A Vegan Christmas Menu for Vegetarians and Meat Eaters

By Joni Marie Newman | December 22, 2015
pumpkin chili
Indian-Spiced Pumpkin and Jackfruit Chili (Fair Winds Press)

What makes a great holiday meal? Spending it with family, friends, and loved ones. The food, of course, does need to be delicious, too.

Our family does the big sit down to-do at Thanksgiving. And at Christmas time, while there is definitely lots and lots of food, we like it to be more fun and casual. Always a potluck filled with flavors that are as diverse as we are. We serve it buffet style, and the food stays out all evening.

Our family, like most others, is pretty diverse. We have members of many different ethnic and religious backgrounds. We have vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters alike. So, when I make a completely plant-based dish, it has to be spectacular. It has to look and taste great.

Appetizers and Salad
And even though we plan a big dinner with main dishes and plenty of sides, there is no doubt about it, we need appetizers, too. This Herb-Crusted Cashew Cheese Log pairs perfectly with holiday cider and mulled wine and looks as lovely as it tastes as it sits on a cheese board with crackers. And these Lumpiyang Shanghai are the perfect little finger food filled with earthy flavor just right for dipping.

Then comes the salad. And I’m not talking about Ambrosia. Almost everyone brings a dish to our get-togethers. Rich, decadent, creamy dishes, which are great, but it is important to balance all of that with a light and crisp green salad full of festive flavors and colors. A beautiful green salad should be one so pretty, you can’t pass it up. This Pineapple Orange Pomegranate Relish tossed with a big bowl of mixed tender greens that include frisse, torn butter lettuce, spinach, arugula, and baby kale fits that bill quite perfectly. This relish also makes an excellent topping for savory mains such as smoked tofu or Roasted Seitan.

The Sides
Most folks expect the sides to include veggies, so vegetable sides are very simply made vegan in a way that everyone can enjoy. Green Bean Almondine is a classic. And this twist adds a little extra pizazz. Another classic is broccoli, and we add a bit of a kick to ours in our Spicy Roasted Broccoli.

vegan tamales
International Fair of Tamales (Fair Winds Press)

The Mains
When it comes to the mains, we traditionally do soups or stews that are easily kept warm all night in crockpots. Indian-Spiced Pumpkin and Jackfruit Chili really does the trick, and be can be made ahead of time to keep the holiday party as stress-free as possible. And instead of a large turkey or ham sitting in the center of the table, we keep it simple by offering up a basket of breads and rolls with thinly sliced meats, cheeses, and spreads to make little sandwiches at will.  For the vegans and vegetarians, that means thinly sliced Roast Beef Style Seitan, Follow Your Heart brand Provolone Slices, whole grain mustard, and a dish of garlic aioli made with Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo. And in Southern California, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without tamales! So every year we make an International Fair of Tamales filled with anything and everything from spicy roasted sweet potatoes to cranberries and pumpkin.

A Simple Dessert
For dessert, there is always pie. So much pie. Everyone brings apple and pumpkin…but not me, I arrive with a bright green, simple but delicious, minty Grasshopper PieWith full bellies we sing an occasional carol. It’s Christmas time in the city.

Joni Marie Newman is the author of numerous vegan cookbooks including Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen, Vegan Food Gifts, The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet and more. Visit her at justthefood.com and follow her on Twitter @JoniMarieNewman.