Longing for the Divine

The First Plant-Based Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Holiday Greeting Card Handwritten Calligraphy Text Design with Fall Pumpkins, Squash and Gourds Colorful Background Texture

As a plant-based vegetarian, I am often asked what I eat for Thanksgiving. Due to an abundant variety of delicious foods, my Thanksgiving meal is certainly not bland or boring. I feel like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when the first bounteous thanksgiving feast was served. In case you did not know, Adam and Eve were vegetarians. God said to them, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth… They will be yours for food” (Genesis 1:29, NIV). This story describes how God provided humans with an abundant vegetarian spread, but we were not satisfied. We stopped being thankful for God’s bounteous provision.

Vegetarianism is a positive, pro-life way of experiencing God’s love and commitment for all creation. Some vegetarians may highly criticize meat-eaters, but I am not a dogmatic vegetarian. No one enjoys being lectured about their dietary choices. I choose a silent and compassionate approach that avoids being schismatic. The emphasis given in the Garden was not negatively focused or prohibitive. God said, “You may freely eat of every tree…” (Genesis 2:16-17). Eating emphasized freedom before it was redefined by an absolutist negative mindset (Genesis 3:1). I aim to be faithful to the voice from the Garden that has supported human life and the flourishing of creation. Even with my plant-based lifestyle I must orientate my life according to the Creator’s positive instruction and eat with thanksgiving.

I realize that on this side of the Tree of Life we cannot save the world from every death. Meat-eating is a reality, but we can still celebrate God’s commitment to restore all creation back to His original intentions. We can choose to eat the best we can to affirm life and health and trust in the loving care of a God who is against exploitation and violence. Such eating is an act of thanksgiving, thus making it a life-affirming worship experience of the Creator (Leviticus 11:44-47).

As a vegetarian, what do I eat for Thanksgiving? Our family table is spread with a variety of delicious and flavorful dishes, such as roasted squash, savory butternut squash soup, roasted Brussel sprouts, and green bean casserole made with a delightful cashew cream. The meal will also include vegan and gluten-free bread stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, salads, fluffy vegan mashed potatoes, and of course, plant-based rich and savory gravy. My family will enjoy various dessert options, including pecan, pumpkin, blueberry and apple pies and vegan raspberry cheesecake, among other delightful desserts. We make our own homemade turkey substitutes, but you can find many vegan roasts that would serve as a hearty main course.

Although there are many good foods that a vegetarian can eat, below are recipes of some of our favorite dishes over the years. You might want to add some delicious plant-based dishes to your Thanksgiving table this year:

Herbed Almond Cheese

1 c raw almonds

3 Tbs lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup water

3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

2 Tbs chives

2 Tbs fresh parsley

Soak the almonds overnight and then peel them by popping them between your fingers. Blend the first 6 ingredients together until very smooth. Mix in the herbs. Line a strainer with cheese cloth, and pour your cheese mixture into the strainer. Let the mixture drain overnight. Pour the mixture onto an oiled pan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 325° for 25-30 minutes. Delicious with crackers.

Apple Strudel

1 package phyllo dough (I use whole wheat dough)

8 baking apples, largely diced



vegetable oil

Lay out 2 sheets of phyllo dough and brush them with vegetable oil. Repeat this step until you have 6 sheets. Lay the apples on one end, and sprinkle with raisins and cinnamon. Roll the dough by tucking the sides in. Brush with vegetable oil and lay a folded sheet on top and tuck under. Repeat this step twice. Finish by brushing with vegetable oil. Make sure the dough roll is sealed. Bake at 350° until juice starts to ooze out, approximately 20-30 minutes. Let the baked roll cool after tilting the tray so that the juice does not make the baked roll soggy. Once cooled, cut the roll into slices and top with glaze.


1/3 c. maple syrup

1/4 c. brown rice syrup

1/4 c. honey

2 Tbs. margarine

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small pot, combine ingredients and melt over low heat. Liquid sweeteners are interchangeable to suit personal preferences.

Vegan Shepherds Pie

1 c chopped mushrooms

1 c diced onions

2 tsp olive oil

1 bag Beyond Meat Crumbles

1 lb bag frozen corn

6 c cubed white potatoes

1 tsp salt

2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 c Earth Balance margarine

1/2 c nondairy milk (soy or almond) 

Peel, dice and steam the potatoes. While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the onions and mushrooms in olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add the Beyond Meat crumbles and cook until lightly browned. Layer the bottom of a baking dish with the faux meat mixture, and then sprinkle the bag of corn on top of the bottom layer. Mash the cooked potatoes with the remaining ingredients and then spread as the top layer of the mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.


Craig Ashton Jr.

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