9 best vegan Christmas dinner alternatives to master the meat-free roast
These are the plant-based meals we reckon could topple the turkeys this December
The Christmas countdown is officially on and we want to make sure it’s as delicious as can be, no matter what dietary requirements you may have.
Although turkey is traditionally found on the Christmas table, with veganism on the rise, it was only a matter of time before meat-free centrepieces tried to take its crown. In response, this year we’ve seen retailers race to outdo one another over their plant-based Christmas dinner alternatives.
Jostling for centre stage this year were twists on tarts, pastries and pies, nut roasts, wellingtons and stacks, answering that age-old question: “What do vegans eat at Christmas”, with aplomb.
When testing our Christmas dinner alternatives, we were looking for dishes that not only tasted festive but were also pretty enough to display on Christmas day. It needed to be a little more special than something we’d dish up the rest of the year and one that worked well with all the traditional (vegan) trimmings. And while we’ve focused on the mains here, all the supermarkets had a wide array of vegan canapes and sides – pork-free pigs in blankets anyone?
So whether you favour a mock-meat situation or prefer plants to be the shining star on your plate, read on for this year’s festive favourites.
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M&S plant kitchen root vegetable tarte tatin, 600g: £10, M&S
This beautiful tarte tatin from M&S’s plant kitchen range had a decidedly Christmassy flavour thanks to the warming, complex herbs and spices used to flavour it – think wine, thyme and rosemary. It was one of the only mains we tried which contained whole pieces of veg, with baby beetroot, red onion and chantenay carrots (the short, stout kind) displayed in flaky puff pastry.
It looks a bit funny when you open the pack because in true tarte tatin style it’s cooked upside down and tipped the right way before serving which stops the vegan puff pastry from getting a soggy bottom. However, this meant it was incredibly simple to cook and serve (you just throw it in the oven and choose your fanciest plate). Each pack serves four and was very easy to portion – we’d recommend serving with some lovely vegan roasties on the side.
Sainsbury’s no beef wellington, 520g: £7, Sainsbury’s
A doddle to cook, we simply brushed the pastry of this no beef wellington with almond milk before popping straight into the oven for 45 mins. Out came a perfectly golden, crisp vegan puff pastry. Inside sits a seitan, mushroom and parsnip loaf, which had a pleasingly meaty texture. For extra decadence, this hearty centre is wrapped in a layer of finely chopped spinach and mushroom with a splash of port. Rich and comforting, we paired ours with cavalo nero and carrots. Although Sainsbury’s suggest this will serve three, we think it’s better as a substantial portion for two.
Waitrose vegan root en croute, 350g: £5.99, Waitrose & Partners
“En croute” simply means wrapped in pastry – and in this case it’s marinated roasted carrots which have been encased in a flaky vegan puff pastry hug. They’ve been marinated in paprika and dill which isn’t hugely festive, but did inject flavour, while the creamy spinach sauce kept everything nice and moist and negated the need for gravy. Finished with a pretty lattice topping, we think these are perfect for an elegant festive feast for two.
Daylesford organic vegan beetroot wellington, 500g: £18, Daylesford
Although it’s one of the pricier mains we put to the test, award-winning organic food specialists Daylesford did present us with one of the prettiest. Instead of the traditional beef fillet you’d normally find within a wellington, this contains a hearty filling made up of root vegetables; beetroot and celeriac as well as lentils and seasonal chestnuts. The pastry is quite thick, more like a dense pie case as opposed to anything light and flaky, so it’s a good option if you’re in the market for something filling, serving two comfortably. It’s finished with holly leaf pastry shapes and a sprinkling of beetroot powder for a festive flourish.
Riverford vegan nut roast, 400g: £8.45, Riverford
Nut roasts can seem like a bit of a vegan cliche and while this dense loaf isn’t much of a looker, nothing comes close if you’re after a comforting, filling meal. Riverford, the organic veg box specialists, have packed this one with a coarse mix of walnuts, hazelnuts and roast chestnuts, along with butternut squash, lentils and quinoa. A touch of miso gave it an umami note and the whole thing was deliciously moist, and still was when we had it for lunch the next day. Incredibly quick and easy to cook, you can buy it by itself or as part of Riverford’s vegan Christmas dinner box which comes with all the trimmings.
Morrison’s the best vegetable layered tart, 2 x 250g: £4, Morrison’s
Coming out at just two quid a portion, we were impressed by the flavour of these frozen tarts but also with the presentation. Elegantly layered, they retained a good mixture of textures thanks to the spicy beetroot and butternut squash chunks, cranberry and onion chutney and scattering of roasted chestnuts on top. The only slight downside was that they were a little tricky to prize out of their cases, leaving a little vegan pastry left behind.
COOK butternut squash nut roast stacks, 380g: £10, COOK
If you’re not familiar with the COOK range, the premise is fully prepared, restaurant-quality food that you cook from frozen – exactly the sort of convenience we’re looking for at Christmas. This award-winning vegan stack has been around for a while but it’s proven so popular it had to stay in the range. The base is a twist on a nut roast, densely packed with almonds, pistachios and cashews, it’s then layered with butternut squash slices, pink onions and cranberries. Tasty and colourful, it works well with all your traditional accompaniments but would also do the job as a generous starter with a brightly dressed salad.
Tesco Finest butternut, mushroom & chestnut wreath, 400g: £4.50, Tesco
Serving two, this pretty pastry has been fashioned into a wreath shape for your Christmas table. The filo pastry itself was very crisp and flaky, while the filling – a mix of sweet butternut squash, chunky pieces of mushroom and chestnuts with a touch of fortified wine – was quite sweet. It’s topped with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries which added colour but we felt it could have done with a little extra seasoning – we added truffle salt to ours and served with tenderstem broccoli.
Green Meats Co. vegan Christmas hamper: £79.99 for two people or £129.95 for four, Green Meats Co.
So this isn’t exactly an alternative main course in the same way as the others, however, we felt it was certainly worth mentioning this completely vegan online butchers and its hampers. Especially for the festive period, Green Meats Co. have grouped together everything you’d need for a plant-based Christmas feast. Available in two sizes, the hampers include a seitan turkey crown complete with cranberry stuffing, streaky bacon and mini sausages flavoured with oregano, tomato and basil.
They’ve even taken care of the cheese board with a selection of dairy-free chunks from the likes of Kinda Co and I Am Nut Ok which both use cashews as a creamy base. To start there’s aged carrot slices (the butchers’ version of smoked salmon) and black truffle faux gras. If you’re looking for a one-stop vegan shop – this is it.
The verdict: Vegan Christmas dinner alternatives
Special enough for Christmas Day, we loved the real festive flavours of M&S’ elegant plant kitchen root vegetable tarte tatin. However if you’re looking for something a bit meatier, filling and rich, Sainsbury’s no beef wellington is also good value.
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