Classic fall fare is an easy crowd-pleaser. You’ve got your root vegetables, your crisp apples, your rich pumpkin dishes (it is the harvest season, after all). And whether your autumnal preferences skew sweet or savoury, nearly all of your options taste that much richer set against a landscape of bright, changing leaves.
But for those of us who prefer plant-based dining, navigating major seasonal meals, which are often laden with buttery potatoes, cheesy sides, and hefty poultry, can be tough — even as veganism grows in popularity. It can feel especially daunting during a season fueled by nostalgia, but we’d argue that anyone leaning into a more environmentally friendly, animal product-free lifestyle is entitled to a fall feast. So, how do we ensure that we won’t miss out on all the delectable flavours of the season while still holding true to our dietary restrictions?
In order to find out, we teamed up with Silk to tap culinary experts across Canada for their best vegan-friendly advice. Ahead, heed their tips for pivoting your autumnal harvest spread into a plant-based feast.
Stop by the market
What better place to source seasonal inspiration than your local farmers’ market? A week or two before your next dinner party, grab a coffee and your favourite reusable tote, and check out what’s available. Talk to vendors, ask advice, and spring for the freshest season-contingent items (rather than arriving with a specific list or a game plan). “Have fun creating a few dishes based on what you see,” says Devon Latte, head chef at Vancouver-based vegan and vegetarian joint, The Acorn Restaurant. “There might be apples, pumpkins, squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage…Something like a really nice braised cabbage or roasted squash can go a long way.”
Skip the bird
It’s likely that “fall dining” conjures images of a giant, cooked turkey (or perhaps, for the vegetarians, a good ‘ol tofurkey). But for diners who prefer to skip the bird altogether, an excellent alternative option is a nut roast: a roasted loaf of nuts, grains, vegetables, and herbs that can be doused in vegan gravy and served as a main dish.
Alternatively, Lauren Toyota, author of vegan website Hot for Food, prefers a whole roasted cauliflower, cooked and presented so as to mimic a traditional turkey. “I baste the cauliflower just like a turkey so the outside gets nice and golden, and then I serve it with gravy and surround it with other vegetables so it truly looks like a roast,” she says.
Pay attention to the little things
It goes without saying that any guide to autumnal consumption ought to mention pumpkin spice. But fear not: Removing dairy products from the table does not preclude you from enjoying all the delightful PSL-forward beverages the season has to offer. We’re fans of the nutty flavour of Silk almond beverage for pumpkin spice lattes, baked oatmeal, and even vegan pumpkin pies.
Better yet, dairy alternatives also offer solutions that stretch beyond the realm of sweets. Try vegan butter for creamy mashed potatoes, a vegan egg substitute for classic holiday baking, or vegan cheese to top off your crispy Brussels sprouts.
Spice up your life
Fall cooking is all about certain flavour profiles: herbs like thyme and sage, as well as cinnamon and nutmeg. “Going vegan doesn’t necessarily mean you have to miss out on your favourite seasonal dishes and flavours,” says Samantha Kingsbury, owner and operator of Vancouver’s Kind Café + Eatery. “There are so many plant-based versions of stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, and biscuits that incorporate those same nostalgic flavours.” For vegan stuffing, Kingsbury recommends using vegetable broth and adding dates and sage for flavour and texture –– and of course, no matter what you’re making, don’t skimp on the spice.
Think outside the box
At the end of the day, it’s all about enjoying a hearty meal with some of your favourite people. Growing up, Katie Ruddell, the mastermind behind plant-based café Kokomo, never cared for meaty mains. When it comes to seasonal fixings, she’s all about side dishes and vegetable garnishes. So, on her fall table, you’ll often find vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, grilled tempeh, and Caesar salad topped with Minimalist Baker’s vegan Caesar dressing. “I love making classic hearty dishes into vegan ones,” she says. “And often, I find they’re so good, I forget that they’re not the real thing.”