Here Are 4 Tips We Picked Up While Watching Shanika Graham-White Make a Plant-Based Thanksgiving Menu

published Nov 10, 2021
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Credit: Bijou Karman

Our second annual Thanksgiving Food Fest is currently underway, and each night has been filled with nothing but culinary magic. Through the course of this week, five chefs and cooks will share their take on a distinctive Thanksgiving menu and in the process, hopefully supply those watching with new ideas and new traditions to implement for this year’s delicious event.

Among those featured in this year’s lineup is cookbook author, food blogger, and recipe developer Shanika Graham-White. Known for her blog Orchids + Sweet Tea, Shanika’s plant-based Thanksgiving menu became the star of the show during Monday night’s watch party. Featuring delicious items like her Vegan Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, Fall Apple Crostini, Fall Harvest Roasted Apple Kale Salad, Maple Roasted Pear and Apple Mocktail, and a Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Orange-Scented Crust, Shanika easily proved that plant-based menus can be just as fun and pleasing to your taste buds as traditional items are.

Whether this is your first plant-based Thanksgiving or your fourth, these fresh tips for making your meatless meal are ones you won’t want to skip over. And if you’re worried about taking on this challenge on such a big day, don’t be. According to Shanika, “You don’t have to be a professionally trained chef to create dynamic foods; you just have to experiment.”

1. Meal prep as much food as you can.

According to Shanika, meal prepping before your big feast will be a convenient, time-saving effort that you’ll thank yourself for later. “I actually love meal prepping,” she said. “I would do a couple of the sweet potatoes and maybe one or two butternut squashes. Peel them, cube them, and then store them in Ziploc bags. You can freeze them longer if you’re not going to use them right away, and then separate and refrigerate whichever ones you’re going to use.”

2. Don’t just stick to sides for your menu.

While there is an impression that plant-based menus only include side items, Shanika is putting that notion to rest. According to her, there are plenty of foods that you can incorporate into your menu that fall outside of traditional side dishes, like beans and potatoes. “There might be a misconception that because it’s a plant-based menu, there’s just going to be loads of sides,” she said. “But now, with all the plant-based meat options that are available, it’s so much easier to create main dishes.”

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Andie McMahon

3. Prep ingredients separately.

Although most people choose to make their Thanksgiving dishes all-in-one, Shanika opts to prep her ingredients separately beforehand and mix them together the morning of. By doing so, you’ve cut down on the time needed for cooking on the day of, but still have the ability to deliver a warm and fresh meal.

“We all know that the holidays are super busy and you’ll probably be making a ton of things that [are] more than your hands can count. I love actually prepping each ingredient separately,” she said. “Put them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator. So that the morning of, it’s just putting your meat base back in the skillet and then spreading over the mashed roasted potatoes and butternut squash and then you put in the oven, and that’s it.”

4. Take your time to research your menu.

If this is your first year creating a plant-based Thanksgiving menu, one of the main things Shanika suggests you do is to take some time prior to the big day to research what you can add to it. “Honestly, I just feel like experimenting and just taking your time creating a list — seeing the things that you like and then adding to that — will definitely help you create a really widespread plant-based menu.”

Watch Shanika Graham-White’s full episode below and tune in tonight at 8 p.m. ET for our next guest star, TJ Lee .