Drumroll, please… after much deliberation (and salivating), Inhabitat has chosen the winner and runners-up of our 2020 Vegan Holiday Recipe competition. The winner receives our sustainable chef’s kit featuring the Ninja Foodi 2-Basket Air Fryer, Farberware Knife Set, Bamboo Cutting Board Set and a Stasher bag bundle. Because we were blown away by the creative submissions for this contest, we’ve decided to highlight some of our favorites, too. Without further ado, we present our contest winner and top contenders.

vegan wellington on cutting board

First place: Vegan Wild Rice Stuffed Seitan Wellington

Congratulations are in order for Megan C., who submitted this mouth-watering vegan wellington. We chose this recipe because it was impressive, unique and festive. Now, Megan can plan for many more days of cooking and baking ahead with a prize pack of new kitchen goodies.

For the wild rice (prepare a day in advance)

• 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

• 1/4 C yellow onion, finely chopped

• 1 medium shallot, finely chopped

• 2 celery stalks, finely chopped

• 1/2 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves

• 1 C cooked wild rice mix

• 1/3 C pecans, toasted and finely chopped

• 1/8 C dried cranberries, finely chopped

• 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed

• 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

Place the melted butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it foams, add the onion, shallots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, around 6 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the rice, pecans, cranberries and measured salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

For the caramelized onions (prepare a day in advance):

• 6 yellow onions, sliced

• 3 tbsp butter

• Salt

• 5 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add butter and onions to the pan. Sauté onions until translucent. Add in pinches of salt to help the onions sweat. Stir and continue to sauté for another 10 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar to onions and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

For the seitan (best prepared a day in advance, needs time to cool)

• 1 1/2 C vital wheat gluten

• 1/4 C nutritional yeast

• 1 tsp poultry spice

• 1 tsp onion powder

• 1/2 tsp garlic powder

• 1 tsp salt

• 3/4 C water

• 1/2 C soy milk

• 2 tbsp oil

• 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar

Get your water boiling in a big pot with a steamer over it (I use a metal mesh strainer). Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Combine with a wooden spoon until it forms a wet dough. If it seems too wet, add a bit more vital wheat gluten. It should be soft but still hold together.

Transfer dough to a countertop or board. Flatten it into a rectangle with your hands, about 1/2″ thick and no longer than your steamer. Put the wild rice in a wide line, lengthwise, in the seitan. (Imagine the seitan is a flag with four horizontal stripes. The two middle stripes should be covered in wild rice.) Compress the stuffing with your hands so the center of the roast will be firm. Grab each side of the dough and seal them around the rice as best you can. Transfer the roll to a piece of aluminum foil, and tightly roll it up. Transfer the seitan into the steamer and steam for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Cool completely.

For the final wellington:

• vegan puff pastry (most store-bought puff pastry is already vegan)

• lots of melted vegan butter or use Just Egg

• Stuffed seitan

• Caramelized onion

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Flatten the puff pastry out with a rolling pin until it is slightly larger than your seitan, (you want it to all fit in the puff pastry shell). Spread caramelized onion as an even layer across the puff pastry. Place seitan in the middle of the puff pastry and wrap it. Score the top to allow air to escape. Cover in melted vegan butter or Just Egg, which gives it the golden color while baking. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until your pastry is golden and crispy.

people passing salad at the table

Runners-up for appetizers

There were so many incredible recipes, so we decided to pull together an entire menu of delicious vegan dishes broken up by category. Here are some excellent appetizers for the holidays.

Vegan Spanakopita

This vegan spanakopita recipe by Elaine P. calls for simple, fresh ingredients to create an impressive vegan dish that adds to the holiday dinner table.

• 12 oz vegan feta cheese

• 8 oz firm tofu

• 1 lb cooked baby spinach

• 1 sweet onion, sautéed in 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

• 1 lb phyllo dough

• 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Combine the first four ingredients and mix well. Remove phyllo dough from its box and lay flat. Cut phyllo dough into three long strips and cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel to prevent drying.

Take one strip of phyllo dough and dab on olive oil with pastry brush. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of spinach/vegan feta filling and fold into triangles using a flag-folding technique. Place on baking tray and brush the tops with olive oil. Repeat with the remaining mixture, then bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 30 servings.

Christmas Soda Bread

Bread is a mealtime staple, and we loved the festive flair of Samantha Y.’s soda bread, which uses spinach and tomato paste as natural food dyes.

For the green dough:

• 195g whole wheat pastry flour

• 1/2 tsp baking soda

• 1/2 tsp baking powder

• 1/2 tsp sea salt

• 120 ml plant-based milk

• 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

• 65g fresh spinach

For the red dough:

• 195g whole wheat pastry flour

• 1/2 tsp baking soda

• 1/2 tsp baking powder

• 1/2 tsp sea salt

• 120ml plant-based milk

• 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

• 60g tomato paste

• 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Make the green dough: In a food processor, blend the milk, vinegar and spinach until smooth. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the spinach mixture to the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula until incorporated. Set aside.

Make the red dough: Blend the milk, vinegar and tomato paste together until smooth. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and paprika. Add the tomato mixture to the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula until well incorporated.

On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll out the green dough into a 6.5x10inch rectangle. Repeat with the red dough. Stack the green dough on top of the red dough. Roll the dough up into a batard (an oblong shape) and seal the ends so that the red dough covers up the green dough. Place the loaf onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Slash the top of the loaf in three diagonals. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.

New Year’s Eve Roasted Chestnut Soup

You don’t have to roast your chestnuts on an open fire, but bonus points if you do! Enjoying this soup, submitted by Wendy W., sounds like the perfect way to ring in the new year.

• 2 1/2 pounds fresh chestnuts, shelled and roasted

• 2 tablespoons coconut oil

• 1 medium onion, diced

• 1 leek, sliced

• 2 celery stalks, diced

• 1 medium carrot, diced

• 6 cups vegetable broth

• 1 tsp salt

• 1/2 tsp black pepper

• 1 tbsp sage

• Fresh parsley or thyme

• Optional: 1 C alternative milk to substitute 1 C of vegetable broth

Boil chestnuts in a medium pot for approximately 20-30 minutes. Drain and rinse. Using 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, caramelize onions, celery, carrot and leek until softened. Working in batches, in a high speed blender, puree chestnuts, onion, celery, carrot, leek and vegetable broth. Blend on high until smooth. Add mixture to a sauce pan and cook down until desired thickness. Add alternative milk for a creamier texture. Warm the soup and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley or thyme. This soup is so delicate, it is a flavor few get a chance to experience.

Christmas table setting

Runners up for entrees

Vegans are used to being stuck with a few sides to choose from during celebratory meals … but no more! Plant-based main dishes are absolutely delicious, as shown by the following recipes.

Creamy Stinging Nettle Tagliatelle

We couldn’t help but share this unique pasta dish, which even suggests foraging for the stinging nettles. This recipe, submitted by Azem S., is “inspired by my grandmother’s love of cooking with stinging nettles in Kosovo and my girlfriend’s veganism!”

• 1 onion

• 2 garlic cloves

• 1 vegan stock cube

• 1 plain oat-based yogurt

• 300ml vegetable stock

• 300ml oat milk

• 1 large bunch of fresh nettles (available at most parks in London, for free)

• 1 pack of eggless tagliatelle

Start by finely chopping the onion and grating the garlic cloves, then add both to a large pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Let the onion and garlic fry for a few minutes until caramelized. Give the nettles a thorough wash (use gloves) and place straight into the pot. Cover the pan with a lid and let the nettles sweat for 2-3 minutes, then add 300ml of vegetable stock to stop the frying process. Leave the lid off and reduce by half.

Once the ingredients have softened and start to break up, add in oat milk and oat-based plain yogurt and stir thoroughly. You can now add seasoning with a pinch of salt and black pepper (to your own preference — general rule, you can always add more but it’s difficult to take them out). With the lid slightly at an angle, let the sauce reduce by a third to a thick creamy consistency. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta (preferably fresh) until it is soft and silky.

Once ready, drain the pasta and place straight into the nettle sauce. Mix the two thoroughly and leave for a few minutes to rest with the lid on under its own heat. Serve with a fresh rocket and tomato salad (add salt, black pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to your own preference).

Thai Sweet Potato Noodles

This warming dish would be delicious any time of year, but it is especially so on colder days. The colorful, fresh ingredients make it a healthier option, too! Many thanks to Suzanne P. for sharing this tasty, nutritious meal idea.

• 4 oz Thai rice noodles

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1/2 medium onion, chopped

• 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

• 1 medium sweet potato, skin removed and chopped • ½ inch piece of ginger, chopped fine

• 1/2 tsp salt

• 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste Â

• 1/4 C lime juice

• 2 tbsp brown sugar

• 1 can coconut milk

• 1/2 cup pineapple tidbits

• 2 tbsp chopped peanuts

Cook the noodles according to the package directions and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, sweet potato, ginger and salt and sauté until the onion is soft, but not browned. Add the red curry paste and 1/4 cup of water and sauté for another minute. Add the lime juice, brown sugar, coconut milk and pineapple and simmer until the sweet potato is cooked through. If the sauce gets too thick, you can thin it with a few tablespoons of water. Stir in the noodles and continue to heat for another minute. Top with the chopped peanuts and serve.

Baked Melanzane in Spiced Holiday Sauce

Essentially an eggplant parmigiana recipe, this submission from Sandhya S. offers a festive touch by adding both red and white sauces, the latter of which is especially impressive to make vegan.

• 1 large brinjal (eggplant), blue or purple with smooth skin

• 100 g moist tofu

•200 g of extra virgin olive oil

• 1 1/2 tsp salt

• 1 tsp crushed black pepper

• 3/4 cup gluten-free yellow corn flour or bajra flour

• 1/2 C powdered flax seeds or bread crumbs

• 1/2 tsp oregano

• 1/2 C water

Ingredients for white sauce:

• 100 g water

• 2 tbsp gluten-free smooth flour or wheat/white flour

• 200 g of soya or walnut drink, unsweetened

• 1 tsp salt

• 1 tsp grated fresh ginger

• 1 tsp dried thyme

• 1 tsp olive oil

Ingredients for red sauce:

• 5 plum tomatoes

• 1 red bell pepper

• 6 cloves of garlic

• 1 tsp salt

• 2 tsp basil seeds

• 200 g water for boiling

To prepare red sauce: Cut the tops off the tomatoes and red pepper. Boil in water for few minutes until the skins come off easily. Remove the skins and retain the pulp. Drain most of the water, and set the pot back to the stove on low heat. Crush the tomatoes and pepper using a potato masher or hand blender. Add salt and basil seeds, then cook for 5 to 6 minutes, mixing continuously with the masher or mixer, until a smooth sauce is formed. Turn off the stove and set aside.

To prepare the white sauce: Heat a skillet with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and dry gluten-free flour on low flame. Stir for just a minute until the flour is mixed with the oil. Add water, soya or walnut milk and salt and bring to a low boil while mixing continuously for 2 minutes. The sauce should be smooth and not lumpy. When the mixture starts to splutter, carefully stir and turn off the heat. Add thyme and grated ginger to the white sauce. Tip: To make the sauces smoother, blend the sauces separately before adding the ginger and thyme seasoning.

To prepare the brinjal and tofu: Wash and cut the brinjal into 1/8 inch thick slices; they will look like round discs. Set aside on a plate, sprinkle with salt and cover with a paper towel or cloth. Slice the tofu into 1/4 inch slices and set aside on another plate. Sprinkle salt and crushed black pepper and a pinch of turmeric on the tofu slices. Set aside and cover with paper towel or cloth.

Make a smooth paste with the gluten-free yellow corn flour and water. It should be a free-flowing custard consistency, not too thick. On another plate, lay out the dry bread crumbs or flax powder mixed with oregano. Heat 200 g olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dip the brinjal slices one by one into the flour paste and then into the dry breadcrumbs, coating both sides lightly. Deep fry each slice in the heated oil until golden brown. Sit the slices on a paper towel-lined plate or wire rack to remove excess oil.

If there is any flour paste and breadcrumbs left after the brinjal is done, repeat the process of dipping tofu into the flour and crumbs and deep fry for a minute. Tofu can also be used as-is without frying if the paste and crumbs are gone.

Preheat the oven at 170°C (about 340°F). While the oven is preheating, lightly grease a shallow glass pan. Pour half of the white sauce into the pan. Arrange the brinjal crisps on the sauce in one row. The discs may overlap slightly. Pour half of the red sauce over the first layer of brinjal. Place the rest of the brinjal slices on the red sauce. Pour most of the remaining red sauce on the layer of brinjal to cover it lightly. Place one layer of tofu on the red sauce. Pour nearly all of the remaining white sauce on the tofu layer. Place all the remaining pieces of tofu, if any, on the white sauce.

Use the last of the white and red sauces on the plates, drizzling in a zig-zag pattern. Lightly shake the casserole dish to let the layers settle. Lightly drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven. Just before serving, heat the dish for 5 minutes at 150°C (about 300°F) to get a light brown color on the tofu, similar to melted cheese.

vegan side dishes including green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and stuffing

Runners-up for side dishes

Sides are key to a vegan’s heart. The following recipes stole ours for their creativity and extra care given to presentation.

Lacey’s Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Lacey L., you’ve really accomplished a lot here. Veganizing a cream-based dish and making it taste good isn’t easy, but you’ve made it look effortless.

• 3 cans cut green beans

• 1/2 C unsweetened almond milk

• 1/2 C vegetable broth

• 2 tbsp flour (more flour = thicker gravy)

• 3 tbsp nutritional yeast (or more to taste — don’t be shy!)

• 1/2 tbsp salt

• 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (or replace salt and garlic with garlic salt if necessary)

• 1/2 onion, finely diced (optional)

• Pepper to taste

• Fried onion crunchies (if available, also get crispy garlic)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Put drained green beans in a casserole dish. Add onions and garlic. Mix almond milk, nutritional yeast, flour, broth and seasonings in a bowl. Pour the mixture over the green beans, add half of the onion crunchies. and mix.

Bake for 30 minutes. Stir up casserole and add more flour to thicken if necessary (keep in mind it will thicken a bit more as it cools as well). Add more onion crunchies to the top, and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add more onion crunchies as desired. This dish is incredible fresh, but it doesn’t reheat as well. I suggest only making what you need for the upcoming meal.

Sweet Potato Pecan & Pomegranate Medallions with Mexican Cashew Chipotle Crema

From the base to the garnish, this recipe by Areli B. is crafted with attention to detail. The addition of pecans and pomegranate seeds offer traditional flavors in an exciting new way.

• 2 large sweet potatoes

• 1/2 tsp paprika

• 1/2 tsp cumin

• 1/2 tsp cinnamon

• 1 tsp kosher salt

• 2 tbsp olive oil

• 1 C candied pecans

• 1/2 C fresh pomegranate

For the Mexican Cashew Chipotle Crema:

• 1 C raw cashews

• 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

• 1 tbsp chipotle in adobo

• 1 tsp lime juice

• 1 tsp kosher salt

• 1/4 vegan nut milk or vegetable broth

For the garnish:

• 2 green onions, clean and cut (green part only)

• Zest of 1 lime

• 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar reduction (heat 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar on low for 5 to 8 minutes until it reduces to 2 tbsp)

Preheat oven to 450°F. In a small bowl, combine paprika, cumin, cinnamon and salt. Mix well and add olive oil to make a paste. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch-thick rounds. Brush sweet potatoes with olive oil paste. Place them on a large baking tray without touching each other. Bake sweet potatoes for 8 to 10 minutes on each side until golden, flipping them half way through. Transfer to a serving tray and set aside.

Soak the cashews in water for 4-6 hours. Drain the cashews, then add them to a blender along with vinegar, chipotle, lime juice, salt and nut milk or vegetable broth. Blend the cashews for a 3-4 minutes until completely smooth. If the mixture is grainy, continue blending until the cashews are smooth. Add 1/4 cup of liquid if needed. Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid in the fridge. It will last one week.

Assemble medallions by placing sweet potatoes on a plate, add a couple of pecans on each medallion, drizzle Mexican crema and now add pomegranate seeds. Drizzle balsamic vinegar reduction and garnish with green onion greens and lime zest. Finish with salt and paper. Enjoy!

Festive Holiday Wild Rice and Purple Potato Medley

This recipe from Emily F. combines rice and veggies with warming spices and tops it all off with fresh herbs like cilantro and mint as well as pomegranate arils to give it a festive touch.

• 1/4 C canola oil

• 1/2 C carrot, diced

• 4 cooked purple fingerling potatoes, sliced

• 1/2 C yellow bell pepper, cut in chunks

• 4 C cooked wild rice

• 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

• 1/2 tsp salt

• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

• 1 tsp ground garam masala

• 1 tsp ground turmeric

• 1/4 C shelled pistachio nuts

• 1/3 C pomegranate seeds

• 2 tbsp mint leaves, torn

• 2 tbsp cilantro leaves

In a saucepan, sauté carrot in canola oil until just soft. Add cooked potato, bell pepper, cooked wild rice, lemon juice, salt, cayenne pepper, garam masala and turmeric; toss well. Remove from heat and pour into a serving bowl. Toss in pistachio nuts, pomegranate seeds, mint and cilantro.

holiday cakes and breads on white table

Runners-up for desserts

The moment we’ve all been waiting for … dessert! So many desserts are made with eggs, butter and milk, so veganizing them can be a challenge.

Vegan Cinnamon Roll Cake

We were drooling instantly as we read the recipe for Alison F.’s cinnamon roll cake. Don’t judge us for eating this for breakfast and dessert.

For the cake:

• 1 3/4 C gluten-free, all-purpose flour

• 1 C white sugar

• 1 tsp baking soda

• 1/4 tsp sea salt

• 1 C almond milk

• 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

• 1/3 C coconut oil, softened

• 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:

• 1/4 C vegan butter, softened

• 1/2 C coconut sugar

• 1 tbsp cinnamon

• 1 tbsp gluten-free, all-purpose flour

For the frosting:

• 1/2 C vegan cream cheese

• 1/2 C vegan butter

• 2 C powdered sugar

• A shake of cinnamon

• 1 C chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix together the almond milk and vinegar. Set aside for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, beat together the almond milk mixture, coconut oil and vanilla extract. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda and sea salt. Beat until smooth. Pour batter into cake pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, beat together the filling ingredients. Once smooth, drop by spoonfuls over the cake batter. Swirl into the batter using a knife. Bake cake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. While cake is baking, beat together the frosting ingredients. Once cake is cooled, spread frosting generously over cake, making sure to frost the sides. Add walnuts if using.

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream with Warm Miso Caramel Pecans

The secret to this creamy, dairy-free ice cream by Hidemi W.? Avocado. Consider our minds blown. Best of all, you don’t even need an ice cream machine to make this.

• 2 medium avocados

• 1/2 C almond milk, unsweetened

• 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1/4 C granulated sugar

• 1/2 tsp sea salt

• 1 tsp white miso paste

• 2 tbsp granulated sugar

• 2 tbsp and 2 tsp water

• 2 tbsp pecans, chopped

Halve each avocado, remove the pit and scoop out avocado flesh. Cut avocado into a small pieces and put into a resealable bag. Freeze overnight.

The next day, remove the avocado from the freezer and put it into a food processor. Add almond milk, cocoa, 1/4 cup sugar and sea salt. Pulse until avocado is almost crushed and mixture is well blended. Scoop the mixture out and put into 4 serving glasses.

In a nonstick skillet, put miso, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and water. Turn on the heat to medium. When the sugar begins dissolving and big bubbles start to appear, stir the mixture until well blended and slightly thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in pecans. Pour these miso-caramel pecans over the ice cream.

Orange Kissed Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Not only are Kim V. D.’s orange-and-chocolate gingerbread cookies vegan, they’re also gluten-free! The gingerbread, chocolate and orange blend together for an explosion of seasonal flavors.

• 1/2 C dairy-free butter spread (I used Melt)

• 3/4 C light brown sugar

• 2 tsp pure vanilla

• 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

• 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

• 3 tsp ground ginger

• 1/4 tsp ground cloves

• 1 tbsp molasses

• 1 C finely ground almond flour

• 1/2 C gluten-free flour blend with xanthan gum

• 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1 tbsp orange zest

• 1/2 tsp baking soda

• 1 C sifted powdered sugar

• 1 tbsp unsweetened cashew or almond milk

• 1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a stainless steel baking sheet with parchment paper. With a mixer, cream together the dairy-free spread, light brown sugar, spices, molasses and vanilla until smooth. Add in the almond flour, gluten-free flour, cocoa, orange zest and baking soda to the wet ingredients. Mix until well combined.

Using a 1 tablespoon-sized spring-loaded scoop, scoop out level tablespoons of dough. Roll the dough between the palms of your hands to create a ball. Place the ball onto the cookie sheet. Cookies should be spaced 2 inches from each other, as these cookies do spread. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Then, using a thin spatula, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely.

In a bowl, stir together the sifted powdered sugar and almond/cashew milk and orange juice until smooth. Dip a fork into the drizzle and drizzle back and forth over the cookies. Allow to set completely before serving or storing.

Images via Adobe Stock and Unsplash