If last year is any guide, vegan eating is surging on Thanksgiving. Whole Foods Market in Portland sold three times more vegan roasts and sides from its holiday catering menu last Thanksgiving than it had the previous year. Nationally, the supermarket chain also experienced a spike in sales of vegan holiday meals. To keep up with the demand, this year the grocer brought in celebrity chef Jeremy Fox to craft a vegetable-forward vegan Thanksgiving menu; it will be prepared by each store’s team of chefs and is available for pre-order.

The menu launched nationwide on World Vegan Day, celebrated on Nov. 1, with all stores showcasing some of the vegan Thanksgiving dishes on their hot bars.

But Whole Foods is just one of many local caterers appealing to those buying vegan during this major food holiday. Chefs and bakers throughout Greater Portland are offering vegan dishes – both savory and sweet – on their Thanksgiving order-ahead menus.

For instance, the vegan catering company Sol Food, based at the Frinklepod Farm store and cafe in Arundel, has an all-vegan Thanksgiving meal with six savory dishes available for pre-order. The full meal includes a roasted tofu turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted butternut squash, blistered green beans, and wild rice salad. For dessert, Sol Food is taking orders for chocolate-bourbon pumpkin pie, chocolate ganache tart, bourbon-gingerbread tiramisu and plates of pumpkin spiced Mallomars.

The new Simply Vegan by Silly’s on Washington Avenue’s restaurant row in Portland is offering all its regular deli salads for holiday orders in addition to a special menu that features vegetable-pumpkin lasagna, roasted squash stuffed with tempeh, stuffed portobello mushrooms, lentil loaf, root vegetable stew, sweet potato bake with marshmallows, corn chowder, pumpkin cream pie and blueberry whip with spiced granola.

At all the Rosemont Market & Bakery stores, with locations in Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth, the Thanksgiving pre-order menu features four vegetarian entrees. The two vegan choices are shepherd’s pie with tempeh, corn, peas and mushrooms and an acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, pecans, apricots and celery.

Last year, “the stuffed squash was the most popular of all of them,” said Doug Bermingham, who manages the Brighton Avenue store in Portland.

In mid-October Elena McMahan, the general manager of Baristas + Bites, told me the Old Port shop was already getting requests for vegan Thanksgiving desserts. The shop’s holiday catering menu features vegan platters with vegetables, dips and spreads and three vegan desserts: Maine orchard apple pie, pumpkin cupcakes and peanut butter cookies.

In addition to a number of standard vegan sides such as green beans, Brussels sprouts, squash and vegan pumpkin pie, Whole Foods’ full vegan meal is composed of five dishes: a head of cauliflower roasted with Romanesco seasoning; a stuffing made from cremini mushrooms and kimchi; a tomato and chickpea stew served on a bed of charred escarole; slices of roasted acorn squash sprinkled with a hazelnut and sesame seed dukkah mixture; and a frosted sweet potato blondie topped with cashews, sugar and “a touch of curry.”

“Last year we had a roasted cauliflower head as the roast and those did well,” said Larisa Kantrovitz, prepared foods team leader at the Portland store. “We ended up selling them off our prepackaged wall, too.”

This year, Whole Foods Market in Portland is selling a complete vegan Thanksgiving meal created by celebrity chef Jeremy Fox. It features five dishes, including a head of roasted cauliflower and a frosted sweet potato blondie.

Kantrovitz said strict vegans aren’t the only customers ordering vegan holiday dishes.

“We see people ordering a raw turkey and then vegan side dishes from my department,” Kantrovitz said. Some customers tell her they prefer the vegan options because of dairy and egg allergies. She also sees holiday hosts picking up the full vegan meal, which serves two, when their guest lists include vegans.

“The vegan meal for two is a complete package,” Kantrovitz said. “It makes it easy for vegans to participate in the traditional holiday meal.”

The Portland Food Co-op on Congress Street has two vegan sides, pureed butternut squash and roasted Brussels sprouts, along with chocolate and vanilla vegan cakes on its holiday ordering list. At press time, Lois’ Natural Marketplace in Scarborough and Portland and Scattoloni Bakery in Portland hadn’t yet published their Thanksgiving menus but representatives of both said they plan to offer vegan items.

At Local Sprouts Cooperative in the Arts District, catering coordinator Leslie Monroe said the typical customer who orders vegan Thanksgiving dishes from the restaurant is “often someone going to someone else’s house, and they want to bring something vegan. Either they’re vegan, someone at the Thanksgiving is vegan or the hosts are vegan.”

Sol Food, based at Frinklepond Farm in Arundel, has among its offerings this bourbon-gingerbread tiramisu.

Local Sprouts takes orders off of its seasonal catering menu, where fall vegan dishes such as vegetable pot pie, stuffed squash, butternut mac ‘n’ cheese, mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables and squash and apple soup are popular at Thanksgiving.

Monroe said the restaurant’s vegan desserts, including pumpkin pie, apple pie and pumpkin-maple whoopie pies, see a jump in sales at Thanksgiving. The restaurant also takes off-menu requests, such as the vegan shepherd’s pie made with tempeh and lentils that Munroe was working on when we talked.

“If someone has a particular vegan item they’re looking for, we’re happy to entertain it,” Monroe said. “It’s not always possible, but we will try. A lot of people call and ask for a vegan green bean casserole, which we’ve done.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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