Vegan dishes make their way to the holiday table


Hannah Chan

Rows and rows of vegan options for a holiday feast sit in a fridge at Whole Foods. The options range from tofu to non-dairy cheese.

It’s the night of the annual holiday feast, and family members are seated around the dining room table. Everyone lets out a big cheer as the huge ham is taken out of the oven and brought to the center of the table, revealing a glistening hunk of crispy skin oozing with juices. 

When everyone is digging into their first plate, a grandmother looks at her grandson’s plate and says, “Hey, I didn’t know we cooked turkey this year.” 

The boy replies, “It’s tofurky.”

For some, the holiday season starts in late November with Thanksgiving, and flurries into December holidays as autumn becomes winter. Many get busy decorating gingerbread houses and baking cookies. 

For sophomore Caelyn Cheng, family gatherings during the holidays, however big or small, take place around a unifying theme.

“I think the holidays are about spending time with the people you love, and a lot of times that comes in the form of food,” Cheng said.

For vegans, the traditional holiday food transforms into something uniquely plant-based. 

Audrey Abrams, a junior, along with her dad and brother, became vegan for ethical reasons.

She formed a close bond with a cow on a trip in Peru, and the connection made her rethink the animals that people typically choose to eat. 

In the past, Abrams has been to family gatherings where vegan options were limited, but her family now helps her bring meatless dishes to those gatherings.

“My family is a lot better now at providing alternatives,” Abrams said.

According to the Good Food Institute, vegan foods are on the rise. The three-year growth rate from 2018 to 2021 for total U.S. plant-based food sales increased by more than 50%. 

Alternatives for holiday foods and beverages can range from cheeses made of cashews, eggnog made of almonds or oats, and meats made from soy. 

Eating vegan during the holidays has become second nature for someone like Chloe Khachadourian, a sophomore who’s been vegan for seven years. Khachadourian has loved being vegan since her parents first introduced her to veganism. In Khachadourian’s freezer, one could find a bag of Daring vegan chicken pieces or a pack of Impossible vegan beef patties.

“The store usually has a fake meat aisle, and we’ll usually get stuff from there,” Khachadourian said.

Meat alternatives aren’t cheap though. Many vegans consume a lot of tofu, tempeh, and beans, which can all be found in every grocery store.

Using vegan alternatives to certain ingredients needed for a recipe often allows a vegan to recreate traditional family dishes for everyone to enjoy during a holiday feast.

“There’s a substitute for everything, so you can still alter it and make it your own while staying true to these traditions,” Abrams said.

Khachadourian’s favorite holiday dish before going vegan was turkey because she liked, and still does, the spirit of Thanksgiving. 

I would say to just start making your own traditions. Being vegan doesn’t mean that you don’t get to have the traditional holiday experience”

— Audrey Abrams

“It’s the holiday I remember the most because it’s when we gather and eat the most food,” Khachadourian said.

As a non, Cheng keeps an open mind towards vegan dishes during the holidays.

“Personally, I prefer the original versions of holiday foods, but I wouldn’t be opposed to trying a vegan option,” Cheng said.

During a holiday feast, someone might have their holiday dinner plate filled with ham, and someone else might have their plate filled with tofurky. 

“I would say to just start making your own traditions. Being vegan doesn’t mean that you don’t get to have the traditional holiday experience,” Abrams said.