Learn how to feed a vegetarian or vegan when you’re used to eating meat!
It can be difficult to feed a loved one who abstains from meat or animal products if you have never had to think about it before.
It can also be difficult to eat bread and cheese for dinner when everyone else is digging into steaks with mashed potatoes and gravy.
I have been on both sides of this situation. When I visit a friend or family’s house they often ask, “What can I make you?” Before becoming a vegetarian we would often entertain vegetarians or vegans and I would also have to rack my brain to find something that would fit their dietary needs. Now I want people to know that it doesn’t need to be so complicated. With a few simple swaps and recipes you can always have something satisfying to whip up without needing to visit a specialty store or even step outside your comfort zone.
I’m going to share with you a few steps to run through when planning a meal to keep it vegetarian (and possibly vegan) while still satisfying everyone at the table. Let’s go!
How to feed a vegetarian
Remove the Meat
I don’t want to assume anything about your knowledge of vegetarians and vegans, so let’s start at the beginning. Vegetarians don’t eat meat (although some will still eat fish, eggs, or poultry – it’s best to ask), and vegans generally don’t partake in any animal product (dairy, eggs, and honey are out). If your first instinct is to make pork chops, stop and reconsider.
Look for Hidden Meat
Most vegetarians will take offense to anything made with chicken or beef stock, even if there are no chunks of meat in whatever you’re making. One of my favorite vegetarian anecdotes involves a famous actress discussing her vegetarian ways, then mentioning that her favorite food was French onion soup. She was horrified when the reporter informed her that French onion soup is made with… beef broth.
Make a Swap
Vegetarian substitutes are everywhere these days. There are a wide variety of prepared veggie burgers and “chicken” patties in the frozen food section if you’re looking for convenience (these are also easily made from scratch).
You can also experiment with TVP, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. These ingredients can be intimidating and hard to find, however, if you’re not used to cooking with them. An easier way to go can be replacing meat with beans.
In general I like to swap beef for black beans, pork for pinto beans, and garbanzo beans, great northern beans, or canellini beans for poultry. Canned beans make this super simple, and of course you will want to adjust your recipe and cooking time to reflect the swap.
Chances are you have more vegetarian meals in your repertoire than you realize. Serve up a favorite pasta dish or hearty salad. When in doubt make an extra vegetable or grain side dish. Relax and enjoy your visitors.
You may feel like they’re picking apart your meal but most likely they are just happy to be there (and maybe filled up on “safe” food before they came). If you have concerns about what someone will or won’t eat, don’t be afraid to ask questions and maybe give them a call ahead of time to see how you can accommodate their needs.
Make it Vegan
If you have a vegetarian dish it’s not too hard to make it vegan. Vegan cheese is a readily available swap for dairy cheese (or just leave it out).
Eggs can be replaced by flax eggs. Earth Balance makes a popular vegan “butter”. Focus on grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. If you’re having a hard time coming up with a vegan main dish, make several side dishes you feel comfortable with, such as roasted squash or a rice pilaf, and there will be plenty to eat.
In need of a few easy recipes to get you started?
Easy Canned Butter Beans
These creamy beans are vegan, filling, and so easy to make!
Veggie Stacked Enchiladas
These enchiladas are packed with veggies and protein, no rolling required!
Vegan Tempeh Tacos
You'll be surprised how easy it is to make vegan tacos that mimic the texture of real meat!
The Best Marinated Tofu Recipe
Don't let tofu intimidate you. This recipe makes it easy for everyone to fall in love with it!
Healthy Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars
Sweet breakfasts can be healthy too! These bars are packed with protein from a variety of nuts.
Vanilla Almond Vegan Baked Oatmeal
This vegan breakfast is a real crowd pleaser. It's warm, filling, and easy to prepare the night before.
Easy Vegetarian Chili
This vegetarian chili is actually vegan if you leave off the cheese and sour cream. Serve it in a bowl, or go big as a topping for veggie burgers and hot dogs.
Crispy Quinoa Bake
This recipe is easy to throw together with whatever veggies you have on hand. The Mexican flavors make it a comforting casserole that can be enjoyed on it's own or eaten with chips like a dip!
Do you still have any questions unanswered about feeding a vegetarian or vegan? What are your favorite dishes to make for those who don’t eat meat? Let me know in the comments!
Vegan Mother Hubbard says
This is an excellent guide. I can’t wait to share it with others. Just one note: flax eggs aren’t the only egg substitute and are often the wrong choice. They’re great in some cookies, quick breads, and muffins. However, they aren’t usually a good idea in most cakes, some cookies, and some quick breads. Other egg substitutes include whipped silken tofu, soy/almond/coconut milk yogurt, mashed banana, Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer, Ener-G Egg Replacer, and sometimes applesauce. The conversion is typically 3 tablespoons per egg called for in the recipe. If you’re unsure, google vegan versions of the same type of recipe to see what’s being used. Use that as a guide for adjusting your own recipes.
Lindsay Moe says
Thank you so much for adding this information! Yes, Google is your best friend in finding out exactly how to swap a specific recipe.
Great post. It is tough. We cut out meat and dairy this year. It was surprisingly easy for us, but it’s a challenge to cook for others sometimes.
Perfect timing. I’m pondering what to cook for a family guest Labor Day weekend! 🙂
This was great, except for that some vegetarians eat fish or poultry. That’s incorrect. Pescetarians eat fish, and people who eat poultry are still meat eaters or omnivores, no matter how many plants they eat. It’s confusing to the general public when idea is perpetuated. Veganism or vegetarianism can not be associated with eating flesh. I did enjoy going through your vegan recipes, and pinned a few. Thanks!