Vegetarian Holiday Recipes
Roasted Vegetable Plate with Herbed Dressing
Vegetables can be sparse in winter months when holiday braises, hearty stews, and centerpiece roasts tend to take over. This seasonal vegetable plate will help you stick to your calorie plan, and can be altered easily depending on what's available. Don't be scared of a hot oven—roasting the veggies at 500°F gets the job done quickly and gives the vegetables a nice golden color. Tarragon has an anise flavor similar to fennel; you can omit it or substitute sliced green onions or parsley for a fresh pop.
Balsamic Cranberry-Onion Jam
This jam is an excellent, refined sugar-free alternative to the traditional, often too-sweet sauce, and tastes even better a day or two after it’s made. Because fresh cranberries are so tart on their own, be sure to use a sweet onion such as Vidalia in the jam. Pair this condiment with your Thanksgiving plate, then use as a sandwich spread for holiday leftovers.
Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions
Deeply caramelized with balsamic vinegar until glossy and browned, these sweet and tangy jewels are a gorgeous addition to your holiday plate. We actually prefer frozen, peeled pearl onions over fresh for convenience; you save a lot of time by not peeling fresh pearl onions. You will be tempted to stir the pan frequently as the liquid reduces, but the onions need time to cook undisturbed in order to get deeply browned. Keep the heat low so the liquid in the pan doesn’t dry up too quickly.
Ruthenian Mushroom Soup
A traditional Ruthenian dish, this soup starts with raw garlic and a bowl of dark brown mushrooms. It's often served on Christmas Eve, but can be enjoyed all winter long.
Green Bean Casserole with Caulifower Cream
Once simmered in milk and pureed, cauliflower transforms into a silky, luscious cream sauce—a dead ringer for the classic yet with a much better profile, saving nearly 500mg sodium and 4g fat per serving. We intensify the mushroom presence by using meaty cremini and shiitake mushrooms and roasting them first to cook out the excess liquid. If you can’t find shiitakes, use 2 (8-oz.) packages of cremini mushrooms. Skip the fried onions and use torn whole-wheat bread for a rustic, crunchy topper.
Roasted Butternut Squash With Sticky Walnut Topping
Molasses complements the sweetness of the roasted butternut squash and gives the slices a deeply bronzed look. We add cider vinegar for balance and stir in walnuts for a sticky, praline-like topping. The dish is best served warm, when the molasses mixture is still gooey. You can roast the squash ahead and reheat the slices while you make the topping. A quick trick for cleaning a sticky saucepan: Fill with water and bring to a boil, letting any residue dissolve, and then drain.
Crispy Cauliflower with Italian Salsa Verde
Crunch and zing are often missing from the holiday spread; these crispy, cheesy cauliflower florets with fresh lemon-parsley sauce achieve both. Serve with classic holiday dishes at Thanksgiving, or with roasted fish or a simple pasta toss on any weeknight. A thorough coat of cooking spray on the cauliflower will help the breading adhere and keep the florets from drying out as they bake. Finely grated Parmesan will go further in the breading; use a microplane or pulse in a food processor until finely ground.
For a twist on cranberry sauce this year, try this sweet, tart, and earthy beet-and-cranberry condiment. Toasted whole coriander and brown mustard seeds add warmth and take the chutney into savory territory. The chunky texture is part of the charm here, a great contrast to the mashes and casseroles on the table.
Traditional versions of this dish can tip the scales at nearly 1,000 calories and 30g sat fat per serving. This makeover cuts that by more than two-thirds and still has plenty of marinara, melty cheese, and crispy baked eggplant.
Maple-Caraway Brussels Sprouts
Layer upon layer of bold flavor earned these Brussels sprouts our test kitchen’s highest rating. The sprouts get deeply caramelized in toasted caraway and browned butter, then are quickly finished with a sweet and pungent mixture of maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and sherry vinegar. Caraway has an anise-like flavor similar to fennel seed. Add to roasted carrots or parsnips, or sprinkle over whole-grain rolls or crackers. Start the caraway and thyme in a cold pan so they can infuse the butter as it browns.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Pumpkin Seed-Oat Crumble
We use less sugar in this classic casserole and get sweetness instead from fragrant orange rind and vanilla. Turmeric boosts the orange color and adds a subtle earthiness to the sweet potatoes. Instead of an all-nut or marshmallow topping, an oat streusel made with pumpkinseeds adds crunch and contrast to the dish. Evaporated milk has a concentrated dairy flavor without the added sugar of sweetened condensed milk; it will help the potato base to thicken as it bakes.
Potato and Parsnip Gratin
The addition of parsnips is an elegant twist to this traditionally all-potato dish. Parboiling and drying the sliced parsnips and potatoes first will keep them from absorbing the sauce in the oven so the gratin stays creamy. Half-and-half is our dairy of choice for this dish—a combination of equal parts cream and whole milk that gives the sauce its body while keeping the saturated fat at just 3g per serving. Toss the vegetables gently with the sauce so the slices don’t fall apart.
Winter Radish Salad With Parsley And Olives
Tricolored Beet Tart
Start your holiday meal with a simple yet gorgeous beet tart, topped off with tangy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts, and flaky sea salt. Par-bake the crust to get a lovely raised edge (what forms the shell of your tart) and ensure that the bottom will be cooked through. If you or your guests are not beet fans, substitute sweet potatoes: Wrap 4 (4-ounce) sweet potatoes in parchment paper, and microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Then cool, peel, and slice. You can also sub feta for goat cheese and pecans or walnuts for hazelnuts.
Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash
This side is simple and fabulous. The cooking is mostly hands-off, and the prep is easy. Serve the tender butternut squash in large pieces to catch every last bit of the honey butter drizzle.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Pine Nuts
For a bit of showmanship, bring the whole cauliflower to the table, and then "carve" and dress with the vinaigrette, pomegranate arils, pine nuts, and parsley.
Grapefruit, Endive, and Arugula Salad
Tossing the endive leaves in the vinaigrette first softens their bitter edge. You could also sub thinly sliced fennel or chopped Romaine hearts.
Roasted Fennel with Rosemary Breadcrumbs
Instead of roasted root vegetables or Brussels sprouts, try roasted fennel. Fennel has licorice notes that mellow in the oven, becoming slightly sweet. A splash of cider vinegar at the end brightens the dish.
Roasted Root Vegetables with Walnut Pesto
This dish takes advantage of all the great vegetables that are in season right now. Root veggies and Brussels sprouts all benefit immensely from a long roast, which makes them tender and brings out their natural sweetness. Walnuts replace pine nuts in the pesto that better suits these vegetables' earthy flavors. Serve as a side or pair with wild rice or pasta for a vegetarian main course.
Pappardelle with Roasted Winter Squash, Arugula, and Pine Nuts
This fresh and easy dish packs in lots of seasonal flavors, and you can put everything together in the 25 minutes it takes for the squash to roast. The recipe makes six filling servings, so it's great for a family dinner or casual get-together, but you can always double or triple it to be the main course at any holiday party.
We use the tart-shell method from the master recipe for a fuss-free version of the classic Greek spinach-and-cheese-pastry. A little pimiento, brightened with vinegar, adds pop; you could also sub chopped olives. Make sure to drain the spinach mixture well; extra liquid could make the crust soggy. Let the spinach drain while the crust bakes. Build and finish baking the tart shortly before guests arrive.
Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta
This is mac and cheese for adults. It's got all the creamy comfort of the original, with the sophisticated flavors of Italian cheeses standing in for the traditional cheddar. The garlicky breadcrumb topping adds crunch and visual interest. If you want an even more elegant presentation, bake individual servings in ramekins or gratin dishes for each guest.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
Chef Jonathan Waxman taught Cooking Light Editor Hunter Lewis how to make this fall salad many years ago. Riff with the ingredients to find the flavor balance you prefer. For a vegan version, omit the Parmesan cheese.
Caramelized Leek and Spinach Dip
Beautifully caramelized leeks and onions cannot be rushed; resist the urge to crank up the heat. Leeks become especially silky and sweet when left to cook awhile. If they start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water, and stir (the liquid will evaporate during cooking). Instead of bread or crackers, serve the dip with an array of vegetables, such as baby carrots, endive leaves, radishes, diagonally sliced cucumber, and mini sweet bell peppers for a bit of freshness, color, and crunch. You'll also save calories and room for the rest of the meal.
Mediterranean Spinach Strata
With savory vegetables, cheese, and bread baked into an eggy custard, this recipe is at home on the brunch, lunch, or dinner table. It's filling, but also healthful, providing lots of vitamins and minerals, protein, and, most importantly, flavor.
Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
A mix of colorful root vegetables may be your star side. Peeled, prechopped butternut squash saves time, but pieces tend to be irregular and small—we prefer peeling and cubing it yourself.
Wild Mushroom Pastitsio
No Hanukkah celebration is complete without latkes. The trick to crispy cakes with less oil is to start with a very dry grated potato mixture: Drain well, and then squeeze in a clean kitchen towel. The frying oil may get too hot during successive batches; remove pan from heat for a minute or two, and lower the temperature as needed.
Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas
Put a global spin on your holiday meal with this flavorful dish. Serve as a vegetarian entrée or as a hearty side, but do serve it one way or the other!
Blood Orange and Radicchio Salad
This salad is a beautiful addition to any table spread with its vibrant orange and deep magenta hues. Hearty radicchio and fennel have real staying power—even after they've been tossed with dressing—which makes this ideal for times when you need a make-ahead salad for a buffet or to take to a potluck. We love the color of blood oranges, but you can use all naval or Cara Cara oranges.
Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip
Roasting performs a magical transformation on garlic, turning the pungent raw cloves into a sweet, mild paste that adds loads of flavor in any recipe. This impressive appetizer takes great advantage of roasted garlic, combining it with sun-dried tomatoes for color and white beans for body and texture.
Creamed Winter Greens
Two beloved dark leafy greens, spinach and lacinato kale, combine to bring deep, earthy flavor to this updated take on classic creamed spinach.
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales with Tomatillo Sauce
Mashed Potato Gratin
Yukon Gold potatoes are naturally buttery and creamy, and this recipe adds cheesy to the mix. A baked, bubbly, and browned topping is what really sets this dish apart, though. Each recipe makes 14 servings, but don't worry about leftovers―if your guests don't eat it all, you will the next day.
Roasted Cauliflower with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan
Cauliflower is a versatile yet often overlooked vegetable. Roasted here until just tender and browned, and flavored with Italian herbs, garlic, Parmesan, and lemon juice, it's the highlight of any meal. It's heavy on flavor but light on calories, with only 89 per serving.
Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Spinach Lasagna
Serve with a fresh salad of grapefruit and fennel, and sip our Pomegranate Fizz.
Spinach Pie with Goat Cheese, Raisins, and Pine Nuts
This savory pie is full of flavor. Make it as a filling vegetarian option to serve with your holiday meal or let it stand alone as the main star on your dining room table.
Parmesan and Root Vegetable Lasagna
Just a tip: Wash the pan well before using it again to cook the strained milk mixture--that will ensure a silken sauce.
Soft Polenta with Wild Mushroom Sauté
This is an easy and versatile side dish. The polenta is topped with a quick sauté of wild mushrooms (or use exotics, like shiitake and oyster, if wild are not available). If you replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth, this side dish can serve four as a vegetarian entrée. Garnish with sage sprigs.
Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce
Winter squashes like pumpkin have a deep flavor and hearty texture that makes them an excellent centerpiece of a vegetarian entrée. Here, pumpkin fills an easy-to-assemble ravioli and is topped with earthy hazelnuts and a thick cheese sauce for maximum winter warmth and comfort.
Golden Beet, Greens, and Potato Torta
Sophisticated and delicious—make this tall, flaky pie the centerpiece of the holiday table.
Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Currants
Grains, nuts, and dried fruit are typical in the Sephardic community—Jews who immigrated from Spain, Yemen, and the Mediterranean. (Ashkenazic Jews brought bread and potatoes from Eastern Europe.) Quinoa is a modern twist. Dried currants are smaller and less sweet than raisins, but either will work in this dish.