There’s no shortage of vegetarian substitutes for meat dishes, or vegan alternatives to dairy and eggs. Some miss the mark in terms of flavor or texture, while the best examples can be even better than the original. It’s especially difficult when remaking traditional holiday dishes with new ingredients. Those flavors are often passed down through the generations, part of a long tradition of meals shared with loved ones.
In the Vitamix test kitchen, Executvie Chef Matt Dugan decided to take up the challenge. He looked for ways to include more whole-food ingredients in recipes that are often thought of as comfort food, and include a lot of meat or dairy. His goal was to create recipes that leaned more heavily on whole-food ingredients but tasted as good as, or better than, the original.
Roasted Vegetable Gravy
Mashed potatoes and gravy is a staple side dish at many holiday meals. For this Roasted Vegetable Gravy, chef Matt set out to replicate the rich, smooth texture and deep, savory flavor of traditional turkey gravy, but without the turkey. By combining the complex flavors of roasted root veggies and mushrooms with nutty toasted brown rice for color and flavor, plus some traditional herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme, he came up with a gravy that easily stands up to the classic.
Orange Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce recipes often include a lot of additional sweeteners to mask the natural bitterness of the cranberries. Chef Matt instead decided to balance the bitterness with fresh raspberries, dates, and an orange.
Apple Raisin Pecan Crisp
While experimenting with holiday desserts, chef Matt found he could pull back on the sweetness and eliminate the butter usually found in apple crisp, which actually allowed the natural fruit flavors to become more dominant. His version of Apple Raisin Pecan Crisp uses a little bit of maple syrup to complement the fruit, and mixes dates and pecans into the crumble.
Whole Food Subsitution
The recipes listed here are sure to please your guests at your next holiday meal, but you can also experiment by swapping in whole-food ingredients into some of your own favorite traditional recipes.
- Heavy Cream – Swap in Cashew Cream for a rich, dairy-free alternative. Plus, check out all the different ways we use this versatile ingredient.
- Meat – Mushrooms offer a similar deep, umami flavor and can be substituted in many recipes. You can also experiment with different nuts. Ground walnuts give our Mushroom and Walnut Bolognese sauce a surprisingly meat-like texture.
- Sugar – Our natural sweeteners of choice are dates or date syrup for most applications, while maple syrup is a great substitute for liquid sweeteners.
More Holiday Recipes
Try these other holiday recipes that have been reworked to include more whole-food ingredients.
8 Holiday Cookie Recipes
The holiday season isn't complete without cookies. Whether you bake a batch as a dessert for a holiday meal or an occasional treat during the cold winter months, cookies are an essential and delicious part of the holidays.