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Vegetarian Thanksgiving? Original Recipe Trio for the Taste of Tradition, Without the Turkey

Ila Bonczek
Ila lives in the Garden State with her family and four chickens. She has been growing produce and perennials for 20 years, and recommends gardening for food and fun, but not for fortune.
Published: November 20, 2022
(Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)

Although there are countless options for vegetarian sides at Thanksgiving; the bird, the stuffing and the gravy can be a stumper for non-meat-eaters. This original recipe trio will get you past that hump, and on your way to enjoying an authentic-tasting Thanksgiving meal, without the bird.

Having lived through an odd assortment of food sensitivities, I am totally sympathetic to those with dietary restrictions and have explored many avenues for healthy and satisfying sustenance. Most of my recipes can easily be made vegan, gluten-free and low/no-sugar.

That said, my husband is a solid omnivore; and, if it means anything, he thinks my wholesome vegetarian recipes are pretty awesome. I hope you do, too!

No turkey? No problem.

To be honest, my first option for replacing turkey would be breaded mushrooms; specifically chicken of the woods or hen of the woods. They have the perfect flavor and texture to sub for poultry in just about any dish. 

Unfortunately, these mushrooms are hard to come by — even for us foragers  — plus the mushroom season is pretty much over; so I won’t set you up for disappointment. But should you land a windfall of these lovely polypores, bread and fry them and see if they aren’t actually better than the best chicken fingers you’ve ever tasted. Save some in your freezer for next Thanksgiving if you can!

Next best is a home-made seitan loaf. While I avoided seitan for a while because it was impossible to find it made with organic ingredients, I have since found a source of organic wheat gluten which I use to make vegan sausage, burgers, and, perhaps you guessed it…sei-turkey! 

Of course, seitan is not gluten free. If you are gluten intolerant, you might try oyster mushrooms, breaded with an herbed mixture of ground corn flakes and rice cakes. The other two recipes are readily made gluten free, and will compliment the mushrooms just as wonderfully as the sei-turkey.

Sei-turkey recipe

Seitan is a potent plant protein, and a little goes a long way. This recipe is for a “small bird” that feeds four. If you want leftovers, double the recipe and add to 30 minutes to the steaming time.


  • 1 cup organic vital wheat gluten
  • ¼ cup chickpea flour
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning (a mixture of sage, thyme, marjoram and rosemary)
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (from bouillon is fine; if unsalted, add ½ tsp. sea salt)
(Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)


  • Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.
  • Add the olive oil and broth and stir until uniformly moist.
  • Knead the dough a little until it starts to feel stretchy.
  • Shape it into a neat ball and let it rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.
  • Place it in the steamer basket of an instant pot or double boiler and steam for about 45 minutes. 
  • If you would like a crispy “skin” for effect, you can roll the moist ball in breadcrumbs or crushed cornflakes and herbs. 
  • All this can be done ahead of time so you just need to warm up the sei-turkey for about 20 minutes when you’re ready to serve. 
  • Slice thinly and top with vegan gravy.

Savory lentil loaf recipe (hearty, whole-grain, and one-up on stuffing)

This hearty loaf tastes like a really good stuffing, but is much more nutritious and filling than a bready dressing. The recipe makes a large loaf which will cover two meals for a family of four.

(Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups mixed whole grains (any combination of rice, quinoa, farro, wheat berries, rye berries, buckwheat groats, oat groats, millet, etc.). For a balanced texture, I like to choose two chewy grains and two that become more mushy when cooked, as they help hold the loaf together.
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds – ground
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 12 fresh sage leaves or 1 Tbsp dried sage


  • Cook the grains, lentils, and water until tender (about 20 minutes in an instant pot).
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  • Chop the celery and onion.
  • Grind the sunflower seeds in a food processor (along with sage leaves if you’re not using dry powder).
  • Combine everything in a large mixing bowl.
  • Spread evenly into an oiled 9×13 baking casserole.
  • Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes.
  • Serve hot or re-heated, topped with vegan gravy.

Vegan gravy recipe (the finishing touch to a sumptuous feast)

This recipe will furnish a modest portion of gravy for both of the above dishes. If you love gravy, or intend for it to also cover mashed potatoes, please double the recipe.

(Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 shallots or one small onion, minced
  • 2 Tbs flour (tapioca flour or organic corn starch for gluten free)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 1 ½ cup water
  • A pinch of pepper
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce


  • In a small saucepan, saute the shallots in olive oil until tender.
  • Add flour, nutritional yeast and spices and heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add water and soy sauce and stir to a uniform consistency.
  • Continue to cook on low heat to thicken the sauce, stirring frequently
  • Remove 1 Tbsp gravy to mix miso with.
  • Stir miso in after cooking is complete. 
  • If you like a smooth gravy, place in a deep bowl and puree with a hand blender.
  • Serve hot over lentil loaf and sei-turkey, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Somebody ate my props lol! (Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)