You may not think of pot pies when it comes to holiday entrées, but maybe you should start. Pot pies may bring up pictures of frozen dinners, comfort foods, and great things to eat in front of the television but with a few twists, you can make a pot pie fit to grace your holiday table. In fact, in the time of the Roman Empire, pot pies were served at banquets and during the Elizabethan era, they were decorated with flowers and heraldic devices to show off the chef’s skill in the royal households of France and England.

Of course, pot pies are also great ways to use up leftovers and clean out the fridge. Either way, holiday dinners are all about family, friends, and having fun while eating delicious food. Nothing says “home” like a warm, steaming pot pie with a crispy crust and that gravy. Here are some tips and tricks that can turn this unappreciated dish into a holiday feast.

1. Pick a Size

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Most of us think of pot pies as small individual dishes served in ramekins, but if you think about it, pot pies are just mini-casseroles. You can choose to make individually-sized pot pies which are cute, like these Coconut Curry Pot Pies. On the other hand, if you’re having a lot of guests, you may not even have enough ramekins to make individual pot pies. In that case, just make one large one, like this Pueblo Corn Pie or this Tofu Pot Pie Casserole.

2. Use Festive Fillings

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One of the great things about pot pies is that you can use pretty much anything as filling. That means you can use all fresh ingredients, leftovers, or clean out the fridge. To make pot pies for the holidays, just think about the dishes you usually serve for special occasions and turn them into pot pie ingredients. Cut up any of the Best Meatless Turkey Alternatives for Thanksgiving, this Seitan Roast With Sausage and Pear Stuffing and Apple Cider Gravy, the Unturkey Roast, or my Gluten-Free Vegan Turkey Cutlets to add a “meaty” component to the dish.

Use sweet potatoes or yams instead of plain white potatoes. Choose seasonal veggies like squash, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, and green beans. Add some tartness with cranberries, sweetness with apples, and savory chewiness with chestnuts. Use savory mushrooms and root veggies, as in this Mushroom and Parsnip Pot Pie. You can even add stuffing to the mix. Try it with any of these 15 Amazing Recipes for Stuffing.

3. Go “Meaty”

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Traditional pot pies are filled with meat. No worries, we can make “meaty” meat-free versions. If you want your pot pie to be chicken-like, try cutting up some of this Tofu “Chicken or Fried “Chicken.” You can also use any of the store-bought vegan “chicken” alternatives available, as in this Chicken-less Pot Pie Soup. Tofu adds the “meat” to this Indian Tikka Masala Pot Pie. Go “beefy” by cutting up this Stuffed Seitan Roast, Homemade Simmered Seitan, Seitan Pot Roast, or Chick’n-Style Seitan Cutlets. Kick up the spices by adding Homemade Andouille Sausage, Homemade Spicy Italian Sausage, and Homemade Chorizo Crumble.

4. Go Veggie

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Of course, you can keep your pot pies veggie-centric. There are so many veggies to choose from – carrots, celery, onion, leeks, peas, squash, mushrooms, root vegetables, corn – to name just a few.  These Easy Veggie Pot Pies have potatoes, peas, corn, mushrooms and broccoli while these Parsnip and Mushroom Pot Pies celebrate root veggies. While it’s technically a fruit, this Jackfruit Pot Pie uses savory jackfruit and lots of other veggies to make a hearty, creamy, and delicious filling.

5. Precook the Ingredients

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One of the challenges of making pot pies is having everything cooked at the same time. Since vegan pot pies are mostly veggies, which all have different cooking times, it’s better to precook the veggies. I make the entire filling in advance so by the time the pot pies go into the oven, it’s only the crust that needs to cook. If you don’t want to make the whole filling in advance, try precooking the ingredients that would take the longest like potatoes, root veggies, and squash. You can also premake the gravy and the crust. When it’s time to assemble the pot pies, just reheat the filling and gravy and let the crust come to room temperature. Simple!

6. Amp Up the Gravy

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Mmmm…gravy. Who doesn’t love gravy that’s rich, thick, and luxurious? No one I know. In my article 7 of Your Favorite Sauces Made Vegan, I explain how to make brown, white, and mushroom gravy. You can also try this Easy Mushroom Gravy, Thanksgiving Gravy, and Savory Mushroom Gravy. You can also try making a different type of gravy than what you usually make. This Beer Broth Veggie Pot Pie uses beer in the gravy while this Curry Gravy Pot Pie has a bit of kick from curry powder.

7. The Big Top

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When it comes to the top of your pot pies, you have lots of options. The traditional top is a pie crust which you can buy ready-made like this Curry Gravy Pot Pie or make it yourself. Read How to Make Perfect Homemade Dairy-Free Pie Crust for Your Holiday Pies to learn how easy it is to make your own, sweet, or savory. These Easy Veggie Pot Pies have a gluten-free crust made with amaranth and white rice flour.

Puff pastry is another option. These Parsnip and Mushroom Pot Pies use puff pastry as do these Coconut Curry Pot Pies. Again, you can buy dairy-fee and egg-free puff pastry or learn How to Make Palm-Oil Free Puff Pastry yourself and use it to make these Jackfruit Pot Pies and this Hearty Winter Curry Pie. Phyllo dough is yet another option. That’s what makes the flaky top of this Tofu Pot Pie Casserole. If you’re not up to making a pie crust, try topping your pot pie with biscuits. That’s my favorite way to do it. This Minestrone Pot Pie With Biscuit Topping uses homemade biscuits. Get a lot more biscuit recipes in Soak Up the Goodness of These 15 Recipes for Vegan Biscuits and Gravy.

If you want to stay totally grain-free, try using veggies to make the top, like these Black Bean Chili Pot Pies With Cumin Sweet Potato Crust. My Shepherd’s Pot Pie with Tofu has a mashed potato topping so it’s a cross between a shepherd’s pie and a pot pie.

Pot pies may be one of the ultimate comfort foods but with a few twists and these tips and tricks, they can also be perfect for the holidays.

Lead image source Jackfruit Pot Pie