When I think of the holidays with my family, it usually involves stuffing ourselves full of heavy foods, chatting politics over coffee and cheesecake (my Uncle's favorite) then falling asleep on the couch with football playing in the background. It's quite the event.
I'm the only one who eats a vegetarian diet, which can make things challenging sometimes. My grandmother usually prepares a tray of stuffed shells alongside the turkey or ham, depending on the holiday. The shells are delicious but I've always wanted to see if I can sneak in a vegan thanksgiving version of a classic dish without anyone noticing.
As soon as I tasted this wild rice mushroom casserole, I knew it was the one.
Made from a base of cashews, almond milk and arrowroot starch, it's just as rich and creamy as it's dairy-laden cousin, minus the heavy feeling that makes you want to pass out on the couch, although you are still welcome to do that.
Cooking the mushrooms with tamari (or soy sauce) and using vegan chicken broth helps to give it plenty of umami flavor, so no one will miss the meat. The whole thing is a plant-based comfort food dream come true.
If you're concerned about allergies, this can easily be made gluten-free by using gluten-free breadcrumbs. You can also make it nut-free by leaving out the cashews and substituting plain soy milk for the almond milk. I prefer it with the cashews for that extra luxurious creamy texture, but they're not completely necessary.
For the sauce:
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
- 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- salt to taste
For the casserole:
- 3 ½ cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups wild rice
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter or olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped (about 2 cups)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 16 ounces white button mushrooms diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 3 carrots finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 3 celery stalks finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons fresh parsley
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- fresh parsley for topping
- Start by making the sauce. In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Place the raw cashews into a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them, so the cashews are fully covered. Allow the cashews to soak for at least 30 minutes.
- While the cashews soak, begin working on the casserole. Place the vegetable broth into the same pot that you used to boil the water for the cashews, and bring it to a boil. Add the wild rice, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and allow to sit for 15 minutes. While you’re waiting for the cashews to soak and the rice to cook, you can start prepping your vegetables.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F then lightly grease a large (about 4-QT) casserole dish. In a large pot, warm 4 tablespoons vegan butter over medium heat. Add the onion, salt and pepper, then cook for 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Next, add the mushrooms, garlic, carrot, and celery, then stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes, then add the tamari, thyme, and parsley. Stir again while continuing to cook for about 5 minutes.
- Once the cashews are done soaking, finish the sauce by first straining off the excess water and placing the cashews into a high speed blender. Add the almond milk, nutritional yeast, and arrowroot powder, then blend on high for 30 seconds, until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Pour the mixture into the pot with the vegetables and stir. Bring the cashew mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, then add the cooked rice to the pot. Stir together until combined. Season with salt to taste.
- Transfer the mixture to the casserole dish then smooth down with the back of a spoon so that the surface is even. Top with breadcrumbs, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove casserole from the oven, uncover and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Top with fresh parsley, serve and enjoy!