Photo: A.A. Newton
As I’ve mentioned previously, my 2021 Thanksgiving guest list is chockfull vegans, vegetarians, people with dairy allergies, and the lactose intolerant. I am none of those things. I love butter, I love cream, and I love animal fats—but I also love a challenge, so I have been enthusiastically tweaking my recipes to accommodate such dietary restrictions. It’s going very well.
Three ingredients—two store-bought and one homemade—are making this pivot to dairy-free, egg-free, meat-free dishes almost too easy. With them at my side, I’ve managed to veganize my grandmother’s cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, and gravy, and I believe they can help you do the same, if you are so inclined.
Better Than Bouillon and chickpea brothI have been a fan of this entire line of savory soup bases for many years now, but their vegetarian and vegan offerings are on another level. The standard vegetable base is good, but the No Chicken base is outstanding. It does not taste of vegetables, but of chicken broth, or at least what you imagine liberally-seasoned chicken broth should taste like—salty, savory, and satisfying. If you want a flavor that isn’t reminiscent of poultry, I recommend the Sautéed Onion base, which tastes like concentrated French onion soup.
You can use either flavor in to make gravy, dressing, stuffing, or anything else in which you would usually use turkey or chicken broth. You can even sneak a little of the Roasted Garlic base into some mashed potatoes for an easy flavor boost. One teaspoon of base in 8 ounces of water makes 1 cup of highly seasoned, flavorful broth, so adjust as necessary to fit your needs. (And, unlike quarts of stock, the little jars of base paste take up very little space in the fridge—a big plus point around this time of year.)
If you simply must use a homemade broth, make it chickpea. Not only is the color a dead ringer for something meatier, but it has body and flavor that reads a whole lot like your favorite poultry broth.
Best Egg vegan egg replacementThis mung bean-based liquid makes a pretty decent scramble, but it’s also a fantastic binder— sub in 3 tablespoons of Just Egg for every whole egg called for in your recipe. I wouldn’t use Just Egg in finicky pastry projects, but I used some to make cornbread and, subsequently, cornbread dressing, and didn’t notice a single difference in taste or texture. Use it anywhere you need a bit of binding, including quick breads (with chemical leavening agents), casseroles, and (obviously) dressing and stuffing.
A.A. Newton’s vegan cream of mushroom baseThis substitution is not as plug-and-play as the other two, because you have to do a little cooking, but believe me when I say it is totally worth your time. Not only is this the best vegan cream of mushroom base I’ve ever had, it’s the best cream of mushroom base I’ve ever had in my entire life (which is medium in length). The combination of pulverized dried mushroom caps, intensely roasted creminis, lots of alliums, and dark beer is cooked down into a thick, almost too savory base, then thinned out a bit with some Tofutti sour cream. I could not stop stealing little spoonfuls of it.
It’s highest purpose is, obviously, green bean casserole, but I wouldn’t want you to limit yourself here. Mash it into potatoes, mix it into dressing (cup for cup!), or thin it out with even more vegan sour cream and serve it as a dip with some potato chips. It’s so good, you might find yourself eating it with a spoon.