19 Vegetarian Mains for a Festive Holiday Table

  03 Jan 2019

[Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt, Lauren Rothman]

The holidays can be be an isolating time for folks who don't eat meat— and are wonderful festive centerpieces for meat-eaters, but anyone else is going to get stuck cobbling together a meal from side dishes. We don't think leaving guests out of the most exciting part of the meal is in keeping with the holiday spirit, so if you've got vegetarians or vegans coming over this month, consider making an entrée that they can eat, too. That could be in addition to a meaty main, but our vegetarian options are so good that they will satisfy everyone at the table. From roasted eggplant and lentils and homemade butternut squash ravioli to an epic vegan take on beef Wellington, we have 19 festive vegetarian mains to make everyone feel included at your holiday dinner.

Vegan

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Risotto’s reputation as a fussy dish makes it feel like a treat, but with the right rice and a wide skillet it’s much easier to make than you might think. In this recipe the risotto gets its vibrant color and flavor from a spinach purée, while sautéed mushrooms make it feel more like a full meal.

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Making risotto in a pan is easy, but making it in a pressure cooker is downright foolproof and only takes 20 minutes from start to finish. Here we take miso paste—a supporting player in many of our risotto recipes—and make it a star. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of miso, so use a more subtle variety like light yellow or white.

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Beef Wellington is a relic of another era and—thanks to the combination of beef tenderloin, prosciutto, and foie gras—far from vegetarian-friendly. This updated Wellington skips all of the meat for a 100% vegan filling of roasted carrots, mushroom duxelles, smoked mushroom "bacon," boiled cashews, cannellini beans, toasted sunflower seeds and pepitas, and sautéed aromatics.

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This dish is all about a fantastically light and creamy tahini sauce adapted from Michael Solomonov’s excellent . We use the sauce to top roasted eggplant and stewed lentils, then finish with a sprinkling of crunchy pine nuts.

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Carbonara is a simple-but-satisfying pasta preparation that seems basically impossible to vegan-ify—the dish is made with pork, eggs, cream, and cheese. This version uses mushrooms instead of pork; tofu, miso, and nutritional yeast to make a rich, eggy-tasting "cream" sauce; and sauerkraut brine to mimic the lactic tang of Pecorino Romano.

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

The picture shows these rice, raisin, and caper-stuffed poblano peppers covered in a layer of grated cheese, but you can make the dish vegan by leaving it off. You won’t be missing out, because the cashew sauce is plenty creamy and browns nicely.

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Recreating a classic lasagna alla Bolognese without any of the dairy or meat is a true challenge. The secret to imitating a beefy ragù and a creamy béchamel sauce is all about layering flavors and textures to trick the eyes and mouth. We combine seitan, mushrooms, and spices to create a deep, meaty flavor that really is just like the real deal.

Vegetarian

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

While you don’t need dairy to make a good risotto, we love the nutty note that browned butter brings to this recipe made with seasonal ingredients like roasted squash, apple, sage, and maple syrup. Not quite what you’re looking for? Check out our umami-rich or striking .

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

A hearty lasagna is incredibly comforting on a winter day. As much as I love a meaty , creamy spinach lasagna is classic for good reason. The sautéed spinach works perfectly with white sauce, high-quality ricotta, and a pinch of nutmeg. To make a spinach lasagna that might be even better,

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Spinach isn’t your only option when it comes to vegetarian lasagna—this recipe pairs mushroom duxelles, béchamel, and cheese with nutty creamed Brussels sprouts. Or for something even more festive, use the same flavors from our butternut squash risotto to make a warming, sweet-but-not-too-sweet .

[Photograph: Niki Achitoff-Gray]

Homemade pasta is sure to impress at the holidays, and ravioli is an approachable option if you don’t have a ton of experience. This recipe fills the ravioli with a sweet and funky mixture of butternut squash and blue cheese and serves them in a sage and browned butter sauce. Already a pasta pro? Our elegant will amaze your guests.

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

As comforting as lasagna but simpler to make, our baked ziti requires just half an hour of hands-on work. A lot of ziti is ruined by bad ricotta, so we leave it out in favor of Parmesan cream sauce. We make the dish extra cheesy with two different kinds of mozzarella—we mix low-moisture mozzarella in with the pasta and use the fresh stuff on top.

[Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

Growing up in a Palestinian-American house the holidays weren’t complete without a huge pot of maqluba. My family usually makes the dish with lamb, but to be honest, the best part is the assortment of tender vegetables. Here that means tomato, cauliflower, and eggplant seasoned with allspice, cumin, turmeric, and coriander.

[Photograph: Yasmin Fahr]

Mains don’t have to be time-consuming to be festive—this one comes together in half an hour with just a single skillet. We start by cooking small eggplants whole on the stove to fry the outside and steam the inside, then add canned chickpeas and cherry tomatoes. Once the tomatoes have cooked down into a sauce serve everything with cumin-spiked yogurt.

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

The key to the best spinach manicotti is getting rid of the manicotti—dried manicotti shells are a pain to fill and don’t have as good of a texture as fresh pasta. The spinach also turns out to be less necessary than the name of the dish might suggest—we cut it with arugula to give the dish a stronger leafy-green flavor. Looking for another filled pasta? Check out our classic .

[Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

Whole stuffed acorn squash is sure to fill you up and makes for a striking centerpiece. We fill the squash with a mixture of white and wild rice, nutty toasted pecans, and tart dried cranberries, plus salty ricotta salata cheese for contrast.

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Baked mac and cheese is often a side at a big holiday meal, but I think it's filling enough to be the main event. You could go with a classic , but for something extra gooey try our more modern take, which uses sodium citrate to give any cheese the superb melting abilities of American. Whichever technique you use, don't forget the crunchy panko topping.

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This spanakopita, topped with golden-brown layers of phyllo dough, is a perfect vegetarian centerpiece. Instead of just using spinach, we go with a more flavorful assortment of greens. Fresh herbs and crumbled feta are folded into the greens before the whole mixture is napped in phyllo dough and baked.

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Often, vegetarians are forced to spend the holidays picking through non-meat side dishes while the rest of us feast on legs of lamb or roast turkeys. But this vegetarian showstopper dish will entice even your most carnivorous friends and family. Sweet stuffed pumpkins, filled with mushrooms, kale, kabocha squash purée, and cheese, are packed with autumnal flavors, and rival even the most impressive holiday roasts.

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