It's officially time to start crafting your holiday menu. Whether you're preparing for a Thanksgiving feast, looking ahead to Christmas, or are simply enjoying the traditional dishes of the season, everyone can agree that food is central to the holidays.
A whopping 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten for Thanksgiving, and 122 pounds of eggnog are consumed every holiday season. But which holiday recipes reigned supreme? In our latest report, the Brightly team studied past Google search data to determine the most popular holiday dish in every state.
Certain regions had unique holiday favorites. Midwest states, Indiana and Michigan, are fans of Buckeyes—peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. Chess Pie (a custard pie with a crisp, browned topping) came out on top in Tennessee, and Pozole (a traditional Mexican stew) was the top search in New Mexico. There were also plenty of traditional favorites all around, with the most popular being pecan pie and sugar cookies.
As much as we all love to leave the holiday dinner table feeling stuffed, having a countless number of dishes creates a lot of food waste—and even more carbon emissions. For example, livestock alone accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions every year—the same amount as the emissions from all transportation methods (cars, airplanes, ships, and beyond) combined.
Luckily, you don't need to give up any of your favorite holiday recipes in order to make your menu more sustainable. Instead, consider making some planet-friendly swaps. Maybe that's using plant-based milk instead of cow's milk in your mashed potatoes. Or, cutting red meat and opting for a more sustainable meat option or vegan protein instead.
Every step, no matter how small, makes a difference. That's why we're sharing inspiration on how to make each of these top holiday recipes a little more eco-friendly. From dairy-free pies to mouth-watering mushroom steaks, you'll find everything you need to reduce your carbon footprint this holiday season.
The Brightly team studied Google search data from November and December 2020 for each of the 50 U.S. States. Using that data, we determined the most popular holiday dish in every state. Keep reading to see the most popular holiday recipe in your state—and learn how to give it a planet-friendly boost.
The Most Popular Holiday Dish in Every State
1. Alabama: Eggnog
Recipe to Try: Easy Vegan Eggnog
Since animal products have a hefty environmental footprint, swapping in plant-based ingredients can benefit the planet. A single egg requires 50 gallons of water to produce, and cow's milk produces three times more carbon emissions than any non-dairy alternative.
Luckily, you can make eggnog without dairy and eggs. This plant-based version is still just as creamy and delicious thanks to blending coconut milk, maple syrup, and plenty of warming spices.
2. Alaska: Pumpkin Pie
Recipe to Try: Vegan Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie is a classic holiday dish, and this version is ridiculously easy to make. Put all your ingredients in a blender—including coconut cream, pumpkin purée, and spices—then pour the mix into a pie crust. It's also a great way to use leftover pumpkin you have on hand from other holiday festivities.
3. Arizona: Standing Rib Roast
Recipe to Try: Seitan Jackfruit Ribs
Beef is one of the worst types of meat for the planet, producing twice the emissions of pork and four times the emissions of chicken. Opt for a more sustainable meat option, like turkey or chicken that has "Certified Humane" or "Animal Welfare Approved" labels. Or, try something entirely different, like these juicy ribs made from jackfruit.
4. Arkansas: Fudge
Recipe to Try: Vegan Chocolate Fudge
Traditional fudge is made using ingredients like milk and butter. Go the eco-friendly route with this recipe that swaps in plant-based alternatives. You can even go an extra step by opting for Fair Trade chocolate, which ensures products are produced under strict social, environmental, and economic standards that benefit people and the planet.
5. California: Cranberry Sauce
Recipe to Try: Cranberry Sauce Recipe
The great thing about cranberry sauce is that it's already very eco-friendly. This homemade option only requires four ingredients: fresh cranberries (opt for organic to cut down on pesticide use, which is harmful to bee populations), maple syrup, juice from an orange, and water.
6. Colorado: Pecan Pie
Recipe to Try: The Best Vegan Pecan Pie
Typical pecan pies include a filling made with eggs and butter. The crust may also contain lard, which is 100% animal fat. Despite this line-up, it's really easy to give the classic holiday dessert a planet-friendly twist. This recipe, for instance, uses tofu—a plant-based protein that can transform into pretty much anything.
7. Connecticut: Ham
Recipe to Try: Vegan Seitan Ham
Pork is one of the worst types of meat for the planet, right above beef and lamb, generating 12.1 kilos of CO2 per kilo consumed. Instead of ham, swap in a more sustainable meat option, like turkey or chicken with "Certified Humane" or "Animal Welfare Approved" logos. Or, try something new, like this ham made from seitan—a vegan meat substitute made using vital wheat gluten.
8. Delaware: Stuffing
Don't toss out your veggie scraps! Instead, use them to make a veggie broth that flavors this stuffing. Paired with sourdough bread, vegan butter, celery, garlic, and some warming spices, you'll have the ultimate side for your holiday meal.
9. Florida: Coquito
Recipe to Try: Easy Vegan Coquito
Coquito—which means "little coconut" in Spanish—is a traditional holiday drink similar to eggnog. The typical recipe contains ingredients like sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, and eggs. You can make it more planet-friendly (without losing its creaminess!) by using a mix of evaporated coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut condensed milk, and plant milk.
10. Georgia: Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe to Try: Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole
One of the best parts of sweet potato casserole is the melty marshmallows on top. The dish is also made with a lot of butter. To make it more eco-friendly, swap in almond butter for butter and use vegan marshmallows on top. Unlike the real deal, they're not made of gelatin—an ingredient that comes from the bones, skin, and connective tissues of cows and pigs.
11. Hawaii: Prime Rib
Recipe to Try: Vegan Prime Rib with Mushroom Au Jus
If you want a creative way to cut down on your meat consumption, try this juicy vegan prime rib. This version is made with a mix of vital wheat gluten, liquid, and mushrooms, giving it a great flavor and texture. The best part, though? The mouth-watering au jus. Typical au jus is made with beef fat drippings, but this mushroom version is just as flavorful.
12. Idaho: Standing Rib Roast
Recipe to Try: Juicy Grilled Portobello Mushroom Steaks
If you've yet to try a portobello mushroom steak, this recipe won't disappoint. They offer a meaty texture, minus the meat. The flavor is also on-point with the simple marinade made from balsamic vinegar, olive oil, tamari sauce, garlic, and cayenne pepper.
13. Illinois: Sugar Cookies
Recipe to Try: Perfect Vegan Sugar Cookies
Sugar cookies are a seasonal staple. Once you have the perfect recipe, you can use it to create festively decorated treats for every holiday. This dough doesn't require eggs. Instead, the recipe uses a vegan egg made with ground chia or ground flax.
14. Indiana: Buckeyes
Recipe to Try: Vegan Buckeyes
Have you ever heard of Buckeyes? The peanut butter and chocolate treats are made to resemble the nuts that grow on buckeye trees. While it's the state tree of Ohio, many Midwest states love these homemade candies. You can make them more planet-friendly by opting for Fair Trade, dairy-free dark chocolate over typical store-bought milk chocolate.
15. Iowa: Puppy Chow
Recipe to Try: Vegan Puppy Chow
Puppy Chow—a Midwest favorite that combines Chex cereal, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and powdered sugar is always a crowd-pleaser. If you bring a bowl to a holiday party, you're bound to find nothing but crumbs by the end of the night. You can make the dessert more eco-friendly by using Fair Trade, dairy-free dark chocolate over typical milk chocolate.
16. Kansas: Fudge
Recipe to Try: Peppermint Chocolate Fudge Balls
This year, switch up your traditional fudge recipe with this peppermint ball option. To make them, simply form dough balls from ingredients like gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, vanilla, and maple syrup. Then, roll them in a crunchy peppermint candy coating.
17. Kentucky: Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe to Try: Classic Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole
This sweet potato casserole isn't just delicious and eco-friendly—it's also lighter than traditional recipes. The casserole is made with sweet potatoes, non-dairy milk, vegan butter, brown sugar, and spices. Then the sweet pecan topping brings everything together.
18. Louisiana: Pecan Pie
Recipe to Try: Pecan Pie Energy Bites
If you want a pecan pie recipe you can snack on all day long, try these energy bites. It's all the flavor you know and love, rolled into bite-size balls. Better yet, the only ingredients you need are oats, pecans, dates, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt.
19. Maine: Fudge
Recipe to Try: Creamy Vegan Chocolate Fudge Pops
Sure, regular fudge is great. But when's the last time you had fudge pops? This version makes for the perfect post-meal snack and uses all plant-based ingredients. Each is also dipped into a chocolate coating, taking the flavor to the next level. Opt for vegan, Fair Trade chocolate to make them even more planet-friendly.
20. Maryland: Eggnog
Recipe to Try: Vegan Eggnog Cheesecake
Eggnog… but make it a cheesecake. This unique holiday recipe is so decadent you'd never guess it's both dairy- and egg-free. Instead, it's made with ingredients like cashews, coconut milk, and maple syrup.
21. Massachusetts: Mashed Potatoes
Recipe to Try: Vegan Mashed Potatoes
This vegan alternative to traditional mashed potatoes is made up of potatoes, almond milk, vegan cream cheese, and vegan butter. If you want to add even more flavor, consider garnishing with roasted garlic, caramelized onions, or even freshly-chopped chives.
22. Michigan: Buckeyes
Recipe to Try: Vegan Buckeye Brownies
It doesn't get much better than peanut butter and chocolate. Unless it's a planet-friendly version of the pair, of course! Instead of making traditional Buckeye candies, try these Buckeye Brownies. There's no eggs or dairy needed. Also, opt for Fair Trade chocolate.
23. Minnesota: Beef Tenderloin
Recipe to Try: Vegan Roast Beef
Plant-based roast beef? It might sound crazy, but it's completely possible—and it's truly mouth-watering. Using wheat gluten and veggie stock, you can make a planet-friendly roast the whole family will love.
24. Mississippi: Turkey
Recipe to Try: Vegan Turkey Roast
When we think of Thanksgiving dinner, we think of turkey. While turkey is one of the more sustainable meats, cooking a 16-pound turkey still emits about 32 pounds of carbon dioxide, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. So why not give this roast a try that's made up of chickpeas and wheat gluten?
25. Missouri: Pecan Pie
Recipe to Try: Vegan Pecan Pie Bars
Everything is more fun when it's bite-sized, including pie. Using maple syrup, plant milk, and vegan butter, you can turn a fall classic into a delicious vegan dessert.
26. Montana: Pumpkin Pie
Recipe to Try: Vegan Pumpkin Pie Bars
This year, enjoy your beloved pumpkin pie in bar-form. This recipe put an eco-friendly spin on the classic holiday dessert using non-dairy alternatives.
27. Nebraska: Stuffing
Recipe to Try: Plant-Based Stuffing
Packed with vegetables, herbs, and spices, this plant-based stuffing is the perfect planet-friendly side dish. Topped with apples, it blends sweet and savory. And the bread, oats, and nuts provide many layers of texture.
28. Nevada: Mashed Potatoes
Recipe to Try: Garlic Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes without the potatoes? This recipe uses leftover cauliflower to imitate super-creamy mashed potatoes (and cut down on food waste!). As an added bonus, it cooks in an Instant Pot, so it's a perfect low-maintenance side dish. Not into cauliflower? Go with regular potatoes and use non-dairy milk and butter.
29. New Hampshire: Ham
Recipe to Try: Maple-Glazed Holiday Vegan Ham
Everything you need to know about this ham is in the name. Made with seitan, this mouthwatering, maple-glazed ham is topped with caramelized pineapple and oranges.
30. New Jersey: Cranberry Sauce
Recipe to Try: Homemade Cranberry Sauce
It's not hard to make planet-friendly cranberry sauce, because it's already super sustainable! This homemade recipe is a holiday classic. It's loaded with sweetness, and a pinch of cinnamon gives it an additional festive touch.
31. New Mexico: Pozole
Recipe to Try: Plant-Based Southwestern Pozole
Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup that's rich in flavor. Typical recipes are made with meat, but this one swaps in plant-based chicken for an eco-friendly boost. Made with chile peppers and spiced with cumin and coriander, it's the perfect dish to warm with this holiday season.
32. New York: Green Bean Casserole
Recipe to Try: Traditional Vegan Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole is already mostly plant-based. By substituting dairy for a plant-based alternative, you'll instantly have a more planet-friendly version of this holiday classic.
33. North Carolina: Cranberry Sauce
Recipe to Try: Cranberry Barbeque Sauce
Everyone loves a holiday classic, but there's nothing like a fresh take on a traditional dish. Instead of eating cranberry sauce plain, why not incorporate it into a new dish? This recipe for vegan meatballs includes a barbeque cranberry sauce that will pair perfectly with your holiday spread.
34. North Dakota: Sugar Cookies
These cookies are simple, delicious, and fun to decorate! Better yet: They're made using only planet-friendly ingredients, swapping dairy for plant-based alternatives.
35. Ohio: Green Bean Casserole
Recipe to Try: Green Bean Casserole with Cauliflower Sauce
If you're looking to spice up your holiday favorites, this green bean casserole is exactly what you need. It replaces the traditional mushroom cream sauce with a non-dairy cauliflower sauce that's just as decadent.
36. Oklahoma: Green Bean Casserole
Recipe to Try: Vegan Green Bean Casserole
Yep, green bean casserole is a popular holiday dish. This recipe calls for mushrooms, garlic, and a homemade sauce made with almond milk instead of condensed dairy milk.
37. Oregon: Standing Short Rib
Recipe to Try: Vegan BBQ Short Ribs
Animal agriculture has both a large water and carbon footprint. To decrease these footprints, try a vegan alternative to your favorite short rib recipe. These ribs are tender and delicious, and you may even like them more than traditional short ribs.
38. Pennsylvania: Sugar Cookies
Sugar cookies are deliciously sweet, and they're really easy to swap in eco-friendly ingredients. Instead of eggs, this recipe uses applesauce to add moisture.
39. Rhode Island: Gingerbread
Recipe to Try: Vegan Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread cookies are the perfect holiday dessert, and you can even use them as fun, edible decorations for your table or tree! This recipe uses alternatives like vegan butter (or coconut oil), so it's both delicious and planet-friendly.
40. South Carolina: Stuffing
Many stuffing recipes have been passed down for generations, most of which include animal products. However, you can start a new tradition with this totally vegan stuffing that's loaded with flavor thanks to mushrooms, onions, garlic, and plenty of herbs.
41. South Dakota: Muffins
Recipe to Try: Sweet Vegan Cornbread Muffins
There are so many options when it comes to muffins. This vegan cornbread version makes for a great holiday side, opting for vegan butter alternatives and almond milk over dairy ingredients. Plus, there's a twist: The recipe also incorporates maple syrup for added sweetness.
42. Tennessee: Chess Pie
Recipe to Try: Vegan Chocolate Chess Pie
Most Chess Pie recipes call for eggs, but not this one. Instead, cornstarch helps keep everything together. The filling is also totally plant-based, using unsalted vegan butter and almond milk.
43. Texas: Gingerbread
Recipe to Try: Vegan Gingerbread House
Building gingerbread houses is a great way to have a friendly competition between friends and family. Now, you can make your houses more eco-friendly by switching up the icing. This recipe uses aquafaba from chickpeas, so no heavy cream or dairy is necessary.
44. Utah: Turkey
Recipe to Try: Country Fried, Crispy Tofu Turkey
While turkey tends to be a more sustainable option than beef or pork, plant-based foods will always be better for the planet than animal products. If you're looking for a plant-based alternative this Thanksgiving, try this crispy fried tofu that's sure to be a crowd pleaser.
45. Vermont: Sugar Cookies
Recipe to Try: Vegan Confetti Sugar Cookies
Who doesn't love confetti sugar cookies? This recipe is crispy, chewy, and delicious, all without using any eggs or milk. Instead, it uses aquafaba, dairy-free butter, vanilla, and a handful of other ingredients.
46. Virginia: Gingerbread
Recipe to Try: Vegan Gingerbread Cake Bars
Instead of making gingerbread cookies or houses, try something new: gingerbread cake bars, perhaps? These cake bars are gluten-free, oil-free, and sugar-free, and they require a secret ingredient: yellow squash. They're easy to make, and you can even add frosting on top.
47. Washington: Pecan Pie
Recipe to Try: Mini Vegan Pecan Pies
These pecan pies are bite-sized and perfect for snacking! You can use cookie cutters to cut out the size of your pie crust, and once the recipe is complete, feel free to add dairy-free whipped cream on top. These mini pies are both eco-friendly and family-friendly, so you'll definitely want to share them.
48. West Virginia: Fudge
Recipe to Try: Dairy-Free and Vegan Fudge
Fudge is surprisingly easy to make, and believe it or not, vegan fudge is even easier. This holiday recipe recommends using vegan butter and any non-dairy milk of your choice. If you love chocolate, feel free to add vegan chocolate chips instead of walnuts to the mix. Even better if the chocolate is Fair Trade.
49. Wisconsin: Pecan Pie
Recipe to Try: 6-Ingredient Vegan Pecan Pie Cookies
Yes, these cookies only require six ingredients. You'll need rolled oats, pecans, ground flaxseed, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and vanilla extract. To top it off, pick any dairy-free icing, whipped cream, or even ice cream of your choice.
50. Wyoming: Sugar Cookies
Recipe to Try: Vegan Candy Cane Sugar Cookies
We've listed plenty of sugar cookie recipes, but there's one more that's worth trying: candy cane sugar cookies. If you love peppermint, you'll love these cookies. They're also eggless, which is great because egg production emits greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. By eliminating eggs in this recipe, you're decreasing your carbon footprint.