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As someone who lives in Finland, I’m used to the fact that the centerpiece of the Christmas table is usually a huge Christmas ham, though some people prefer turkey. On the side, we usually eat lots of different fish and roe. Liver paste is also a traditional Finnish Christmas food, as well as Karelian hot pot. Sounds delicious, right? Too bad I don’t eat any of these since I’m a vegetarian.

I stopped eating meat about seven years ago. At the time no one in my family was a vegetarian, nor did I know anyone who was. My parents actually disapproved of me going vegetarian. I didn’t really know anything about vegetarian cooking and ate very simple food for quite a while (side note: don’t be me, make sure you get all the nutrients you need!). Christmases were especially bland and while everyone else was having a feast, I was munching on my potatoes and salad. But as I learned more about vegetarian cooking, I realized it doesn’t have to be that way. Christmas by Christmas I started adding new vegetarian dishes to the table. Thinking back to last Christmas, I can honestly say that in my opinion, I had the best dishes on the table out of anyone.

So, without further ado, here are three of my favorite substitutes for traditional Finnish Christmas dishes. These are actually all vegan so whether you’re a vegan, a vegetarian or just want to try something new, these are for you!

Tofu ham

You’ll need:

Marinade:

½ dl olive oil

½ dl tamari

½ dl maple syrup

2 tbsp liquid smoke

½ dl brown sugar

2 tbsp garlic powder

2 tbsp onion powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

Tofu:

400g of firm tofu

8 orange slices

15-20 whole cloves

Sauce:

1 ¼ dl orange juice

2 tbsp apricot jam

1 tbsp whiskey

2 tbsp brown sugar

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp smoked salt

¼ tsp black pepper

  1. Press the tofu for about half an hour
  2. Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Add the tofu and marinate it in the fridge for about 24 hours.
  3. Heat the oven to 175 degrees (celsius).
  4. Spread the orange slices to the bottom of a baking dish. Place the tofu on top. Cut shallow slices to the surface of the tofu and place the gloves on the slices.
  5. Spoon the marinade on top of the tofu and bake for about an hour.
  6. For the sauce, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes or until it thickens.
  7. When the tofu has been cooking for an hour, remove it from the oven and glaze it with the sauce. Keep baking for another 20 minutes.

(Recipe by chocochili: https://chocochili.net/2017/11/glaseerattu-tofukinkku/)

Porkkala or carrot lox

You’ll need:

Lax:

4 large carrots

600g of coarse sea salt

Marinade:

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 tbsp neutral oil

(1 tsp kelp powder)

  1. Wash the carrots (but do not peel them).
  2. Spread a layer of sea salt at the bottom of a baking dish and add the carrots on top. Add the rest of the sea salt so the carrots are completely covered. Heat the oven to 175 degrees (celsius) and bake the carrots for about 1.5 hours. Separate the carrots from the salt and let them cool down for a moment.
  3. Peel the carrots and cut them into long, wide stripes (use a cheese slicer or something similar).
  4. Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Add the carrots and let them marinate in the fridge for 1-2 days.
  5. Serve with fresh dill

(Recipe by chocochili: https://chocochili.net/2016/12/porkkanalohi/

Eggplant herring

You’ll need:

1 eggplant

2 dl oat or soy cream

1 dl vegan mayo

3 tbsp mustard

2 tsp vinegar

¼ tsp white pepper

1 dl fresh dill (cut into small pieces)

1 dl chives (cut into small pieces)

a dash of salt

  1. Cut the eggplant into bite-size pieces.
  2. Bring some salted water to a boil. Boil the eggplant pieces for about 5 minutes. Strain.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together and add the eggplant. The “herring” is tastiest when the eggplant has had some time to marinate.

(Recipe by Jasmin Raitakari: https://www.meillakotona.fi/reseptit/vegaaninen-silli)

Hope you’ll get inspired to treat yourself and your loved ones to the delicious plant-based dishes!

Lotta Nieminen

Helsinki '24

I study social science and when I don't I really like to look at butterflies, take naps and think about how I'm going to make the world a better place some day.
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