Colder weather is upon us and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The typical Thanksgiving gorge-fest of carb-heavy potatoes, bread stuffing and turkey often leaves people feeling tired and bloated, so this year we’re seeking out recipes that pack in the nutrition and deliciousness without over-stuffing your gut and making it impossible for you to get out of bed the next morning. From Esalen Kale Salad and Sweet Potato Stuffing, to Chocolate Pecan bars and Pumpkin Pie Mousse, we’ve rounded up 10 of the most nutrient-dense, clean, healthy, and energizing Thanksgiving recipes to make this year’s feast both delicious and nutritious. Not only are these healthy dishes easy to make, they’re also guaranteed to fuel you through this busy season and set you off on the right foot for the New Year. Say goodbye to guilt driven New Year’s resolutions, and pass the sweet-potato stuffing.
Roasted Pumpkin Seed – pre-dinner appetizer
When you’re making your pumpkin soup (see below), save your pumpkin seeds! A favorite in Mexican cuisine, pumpkin seeds (or “pepitas” as they’re adorably called in Spanish) are packed full of protein, dietary fiber and a range of micronutrients. Roasting them takes almost no work and they make a deliciously crunchy addition to most meals!
- Pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Rinse pumpkin seeds and remove all remaining pumpkin fiber. Pat dry with a paper towel, or if you have time, dry overnight in a sunny window. When seeds are dry, lay evenly on baking tray covered with parchment paper. Salt liberally. Season with favorite herbs or spices if desired. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
Three Sisters Soup
Have you heard of the three sisters? No we’re not talking about the spooky ones from the Scottish play, we’re talking about the three staple Native American crops that were traditionally grown together by indigenous Americans all across the US; maize, beans and squash. Three Sisters Soup is a true Thanksgiving recipe – as the originator of the American Thanksgiving holiday, Squanto taught the art of maize, squash and beans cultivation to the starving pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, back in 1621. The three crops are traditionally planted together because the beans provide nitrogen to the soil which fertilizes the other crops, the maize provides a pole on which the beans to grow, and the squash keeps away pests through ground cover – and they compliment each other nutritionally too! This Thanksgiving, why not celebrate the ingenuity of the original Americans and the spirit of the original Thanksgiving, with this delicious and nutritious soup that will warm your belly, and fill you up without weighing you down.
- Pumpkin, kabocha or your choice of winter squash – cubed in small pieces
(alternative to fresh squash: canned pumpkin may also be used – it will make your soup thicker and more like stew)
- Can of beans (any beans work – with pumpkin I prefer white beans)
- 2 cups of fresh or frozen corn
- 1/2 small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Olive oil
- chopped celery and carrots (to your taste)
- vegetable stock
- fresh cilantro
- salt and pepper (to taste)
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil on low heat in a large pot. While you are doing that, microwave or otherwise cook the raw, diced squash so that it is softened, before going into the pot. When onions are soft and caramelized, toss in the carrots and then the pre-cooked squash, followed by celery. Throw in a pinch of cumin. Let each vegetable soften, and then toss in the corn and beans. After the corn and beans go in, add in a 32 oz. box of vegetable broth. If you are cooking for a lot of people, add another. Finally after the soup has simmered for 5-10 minutes, salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.
Kale and Mixed Seed Salad
This recipe from Esalen (via Tastebook) is as wholesome and well-known as the Big Sur retreat from which it originates. Not only is this Thanksgiving staple extremely versatile, it also only take minutes to throw together and guarantees no leftovers. The sprouts can be left out in a pinch and you can’t go wrong with the sweet addition of diced pear.
- 1/3 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari soy sauce
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup flax seed oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium red onion
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 pound fresh kale
- 1/2 cup sunflower sprouts
- 1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
- 1 avocado diced
Combine the Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce and lemon juice in a blender or whisk in a bowl. Slowly dribble in the oil as the blender turns or as you whisk vigorously. Slice the onion into half moons and marinate in the dressing as you prepare the rest of the salad.
Toast the seeds in a heavy bottomed pan (cast-iron is the best) over medium heat until seeds are just golden and fragrant. Toast each seed type separately as their size requires varying roasting times. Cool to room temperature.
De-stem the kale. Slice kale leaves into 1/4 inch ribbons (very important!) Toss the seeds, spouts, and kale with the onions, and as much dressing as necessary to lightly but completely dress the kale. Thoroughly massage the kale with your hands.
Savory Sweet Potato Stuffing
Pass on the bread this season with this savory, flavor-packed paleo sweet potato stuffing. Traditional fall flavors pop with an unexpected sweetness added by the raisins in this dish and pecans give it an extra satisfying crunch.
- 4-5 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt & freshly ground pepper
- 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoons golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400° F. On a baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with 1 tbsp oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Stick the baking sheet in the oven and roast potatoes until just tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onions, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates, 2 to 4 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl along with the roast sweet potatoes and let everything cool for 10 minutes or so. Turn oven down to 375.
Add the beaten eggs, sweet potatoes, broth, pecans, raisins and sage to the veggie mixture and combine well. Use olive oil to grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until browned, 20 to 30 minutes more.
RELATED: 6 Vegan and vegetarian turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving
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Simple, Roasted Brussels Sprouts
These crispy yet tender Brussels sprouts are perfect for the vegetable skeptic in your life. Since they only use one dish to make, clean up is minimal too!
- 1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and cut in half
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Place Brussels sprouts on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper and mix evenly. Place baking sheet on center oven rack and roast for 30 to 45 minutes, shaking pan every 5-7 minutes for even browning. Place trimmed Brussels sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal tightly, and shake to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet, and place on center oven rack. Reduce heat if necessary to prevent burning. Brussels sprouts should be a deep brown color when done. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.
Garlic Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes”
We discovered this recipe for Garlic Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” from Inhabitat contributing writer Beth Buczynski. Cauliflower offers up a paleo alternative to traditional mashed potatoes. It’s creamy, garlicky, and a whole lot of good.
- 1 large head cauliflower
- 5 large cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons grassfed butter
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
Fill a large (6-quart) stockpot with two inches of water. Cover with steamer insert and lid and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, wash and trim the cauliflower. Cut florets and stem into medium sized chunks (they will be pulverized later). Chop garlic. Once the water is boiling add the cauliflower stems and garlic. Salt liberally and replace lid, steaming until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to food processor. Add fresh cracked pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, and butter. Process until smooth and adjust seasoning to taste.
Delicious Vegetarian Turkey
After figuring your side dishes out, the biggest question you might face is what to make instead of the traditional stuffed bird. Luckily, there’s no shortage of vegan and vegetarian turkey alternatives but if you really want to show off your culinary chops, Inhabitat editor Yuka Yoneda invites us into her kitchen with this creative and easy vegetarian turkey recipe.
Raw Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches
The Detoxinista is a favorite go to site for many health minded gourmets. Most of her recipes use simple whole ingredients and that don’t take hours of toiling in the kitchen. We’ve made these raw vegan ice cream sandwiches too many times to count and didn’t mind making them once more for this Thanksgiving recipe roundup because who can say no to rich, chocolatey cookies and creamy banana ice cream?
For the Chocolate Cookies:
- ¾ cup raw almonds (or other nuts of choice)
- 5 soft Medjool dates, soaked in water for 10 minutes
- 3 Tablespoons raw cacao powder
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
For the Ice Cream:
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Water, as needed for blending
Combine the almonds, cocoa powder and salt in the food processor (I used this mini food chopper) and process until a fine powder is created. Add in the dates and vanilla extract, and process again until a uniform, sticky dough is formed. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides to help with even processing.
Transfer the cookie dough to a pan lined with parchment paper, and use your hands (wet hands can help prevent sticking) to shape the dough into a rectangle shape, about ¼-inch thick. Place the dough in the freezer to set for 20 minutes, then use a large knife to cut the dough into 8 rectangular cookies. Return to the freezer while you prepare the ice cream.
To make the ice cream, you’ll need to use the same food processor again. For easiest processing, cut the frozen bananas into chunks before blending, then combine them with the vanilla extract and 1-2 tablespoons of water in the food processor. Blend until completely smooth and creamy, like ice cream! (Add more water, if needed, to achieve this texture.)
Remove the chocolate cookies from the freezer, and place a large spoonful of ice cream on to four of the sandwich sides. Use the other four cookies to create sandwiches, and press the cookies together to even-out the ice cream middles. Place in the freezer to allow the ice cream to solidify, about 20-30 minutes, then serve. Store the sandwiches in a sealed container in the freezer.
No Bake, Gluten Free, Vegan Pecan Bars
If ice cream sandwiches aren’t your thing (or even if there are) there’s a whole lot more to be thankful for because these no bake pecan bars are delicious and brimming with B vitamins, fiber, and iron. Trust us when we say these are the next big thing.
- 3/4 cup dates
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 tsp liquid coconut oil
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 cup dates
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 3/4 cup cashew butter
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 cup liquid coconut oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp pecans
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 tsp coconut oil
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch baking pan and place inside. This will keep the bars from sticking to the bottom of the pan later. Add 3/4 cup of the dates, 1 cup pecans, 1 teaspoon liquid coconut oil, and a pinch of salt to a food processor and pulse until a dough firms. The mixture will stay a little chunky, but the dough should stay together if pinched. Spread the crust into the prepared baking pan, pressing down with your fingers and smoothing it out so that you have an even layer covering the bottom.
Clean out the food processor bowl used for making the crust. Then place the remaining 1/4 cup of soaked dates, 1/2 cup pecans, 1/4 cup liquid coconut oil, maple syrup, cashew butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the food processor. Process until smooth. Spread the filling on top of the crust. Scoop the filling on top of the crust and cover the crust, using a spatula to smooth out the top. Cover the baking pan and freeze while you prepare the pecans and chocolate drizzle.
Chop 2 tablespoons pecans into small pieces (but not so small that they start to become little shards) for sprinkling on top of the pie filling for added crunch and another layer of nutty yumminess. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil and chocolate chips over medium to medium-low heat, stirring frequently to keep the chocolate from burning and to help the chips melt. Once the chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Remove the baking pan from the freezer, drizzle on the melted chocolate and sprinkle on the pecan pieces.
You can either refrigerate or freeze these bars. (I tried both methods and both worked). Simply place the covered bars in the fridge or freezer for at least 3 hours. After an hour or so, remove the pan just so that you can cut the pecan pie bars into pieces. This step is more critical if you are freezing the bars because they will be hard to cut once they have been frozen for a while. I made 25 small pieces.
Remove the bars from the baking pan and serve. If freezing the bars, set them out about 15-20 minutes before serving so that they won’t be too frozen and chewy (unless you want to serve them as freezer fudge!) Enjoy! These bars will keep for at least 3 days in the fridge and a few weeks in the freezer.
This popular pumpkin mousse recipe is courtesy of our very own art editor Lori Zimmer. We reached out to the chef herself for a few words on this fall inspired treat.
“I can never get enough pumpkin pie. Since pumpkin is so healthy, I decided to find a crustless way to still indulge. Although the dessert is still decadent, the omission of calorie-packed crust lets me focus on the awesome vitamins and nutrients in pumpkin, rather than the calories.” -Lori
- 1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
- 1/2 block soft/silken tofu (8 oz.), drained
- 1 Tbsp. grade A Dark Amber maple syrup
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- pinch of salt
Combine tofu and pumpkin puree in a food processor; process until smooth. Add maple syrup and brown sugar, and spices. Process again. Taste, and feel free to adjust sweet/spice. Allow it to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.