Essential Cooking: Preparing the perfect vegan Thanksgiving

Ann Delisi talks with Chef James Rigato about cooking for the vegans at your Thanksgiving table.

Vegetables and fruits laid out in a still life, a cornucopia (horn of plenty)

Vegan dishes are becoming increasingly popular on Thanksgiving tables across the country. Whether you are cooking for a guest who doesn’t consume animal products, or producing an entire plant-based spread, knowing how to prepare vegetables properly and deliciously will make or break your vegan dishes.


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In this episode:

  • Learn how to make some of your favorite Thanksgiving vegetable sides fully vegan
  • How to make interesting, delicious Thanksgiving food that satisfies both vegans and non-vegans
  • What’s on Chef Rigato’s table for Thanksgiving this year.

Chef James Rigato spoke with Ann Delisi about planning his fully vegan Thanksgiving celebration, some tips for improving your vegan cooking, and about his frustration with traditional Thanksgiving cooking.

“I think most American Thanksgiving dinners are barely delicious in the first place, so chances are they are not making the vegan contributions delicious,” Rigato says.

The Mabel Gray owner’s frustration with Thanksgiving dinners has a lot to do with how meals are typically structured in the U.S.

“To me, the way that we eat in America is not really the way that the rest of the world eats. You know, soup, salad, large protein. That’s not real,” states Rigato. “It’s kind of like post-World War II, structure of shipping food, and restaurant culture. It’s not how the world eats.”

Instead, Rigato opted for smaller plates at his Thanksgiving meal, and more options so he can bring a larger variety of foods and flavors to the dinner table.

“Textures, layers, breads, spreads — it’s an abundance of ingredients spread out in front of you. That’s a bounty,” says Rigato. “So that’s what I would try to recreate with a vegan Thanksgiving, not a tofurkey or some kind of fake meat items.”

For Rigato, Thanksgiving is about enjoying the end of the season as winter begins. While this can be commemorated with turkey, gravy, and stuffing, he finds the bounty of fruits and vegetables much more exciting.

“I don’t find it limiting to be vegan. I think there are thousands of grains and nuts and seeds and fruits and vegetables we can eat,” Rigato shares. “Some of the best things are vegan.”

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