food to begin with. Moving toward eating less meat and more plants is better for the environment due to less land use and less harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Whether you have a vegan guest or just want to try out a new dish for the whole table, it's easier than you think to venture into the world of plant-based foods.

Thanksgiving Turkey Alternatives

For both environmental and health reasons, consumers are increasingly looking for plant-based alternatives to their favorite foods, like turkey. The popularity of meat-free eating has led food manufacturers to offer many options, like plant based "turkeys." You can also skip the bird and build your holiday meal around a different type of plant-based dish.

Vegan and Vegetarian Turkey Alternatives

These products are all vegan Thanksgiving "turkey" entrees, which makes them a great choice for any plant-based eater.

Vegan Thanksgiving Turkey Alternative Details Nutrition Facts Per Serving

365 Whole Foods Market Holiday Plant-Based Roast

The protein comes from soy and wheat, and it is stuffed with onions, dried cranberries and celery. It comes with its own vegan gravy. 180 calories, 13 grams protein, 1 gram saturated fat, 340 mg sodium and 2 grams added sugar
Field Roast Sage & Garlic Plant-Based Celebration Roast Flavored with apples, butternut squash, lentils, mushrooms, herbs and spices, it gets its protein mostly from wheat. 200 calories, 22 grams protein, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 510 mg sodium and 0 grams added sugar
Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk'y Stuffed with sage and cranberries. Soy and wheat supply most of the protein. It comes with a vegan gravy. 310 calories, 19 grams protein, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 660 mg sodium and 2 grams added sugar
Gardein Vegan Turk'y Roast Soy and wheat supply most of the protein, it's stuffed with wild and brown rice, kale and cranberries, and comes with vegan gravy. 260 calories, 19 grams protein, 1 gram saturated fat, 770 mg sodium and 2 grams added sugar
Tofurky Plant-Based Roast and Wild Rice Stuffing Stuffed with wild and brown rice, bread cubes, onions and celery, the main source of protein here is wheat and soy. 300 calories, 34 grams protein, 1 gram saturated fat, 640 mg sodium and 0 grams added sugar
Trader Joe's Turkeyless Ground This is a great base to make a meatless main dish for Thanksgiving. This gets its protein from wheat and pea protein, and it contains seasonings to make your recipe assembly easy. Since it can be prepared just like ground turkey, consider these tried-and-true recipes. 230 calories, 21 grams protein, 5 grams saturated fat, 440 mg sodium and 0 grams added sugar

Other Plant-Based Main Dishes

It's easy to find plenty of options to make a Thanksgiving-worthy main dish without the turkey. There are plenty of impressive dishes that can make your Thanksgiving table look plentiful and delicious. For instance, try one of these options to impress friends and family:

Once you've got your main dish figured out, fill the table with other vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving dishes. And of course, don't forget dessert! Try a vegan pumpkin pie to finish your meal.

Tips for Preparing a Plant-Based Turkey Alternative

Maybe you enjoy the day-long preparation for a Thanksgiving feast, but it's good to know you have the option to streamline your food prep with meat-free turkey alternatives. If this is your first time preparing turkey alternatives, you'll want to take cooking time time into consideration. You might also want to consider some preparation alternatives to keep the meal tasty.

Reduce Your Cooking Time

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates about 3 to 5 ½ hours for cooking a whole turkey. Most recipes and the ready-made turkey alternative
products can be assembled in a snap, requiring up to 1 ½ hours of your prep time. If you're making a non-turkey alternative like lasagna or stuffed squash, it can probably be prepared in advance.

So there is no need to spend the day in the kitchen. Instead, use the time to enjoy the outdoors! Plan an afternoon hike or toss around a football instead of slaving away on the meal.

Enhance Taste and Texture

When making a substitution of wheat, pea protein or soy, you'll want to please your crowd with appealing taste, appearance and texture. Some vegan cooks recommend making a baste for the plant-based entrée to enhance the taste. You can also add veggies, like carrots and potatoes to the roasting dish, to add flavor and color. And don't forget the gravy! Brands like Tofurkey make a vegan gravy that can be heated up in a snap before the meal.

For those celebrating a plant-based Thanksgiving for the first time, here are some other things to consider:

  • For fussy eaters, try your hand at a plant-based recipe with familiar foods, then ease into prepared plant-based options. This can give your taste buds a chance to adjust their expectations.
  • Open your mind to the possibilities of taste. Plant-based proteins can have a texture and taste that is much different from meat.
  • Read the ingredients list to check out the seasonings used in the product. For instance, if you hate oregano, scour your ingredients list for the herb.

Reviews of plant-based turkey alternatives show that many people are satisfied with how they taste, so check out the reviews for yourself to find one to try.

Get Help From Friends and Family

If this is your first time cooking a turkey alternative for Thanksgiving, why not get friends and family involved? Before the event, ask your guests to choose an entrée, side dish, or dessert to prepare. Then fill your home with comforting scents to get everyone in the holiday spirit. You'll all find that it's easy to find plenty of options to make Thanksgiving-worthy dishes without the turkey. Save yourself (and others) precious time and energy spent in the kitchen so you can spend more time enjoying your company.

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6 Meat-Free Alternatives to Turkey for Thanksgiving