Navigating and planning the menus during the holiday season but when you add in someone who is vegan? It can throw a wrench in your plans and cause stress that honestly none of us need.
I’ve been a vegan for years now and I’m all about making things easier while also streamlining menus so that you don’t have to work harder to make sure that everyone at your table can enjoy your labors. Here are a few of my favorite tricks, some simple menu ideas that everyone, even those who love meat, will enjoy, and my top suggestions for loving your vegans this holiday season.
Tricks for the tricky dietary considerations
Ask those invited to your home if there are any dietary considerations that you need to be aware of.
This allows for open communication and even creates a dialog for you to ask questions. Do your vegan friends/family eat honey? Are they planning on bringing a dish to share? Are there any must-haves that they love to use that they can recommend to you? By asking the question up front, you can plan and no one feels singled out for being ‘difficult’.
Don’t just serve your vegans a salad or veggie tray.
Look, I love a salad as much as the next gal but I don’t want to fill my plate with leaves while everyone else has thoughtfully prepared dishes. Mix things up and make sure that those who follow a vegan lifestyle can have a diverse plate as well. The easiest way to do this? Make the majority of the sides you’re offering vegan! Sometimes it is as simple as swapping broths, not using butter, or omitting an ingredient.
Read the ingredient labels.
If you’re shopping and think something is vegan, please read the ingredient labels. Not all items have a vegan logo on them and there are some ingredients that are sneaky (I’m looking at you, dairy). When in doubt, a quick google search can typically help in figuring out if the item in question is vegan. If you’re catering, this is also important because ingredients like animal-based broths are used in dishes that you wouldn’t expect, and seasonings can have milk powder in them. If your vegan friend is drinking alcohol, ask them what brands they enjoy since not all alcohol is vegan-friendly.
Menu ideas that even your steak fans will love
Roasted vegetables like these are one of my favorite crowd-pleasers.
They’re simple, easy on the budget, and great to make in bulk. I love a mix of brussels sprouts, kombucha squash, carrots, and fingerling/baby potatoes. You can tailor the seasonings to match the vibe of your dinner and its low stress. My son loves helping make these. He gets so excited to cut the vegetables and to mix them before scattering them on the baking sheet!
Tofu and Eggplant are the perfect budget meaty ingredients that can satisfy any palate.
Tofu, typically, is found to be intimidating to those who aren’t familiar with it but it is this magical, wonderful deliciousness that takes on whatever flavor is around it. This caramelized tofu and eggplant dish is quick, super comforting on a cold day, and is that perfect umami bite. Omit the fish sauce and you’ve got a complete vegan dish!
Serve a soup!
Thick soups like butternut squash soup or even a quick curry can be great starters and travel well should your guests want to take home leftovers! We love a white bean stew with kale, a little heat from some chiles, and hearty chunks of onions all simmered in a vegetable broth. Easy, cheap, filling…and my meat-eating family members swear by bean stews.
If you HAVE to have a salad…make it festive!
Use delicata squash, butternut squash, purple yams, or even roasted chickpeas to jazz it up. Skip the iceberg lettuce and reach for kale, mixed greens, or shredded brussels sprouts. Toss it all with a great dressing (Trader Joe’s has some AMAZING vegan dressings, I’m looking at you, Spicy Cashew Butter Dressing), and its a filling, exciting salad.
Loving your vegan friends
The holidays are stressful enough and the last thing anyone wants to do is cause more worry when it comes to being fed. I know firsthand the anxiety that comes with letting people know I’m vegan. From wondering if they’ll take it seriously and make sure that what I’m being served is truly okay for me to eat. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone and so I’ll offer to bring a dish to share or bring the dessert (although if you’re a baker, there are great vegan baking hacks out there that are so easy to incorporate).
Let your vegan friends and family know that you want to make sure they’re included, make sure they know what dishes are vegan and that they aren’t a burden. Accept their help if offered. Don’t make the fact that they’re vegan the center of conversation and don’t let your other guests make it the center of conversation either. Use ingredients that you’re already buying and tweak them to fit everyone at your table.