Ten Vegan Comfort Food Dishes to Help Welcome Fall

The pumpkin pasta at City, O' City is an annual fall tradition.
The pumpkin pasta at City, O' City is an annual fall tradition. City, O' City
Cooler temperatures and shorter days have us craving comfort food — those warm, hearty, classic dishes that really stick to our ribs. Since today is World Vegetarian Day — and the first day of Vegetarian Month — here are ten great vegan comfort-food dishes in Denver to combat the short days and chilly nights of fall. These plant-based dishes prove you don’t need meat or dairy to have a super-satisfying meal.

click to enlarge WATERCOURSE FOODS
Watercourse Foods
Big Rig at Watercourse Foods
837 East 17th Avenue

The menu at Denver's most well-known vegan restaurant almost entirely comprises comfort food, from nachos and wings to burgers and a Buffalo tempeh sandwich. But for the ultimate in Southern comfort, order the Big Rig, the restaurant’s take on chicken fried steak. A hearty slab of country-fried seitan smothered in savory gravy is served alongside scrambled tofu and a down-home biscuit.

Enchiladas at Tarasco’s New Latino Cuisine
470 South Federal Boulevard

Tarasco’s is one of the city's top destinations for authentic Mexican cooking with a focus on the food of Michoacán, but the eatery is also known to Denver's vegan community as a hidden gem for meatless dishes.  Vegan options are clearly marked on the menu, including two types of enchiladas that warm the soul, even when you ditch the cheese. Enchiladas de champiñones are loaded with grilled mushrooms, cabbage and red guajillo and green tomatillo salsas, while the enchiladas de calabacitas get their flavor from grilled zucchini and tomatillo sauce.

Pumpkin Pasta at City, O’ City
206 East 13th Avenue

With burgers, pizza and plenty of other little gems (like the fried ravioli with pesto dipping sauce), it’s easy to find comfort in whatever form you're craving it at City, O’ City. But the pumpkin curry pasta is the quintessential fall food, made with penne pasta, roasted asparagus, cauliflower and zucchini, all tossed in a creamy pumpkin-curry sauce and finished with chives and yogurt. You won't even think about pumpkin-spice lattes once you've had a taste of this satisfying dish.

click to enlarge META BURGER
Meta Burger
Chili Cheese Fries at Meta Burger
7950 East Mississippi Avenue

Meta Burger is a completely vegan fast-food spot with an affordable, simple menu of burgers, hot dogs, sides and shakes. The chili cheese fries might be listed as a side, but they could take the place of a meal any day. Waffle-cut fries are loaded with homemade Coney Island-style chili and a nacho cheese sauce. The creamy sauce is made from cashews and veggies, and the chili is made from an organic, non-GMO soy product.

Mac-n-Cheese at Sputnik
3 South Broadway

Sputnik offers an entire vegan menu with everyone's favorites: corn dogs, fried pickle chips, Cubanos and Philly cheesesteaks reinvented for those who don't eat meat. But the creamy mac-n-cheese is a must here. The faux-cheese sauce is actually made from puréed veggies, including carrots, potatoes, peppers and celery, along with turmeric and spices. Rich and creamy, this mac stands up surprisingly well to the non-vegan standard, making it a Denver classic for the plant-based community.

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Kristen Kuchar is a Colorado writer covering craft beer, food and travel. For Westword, she explores vegan dining and the state's artisan beverages, such as cider and mead.