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Celebratory feasts are built on ritual. It’s the time when we honor family recipes passed down through generations. You know, just like Grandma used to make.

But with each passing year, we can embrace small changes, too. Maybe it’s simply switching to fresh or organic ingredients instead of canned. Or maybe it’s replacing the turkey with a vegan roast.

Looking for the best meat-free centerpiece for your table? Whether store-bought roasts or recipes to make plant-based a new part of your family feasting, these are the best vegan turkey roasts to try.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

What’s Wrong With Turkey?

Turkeys are products of the very problematic food supply chain. More than 250 million turkeys are killed for food every year; most raised for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Factory farming spreads infectious diseases, like the deadly avian flu. Earlier this month, thousands of turkeys in the UK were culled over a bird flu outbreak. Severe cases of bird flu haven’t been seen since 2003, but earlier this year, a low-pathogenic strain of the bird flu was discovered in the UK. It’s since spread from there to other areas in the UK as well as outbreaks in Germany and the Netherlands.

Other pathogens including salmonella and E. coli, are common in poultry. The COVID-19 outbreak, while not linked to birds, has been traced to animal consumption, a practice leading COVID expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told Fox News needs to end. 

“It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut [the animal agriculture industry] down,” he said in April.

Antibiotic resistance is also a problem. Used to mitigate the spread of disease, farmers also rely on antibiotics to speed animal growth, which allows them to raise more animals. More than 55 billion animals are killed for food every year. And with the vast majority consuming large amounts of antibiotics, it makes pathogens more capable of resisting the drugs when we need them most. The World Health Organization has been warning about this ‘post-antibiotic era’ for nearly a decade.

Even without the risk of pathogens, turkey isn’t as healthy as you might think. A 2019 study found it raised cholesterol levels just as much as red meat. 

“[We] expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case,” study author Dr. Ronald Krauss, study author and director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, said in a statement.

“Their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent.” 

Credit: Tofurky

Are Vegan Roasts Healthy?

Vegan turkey roasts offer a number of benefits over turkey. Unlike animal protein, there’s no cholesterol in plant-based turkey. That same study on cholesterol in white meat found plant-based protein to be the healthiest for reducing and maintaining blood cholesterol levels.

After cardiologist M. Wesley Milks saw his own cholesterol levels start to spike, he swapped his meat-heavy diet for plants.

“I expected to see improvement due to my changes, but when I checked the results after 6 months, even I was surprised,” he wrote in MedPage Today.

“I had reduced my LDL cholesterol by 29 percent, which is similar to the effect of low- or moderate-intensity statin treatment.”

Vegan roasts also significantly reduce the risk of exposure to pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. Replacing meat with vegan options decreases exposure to antibiotics in food, too.

Plant-based roasts offer something animal protein never does: fiber. More research is pointing to the critical role fiber plays in optimal health. A 2019 study found high intake of dietary fiber was linked to a reduced risk of noncommunicable diseases. 

The study, commissioned by the World Health Institute, looked at more than 40 years’ worth of data.

“The results suggest a 15-30 percent decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular-related mortality when comparing people who eat the highest amount of fibre to those who eat the least,” the study authors wrote.

“Eating fiber-rich foods also reduced the incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer by 16-24 percent. Per 1,000 participants, the impact translates into 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease.”

The No Turkey roast (Photo: Marks & Spencer)

Are Vegan Turkey Roasts Sustainable?

The health and ethical benefits of vegan turkey aren’t the only reason to leave animals off your plate. There’s a sustainability benefit, too. Factory farming is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. 

According to the United Nations, agriculture, deforestation, and other land use, largely for animal agriculture, generate about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, including more than 40 percent of methane.

Plants, on the other hand, don’t. A number of crops, including lentils, can help regenerate soil. A meta-analysis study found that legumes have the capacity to store 30 percent higher soil organic carbon than other crops. Plants require fewer resources than animals, too — less land, less water, less space means less of an impact on the environment. 

We won’t be able to keep pace with the demands for meat, either. According to the World Resources Institute, if current dietary patterns continue, an additional 593 million hectares — land equal to nearly twice the size of India — would be needed to feed the planet’s nearly 10 billion people expected by 2050.

So is it time for a new dinner tradition? Go sustainable, ethical, and healthy with these vegan roasts and recipes. 

The Best Vegan Turkey Roasts You Can Buy

US Options

1. Tofurky

The one that started it all. The original vegan holiday feast launched more than two decades ago. Whether you’re vegan or not, could you really imagine a holiday meal without a Tofurky mention? It makes people laugh, yes, but it also makes them ask for seconds. Haven’t tried a vegan roast before? Start here.

2. Field Roast

Field Roast makes a few different vegan roast options, including its meaty and tender stuffed Celebration Roast with Mushroom Gravy. It also makes a Wellington-like roast En Croute, coated in a flaky puff pastry. That crispy outer crunch makes it a  definite winner with the kids.

3. Gardein Holiday Roast

Meaty, crispy, and packed with cranberry wild rice stuffing, Gardein’s Holiday Roast delivers a perfect mix of sweet and savory. It’s a show stopper, too, sure to make your table look as good as the meal tastes.

4. Trader Joe’s Vegan Roast

You’ll save a little cash on the Trader Joe’s Turkey-Less Roast compared to other name brands, but there’s no compromise on meaty flavor. This feast is stuffed with wild rice, cranberries, celery, and onions, and comes with its own savory gravy. 

UK Options

5. Tesco Wicked Kitchen No-Turkey Roast Crown

Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen range includes a number of festive centerpiece options. If you’re looking for the meatiest of the bunch, dig into the No-Turkey Roast Crown. This meaty feast is topped with a creamy melt and stuffed with sage and onion stuffing. 

6. Sainsbury’s Vegan Three Nut and Mushroom Roast

This savory nut roast is packed with mushrooms and butternut squash, cashews, almonds, pistachios and a port and redcurrant gravy. So nice you’ll be looking for any reason to call for a celebration.

7. Marks and Spencer Festive Vegan Plant Kitchen Wreath

This seasonal delight from the Marks and Spencer Plant Kitchen range is almost too stunning to eat. Almost! You won’t be able to resist the roasted mushrooms, chestnuts and pumpkin seed roast base, all topped with a cranberry and orange glaze. Check the Plant Kitchen lineup for a host of other festive feasting as well.

How to Make Your Own Vegan Roast

Nothing beats homemade. Get ready for the oohs and aahs with these festive vegan turkey recipes. From novice to the most skilled, there’s a roast recipe for everyone. Need a little inspiration? Pop on the Plant Based News podcast interview with Tofurky founder Seth Tibbott to get you in the mood for making vegan turkey.

Vegan Holiday Roast Recipes

1. The Best Ever Vegan Holiday Roast, by the Edgy Veg 

Give festive a plant-based upgrade with this phyllo dough wrapped holiday roast. Its meaty seitan base is stuffed with sweet potatoes and cranberries, then topped with a rich gravy for a meal that has it all, quite literally. Get the recipe here.

2. Vegan Turkey Roast by Nora Cooks

This simple vegan roast is made with chickpeas. It’s steamed and pan-fried instead of roasted, for a meatier texture that meat-eaters love. It’s easy to make ahead, too, so you can reduce your prep time. Get the recipe here.

3. Vegan Nut Roast by Jamie Oliver

Don’t just delight your guests, completely dazzle them. This nut roast from Jamie Oliver is intended to do just that.

“Being vegan doesn’t mean compromising on flavor, as this recipe proves,” says Oliver.

“Tofu gives this nut roast a creaminess that makes it seem decadent. Crunchy and full of spices, everyone will be tucking in. You can make individual portions or one big tart.” Get the recipe here.

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor immersed in digital publishing and storytelling with a focus on the global food and wellness systems and how they intersect with our cultural traditions, ethics, and politics. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, and the Village Voice. https://www.jillettinger.com