Holiday meals tend to follow a specific formula that’s a lot less flexible than ordinary dinner parties.
There are the canapes, of course, followed by a more formal buffet. And while the main event is often notable for a bevy of festive autumnal sides, usually they function in supporting roles to the centerpiece: an impressively carved animal.
Though I myself am usually more interested in the sides (hello, carbs) than the main course, as a vegetarian, these holiday meals can sometimes feel a little incomplete.
At a casual dinner party, it wouldn’t be at all unusual to have a veggie pasta or pot of carrot soup as the piece de resistance. But, at holiday meals we’re used to this formula of protein at the center, with all the accoutrements filling the other corners of the plate.
To help combat this culinary conundrum, I’ve put together a list of the best plant-based holiday main courses that you can make the centerpiece of your table this Thanksgiving, Christmakkah and beyond.
If you’re interested in eating less meat, you might also care to partake in some more eco-friendly wine, which is why I’ve also offered up some fabulous organic wines from Italy for the occasion.
These bottles are perfect for any holiday table (even those who follow a more traditional menu), but are particularly tasty with the below vegetarian entrees. Read on for the meat-free main courses and wines to match!
With health and hedonism,
THE BEST MAIN COURSE VEGETARIAN THANKSGIVING RECIPES
Vegetarian Cassoulet with Mushrooms and Chard This classic French dish has all the important food groups going for it—protein, carbs, veggies—without any of the meat. Since it’s rather labor intensive, the traditional version is a great option for a homey New Year’s Eve main course that presents beautifully served in one casserole. Since it looks like a pile of goodness on the plate anyway, this veggie version with chard and mushrooms is no different, other than being even more colorful and appealing.
Vegetarian Harissa Mushroom Bolognese with Creamy Coconut Polenta This composed plate is a more star worthy dinner party option than a humble pasta. For an over the top presentation, pour the polenta onto a slate or wooden board in front of your guests and spoon the mushroom bolognese sauce on top! They do this at a fabulous restaurant, Sauce, near me.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Kale Ok, Mac and cheese might be on the more casual side, but nothing could feel more like a complete filling meal. With kale and pumpkin, it gets major plant points for seasonal colors!
Healthy Stuffed Mushrooms with Creamed Kale Though this recipe was originally pioneered as an appetizer with small creminis, you could easily craft a beautiful main course for Thanksgiving using a larger portobello. This is also a great strategy for a bread based stuffing!
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils and Mushrooms While the Irish casserole leaves a little to be desired in terms of elegance, this shepherd’s pie becomes a stunning main course if you bake and serve it in individual ramekins or cocottes. This vegetarian version with lentils is perfectly savory and delicious.
Root Vegetable Tagine with Kale Thinking a little bit outside the usual box, this Moroccan stew is a beautiful way to serve up the best of the season’s vegetables with tons of savory warming spices. Serve it in a large skillet alongside couscous or quinoa and plenty of bread for soaking.
Herb Crusted Tofu with Shitake Mushroom Gravy Perhaps the most traditional main course replacement for Thanksgiving Turkey, this beautiful tofu dish from Lily Diamond has everything you would want in a centerpiece: crunch, creaminess and exceptionally umami gravy.
THE BEST ORGANIC WINES FOR YOUR HOLIDAY TABLE
Zucchi Lambrusco di Sorbara Lambrusco, the effervescent “frizzante” from Emilia-Romagna, is the perfect party drink to elevate a celebration, while complementing some of the sweeter autumn fare on your plate. The region best known for production of the Sorbara clone of the Lambrusco grape is located to the north of Modena, and its version of this sparkling elixir is the lightest-hued of the bunch. This bottle features fresh raspberries and violets, which pairs perfectly with the sweet and savory notes of my Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Kale and other root vegetable-focused dishes.
Ceretto Barbaresco Made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Barbaresco region, this is a classic wine with perfect balance between structure and elegance, exactly what you want on your holiday table. It’s a medium-bodied, ruby-red wine with an aroma of dried cherries and rose petals, plus undertones of vanilla and spices. It pairs nicely with most meats, but can stand up equally well to savory, umami-rich, vegetarian dishes like my Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils and Mushrooms, or the Vegetarian Cassoulet.
2016 Toscana Rosso Monteleccio, Sesti Imported by one of my favorite companies, Kermit Lynch, this beautiful Toscana Rosso is vibrant and structured, with an inherent energy and poise. This wine is made by a Brunello di Montalcino producer from grapes that do not go into the Brunello or Rosso di Montalcino. However, it is still 100% Sangiovese. This is an historic producer in a hugely important growing area. This wine is a great way to experience this particular territory without breaking the bank. It’s an incredibly elegant wine, and an especially remarkable one given the price point. Produced in Tuscany, it pairs well with rustic, homey dishes, which usually make an appearance on the holiday table in the form of sides. For a vegetarian main course, it would go especially with the Herb Crusted Tofu with Shitake Mushroom Gravy.