Vegan cooking: Introduce new stars in holiday side dishes

Okra, Brussels sprouts, pearl onions and more add pizzazz to traditional fare.

plate of french-fry-like sticks with white sauce and sprinkled with herbs
Contributed / Susan Alexander
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To some of us, a big holiday meal is all about the traditional side dishes. Some of these recipes are favorites from my childhood, while others are newly discovered gems. I invite you to stretch yourself and try a new vegetable this month.

Oven-Fried Plantain Chips

slices of yellow fruit, similar to banana
Oven-Fried Plantain Chips.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Plantains are best when they’re black on the outside. Buy them a little green and let them ripen on your kitchen counter.

  • 2 very ripe plantains
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, mace or cardamom
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Peel plantains, then boil or steam them for five minutes. Cool.

Mix spices with flour.

Slice plantains about a quarter-inch thick. Dredge plantain slices in soy milk, then flour mixture.


Spray with canola oil and bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned. Serve immediately.

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Creamed Pearl Onions

Plate of round, white vegetables with creamy sauce
Creamed Pearl Onions.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

My mom made creamed pearled onions on most holidays. The pearl onions were served on a bed of mashed potatoes, but they’d be good on toast or pasta as well.

  • 3 tablespoons vegan margarine
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups non-dairy milk
  • 16-ounce bag frozen pearl onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt margarine in a large pot, then add the flour, stirring to combine.
Slowly add the non-dairy milk, thoroughly combining with the flour mixture before adding more.

When the non-dairy milk is fully incorporated with the flour mixture, add the pearl onions and stir until piping hot.

Cornmeal-Crusted Baked Okra

Plate of green vegetables with yellow coating
Cornmeal-Crusted Baked Okra.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

  • (1) 16-ounce bag frozen sliced okra, defrosted
  • 1 gallon zip-top plastic bag
  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place okra in a colander and allow it to drain.

Place the okra in plastic bag. Add the cornmeal and garlic salt. Seal the plastic bag and give it a good shake. Place okra in a dry colander and shake off the excess cornmeal if necessary.


Spread the okra on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Spray the okra lightly with canola oil. Bake the okra for 20 minutes, stir, spray again, then bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

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Roasted Parsnips

Plate of yellow slices sprinked with herbs
Roasted Parsnips.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced into half-inch-thick rounds
  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil 9-by-13-inch baking dish or cover with parchment paper and give it a light spray.
Arrange parsnips in a single layer in baking dish. Spray with canola oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper.

Roast for about 30 minutes until well-browned and tender, turning once. Serve hot.

Brussels Sprouts with Apples

plate of roasted vegetables
Brussels Sprouts with Apples.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

I have a friend who has never had Brussels sprouts. Tragic!

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 large apple, cored and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Handful of pecans, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spread 1 tablespoon canola oil on a large, foil-covered baking sheet.

Mix the Brussels sprouts, onion and apple with 2 tablespoons canola oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper and thyme.


Spread the mixture on the baking sheet turning the Brussels sprouts cut side down. Bake for 25 minutes. The outer leaves of the sprouts will be dark brown and crunchy. Spread the pecans on the baking sheet and bake for five minutes longer.

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vegetable with big root and green stems
Celeriac, also known as celery root.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Celeriac, also known as celery root, is a tasty addition to soup, but it’s so delicious on its own! I usually prepare celeriac as a side dish to fully appreciate its sweet, nutty flavor.

  • 2-3 bulbs celery root (celeriac)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • Parsley (for garnish)

Wash and trim celeriac, removing roots and debris. Slice roots into sticks the size and shape of french fries.
Plunge the celeriac “fries” into a pot filled with water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to prevent the roots from browning as you cut up the other roots. When all the roots are cut, drain the pot, fill it with water, and boil the celery roots until tender, about 15 minutes.

Mix the vegan mayonnaise and mustard in a large bowl.

Drain the cooked celery roots, give the roots a quick rinse, and mix the hot celery roots with the vegan mayonnaise mixture. Serve the warm celeriac topped with parsley.

Creamed Yams

Plate of orange creamy yams
Creamed Yams.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

I didn’t learn about cardamom until moving to northern Minnesota. I think cardamom is the most delicious spice ever!

Cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves can be substituted for the cardamom in this recipe, but don’t be silly. Use cardamom.

  • 2 ½ pounds yams, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ stick vegan margarine
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon (or more) ground cardamom

Boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the sweet potatoes then mash them with other ingredients. (I use my food processor for a decadently smooth texture.)
Serve piping hot. Leftovers can be microwaved.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Susan Alexander is food columnist for the Duluth News Tribune. She loves gardening, farmers markets and creating delicious meals consisting of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits.

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
Susan Alexander is food columnist for the Duluth News Tribune.
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