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Thanksgiving Dinner, Vegan-Style

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Happy Turkey When you adhere to a special diet, whether it be for medical or ethical reasons, Thanksgiving changes. A lot. This is probably the truest for vegans, who eschew the most iconic part of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey. There are countless vegan meat alternatives out there for folks celebrating their non-omnivorous lifestyle, but there is a growing faction of veg* folks who believe that if you're really giving up noshing on other living things, eating meat analogues just feels inherently wrong.

So what's a culinarily-savvy vegan to do when the holiday often referred to as "Turkey Day" rolls around? Those living in the Bay Area are lucky to be surrounded by some the most diverse food-centric masterminds in the country, so there's no end to vegan options for those who aren't interested in dressing up a processed, gluten-laden Tofurky and calling it Thanksgiving dinner. Besides, November is officially "VeganMoFo," or the Vegan Month of Food -- so if there's any month where autumn vegan recipes are most prolific, it's this one.

When I was vegan -- back before my food allergies kicked into high gear and I learned that meat was the only thing I could actually digest without a myriad of debilitating side effects -- I put a lot of thought into creating my first epically vegan Thanksgiving feast. I made vegan collard greens, Indian-spiced chickpea pancakes, stuffing decked with nuts and fruit, and one of the most drop-dead gorgeous pecan pies my friends had ever laid eyes on. So, I can tell you firsthand that turkey isn't a requirement for a handsome Thanksgiving dinner.

One thing we can be thankful for is the fact that the Bay Area is home to a handful of vegan bakeries, where you'll find a selection of tantalizing sweet treats to pick up if you're not into making your own dessert. I've heard wonderful things about Sugar Beat Sweets' apple pie, a cinnamon-infused creation filled with spiced apples and topped with vanilla bean buttercream and caramel. Wholesome Bakery's sweet potato pecan pie is up there on my Top 10 Favorite Desserts list, vegan or otherwise, while Nabolom Bakery in Berkeley offers a great selection of vegan desserts.

What about dinner? Wayward vegans sans dinner plans can bounce over to Cafe Gratitude for their annual free Thanksgiving dinner from 11am-3pm, where everything on the menu is 100% raw and free of animal products. Oh, and did I mention that the meal was on the house? Yup, you heard that right.


But in the end, Thanksgiving is all about what you make at home, for your loved ones. This vegan pumpkin pie recipe is one of my favorites, and it's evolved over time to include pecans and cashews, with a little orange juice in the crust to give it a little something extra. My [staunchly omnivorous] family loved this pie, and you will too.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Nutty Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Makes: two 8-inch pies



2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped cashews
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons sugar
1 stick of cold shortening, cut into 10 slices
3 tablespoons cold orange juice

16 ounces silken tofu
2 cups pumpkin puree
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped


1. In a food processor, grind flour, cashews, salt and sugar until coarsely ground. Add shortening one slice at a time and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add orange juice and pulse for another 15 seconds.

2. Divide the dough in half and smash each half into a flat disc. Cover and refrigerate for three hours. Once the dough is chilled, roll each half out into 9-inch circles and place each into an 8-inch pie pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Add tofu, pumpkin, sugar, agave, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and spices to a food processor and blend until creamy.

3. Pour filling into pie shell and sprinkle the top with pecans, pressing them into the pumpkin filling. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pie comes out clean. Allow to cool fully before serving. Top with vegan whipped topping.

If you're looking for more vegan recipes to help celebrate Thanksgiving, here are a handful of useful links that will inspire you to create the dinner of your dreams, a spread so grand that your omnivorous friends will look on in utter envy of your vegan-rific culinary prowess.

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