Don’t panic! Vegans may seem to you like they come from a different planet but really, when it boils down to it, vegans enjoy good food and good company – just like the most hardened carnivore amongst us.
Yes, the vegan diet is somewhat restrictive – no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no honey.
But the important thing to remember is that even when those categories have been excluded, there are still thousands of other delicious food options to choose from.
The choice is yours as to whether you go with a vegan option for all of your guests, or serve something different for those who do not have the same dietary restrictions. If cooking more than one meal option seems a little daunting – why not find a delicious vegan recipe that you and all your guests will enjoy?
It could make things so much easier and you might find a new meal to add to your regular repertoire into the bargain.
The mistake that many people make is to think of Vegan food as an unusual novelty, when in fact almost all of it is simply fresh, wholesome, organic, home-cooked food. In actual fact, nothing is more natural. In contemplating a menu for vegan guests, you my simply find some healthier, tastier, more ethical options for all.
TIPS FOR HOSTING YOUR VEGAN FAMILY & FRIENDS
Regardless of whether you’re cooking vegan food for one or for twenty one, here are a few tips to help make sure your vegan guests will enjoy your dinner party (and you do too):
SALAD IS NOT THE ONLY OPTION
Vegans (like everyone else) get bored of having the same dishes all the time. Salad is, all too often, a fall-back position for vegan guests.
Don’t fall into the salad trap!
There is so much more you could try – options that are better suited to a special occasion or dinner party meal – like the options you’ll find at the end of this article.
That said, innovative salads can find their place in a creative vegan dinner party menu.
Think hot and cold, think sweet and spicy, think unusual combinations that people may not have tried before if you do decide to serve a salad to your vegan guests (or all your guests for that matter).
GATHER GREAT RECIPES FROM VEGAN BLOGGERS
If you are stuck for options, or want something you can craft quickly from what you already have in your cupboard, Google is your friend. Check out vegan blogs and other online sources to find tonnes of ideas and inspiration.
Some guests you may be able to ask for their favorite recipes, others may be more difficult to approach before their arrival. Gather inspiration from conversations with friends – you never know who might give you the most brilliant idea for your vegan dinner.
HEAD TO YOUR LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET
While waiting for inspiration to strike, consider a visit to your local farmer’s market. Not only will you be able to get plenty of fresh, wholesome vegan ingredients there, you may also be able to get organic produce – which is healthier for you and your guests (and often more delicious too).
What is more, choosing fresh, organic local produce is good for the environment. The fewer food miles of local, farm to fork food means a lower carbon footprint and a cleaner conscience.
READ LABELS CAREFULLY – BUT DON’T MICRO-MANAGE
When buying the ingredients for whichever recipe you have decided to make, be sure to read labels carefully to check everything truly is vegan.
But do not worry too much about creating a perfectly balanced meal, or making sure your vegan guest is getting all the nutrients they need – remember, this is just one meal, so don’t micromanage and whatever nutrients your guest may be missing can be supplemented in their next few meals.
There is no need to try to provide enough protein, vitamins and other nutrients all on one plate and no one expects you to do so.
DON’T FORGET DRINKS
When you are planning and buying for your dinner – don’t forget to consider what your vegan friend or relative may want to drink while they are with you.
For example, if you are serving coffee after your meal, you may well want to get in some non-dairy milk for your vegan guests to have in theirs. Alcoholic drinks should also be chosen with vegan guests in mind.
Drinks for vegan guests are sometimes overlooked by non-vegan hosts, so remembering everything will stand you in good stead and make your guests realize that you respect their culinary decisions.
DO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME
A vegan meal need not be any more complex or difficult to make than a vegetarian or meat-eater’s one. But as with any dinner party, it is a good idea to plan ahead as much as possible, and to do as much as you can well before your guests begin to arrive.
As with any dinner party, planning is key to success and choosing a menu that can largely be prepared ahead of time will give you more time and freedom to socialize with your guests on the night.
CREATE A PLEASING ATMOSPHERE FOR YOUR GUESTS
A dinner party, it should be remembered, is about more than just food. Consider how you will decorate your home or your table, and think about creating an ambiance for your guests with lighting, perhaps music and table arrangement.
Vegan or not, your guests will appreciate the amount of effort you have gone to. Think about table dressing to make your dinner party more appealing. Whatever food you produce will look better and can even taste better when all the other elements come together.
“VEGANIZE” YOUR FAVORITE RECIPES
If all else fails and you are truly stuck for what to make for your guests, (or need to change plans at the last minute) you should consider ‘veganising’ a favourite recipe of your own. It is easier than you may imagine to come up with vegan versions of a range of recipes.
HOW TO “VEGANIZE” COMMON INGREDIENTS
While serving meat-substitutes is often considered a bit of a cop out, in a pinch, there are plenty of options along those sorts of lines. You can also find vegan alternatives to other common animal-derived ingredients.
A VEGAN SUBSTITUTE FOR BUTTER
Even when avoiding palm oil for ethical reasons, you will usually still find a range of suitable vegan margarine or spread options in your local shops. In certain contexts, vegetable oils are also an option, while in others nut butters may add an extra complexity of flavour to your recipe.
A VEGAN SUBSTITUTE FOR EGGS
There are several ways to replace eggs where they are called for in a recipe to bind a mixture, such as ground chia seeds or aquafaba. Where eggs are called for to help a cake or similar to rise, baking powder, or bicarbonate of soda & vinegar can sometimes be used in their place.
A VEGAN SUBSTITUTE FOR MILK/ CREAM/ CREAM CHEESE
There are plenty of ways to replace dairy milk for vegans. Soy milk, almond milk, rice milk and oat milk are just some of the options. There are also several vegan alternatives to cream – one of the best and easiest is simply cashews that are soaked and then blended to create a creamy, smooth consistency.
With the addition of a little lemon juice and other flavor enhancers you can also make a cream cheese substitute in this manner.
A VEGAN SUBSTITUTE FOR CHICKEN / MEAT STOCKS
The obvious thing to do when a recipe calls for chicken stock is to simply substitute it for a vegetable stock instead. Another replacement for meaty stocks is a delicious mushroom stock, while soy sauce, miso paste and other such ingredients can also add depth and flavour.
A VEGAN SUBSTITUTE FOR HONEY
True vegans will not eat honey, and many are also trying to avoid processed sugar. Two useful options to use instead of honey in your recipes are agave nectar or maple syrup.
A VEGAN SUBSTITUTE FOR GELATIN
If you want to create a set pudding with gelatin then the vegan alternative is to use agar flakes or agar powder.
Familiarise yourself with vegan restrictions and vegan alternatives and you will always be able to customise a recipe to suit vegan party guests or dinner companions. Remember, you and your other guests might also enjoy a vegan option.
THREE VEGAN MENU IDEAS FOR YOUR DINNER PARTY
To see if we can tempt you to try an entirely vegan meal for all for your next dinner party – or to provide inspiration for your unexpected vegan guests, here are three full menu ideas that can delight meat-eaters and vegans alike:
1. WONDERFUL WINTER WARMER
The perfect recipe for a formal but relaxed, sit down meal with family and friends over the festive season, with strong yet comforting flavors and warming qualities all will enjoy:
- Garlic, Herb & Cashew-Cream-Cheese Crostini
- Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
- Lentil Loaf with Tricolour Hummus and Seasonal Greens
- Cinnamon Apple Strudel & Ginger Vegan Ice Cream
2. MOOD-BOOSTING LUNCH MUNCH
This recipe is ideal if you are having a whole bunch of people over for an informal lunch and want to put everyone in a wonderful mood. Much of it can be prepared ahead of time.
- Penne with a Kale & Basil Pesto, with a Roast Vegetable Medley and a Rainbow Terrine
- Vegan Banoffee Pie
- Banana Bread
3. FANCY FEAST FOR FANCY FOLKS
This is the meal plan for when you want to pull out all the stops and create a haute cuisine masterpiece to wow your dinner guests and leave everyone swooning. Dress to impress, spend hours and hours in the kitchen, and treat your guests to a fine dining experience:
- Tomato Tartlets, Herb Stuffed Mushrooms & Walnut Bites
- Vegan Mushroom Miso “Consommé”
- Spiced Potato Cakes
- Vegan ‘Waldorf Salad’
- Vegan “Hachis Parmentier”
- Vegan Chocolate Soufflé
Of course, you really don’t have to go to all that bother. Nor do you necessarily need to make a special trip to the shops to pick up special “vegan” ingredients.
Good, fresh, whole foods are all you need to create a vegan meal that all your guests can enjoy.
So, whether you cook something up in next to no time, or slave over a hot stove for hours, you should know that there are a wealth of vegan options out there – and these delicious recipes might even convince the most die-hard of meat eaters to restrict their own diet. Vegan food can be for everyone – even if only for one night.
The trick to convincing everyone to enjoy some vegan cuisine (and to providing a delicious meal for vegan guests) is to avoid trying to too closely replicate meat with a direct meat substitute (which will not fool non-vegan visitors).
Instead, play around with the different flavors and textures of vegan cookery to create something even better than the original meat dishes you are taking inspiration from.
Finally, remember not to stress! Vegan guests are likely more nervous than you are about the event. No one likes to think that they are inconveniencing their hosts and vegans are used to people worrying about what they will eat.
If you are in doubt, at the end of the day, it is always better to be honest and ask questions rather than risking making a guest uncomfortable on the night. Engage a vegan in conversation and you will surely discover far more common ground than you imagined. You might even learn something.