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Chicago Vegetarian Thanksgiving Guide: Tips For A Turkey-Free Holiday

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It can be daunting to face a poultry-centric holiday as a vegetarian, especially if you’re likely to be outnumbered by meat-eaters at your Thanksgiving table. Luckily for Chicago herbivores, a host of alternative options and some careful pre-planning can guarantee a cruelty-free “Tofurkey Day.”

MAIN COURSE:
Apart from abstaining from the centerpiece dish, alternatives can afford vegetarians a BYOT option, or serve as a worthy substitute for a table of omnivores.

Tofurkey
A longtime standby, manufacturer Turtle Island Food, Inc offers special holiday-style Tofu-based turkey dishes, available with herb-based gravies and a host of sides, and pre-packed with whole-wheat bread crumb stuffing. Available at Whole Foods' Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, South Loop and Halsted locations, at most Trader Joe's outposts and at other health-food and specialty grocery stores. (See the full list of Illinois retailers here.)

Thanksgiving Wellingtons from Native Foods Cafe
Put something "meaty" on the table with a Thanksgiving Wellington from Native Food Cafe. The vegan restaurant's Wicker Park location will be selling frozen, pre-assembled puff pastries filled with Seitan, kale, portobello mushrooms, orange glazed yams, stuffing, caramelized onions and a side of shallot mushroom gravy. Bake time is about an hour, and they serve six to eight people for $39.95.

SUBSTITUTE SIDES:
It's not too difficult to opt-out of the bird when dining with family, but bringing a dish you and your non-veg relatives can all enjoy can be key to making your eating choices a non-issue. Organic ingredients and other substitutes to traditional Thanksgiving fare can make a meat-free option a crowd-pleaser.

Raw Sides from Karyn's Fresh Corner Cafe
Share food with your loved ones that's packed with all the nutrients lost in the cooking process with the all-raw carryout Thanksgiving platter from Karyn's Fresh Corner Cafe on Halsted. Stuffing made with walnuts, almonds and barley, mashed potatoes with nutmilk, mushrooms and herbs and a soup made of peppers, ginger, mint and lemon grass offer spiced-up versions of the old standbys.

Blind Faith Cafe Dessert Trays
Impress your guests with healthier, vegetarian and vegan dessert options from Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston, whose extensive bakery boasts all the traditional pie and cake options, plus vegan cobblers with no refined sugar and a dessert tray with all-veg delicacies like peanut butter blondie bars, cappuccino brownies and mini chocolate eclairs.

DINING OUT
Got enough veggie friends and family to make an it an all-veg outing, or just looking to skip the prep time without missing your fix of traditional holiday foods? Hit up one of these vegetarian-friendly restaurants with prix-fixe Thanskgiving meals.

29th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving at The Chicago Diner
For the 29th year, the Chicago Diner, a meat-free Chicago staple since 1983, will be serving an all-vegan Thanksgiving spread on the big day, with options including a seasoned tofu turkey roast, pumpkin ravioli with butternut squash gravy and a sure-to-be-flavorful host of sides, like herb stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes. Individual dishes and prix fixe full-meal are also available for carryout, but it's worth sticking around for the festive diner's celebration.

Vegetarian Prix Fixe Thanksgiving Menu at Vermillion
Indian and Latin American-fusion restaurant Vermillion's "Herb and Spice Thanksgiving" has been called unabashedly innovative by Bon Appetit and features an all-vegetarian set of five courses. Inventive standouts like cranberry greens, yucca cake and squash soup promise a palate-pleasing assortment, and the veg/meat options make it a likely crowd-pleaser for mixed groups.