Show me a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table without a single guest who’s vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, and I’ll show you a self-sufficient fishing village off the coast of Alaska.
When Aunt Marlene stopped eating gluten, her back pain finally disappeared; cousin Marissa, home from college, is preaching against factory farms; vegetarian Uncle Joe is running a half-marathon on Boxing Day, longing for pasta. What’s a host to do? (Hint: Answering Tofurky on this quiz will get you a C+, not an A).
Make a casserole.
If sheet pan suppers are on one end of the recipe difficulty/clean-up spectrum, main course casseroles are on the other. They’re labor-intensive and messy. The upside? A mouth-watering, cook-to-impress main course that will satisfy your Cousin Marissas, Aunt Marlenes, and Uncle Joes.
Here are some of my favorites:
Cornbread Chili: For years I served cornbread as a side dish with chili. Then, ooh-la-la!, the first time I baked them in the same dish, I had an Aristotle moment: “the whole is better than the sum of the parts.” These cornbread recipes involve non-dairy milk, easy to find everywhere. I don’t think the brand or type (almond, oat, etc.) matters. Shortcut: Trader Joe’s sells a decent, easily veganized cornbread mix.
- Jessica’s Cornbread Chili, Jessica in the Kitchen: Jessica suggests Bob’s Red Mill brand throughout; it’s good, but Bob is clearly buttering Jessica’s cornbread. Any brand will do. Be sure to watch the video of Jessica making her creation.
- Chili Cornbread Casserole, Hummusapien: This is a comforting, crowd-pleasing dish that can be made gluten-free, or not, depending on who’s at the table. Both versions are winners.
- 1-Pot Butternut Squash Quinoa Chili: The night I tested this recipe, there were five of us (that’s us in the photo) – two vegans, one omnivore, one gluten-free vegetarian, and a six-year-old who loves cornbread and refuses to eat chili. So I made Bob’s Gluten-Free Cornbread mix, and kept it off the chili, which made both the six-year-old and her gluten-free dad happy. The chili recipe was beyond delicious. The key is taking the five extra minutes to spice up your chili powder.
Enchiladas: Red or green, it’s tough to decide. In both cases, it’s the homemade sauce that catapults these enchiladas over the top. (Try not to imagine catapulting enchiladas). Cashews, used in all three recipes, are popular in plant-based cooking; they’re high-protein, and when soaked and flavored with spices, a food processor turns them into a dreamy cream. Use corn tortillas to make enchiladas gluten-free.
- Enchiladas Verde, Food & Wine: Most large supermarkets now carry tomatillos, the basis for this sauce. (Attention gardeners: They are easy to grow, even in the northeast, and are prolific).
- Next Level Enchiladas, Oh She Glows: A creative combination of jarred red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet potatoes and spinach really do take these aptly named enchiladas to the next level.
- Nirvana Enchilada Casserole, Post Punk Kitchen: The first time I cooked this for my friend Lynne, she proclaimed, “this is the best meal I’ve ever eaten.” Be sure to watch the instructive, funny video of chef Isa making it. (Plug: I joke that I sleep with Lynne every night. She has a fabulous mediation App, Breethe, which I use to fall asleep).
Greek Lasagna: This pastitsio will put Uncle Joe over the finish-line, Aunt Marlene will book a trip to Greece, and cousin Marissa will be too busy posting pastitsio pictures on Instagram to argue with her right-leaning grandfather about Mitch McConnell’s complicity during the Trump administration.
- Pastitsio: Lazy Cat Kitchen: It took a single glance at this pastitsio to know I had to make it. The recipe calls for Worcester sauce, which, who knew?, has fish sauce in it. You can shop around for a plant-based version, but I’ve found it’s easier (and cheaper) to make my own.
Shepherd’s Pie: Nothing says Winter Comfort Food like creamy mashed potatoes.
- 1-Hour Shepherd’s Pie, Minimalist Baker: The secret to the 1-hour, speedy assembly time is frozen vegetables. No slicing and dicing! And they work. The mashed potatoes call for non-dairy butter. If you buy just one non-dairy product I suggest, do it for these mashed potatoes. Miyoko’s Creamery Slightly Salted European butter is the real deal. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE has spread it on bread in my house, and had any idea it was not made from cow’s milk. (Except the vegans, who of course I tell). It’s made from coconut oil, sunflower oil, and a touch of cashew cream. Nothing fake about it.
- Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken: The slicing and dicing required for this pie is worth it. Mushrooms, carrots, and peas, combined with lentils and a secret ingredient (BBQ sauce), make it substantial enough for your meat-craving uncle from Dallas.
- Cauliflower-Mashed Potato Shepherd’s Pie, Rainbow Plant Life: Sometimes I read a recipe, take stock of the ingredient list, and think, “this will not work.” At this point, I’ve made enough of Nisha Vora’s recipes to know hers always work. There’s no sugar-coating how long this will take to assemble. But, oh so worth it.