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Vegan Stuffing with Kale and Pecans

Vegan Stuffing with Kale and Pecans

Adapted from an article originally published on: https://desireerd.com/vegan-stuffing-with-kale-and-pecan/

Anything you can make, I can make vegan....even around the holidays! So I wanted to create a flavourful and satisfying vegan stuffing with kale and pecans that’s just 9 core ingredients (plus salt, oil etc) to help you upgrade your usual holiday side dish.

As a dietitian and a plant-based eater, I have some strong opinions on holiday meals. The first? That what we call holiday side dishes are actually the STAR of the show. The variety of flavours and textures and colours on my plate has always been my fave. The second? That you should eat whatever you love most for your holiday feasts, whether that’s candied yams, soft rolls or kale salads.

For me, that means dressing up my favourite nutrient-dense staples like vegetables and sprouted grain bread so they are as rich, flavourful and memorable as any holiday staple. So, I’m SUPER excited to share my first ever vegan stuffing recipe, in partnership with my friends at Silver Hills Bakery.

What you’ll need to make a vegan stuffing

Like many holiday sides, stuffing is often ‘accidentally vegan’ all on its own. So I’ve dressed it up with lacinato kale, which is sweeter than its curly cousin, and rich and fragrant pecans.

Aside from the staples like salt and oil, this stuffing only requires nine main ingredients and about 30 minutes of hands-on time. Assuming you have oil, salt, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and onion powder at home, here’s what to put on your grocery list:

Silver Hills Sprouted Grain Bread: my favourite sliced bread, using sprouted grain bread ensures a hearty, never soggy, texture and is high in fibre to help keep you full and satisfied!

Lacinato kale: this bumpy, long-leafed kale variety is richer and sweeter in flavour than curly kale, making it great for even kale skeptics

Onion and Garlic: these flavour builders are nutrient-dense superstars that also help create moisture so your stuffing doesn’t feel dry

Celery: aromatic and flavourful, so important for texture. Don’t love celery? Try fennel bulb!

Pecans: sweet and crunchy, they’re such a holiday flavour for me. In a pinch, try substituting walnuts but you might want to add a tiny drizzle (maybe 1 – 2 teaspoons) of maple syrup to your vegetable mixture to combat any bitter flavours

Fresh sage and thyme: these really create that stuffing flavour. you can totally substitute dried but fresh is even more flavourful.

Bouillon concentrate: my secret weapon for creating ‘meat-eater approved’ flavours. I use Better than Bouillon vegetarian chicken concentrate here, but you can absolutely substitute traditional vegetable stock for the water + concentrate combo.

Vegan Holiday Tips

If this is your first time cooking for a vegan or plant-based guest at the holidays, or maybe it’s your first plants-only holiday, you might have some questions! I’ve got a few tips here, but feel free to drop any holiday cooking questions in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them so you can have a super delicious plant-y holiday feast!

First things first: as I said above, you’re probably already halfway to a plant-filled meal, as many traditional side dishes like cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes are accidentally vegan, or really close to it with simple swaps like vegan butter or plant-based milks.

Second, rethink your main. There are a few ways to play the main dish scenario. The easiest? Grab a tofurkey roast or something similar. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea but I’ve been eating them for years, they’re a nostalgic favourite for me. The second option is to make a main dish from scratch, like a lentil loaf, stuffed peppers or a whole roasted cauliflower.

But you know what? If you have 3 – 4 vegetable dishes on the table...you don’t really need anything else! Especially if you are eating this stuffing. Because it’s made from sprouted grain bread, it’s going to give you a boost of fibre and plant-based protein that’s actually pretty filling. With a salad, gravy and a vegetable dish or two, you might decide to abandon the idea of a protein main entirely.

Cooking for mixed company? I’m actually the only plant-based eater in my family...so the way we’ve worked it in the past is that all the dishes are plant-based except for my family’s protein. If you typically cook a turkey but have plant-based guests coming, consider using plant-based ingredients for your typical holiday sides so that they can enjoy a wide variety of dishes without a ton of extra work.

Are you a plant-based guest at a holiday dinner? I’m a big fan of offering to bring a dish, when you tell your host that you’re plant-based or vegan. This stuffing would be a wonderful, filling option in addition to the vegetables and salad on offer. Plus, when everyone tastes it, they’ll realize how yummy a plant-based holiday can be! Hot tip: also buy some roasted nuts to offer at cocktail hour. They’ll keep you full in case all that’s on the table is charcuterie.

Ingredients
  • 10 slices Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Grain Bread, I used Mack’s Flax
  • 1 large bunch lacinato kale, stems and leaves separated
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage or 1 tsp dried sage leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vegetarian ‘chicken’ bouillon concentrate, I used Better than Bouillon

Makes 8 servings

Instructions
  1. Cut bread into roughly 1-inch cubes and leave out overnight to dry out a bit.
  2. Preheat oven to 375? and lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with oil. Finely dice kale stems and slice leaves into ½-inch slices.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery and sauté until onion is soft and glossy, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add kale leaves and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until kale wilts about 2-3 minutes. Add sage, thyme, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic and onion powder, and pecans. Stir for one minute to combine. Remove from heat.
  5. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. Mix bouillon concentrate into water and pour over bread, tossing to coat. Add vegetable mixture to bread and toss.
  6. Place stuffing in greased dish. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over top. Tightly wrap dish in tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake uncovered for 15 more until top of stuffing looks golden brown and crisp.
Tips

This stuffing can be prepared in the morning and cooked just before serving, but it is also quite delicious at room temperature so if there’s a lot vying for oven time, cook it before the rest of your dishes and let it sit out before serving.

I find that Better than Bouillon is much more flavourful than packaged stocks but if you don’t have it, simply substitute 1 cup of vegetable stock for the water + concentrate.

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Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She runs a nutrition consulting practice with a focus on inflammation, digestion and plant-centred diets. Desiree is the author of a book on anti-inflammatory nutrition called Un-Junk Your Diet: How to shop, cook and eat to fight inflammation and feel better, forever and her new cookbook, Eat More Plants: 100 Anti-inflammatory Plant-centred Recipes for Vibrant Living is a #1 National Bestseller.