12 (Vegan) Days of Christmas Recipes

Plant-based recipes inspired by the popular holiday song

Search for “12 Days of Christmas recipes” on the interwebs, and you’ll find countless blog posts featuring loads of animal products: actual cooked hens for Day 3, egg-based dishes for Day 6, milky desserts for Day 8, and so on.

There’s absolutely no evidence that the song pays homage to the consumption of different birds on different days during the 12 Days of Christmas; rather, it was most likely a memory game played on Twelfth Night, the 12th and final night of the 12 Days of Christmas, which begins on December 25th and ends on January 6th, otherwise known as Epiphany.

Still, you will find no animals harmed in the crafting of these dishes. It was so much fun crafting this menu — making literal interpretations as well as taking creative license. You’ll see all the whys and wherefores and details about why I chose the dishes I did once you purchase!

Obviously, you can cook from this menu anytime of the year, but I was very mindful about making sure you have what you need for a single holiday dinner (appetizers, starters, mains, and desserts) or for featuring one recipe per day during the 12 days of Christmas. Enjoy!

Our inspired musical menu!

Poached Pears — A Partridge in a Pear Tree (December 25)
Chocolate Pecan Turtles — Two Turtle Doves (December 26)
Fabulous French Toast — Three French Hens (December 27)
Better-than-Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie — Four Calling Birds (December 28)
Monkey Bread — Five Golden Rings (December 29)
Eggless Egg Salad Crostini — Six Geese a Laying (December 30)
Swan Cut-out Sugar Cookies — Seven Swans a Swimming (December 31)
Potato Leek Soup — Eight Maids a Milking (January 1)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pink Lady Apples and Onions — Nine Ladies Dancing (January 2)
Wassail — Ten Lords-a-Leaping (January 3)
Polenta Fries + Eggless Meringue Cookies — Eleven Pipers Piping (January 4)
Butternut Squash Timbales — Twelve Drummers Drumming (January 5)

(If you’d like to understand more about why — historically — The 12 Days of Christmas started on December 25th and ended on January 6th (otherwise known as the epiphany), check out the Food for Thought podcast episodes Forbidden Meat as well Food and Feasting.)

Food and Feasting: The 12 (Vegan) Days of Christmas

First comes fasting, then comes feasting!

Whereas the period BEFORE Christmas has historically been about fasting, contemplation, and self-reflection, the period starting AT Christmas and going for 12 days thereafter is all about feasting, revelry, merriment!

In today’s episode, I argue that feasting and festivities are a lot more meaningful when they follow a period of deprivation.

12 Days of (Vegan) Christmas Recipe Bundle

WHAT’S MORE: Inspired by the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” I have a brand-new recipe bundle that features recipes that can be served at a single holiday party OR as inspiration for each day of the holiday season. 🎵 On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…🎵

Forbidden Meat: Fasting and Abstinence During Advent

Abstaining from meat, dairy, and eggs during religious holidays has been a tradition for centuries in many religions. In Christianity, for example, during Lent (40 days prior to Easter) and Advent (40 days prior to Christmas), parishioners were forbidden to consume animal flesh as well as as dairy, cheese, and eggs. 

In today’s episode, we explore this history and demonstrate that not eating animal products was more common than not, especially during the period of contemplation and contrition leading up to the holy days of Easter and Christmas. I share my own experience growing up Catholic, my memories of Fish Fridays, and the meaning of a common English word whose origins are steeped in religious abstinence.


Food Waste and Animals

Thanks for listening to my NPR commentary about how the food waste we generate affects not just our wallets but the animals we attract to it. Listen below, on KQED’s website, read the transcript below, and please share with friends and family. It’s a perspective that can change the world for animals. 

You’ve heard it before: of the edible food Americans buy and bring home, about 40% gets thrown in the garbage. That translates to between $1,300 and $2,200 per household per year. When we stop treating food as garbage, the benefits are manifold — most obviously: saving money. But removing food scraps from our garbage cans is also a benefit to our relationship with the natural world — especially wildlife.

The more food we throw away, the more wild animals come to rely on that food in our trash cans, leading to human-wildlife encounters that can be inconvenient and costly for us and dangerous — often fatal — for them.

Perceiving opportunistic visitors — from the largest bears to the smallest rodents — as a nuisance often ends badly for them, but rather than changing our behavior and removing the tasty buffets that lure them in the first place, we demonize the raccoons, opossums, mice, and rats who rummage through our garbage cans and pay companies to gas, poison, or glue-trap them.

Sadly, this isn’t the only price animals pay for our wastefulness. High mortality rates by vehicle collisions and consumption of toxic non-digestibles are also linked with animals’ attraction to our garbage.
Reducing food waste is essential and do-able, especially since we know the main causes of it in our homes:

  • Buying more food than we need
  • Being unwilling to consume leftovers
  • Improperly storing food
  • And misunderstanding the meaning of “sell-by dates.”

By seeing the food in our refrigerators as valuable rather than disposable means taking responsibility and being resourceful. There’s a reason humans have been canning, pickling, and fermenting foods for hundreds of years. But if that feels too advanced…at least consider:

  • Making a cobbler out of tired-looking fruit
  • Making stock from veggie scraps
  • Freezing chopped herbs before they wilt
    and so much more…

By literally turning lemons into lemonade, we save money, we save resources, and we save animals.

With a Perspective, I’m Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Rwanda: A Clean, Green Country

We arrived in Rwanda after a long but uneventful flight from San Francisco to Vancouver to Istanbul to Kigali. We feel like we’re back in our second home.

Kigali is the capital of this beautiful country, and it’s incredibly safe, clean, and green. We always come a couple days early before we start our group trips — to acclimate to the time difference, to unwind after such long plane journeys, and to just enjoy this city.  

Kigali is the obvious place to begin and end a journey around Rwanda, but it’s just one of the many things we love about this country. While our all-inclusive vegan trips to Rwanda focus on the food and culture — as with all of our trips — the emphasis here is on nature and wildlife. 

We traipse through the Nyungwe forest tracking wild chimpanzees, trek through the Volcanoes national park trekking for mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, honor the work of Dian Fossey, and we relish the green rolling hills throughout as we also spend a day at Lake Kivu. Many people are unaware that there is another national park here called Akagera, where you can enjoy a safari drive in the home of lions, giraffes, hippos — even rhinos. 

We’ll get to all of that, but let me answer some general questions I get about traveling to Rwanda.    


Rwanda is a very safe country, with virtually no crime directed at tourists.  Still, it’s a good idea to use common sense and not flash your wallet in public when in a city or at a market. Exercise the same common-sense precautions as you do back home, and you should be fine. But in general, it’s a very safe country, and — even as a woman — I walk around the city and countryside with no concerns.


One of the main reasons Rwanda is so clean is because they made plastic bags ILLEGAL in 2008! Rwanda is one of the few countries that has imposed a ban on plastic bags, and they DO actively enforce it. (Most luggage is searched during your arrival at the airport at customs or baggage retrieval, and they will confiscate any plastic bags you bring in with you.) 

The other reason it is such a clean country is because of a monthly communal ritual called Umuganda, a Kinyarwanda word that translates to “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.” You can read more about our experience of it here.


Between December and February or June to September. These periods are when temperatures are more moderate and there is less rain. As an equatorial country with a rich primate habitat, rain can be expected daily, but that’s one of the reasons this country is so green and verdant!


Rwanda has a temperate tropical highland climate due to its high elevation.  Most of the country is located on a plateau, around 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level, so for most of the year, and despite being just south of the Equator, Rwanda enjoys pleasantly warm day temperatures and cool nights all year round! In November, for instance, daily high temperatures are around 25°C (78°F), rarely falling below 25°C (73°F) or exceeding 28°C (83°F). 


The most common forms of local transportation are moto-taxis and buses, though most tourists get around the country on small or private tours that often use minivans and sedans. On Joyful Vegan Trips, we work with Amahoro Tours, our partners on the ground, to transport us around in landrovers since we go to national parks (to visit the mountain gorillas and the chimpanzees), and the terrain requires more rugged vehicles. We have become friends with some of the drivers, and we look forward to seeing them whenever we visit.


WATER: Tap water is NON-DRINKABLE in Rwanda. For this reason, bottled water is recommended. On our Joyful Vegan Trips, to cut down on plastic water bottle usage, we have large several-gallon water containers in all our vehicles so our travelers can fill up their reusable bottles. 

ELECTRICITY: In Rwanda, the power plugs and sockets are of type C and J. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. 

WIFI: Internet reliability is generally good in Rwanda. All hotels have WIFI. On our trips, we provide WIFI on board all our vehicles, though connectivity and speeds vary while we’re driving through the countryside.


The country has four official languages: Kinyarwanda, English, French, and Swahili. You will do just fine speaking English here, but as a visitor to any country, it’s nice to learn a few courtesy words and phrases. 


Rwanda currently requests Covid tests before entering any national park, of which we will visit 2 (Nyungwe National Forest and Volcanoes National Park), and prior to departure from the country. 


There are no mandatory vaccinations required to enter Rwanda, though according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following vaccinations are recommended for Rwanda: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever and rabies. Other recommended vaccines include meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and influenza. Most of these vaccines last for several years; some need boosting after a few. Just check with your medical professional. 


Malaria is endemic in Rwanda. Antimalarials are the best protection against infection. Be sure to use mosquito repellents as a second barrier against the disease. Like with the above vaccines, it’s up to the individual traveler whether or not you want to take any anti-malaria medication, and again, it’s a good idea to consult your medical professional. 


I have lots to share about the food in Rwanda, and of course on our trips, we ensure our travelers are spoiled with incredible cuisine, but the short answer is Rwanda is incredibly vegan-friendly. I often quip that everyone says they don’t eat a lot of meat, dairy, and eggs, but in Rwanda, it’s actually true. Most Rwandans don’t eat meat more than a few times a month (and when they do, it’s a small amount), and the typical diet consists of sweet potatoes, beans, corn, peas, millet and fruit. Of course, in a cosmopolitan city such as Kigali, international cuisine abounds.  

More soon on the food, gorillas, national parks, conservation, and so much more! Ask your questions below, and I’ll be sure to address them!

Vegan Hanukkah Menu

The bad news is The Vegan Table is officially out of print. (Once the remaining copies are sold, it is not being reprinted). 14 years is a good run, I suppose.

The good news is the copyright to my own recipes have been reverted back to me, so I can create recipe bundles such as my new VEGAN HANUKKAH MENU. I plan on making lots of such bundles, including one for Thanksgiving and one for the winter holidays — and many more.

The delicious, traditional recipes in the VEGAN HANUKKAH MENU bundle were specially chosen to create the perfect Hanukkah menu for you, your family, and your loved ones. 

*Potato Latkes
*Cashew Sour Cream
*Matzoh Ball Soup
*Old-Fashioned Lentil Loaf
*Noodle Kugel
*Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Apples
*Hanukkah Cut-Out Cookies
*Royal Icing



Are Elephants Vegan? (No, They Are Not.)

How do we talk about the way we eat? Looking at the wonderful world of words related to eating based on physiology, I share my thoughts about why elephants aren’t vegan, why vegans aren’t herbivores, and why your meat-eating friends aren’t carnivores. 


Includes delicious plant-based recipes and a meal plan!

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