The harvest comes in early in Canada; a full month before our neighbors to the south, in fact! As such, our Thanksgiving feast falls on the second weekend in October, rather than mid November, and you can bet that the season’s bounty is celebrated with great delight all across the country. Every region has its signature dishes for this particular holiday, and rural Québec is no exception. Although traditional fare is quite meat-heavy (turkey, ham, pork-filled pies and such), there are some gorgeous options for those who prefer a plant-based diet. Here are a few classic Québecois Thanksgiving dishes that we’ve updated for vegan palates.
Split Pea Soup (Habitant Soupe aux Pois)
We skip the bacon in this traditional soup and use liquid hickory smoke for that signature flavour. It’s a thick, rich, potage that has nourished folks out here for hundreds of years, and can actually make a great meal on its own: if you have some of this soup left over after dinner, reheat it for lunch the next day and add in some croutons and a few fried slices of veggie sausage.
- 6 to 8 cups vegetable stock or broth (I like to use a 50/50 mix of veggie stock and onion broth)
- 2 cups dried green split peas, rinsed well
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 2 celery ribs, chopped finely (including leaves)
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried summer savory
- 1 bay leaf
- Vegetable butter substitute
- Liquid hickory smoke
- Vegan bacon (optional)
Melt your vegan butter in a large stock pot on medium-high heat. Add in the dried savory once it melts, then the onions, carrots, and celery. Turn the heat down to medium and let this sautee until the onions soften and the carrots release their fragrance. Add the garlic and sautee for another 1-2 minutes.
Add 6 cups of stock, followed by the dried peas, about 1 teaspoon of salt, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and let cook, covered, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the peas have softened completely and the soup has thickened like crazy. If you like a really thick soup, leave it as it is: you may even be able to stand your spoon vertical in it. I like a thinner soup, so I’ll add a bit of extra stock at this point. Fish out the bay leaf and compost it.
If you’d like a really smooth soup, you can either use an upright or immersion blender to puree this. Skip that if you like some texture to your soup instead. Season it with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in a few scant drops of the liquid smoke: that stuff is powerful.
Ladle into bowls and serve hot. This is fantastic with some crispy vegan bacon (tempeh!) crumbled on top, but that’s optional. You can also serve this with some chopped fresh parsley, green onions, chives, dill, or chervil as a garnish.
Traditional creton is a moderately spiced paté made of pork, onions, and spices. This version is noticeably less “oinky”, and absolutely delicious. Try it spread on rounds of freshly baked bread, or even as a filling in endive spears or celery sticks.
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 24 hours, and drained well
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter substitute
- 1 cup chopped assorted mushrooms
- 1/2 small onion, chopped finely
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 small potato, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon white wine or sherry
- 1 teaspoon green onions or chives, chopped finely
- 1/4 teaspoon dried summer savory leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- Sea salt
Warm the vegan butter in a medium-sized saucepan on med-high heat. Once it starts to melt, add in the summer savory and thyme leaves, followed by the chopped onion. Drop the heat down to medium and sautee until the onion starts to go translucent, then toss in the minced garlic.
When the garlic just starts to turn golden, pour in the wine (or sherry) and stir it around well to deglaze the pan. Add in your mushrooms and potato, turn the heat down to low, cover, and let that cook until the potato is fork tender.
Remove your pan from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Pour the soaked sunflower seeds into a blender or food processor, and puree that into a soft paste. Add the cooked mushroom-potato mixture and pulse until combined, but it should still have a bit of texture. Transfer this into a large bowl, add the chopped green onion, then salt and pepper to taste.
Cabbage Salad (Salade de Chou)
- 6 cups shredded cabbage – I like to mix standard green cabbage with savoy and red for an assortment of textures and hues
- 1 medium carrot, shredded or grated
- 2 or 3 green onions, chopped finely
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mustard – I like to use whole-grain, but it’s really up to you
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar or agave syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Splash of lemon juice (optional)
Toss the cabbage, carrot, and onions together in a large serving bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the garlic, oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, and salt together into a dressing. Pour this over the cabbage, crack pepper over it to your heart’s content, add a splash of lemon juice if desired, and toss it well. Let this cure in the refrigerator for an hour before serving.
*Note: Adding a bit of shredded fennel to this adds a lovely anise note to the salad. I’ve also added in shredded beets and chopped celery for extra crunch.
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Flaky Crust (Tourtière)
Traditionally made with a mixture of ground meats (such as pork, beef, and chicken), tourtière has nourished several generations of French-Canadians over the centuries. Our meatless version contains a variety of root vegetables and Puy lentils, but feel free to swap in your favorite veggie ground round in lieu of the root vegetables you’re not fond of. You can also add in chopped walnuts or pecans for texture, and use nutmeg or allspice instead of cloves. I’ll often deglaze my pan with cognac or brandy for a bit of extra flavor, or add in caramelized onions for a hint of sweetness. Experiment to create your very own version!
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter substitute
- 1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 medium parsnip, peeled and diced
- 1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
- 1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 cup Puy lentils (you can substitute brown or green, but Puy really maintain their consistency well)
- 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried savory
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Sea Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth or stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste, thinned with a bit of water
- 2 pre-prepared vegan pie shells, whether homemade or frozen
Preheat your oven to 400F. In a small pot, cook the lentils in 1 1/4 cups water until they’re fork-tender (approximately 20-25 minutes). Drain any excess water and set the lentils aside. Price one of the pie shells with a fork, then bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside,
Melt the butter substitute in a medium-sized saucepan, and once it’s bubbling merrily, add the root vegetables and onion. Sautee this for about 5 minutes, then add the celery, garlic, cauliflower, lentils, savory, onion and garlic powder. Keep stirring and sautéing until everything browns nicely, then remove from heat.
Stir in the lentils, rosemary, sage, cloves, vegetable broth, and tomato paste. If you find that the mixture is drier than you’d like it, add a bit of vegetable stock or some more thinned tomato paste to moisten it. Once combined well, season with salt and pepper to taste, and fill the pre-baked pie shell with the mixture. Be generous, but if you have any left over, that’s okay: you can freeze it and use it to stuff cabbage rolls later.
Cover this mixture with the second pie crust, and cut a few small slits into it to allow steam to escape. Brush that crust with a little bit of vegan butter or olive oil, and bake at 400 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it’s a beautiful golden brown hue. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting out slices and serving with a dollop of chow chow ketchup (described below) on the side.
Fruit Ketchup (Chow-Chow)
No self-respecting Québecois family would serve tourtière without this traditional fruit ketchup: most households have their own special version of the condiment, though countless variations are also sold at grocery stores across the province. Jehane Benoît, who wrote the complete guide to French Canadian cooking back in the early 1960s, created a fabulous basic recipe that can be altered and adapted to anyone’s individual tastes.
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 4 firm apples, peeled and chopped
- 4 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
- 3 ripe pears, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 celery stalk, sliced thinly
- 2 green onions, chopped finely
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon pickling salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar (I use Demerara, but you can use cane, coconut, or even maple sugar for this)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
Mix all ingredients together in a large pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until it thickens well. Stir it well so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom. This will make enough for about 10 jam jars, so you can either divide it into portions and preserve it like you would a jam or jelly (follow proper safe canning procedures!) or, if you’re having a huge group of people over for dinner, dole it out generously and make sure everyone takes some home with them.
Although sugar pie is probably the most traditional French Canadian dessert, I’d prefer not to induce a diabetic coma in any of our readers. This maple fudge is also incredibly sweet, but since it comes in much smaller servings, it’s easier to back off after a bite or two.
I found this recipe on Go Dairy Free, and it’s an absolute win for sugar lovers. Try using a pinch of pink Himalayan salt or fleur de sel to enhance the flavors, or sprinkle a bit of maple sugar over it when it’s pressed into the dish to cool.
- 1 cup vegan white sugar
- 1 cup turbinado or other vegan brown sugar
- 1 cup coconut milk, well shaken to combine it
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- A pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, combine the sugars, coconut milk, coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt. Keep this on medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture starts to boil
Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can use the ice water test: drop a small spoonful of the mixture into a bowl of chilled water. If it’s ready, it should form a soft, malleable ball.
Remove from the heat, add your vanilla, and use a stand mixer or electric beater to whip/beat the mixture until it cools and thickens significantly. Spoon into a greased 8″ x 10″ baking dish, and press down firmly. Allow this to cool completely, and let it set to finish in the fridge for an hour or so before cutting into little squares.