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This Thanksgiving, don’t forget your plant-based pals

On a historical level, elevating pigs, turkeys and fish to the height of holiday meals makes sense. If the days are cold and the crops are sparse, then butchering an animal might be a family’s best chance at accounting for nutritional needs. And even though times are hard once again for many Americans, this isn’t exactly the 1800s. These days, especially in the mild climate of Louisiana, a hearty meal doesn’t always have to come from one of our animal compatriots. In fact, even in the sportsman’s paradise, most of our favorite cheesy, meaty, milky dishes can be recreated using wholly plant-based ingredients, as demonstrated by our sister magazine 225’s curation of vegan-friendly recipes for the holidays. And if you’re expecting vegetarian or vegan company over for Thanksgiving, making sure they feel included should be just as important as picking out the perfect bird.

“For example, people love mac and cheese,” says Cornelius Roy, owner of Vegan Friendly Foods. “It’s very easy to make a nut-based mac and cheese using cashew, water and maybe a yam or a potato, depending on what color you want your ‘cheese.’ And then of course the seasonings. If you didn’t tell anybody it was vegan, they’d never know.”

Seasoning, after all, can transform any dish, regardless of whether its plant-based or not.

“Meat doesn’t necessarily have a huge flavor until you season it, anyway,” says Roy. “Plus, so many Thanksgiving foods are already vegan-friendly, like yams, greens or mashed potatoes. It usually just comes down to substituting vegan butter for milk alternatives. The same flavor will still be there.”

So don’t worry if you feel like plant-based preparation isn’t enough for a holiday get-together. With the average American consuming 3,000 calories at minimum during Thanksgiving, there’s plenty of room to squeeze a bit more green into the cornucopia.