Milk and cookies may be the quintessential example of a Christmas treat, but there are many other traditional foods and drinks that appear around the holiday season. Vegans don’t have to be left out of the festivities. It is possible to enjoy versions of these traditions that are completely free of animal products.
A warming cup of hot chocolate is perhaps the easiest winter treat to veganize. The quickest way is to simply heat up one of the many commercial nondairy chocolate beverages that are available. Chocolate versions of soy milk, rice milk, and even hemp milk can be purchased at most grocery or specialty foods stores. Around the holidays, some companies may release seasonal beverages such as peppermint-chocolate soy drinks. Brands like Ah!laska and Monin Organic produce vegan chocolate syrups year-round, and a variety of decadent hot cocoa suggestions have been posted on the popular vegan website VegWeb.
The name “egg nog” suggests that this rich treat is off the vegan list by design. However, the growing popularity of nondairy milk alternatives has brought commercial alternatives to conventional egg nog. Soy-based holiday nogs have begun popping up on grocery store shelves during the Christmas season. Egg-free, dairy-free nog can also be made at home from a favorite nondairy milk or creamer and classic spices like eggnog. Served hot or chilled, these vegan versions are just as satisfying as their dairy-based counterparts, minus much of the saturated fat or cholesterol.
Commercial candy canes contain a variety of unsavory ingredients, some of which may not be vegan-friendly. Sugars may be processed with bone char, and colorings are not always from animal-free sources. However, vegan candy canes are available from brands like Pure Fun. These treats have several positives over their mass-produced counterparts in that the ingredients are organic, the coloring is natural and plant-derived, and the sweetness comes from cane juice and brown rice syrup. This also means that these candy canes are free of allergens, so they’re safe to give as gifts even to kids with food sensitivities.
These labors of love can be as simple or as complex as the builder desires. Whether constructed from graham crackers or true gingerbread, a gingerbread house is a fun Christmas project for the whole family.
Vegans who wish to partake in this tradition have a couple of options. One is to make vegan frosting at home and purchase a vegan-friendly variety of graham cracker (one that doesn’t use honey). The other is to go all-out and bake gingerbread from scratch, whip up a variety of colored vegan frostings, and go to town with vegan candies. The latter will take longer, but can yield beautiful results and a feeling of true accomplishment when the project is finished. Blogs like Vegan Dad and Vegansaurus have ideas for getting started.
Can fudge be just as creamy and delicious without any dairy ingredients? It sure can! With the right blend of vegan chocolate chips such as Sunspire or Ghirardelli, confectioner’s sugar, and a non-hydrogenated vegan margarine like Earth Balance, vegans can whip up smooth, delicious fudge for themselves or family and friends. Other ingredients like peanut butter can be used for a different flavor, and avocado can lend an extra something to the texture. Vegan fudge can also be purchased from brands like Allison’s Gourmet as well as a variety of vegan shops on Etsy.com.
Enjoying a vegan Christmas can be just as fun and simple as a holiday with traditional goodies. As vegan lifestyles, dairy sensitivities, and a push for more organic products continues to influence commercial markets, more ready-made treats will become available to supplement the delicious vegan versions that can be made at home.