Thanksgiving in Tartu – Annie (USA)

Crisp air, bare trees… a million deadlines. You know what season it is… THANKSGIVING. As the resident American International Student  Ambassador, I am here to share how to have a (semi) traditional American Thanksgiving in Tartu. 

Thanksgiving, as you may or may not be aware, is a national holiday celebrated in the US, Canada, some Caribbean Islands, and Liberia. While Thanksgiving is celebrated on different days around the world, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. This year, that is November 28th.

Thanksgiving has a vast (and perhaps controversial) history; however, modern conceptualizations of Thanksgiving hinge on themes of celebration and gratitude, and, of course, a massive meal.

To help you prepare your own Thanksgiving here in Estonia, I have two relatively traditional and relatively feasible thanksgiving recipes—

*my recipes use American measuring units, conversions can be found online, and in a worst case scenario you can use 1 (regular) cup or mug as a basis to derive other measurements (everything is rational) 

Cranberry Sauce—

Picture- Jennifer Pallian

Cranberry sauce is the wonderfully sweet ‘glue’ that binds everything together. On turkey, cranberry sauce adds a necessary hint of acidity and moisture. Dolloped on stuffing, cranberry sauce adds a sweet counterpoint to salt. Basically, cranberry sauce makes everything a little more interesting. Unfortunately, it is also the most overlooked part of a Thanksgiving dinner. Usually smashed into a purée and dumped from a can, cranberry sauce is often seen as an afterthought to a Thanksgiving meal… WRONG, we are beyond Bart Simpson’s cranberry sauce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkn2iCXnfLo 

This recipe is so simple and it yields delicious cranberry sauce! 


1 Bag of Cranberries (approximately 1lb)

1 Pear 

1 cup Apple Cider 

1 cup Sugar

2 teaspoons (you can just use a small spoon worth) orange zest

Spices to taste (I use ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, most grocery stores sell packets of gingerbread spice or mulled wine spice, either would work well)


Chop your pear into 1 inch cubes (approximately the size of the top part of your thumb) 

Zest an orange (if you don’t have a zester, carefully use a knife to scrape across the surface of an orange until you get little zesty bits)


Combine cranberries, pear cubes, orange zest, sugar, and your spices in a medium saucepan. 

Stir in the apple cider. 

Heat the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally. Wait until the cranberries burst and the sauce gets thicker, this takes about 15-20 minutes. 

Cranberry sauce is great warm and cold. Throw it in the fridge for a great addition to sandwiches, oatmeal, and pretty much anything, or eat it right away for a delicious treat.

Vegan Stuffing—

Photo Credits: depositphotos

So I know what you’re probably thinking… Thanksgiving isn’t really a vegan friendly holiday. But, just because the focal point is turkey doesn’t mean vegans have to starve. As a vegetarian, I have sat through so many Thanksgivings where all I can enjoy is mashed potatoes. While I love potatoes almost as much as Estonians, a meal of only mashed potatoes gets a little boring. Vegan stuffing is the answer! This vegan stuffing has just as much flavor as a ‘regular’ stuffing, but it accommodates everyone at your Thanksgiving table… and isn’t that part of what Thanksgiving is about?

8 cups of bread (white or wheat) cut into cubes (about a loaf) 

2 tablespoons vegan butter (literally just margarine)

1 yellow onion (chopped into small cubes)

3 celery stalks (chopped) 

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon sage (rosemary also works)

½ teaspoon thyme

2(ish) cups of vegetable stock (you can also buy the powder vegetable stock, but just make sure to mix it prior to making this recipe)


Cut all necessary ingredients and preheat your oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit (apx. 175 Celsius)


Put your bread cubes in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are toasted and firm (not croutons)— I like to drizzle mine with a little olive oil for some extra flavor and moisture— make sure you spread the cubes out so they receive equal heat, and stir/flip the cubes after approximately 10 minutes so they cook evenly.

While your bread is toasting, sauté the onion and celery in vegan butter until the onion is see-through. Add garlic and your spices and continue cooking for another few (~2) minutes. 

After your toast is out of the oven and your veggies are sautéed, mix them together in a large baking dish (think cake). 

Add vegetable stock until the bread is just saturated (not soaking, not bone dry). 

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (~190 Celsius) for 30-40 minutes or until the top looks golden and crunchy. 

ENJOY! Stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving… I mean what isn’t to love? It’s basically flavorful toasty bread!