I had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with my family, despite being one of 3 vegans at the gathering. That was due to my cousin, who is a fantastic cook, and who has mastered creating vegan versions of many comfort food favorites.
I had heaping helpings of stuffing, collard greens, mac and cheese, candied yams, pasta salad and pot roast… all vegan. And, yes, I went back for seconds.
Making a holiday feast for vegans and non vegans is easy for my cousin, because she is a former vegan and her husband is vegan, so she cooks plant based all the time. So as the vegan guest, I got lucky. This is not the norm for most holiday gatherings.
But when you are not familiar with vegan cooking, it can be intimidating to prepare a meal that includes a vegan dishes. Not to worry. I have some tips that will help you keep your non meat eating guests happy and well fed.
Do A Little Homework Part 1: There are some key substitute ingredients you will need to have on hand in your kitchen before you begin cooking that feast. Things like vegan butter, vegan cheeses, vegan milks/creams, vegetable stock/broth, etc. There are several brands to choose from, and so you will need to take some time and figure out which ones are the flavor or consistency you are looking for.
Do A Little Homework Part 2: Make sure you know what is and is not vegan. For example, many people have no idea that eggs are not vegan. (I actually had someone cook me egg whites thinking that that was vegan food, lol). Foods like breads, pastas, bread crust, and processed gravy may contain meat or dairy. If you can’t make it from scratch (and hey, we don’t all have the time, so no judgement), be sure to double check ingredients.
Talk To Your Guest: Listen, we appreciate you making the effort to cook something vegan for this family gathering, but don’t waste you time by making something your guest can’t eat or doesn’t like. I’m allergic to almonds, and some vegan cheeses and milks are made from almonds. Also, I hate mashed potatoes. They can be made vegan, but If that is all you are serving that is vegan, I won’t be eating. So before you even head to the store, have a conversation with your vegan guests about any allergies or foods they just don’t like.
Set Aside As You Cook: This is what my cousin did. As she cooked her side dishes, like mac and cheese, she set aside a portion of key ingredients (such as cooked noodles) and made a vegan version of the dish. This can work for most of the sides you are making. But I suggest you only do about four side dishes. No one expects for you to make two versions of everything. But 4 great sides should be enough to satisfy any vegan.
Cook Vegan Dishes For All: Instead of making a vegan and non vegan versions of your dishes, just make some dishes that are all vegan. For example, making cabbage? If you typically add butter or bacon.. try using vegan butter and vegan bacon instead. If you put sausage in your stuffing, just use vegan sausage (Beyond Sausage hot Italian is a game changer). Also you can use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock or mushroom stock instead of beef stock , and if you’re cooking is on point everyone will just be happy that the food is delish.
On The Side: About those Brussels, if you want to make them with real bacon, cook it separate and just have it available on the side. Those who want it can add it later. You can probably do this for a few dishes
Order Out Restaurants: If time is a factor or you’re just feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of cooking vegan, maybe cook one dish and order a few more from a local vegan restaurant. A good friend did this for me recently. I came to her house for dinner, and she just ordered a bunch of food from a nearby vegan spot. The food was sooo good and I was very happy that she made that effort. Did not care one bit that she did not cook herself. You can also order from non vegan restaurants, just see what they have that is vegan or ask them to omit non vegan ingredients.
Prepared Food At Grocery: No nearby or good vegan restaurants? Check out the prep kitchen at your local grocery store. If they don’t have vegan dishes on display, they might be willing to cook something up for you.
Bottom line, with a little planning, you can easily make sure your vegan guests feel right and home and have great meal. And will get the chance to see how easy it can be to cook vegan.