5 Plant-Based Turkey Alternatives to Try This Thanksgiving

Sarah Schlichter, RD
by Sarah Schlichter, RD
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5 Plant-Based Turkey Alternatives to Try This Thanksgiving

As plant-based eating rises in popularity, data shows more people are looking for alternatives to traditional turkey on Thanksgiving. Plant-based foods offer additional fiber and, compared to animal foods, have less cholesterol and saturated fat.

Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion to add vegetarian options to your plate, with many flavorful and seasonal fruit and vegetable options available this time of year, such as winter squash, cranberries, cabbage, pomegranates and starchy vegetables, like beets and parsnips.

You don’t have to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle to enjoy these dishes. Consider adding a few of these plant-based options to your holiday spread to reap the health benefits.



Like peppers, mushrooms are a great vegetable to fill with delicious ingredients and they’re rich in vitamins B and D. They’re also a great replacement for meat because they have a similar, savory mouthfeel. Consider stuffing portobello mushrooms with your traditional Thanksgiving stuffing recipe or your favorite whole grain and add chopped tomatoes, beans or cheese.



Winter squash is high in vitamins A and C, as well as manganese and potassium. With a plethora of squash options to choose from (spaghetti, acorn, butternut, kabocha), there’s sure to be one that pairs well with your Thanksgiving ingredients.

Consider adding chopped butternut squash to a colorful salad or roasting squash with Brussel sprouts and potatoes for a healthy side dish. You can also stuff squash with quinoa, legumes or wild rice and vegetables and bake it for a warm, comforting dish. Or, cut kabocha or acorn squash into pieces, roast them, and top them with cranberry sauce or pomegranate seeds. Spaghetti squash is another versatile ingredient that can be stuffed with vegetables and cheese, mixed with pasta, thrown in a salad or used in a low-carb side dish casserole.



Swap the traditional turkey or complement it with a protein-packed lentil meatloaf that will leave you full and satisfied. A 1/2-cup (75g) serving of lentils offers 12 grams of protein and nearly 10 grams of fiber, as well as potassium, iron and folate. For more holiday flare, consider adding stuffing and/or cranberries to your lentil meatloaf.



The list of whole grains that can be used for Thanksgiving salads is endless. Think outside the box, aside from just rice. Try quinoa, farro, sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth or barley for the base. One cup of cooked quinoa offers 8 grams of protein, while most others offer 4–8 grams. Top with butternut squash, beets, chopped parsnips, roasted veggies, cranberry sauce and pomegranate seeds.



If you want to enjoy leftovers in a whole new way, try adding stuffing or mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans and tempeh into a whole-wheat tortilla for an easy and delicious plant-based meal. Or, swap out the tempeh for tofu, lentils, beans or opt for extra veggies.

About the Author

Sarah Schlichter, RD
Sarah Schlichter, RD

Sarah is a registered dietitian based in the Washington, DC area. She works with athletes on fueling for their sports without strict dieting. Sarah is also a nutrition consultant and writes the blog, Bucket List Tummysharing nutrition posts, healthy family-friendly recipes and running tips.


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