Who doesn’t love the facet dishes at vacation meals? That lengthy desk or infinite sideboard full of platters and bowls drawing you in with colours, aromas, and textures may give a vacation meal the texture of a feast or smorgasbord. Some individuals, in actual fact, firmly imagine that facet dishes are the most effective a part of a meal.

Indeed, some vacation sides are so ingrained in our cultures that they’re thought of “must haves” — as if it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan (after sundown), or one other vacation celebration with out that specific facet dish. Thanksgiving within the US with out mashed potatoes, inexperienced bean casserole, cranberry sauce, traditional stuffing, or no matter your go-to sides occur to be? As Wallace Shawn says with such emotion in The Princess Bride: “Inconceivable!”

But what else many individuals discover inconceivable? That vacation facet dishes will be each scrumptious… and wholesome. After all, most of the hottest facet dishes in the course of the holidays are made with artery-clogging kilos of butter, oil, milk, eggs, white flour, or sugar — not precisely health-promoting meals.

Can we preserve our vacation facet dish traditions and simply make them kinder on our our bodies, and the planet? Can we carry out substitutions that keep that scrumptious style and satisfying mouthfeel, and nonetheless get up blissful the next morning?

In this text, we’re going to reply these questions (spoiler alert: the solutions are all “yes!”), in addition to share quite a lot of autumnal, plant-based vacation sides which are common within the US. Side dishes that can love you again — and that you would be able to be ok with sharing with household and associates.

What Is a Side Dish?

thanksgiving dining side dishes on table

A facet dish is simply what it seems like — a dish served on the facet of a essential meal or entree. (Of course, that signifies that technically the primary dish is served on the facet of the facet — however that’s in all probability not essential.)

What is essential is that facet dishes sometimes incorporate meals and flavors that complement or steadiness the primary dish. If the primary is heavy, the edges will be gentle — and probably veggie-based.

With all of the deliciousness that sides can confer, some individuals carry out a bunch of facet dishes and contemplate them a full meal — no essential dish required.

Many standard facet dishes already encompass greens and different plant-based meals, so it’s simpler to make them with out animal merchandise or added sugar than some typical essential course dishes. Yet, many standard vacation facet dishes are nonetheless swimming in these components, so we now have some work to do to create wholesome variations. Luckily, there are many entire meals, plant-based substitutions for components like milk, cheese, eggs, butter, meat, added sugar, refined flour, or extra salt.

Popular Holiday Side Dishes

Let’s see how the rules of wholesome, plant-based substitution play out with among the hottest and iconic vacation sides. After that, I’ll share a few of our favourite recipes that take a vacation facet dish and use plant-based substitutes to make one thing more healthy, but nonetheless scrumptious and festive.

Mashed Potatoes

Your typical mashed potatoes go heavy on the dairy. For a more healthy model, skip the butter, milk, or bitter cream. Instead, use a plant-based milk or a tofu or cashew bitter cream. Season with salt (until you’re sodium-free), and add in beneficiant quantities of pepper and herbs like chives or garlic.

Dinner Rolls or Biscuits

These steaming buns can get healthified by selecting rolls made with 100% entire grain 4 — when you’re shopping for premade. If you’re baking from scratch, you should utilize natural entire wheat flour, and even attempt a gluten-free flour. And lately, there are many vegan substitutes for milk and eggs.

Corn on the Cob

delicious grilled mexican corn

When it’s candy, corn on the cob is okay by itself. Just depart off the butter. Instead, attempt seasonings like salt and pepper, or a spice combine like chili and lemon or lime (which tastes wonderful!) or Middle Eastern za’atar.

Green Bean Casserole

Green beans are nice on their very own or drizzled with a dressing. But casseroles usually embody components like canned fried onions and a cream-based, canned soup. You can create a creamy sauce utilizing tofu or a plant-based milk and high the casserole with sauteed onions and mushrooms. If you’re hankering after a crunch, attempt some slivered almonds, or oven-roasted chickpeas.


Many stuffing recipes embody meats like sausages. With all of the “I can’t believe this isn’t meat” plant-based sausages and meat analogues accessible lately, that is a straightforward swap. You can even make stuffing sans sausage and as an alternative create that hearty texture utilizing entire, plant-based meals like walnuts, lentils, or mushrooms. Vegetable broth substitutes fantastically for rooster broth. And for the bread cubes, attempt a sprouted entire grain or gluten-free bread.

Cranberry Sauce

The traditional vacation cranberry sauce, for many individuals, is the one which comes out of a can. While the primary Thanksgiving at Plymouth in 1621 nearly actually didn’t embody cranberries (and most assuredly didn’t require a can opener), the sharp and candy sauce grew to become a household custom thanks first to promoting by the Eatmor Cranberry Company, which bought entire berries, after which later Ocean Spray, which popularized the cranberries-in-a-can phenomenon.

The high concern with many standard cranberry sauces is that whereas cranberries will be lots wholesome, added components like sugar or excessive fructose corn syrup aren’t. Also, many business cranberry growers have interaction in environmentally damaging farming strategies. Instead, make your personal cranberry sauce from scratch with more healthy entire sweeteners and natural entire cranberries, both recent or frozen. You can even add orange juice and zest for additional sweetness and ginger for a little bit of spicy zing.

Sweet Potato Casserole

mashed sweet potatoes on thanksgiving table

Sweet potato vacation facet dishes usually embody marshmallows (which include sugar and/or excessive fructose corn syrup, in addition to gelatin) and extra sugar added to the candy potatoes. The key phrase in “sweet potatoes” is “sweet.” They’re already candy — it’s proper there within the title!

The easy tweak is to depart out the marshmallows and added sugar. You can substitute an entire meals sweetener, benefit from the candy potatoes’ pure sweetness, or attempt a savory take and high the casserole with herbs and spices. If your recipe additionally requires eggs and butter, you possibly can substitute them with plant-based, entire meals substitutes. For extra on the superior well being advantages of candy potatoes, take a look at this text.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels sprouts aren’t the Jerry Maguire of meals, telling Renee Zellweger’s bacon, “You complete me.” Cook them properly, and so they stand on their very own. You can roast them with garlic, or mix them within the roasting pan with candy potatoes and different root greens. If you continue to need a bacon-y vibe to the dish, attempt a plant-based entire meals like tempeh, or a vegan bacon substitute, to imitate the smoky, salty, and candy style.

Macaroni and Cheese

In the previous few years, the web has exploded with wholesome vegan mac and cheese recipes. In truth, a easy Google seek for “healthy mac and cheese” results in 139 MILLION outcomes. An uninformed observer would possibly even assume that, sneezing pandas and milk crate challenges apart, the web was created for the categorical goal of disseminating vegan mac and cheese recipes.

To make a wholesome vacation mac and cheese facet, you should utilize a business cheese analog or make your personal nut cheese cream sauce. The choices range in healthiness from “hey, at least it doesn’t come from a cow” to “this is basically an entire day’s worth of blended veggies.” And many pastas now are available gluten-free, legume-based, and/or entire grain variations. If you need to be hardcore wholesome, you can even shred an entire meals like potatoes or cauliflower to imitate the feel of noodles, or use a spiralizer to make veggie noodles.

5 Plant-Based Holiday Side Dish Recipes

After making the facet dishes beneath, you would possibly end up questioning why you ever made conventional dishes with meat, sugar, and dairy. The plant-based variations have some scrumptious flavors and textures, however with therapeutic components which are comforting and nourishing.

Serve the Broccoli Mac ‘N Cheese if you want to wow your guests. Make the Tempeh Sausage Stuffing for a hearty and satisfying side that’s good for you and your vacation company. Create a thick and naturally candy Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce utilizing recent cranberries and pomegranate juice. Provide a brilliant, but earthy facet with the Lemon Thyme Brussels sprouts. And add much more veggies to the vacation desk with the Slow Cooker Cauliflower Mash (with out anybody figuring out that it’s made with veggies!).

1. Broccoli Mac ‘N Cheese

What when you might get all of the creamy and scrumptious consolation of mac and cheese with out all of the unhealthy components? Well, we now have excellent news — you completely can! Not solely will you get all of the comforting feels with this recipe, however this Broccoli Mac ‘n Cheese additionally comes with long-term well being advantages from the fiber, phytonutrients, and wholesome fat that substitute saturated fats and processed components. This dish is made with entire meals like cashews, dietary yeast, and miso, and is as creamy and satisfying because the enjoyable mac ‘n cheese vacation facet you might need loved as a child.

2. Tempeh Sausage Stuffing

Substituting plant-based meals for meat can result in monumental well being advantages. Research exhibits that natural soy merchandise might decrease LDL levels of cholesterol, scale back irritation, and, in tempeh’s case, enhance digestive well being on account of its excessive fiber content material. In this holiday-worthy facet dish recipe, tempeh provides a wealthy texture when cooked with the entire grain bread. And the fennel and different spices give it a tasty, fragrant taste.

three. Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce

Using entire cranberries, phytonutrient-rich pomegranate juice, and recent cinnamon and ginger, Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce will change the way in which you concentrate on cranberry sauce. This sauce facet has all of the zing of conventional cranberry sauce, plus a lot of vitamin from the cranberries, pomegranates, and spices. What’s extra, no gelatin was essential to create a sauce that’s completely thick! (Read: vegetation are magic all by themselves!)

four. Lemon Thyme Brussels Sprouts

Bright lemon paired with earthy thyme make these Brussels sprouts shine on their very own as a vacation facet. This easy dish will tempt your style buds, fulfill your stomach, and nourish your physique. Pair it with the Mushroom Gravy for a unprecedented vacation facet expertise that can make a giant (plant-based meals) imprint in your company!

5. Slow Cooker Cauliflower Mash

Oh so silky, creamy, and bursting with vitamin, you would possibly need to plan on doubling this batch of cauliflower mash earlier than you head to the grocery retailer. It’s a pleasant different to conventional potato mash and a yummy method to get some cruciferous greens onto your vacation dinner desk. Make it full by drizzling Mushroom Gravy on high!

Let Your Holiday Sides Shine

Many individuals love vacation meals, and facet dishes are a giant a part of that love. There are many to select from, together with some common facet dishes that many people have come to count on because of familial and cultural traditions. But they’re not at all times stuffed with components which are good for us. Luckily, since so lots of them are already vegetable-based, we are able to simply make them wholesome additions to our holidays with just a bit tweaking. Through substitutions, seasonings, and totally different combos, we are able to flip plant-based vacation sides into enduring and beloved hits.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • What vacation facet dishes do you’re keen on that you would be able to make wholesome this vacation season?
  • Are there any facet dishes you haven’t tried however are interested by?
  • What different holidays do you rejoice and want to discover whole-foods, plant-based recipes to sub for conventional favorites?

Feature picture: iStock.com/AlexRaths

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