9 plant-forward Thanksgiving sides that everyone at the table will love

9 Recipes
Whole roasted cauliflower with spicey tahini sauce
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

Vegetarian and vegan variations on Thanksgiving favorites like green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.


With Thanksgiving less than a week away, it is time to nail down the finishing touches on your menu — like those all-important side dishes. After all, it’s not hard to decide between turkey and, um, turkey for the main dish and when it comes to desserts, I’ll take pie, thank you. The sides can get tricky. While they offer room for creativity, some guests arrive with expectations regarding traditional dishes. The stakes can be even higher for vegans and vegetarians. Sides are often their refuge — but they also can be a source of holiday delight.

Cooking columnist Ben Mims has vegetarians covered with several of the dishes in his recently published Guide to Classic Thanksgiving, which features refreshed recipes for old-school favorites.

If you are looking for a vegan option, Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Spicy Tahini Sauce makes an impressive presentation and works well as a main dish or as a side. Tahini gives it a rich, luxurious feel and flavor.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Spicy Tahini Sauce

This whole roasted cauliflower is charred, then drenched in a bright lemon-tahini sauce, making it the perfect veggie main or side dish.
Time1 hour 30 minutes, largely unattended
YieldsServes 2 to 4

Smothered Green Beans With Creamed Mushrooms and Fried Onions are a completely vegan take on the vintage green bean casserole. It uses oat milk as the base for a creamy sauce that is cooked with the mushrooms and then tossed with the green beans. Here, too, you can top it off with fried onions, or not.


Smothered Green Beans with Creamed Mushrooms and Fried Onions

Like the standard American green bean casserole, green beans are smothered in creamed mushrooms and topped with crunchy fried onions, but this vegan sauce is made with oat milk.
Time30 minutes
YieldsServes 12

Green Bean Gratin

Tender green beans are blanched, coated in a creamy gratin-style sauce and mixed with mushrooms before being baked under a crust of fried onions and Parmesan cheese.
Time1 hour 15 minutes
YieldsServes 8

King Oyster and Wood Ear Mushrooms leave out the cream altogether for a light mushroom dish brightened with a sprinkling of minced cilantro and garlic.


King Oyster and Wood Ear Mushrooms with Cilantro Persillade

King oyster and wood ear mushrooms are sauteed or grilled and served with cilantro and garlic, adding freshness to this earthy, vegan side dish.
Time15 minutes
YieldsServes 2 to 4

Pan-seared Brussels sprouts are sweetened with maple syrup, and Fresno peppers add color and a bit of heat to balance the sweet. They make an appetizing presentation and deliver a burst of flavor — much more than you might expect for only 20 minutes of labor to prepare it.

Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts With Chile-Maple Glaze

Pan-searing Brussels sprouts saves you oven space and time. A light maple syrup and cider vinegar glaze gives this vegan side dish an irresistible balance of sweet and sour.
Time20 minutes
YieldsServes 8 to 12

And of course, the table would not be complete without potatoes. Rather than sweat trying to decide white or orange, why not serve both? Genevieve Ko’s vegan Smashed Sweet Potatoes With Torched Meringue uses aquafaba (the starchy liquid left after cooking garbanzo beans) to make the meringue (yes, chickpea water whips up thick and frothy like egg whites — and it doesn’t taste like chickpeas!). The smashed sweet potatoes are embellished with coconut milk and a gentle kick of heat from chipotle chile powder (totally optional), which balances the sweetness of the aquafaba meringue.

Smashed Sweet Potatoes With Torched Meringue

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping gets a slightly spicy, vegan twist in this easy recipe that's great for Thanksgiving.
Time1 hour
YieldsServes 12

Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole

Apples, honey and orange juice naturally sweeten the sweet potatoes in this update on the classic casserole, covered in fluffy meringue that's torched until toasty.
Time1 hour 40 minutes
YieldsServes 8

Creamy Leek Mashed Potatoes get a rich flavor from caramelized leeks while nutritional yeast adds tang.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Tangy buttermilk lightens Thanksgiving mashed potatoes made with russet potatoes, which are drier and fluffier than other potato varieties.
Time30 minutes
YieldsServes 8

Creamy Leek Mashed Potatoes

Caramelized leeks and nutritional yeast give these vegan mashed potatoes even more richness and complexity than butter and cream. A perfect vegan side dish.
Time45 minutes
YieldsMakes about 8 cups