Nutrition / Recipes

3 Thanksgiving Main Dishes Perfect for Vegetarians

Forget the Tofurky and serve pizza or fall harvest rice bowls instead.

On Thanksgiving, being a vegetarian can be challenging. Sure, the sides and desserts are amazing, and you definitely can fill up on them. However, when the centerpiece turkey is revealed, you might still feel a little left out. (And then come all the inevitable questions from your extended family about why you don’t eat meat …but that’s a whole other story.) Luckily, there are plenty of recipes out there for delicious and nutritious vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes.

Vegetarians can take back the holiday by preparing one of these three main dishes that are going to taste amazing and offer the protein you need after your morning Turkey Trot 10K. With no faux meat in sight, you might even make the turkey eaters jealous. Really, who wouldn’t want to eat pizza on Thanksgiving?

Sweet and Savory Fall Harvest Bowls

Nutritious rice bowls are all the rage these days. These fall-inspired ones completely capture the taste of the season, and vegetarians will gobble them up. Plus, they are packed with protein, fiber, and color [which equates to foods packed with nutrients and vitamins], notes NYC-based Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D.

“This dish brings together the flavors of fall veggies and fruits,” she says. “The combination of roasted pears, grapes, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower is so simple, yet so elegant. In one bite, you will taste sweet, salty, savory, crunchy, and juicy, and it’s sure to please everyone at  your Thanksgiving table!”

Note: For even more seasonal flavor, you can swap out the grapes for cranberries.


½ cup dry brown rice
1 cup water
1 pear, washed and cut into 1-inch thick slices
2 cups Brussels sprouts, washed and sliced in half
½ head cauliflower, chopped into large pieces
2 cups red grapes, washed and sliced in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon salted pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon raw walnuts


  1. Fill a medium sized pot with one cup of water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, add the rice and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 40-45 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sliced pear, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, grapes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir until everything is evenly coated.
  4. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Evenly distribute all the fruits and veggies on a pan and put it in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes.
  5. When both the rice and veggies are cooked, combine them and mix well. Divide the mixture evenly between two bowls. Top each bowl with 1/2 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and 1/2 tablespoon walnuts.

Protein-Punch Marinara Spaghetti Squash

Active vegetarians will appreciate that you prepared something with a little extra protein for them. “Spaghetti squash screams fall, and it’s a super satiating veggie,” says NYC-based Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition. “I like to eat it not only with marinara sauce but also with a cottage cheese mixture that’s blended with herbs so that you get a hearty dish with plenty of filling protein. When it comes to Thanksgiving, veggie sides are delish, but you want to make sure that your vegetarian guests feel included with a protein-packed dish!”


1 medium spaghetti squash
½ large yellow onion, diced
1¼ cup marinara sauce
4½ ounces cottage cheese
1 tablespoon +   teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh chives, diced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Black pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Meanwhile, use a fork to poke several holes in the spaghetti squash. Then microwave until the squash becomes slightly tender, about four to six minutes.
  3. Slice squash in half, and remove seeds and membranes. Place halves with cut side up on a nonstick baking tray, and brush the tops with  ½ teaspoon olive oil. Place halves with cut sides up, and roast until fork tender, about 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place onions in a medium pan, and add a small amount of water, so that onions are just covered. Cook over medium-high heat until onions become translucent and most of the liquid is dissolved.
  5. Puree cottage cheese, remaining olive oil, chives, oregano, and lemon juice in a blender. Set aside.
  6. Once squash is cooked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Use a fork to shred the squash into a large bowl. Toss with marinara. Divide onto four plates, then top with onions and cottage cheese mixture. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and black pepper.

Sweet Potato Cauliflower Pizza

You might have already been planning to serve sweet potatoes or cauliflower at your holiday table, but you probably didn’t think to put them on a pizza. “Who says you can’t serve pizza on Thanksgiving?” Gorin asks. “This flatbread version has a base of sweet potato with hearty fall veggies, packed with filling fiber. And, the pretty purple cauliflower doesn’t hurt, either! But, the best part is that this pizza cooks in mere minutes.”

Note: You might want to double or triple the recipe to make multiple pizzas, depending on your number of guests.


Cooking spray
⅓ small head cauliflower, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
Thin store-bought or homemade pizza crust
⅔ cup canned sweet potato puree
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle
½ shallot, thinly sliced
1¼ ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Treat a non-stick cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place cauliflower pieces on a tray, and coat with spray oil. Roast 20 minutes, turning once. Remove, and place in a small bowl.
  3. Re-coat cookie sheet with cooking spray. Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Place pizza crust on sheet and bake for two minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine sweet potato and chipotle in a small bowl. Remove pizza crust from oven, and spread with sweet potato mixture. Top with cheese, cauliflower, shallots, thyme, and black pepper. Bake for an additional four minutes.
  6. Slice and serve immediately.

You can double or triple each of these recipes, depending on the number of guests (especially vegetarians) at your table. Just be sure to make extra, as even the meat eaters might want to try some.

Nutrition Recipes


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