How to Prepare a Gluten-Free Vegan Holiday Meal + a new YouTube Channel annoucement


Happy holidays! Before I get into the plant-based vegan holiday meal prep details, I wanted to let you know that I’ve created a new YouTube channel which will be completely dedicated to plant-based food!(YouTube username: Lauren Vacula) I’ll be posting gluten-free plant-based recipes, tips and tricks, thoughts, and plant-based travel finds on this channel and I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

Now for the gluten-free vegan holiday meal prep……

plant based holiday

The holidays are always an awesome time of year. It’s about more time with friends, family, and yourself. And even though this time of year is filled with fun, stressors can be lurking. If you’re tasked with prepping a holiday meal, you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve been preparing my family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for about five years now. In the last two years, I’ve been preparing all plant-based foods for these meals. This might seem taxing (i.e.- how will I make killer mashed potatoes without dairy?!), but it can certainly be done. In fact, a holiday meal is actually an awesome time to celebrate plant-based foods and all that they have to offer. It’s an opportunity for you to show your meat-eating relatives that it’s possible to eat a completely plant-based meal that tastes incredible and is totally satisfying.

It took me a few years to get into the flow of how to do the meal preparation and execution, but I finally feel like I have a handle on what I’m doing. Today I’m sharing my experience with you on prepping a plant-based holiday meal- start to finish. I’ve pulled recipes from some of my favorite sources, and will walk you through how I source, plan, and execute my plant-based holiday meal.

First, let’s break the meal prep into steps.


1. Plan your menu courses

2. Source recipes

3. Plan out timeline & execution of holiday meal

4.A : Make grocery list for each recipe (strike through the items you already have)

4.B: Consolidate ingredient lists into one list- group items into the following categories: produce, packaged foods, refrigerated foods, & frozen foods

5: Grocery shop

6: Execute day-before plan

7: Execute day-of plan (check out my video for more)

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty….

Step 1: Plan your menu courses.

After you figure out how many people you’ll be hosting, decide on what you’d like to serve. My list looks like this:

  • 2 appetizers
  • Salad
  • Squash side dish
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Vegetable side dish
  • Vegan entree
  • 2 dessert options

I first gather ideas on what courses to make. Thinking about the actual meal, I know that I want to offer an appetizer dip (or two) and veggies to guests while I’m cooking. For the meal, I’d like to offer a salad, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, a veggie casserole, stuffing, a veggie side, a hearty entree to replace the turkey, and two dessert options. This sounds like a lot, but with a little preparation and planning, it’s totally doable. One of the biggest keys to success is prepping most of the food (i.e., veggies/casseroles/desserts) the day before the meal so meal day is a lot less stressful.

Step 2: Source recipes.

Next, source recipes. A few of my favorite tried and true sites include Finding Vegan, Foodgawker, and Tastespotting.

After searching around several sites, I came up with the following recipes to make (based on picture appeal, ease of execution, and reviews). Here’s my menu:

Step 3: Plan out timeline and execution of meal.

Now that the plant-based menu has been created, you can develop a timeline for when you’ll be making what. I like to do this step prior to making the grocery list for the recipes. This allows me to make sure each recipe is feasible (i.e., if I have enough stovetop/oven space for the recipes and enough time to make each item). Also, if a recipe is too labor intensive and I decide to scratch it from the menu, I would want to scratch it prior to purchasing ingredients.

I usually create a chart to map out what I’ll be making when, but a simple list will also work. The biggest factors to consider are how long each item takes to prepare and cook/bake, what appliances are needed, and what temperature the foods are cooked at. To get a look at these charts, check out my YouTube video on this process.

Step 4: A : Make grocery list for each recipe (list all ingredients called for in recipe, strike through items you already have).

Step 4.B: Consolidate ingredient lists into one list and group items into the following categories: produce, packaged foods, refrigerated foods, and frozen foods.

To make a grocery list, I first list all recipe ingredients divided by recipe.  I then remove items I already own (like spices, grains, etc) and reprioritize my list for how I shop in the grocery store (produce, packaged foods, refrigerated foods, and frozen foods). I know this sounds annoying and like a lot but it really helps me stay organized.

5: Grocery shop.

6: Execute day-before plan.

7: Execute day-of plan (check out my YouTube video (@laurenvacula) How to Prepare a Gluten-Free Vegan Holiday Meal for more details).

Hopefully these steps and video provided you with some helpful  ideas for preparing your own plant-based holiday meal. I am happy to say that after a few years of eating plant-based I have never felt happier or healthier. I am excited to share this lifestyle with my family and friends, even if that just begins with a fully plant-based holiday dinner.

Happy holidays!!

More healthy plant-based recipes ideas:

Thanksgiving breakfast: Pumpkin Pie Turmeric Smoothie

Vegetable casserole: Vegan Sheppard’s Pie with Protein Mashed Cauliflower

Pumpkin dessert: Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Roll

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