According to Google searches for “the components of a Christmas dinner”, there are at least ten core dishes that make up our dinners across Britain. Staples include turkey, roasties, Yorkshire puddings, and gravy. Wherever you’re having your Christmas dinner – at granny’s house or at home – you might expect to see at least a few of these classics. If, like me, you’ve worked out that you could eat about 30% of a traditional Christmas dinner, you’ve probably realised that it’s not vegan friendly. A plate of potatoes, cranberry sauce, and Brussels sprouts, anyone?
Whilst that sounds delightful, it is possible to have a 100% vegan Christmas dinner and include many of the favourites that have come to define the festive season. I have set out to veganise the traditional Christmas feast, offering ten suggestions and alternatives for how to have a fully vegan Christmas.
Note: These suggestions actively discourage the presence and use of mushrooms *shudder*. There will be no mushroom wellingtons in sight.
Of course, we can’t forget about roasties and cranberry sauce, but these are normally suitable for vegans
Turkey, or some form of meat, usually takes centre stage on the Christmas table. Although recipes for vegan turkey alternatives are developing, made chiefly from seitan, I’m going to suggest mixing up your centrepiece altogether. My personal preference is for cashew nut loaf. It can take on turkey any day of the week. Imagine breadcrumbs, cashews, garlic, and onion blended together with herbs and baked until golden and crispy on top. I could eat it for days, and I have. If the turkey experience is absolutely essential, however, you can snag yourself a roasted turkey food prop.
A couple of years ago at a Thanksgiving party, someone made a wild rice stuffing which has subsequently replaced the normal bready sage and onion stuffing we’d have in the past. It might sound a bit strange having rice at your Christmas meal, but just think of it as starch in a different form. Many recipes for vegan stuffing include mushrooms (the evil fungi), but obviously you don’t have to incorporate these, and I encourage you not to.
Pigs in blankets
When I first became vegan, my family set out on a mission to find the perfect bacon alternative to create pigs in blankets. The vegan sausage part was easy, but many bacon substitutes can be bark-like. Like turkey alternatives, more “facon” (fake bacon) options are getting better, so I’d suggest trying out different types and finding which one ticks all your blanket checkboxes. Just simply get your favourite vegan sausages and wrap them up in your facon. The real pigs will thank you.
Otherwise known as a “sausage cake” in our house (named after a very cakey toad in the hole we once made), veganising a Yorkshire pud is possible! Eggs are typically used as a binding and raising agent in Yorkshire pudding, but vegan recipes use chickpea flour for this. The end result is a delicious biscuit-like puck that tastes like your familiar Yorkshire pud – you just have to shut your eyes.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to gravy. One insists on lovingly making gravy from scratch, the other is satisfied with pouring water over granules. Whichever way you prefer (maybe you’re a rebel and do both), there are plenty of ways to veganise your gravy and still get a deep and rich flavour. Just check the back of packet: Sometimes beef gravy actually contains beef!
Some people don’t like the natural flavour of Brussels sprouts, so they fry them in butter and lardons. If the flavour of your grandparents’ sitting room isn’t for you, try frying your sprouts in some of those bacon alternatives we talked about earlier and get yourself some vegan butter.
Of course, we can’t forget about roasties and cranberry sauce, but these are normally suitable for vegans.
Someone decided to take the saturated fat from around the outside of a cow’s kidney and mix it into a perfectly innocent dessert. Vegetable suet is commonly available now and works just as well as beef suet. Don’t worry, it won’t affect your Christmas pudding’s ability to live happily in your cupboard for the next ten years.
Every Christmas, my granny would make the most buttery, sugary, and decadent mince pies you can imagine. Now I try to follow in her footsteps just with vegan butter and some of that vegetable suet mincemeat. Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out on these classics.
I know I said ten suggestions, but it wouldn’t be the beginning of the festive season in our house without a big box of chocolates. I used to eat all the red ones out of a box of Quality Street and then hang the foil on the Christmas tree, much to my dad’s frustration. Quality Street contains milk, inexplicably, but luckily you can get big boxes of assorted vegan chocolates and sweets delivered straight to your door and preferably straight into your stomach.
Those are my suggestions, but I also asked the Students’ Union Vegan Society’s president, Max Starn, about his Christmas dinner menu and suggestions for how to make your Christmas dinner vegan.
“My mum will probably make some kind of hearty lentil dahl for us which is always good, even if it doesn’t follow the idea of what a Christmas dinner should look like”, he replied. “Making Christmas dinner vegan may mean the table looks completely different to what you think it should look like without the centrepiece: the turkey. I’d say maybe reconsider what Christmas dinner has to be. At the end of the day, it’s a meal that brings the family together.”
Max makes an important point: Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you eat, it’s about the people you eat it with. Whatever your Christmas meal looks like, 100% vegan or 30% vegan, being together with friends and family is the most important thing.