You’re having guests over and you learn that one of them is vegan. So what can you do to ensure everyone feels welcome and there’s something vegan at the table?
As a vegan who has been on the receiving end of this situation, I understand this can be a real challenge. You may not feel confident that you understand what your vegan guest can eat and you don’t want to accidentally serve something that doesn’t comply with the vegan diet. Here are a few tips for non-vegans who are hosting vegans at a food-related event.
First off, thanks!
As vegans, we know what it takes to cook a great vegan meal. We remember the challenge of learning how to eliminate dairy, eggs and all animal products from our meals so we really appreciate any steps that our non-vegan friends and family take to make sure we feel included in events. Thank you for caring!
Ask for help
We’re a caring and compassionate group – that’s one of the major reasons we’ve given up animal products! So if you’re cooking a meal and want to ensure we’re included, let us know how we can help. We can bring a vegan side dish, appetizer or dessert. In fact, we’re probably already planning on bringing something as a thank you to the host. It’s no bother. We insist!
Consider adjusting recipes
Vegans don’t eat dairy products, eggs or other animal products like gelatin, chicken stock or honey. If your recipe calls for these products, consider making adjustments. Can you swap butter for olive or another vegetable oil in your vegetable dishes? Swap cow’s milk for unsweetened soy milk? Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Maybe put some potatoes aside for your vegan guest before you mash the full pot with butter and milk – maybe use a vegan butter and non-dairy milk (I recommend an unsweetened soy milk). You get the idea. If you can make these kinds of tweaks to the side dishes, it will make a big difference at the table.
Read the labels
You’d be surprised at the number of foods you regularly eat that are already vegan. Hummus, guacamole, salsa, breads, grain and vegetable dishes … check the ingredients on the food you plan to serve. You may have more options than you realized. When in doubt, get a nice hummus and fresh bread to include in the spread. It won’t go uneaten!
Growing up, Thanksgiving and Christmas both centred around turkey dinners. Your guest won’t feel left out without a big piece of meat centred on his/her plate. As long as you’ve avoided adding butter or bacon bits to the side dishes (or reserved some for your guest to season to his/her preference), there can be plenty of options. Make the stuffing with vegetable broth and set some aside rather than putting it all in the turkey.
If you want a vegan centrepiece for your table, try your local grocery store to see what they keep in the health food freezer aisle. There are many options of prepackaged vegan roasts that only require reheating. Just remember that your vegan guest will probably be sharing their meal with others. In my experience, everyone wants to have a taste of the vegan meal so ensure you’ve made enough for everyone to get a piece!
Vegan kids and birthday parties
At most birthday parties, the menu centres around known kid favourites like hot dogs, pizza or chicken fingers. The good news is that these are all available in vegan versions in most well-stocked grocery stores.
Many pizza chains offer vegan cheese (Pizza Pizza, Pizza Nova are two chains in my region that have vegan or “non-dairy cheese”). You can order an extra non-dairy cheese pizza and the kids will be none the wiser.
For birthday cakes, many bakeries offer vegan cupcakes if you order them in advance. Ask and you’ll be surprised at the number of options you have. If you make your own cakes or cupcakes, it’s easy to find recipes online for vegan cakes.
My go to recipe book for cupcakes is a vegan classic (it’s another book on my shelf that needs to be handled with care since it has been so well-used) Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule. If you have a vegan in your family, it is well worth purchasing this book for your shelf since it is filled with great cupcake recipes that everyone loves. I’ve made most of these cupcakes over the years and they’ve all turned out beautifully.
So don’t be intimidated. Any effort you put into making your vegan guest feel welcome will be appreciated!