Imagine you’re following a plant-based diet, and you’ve invited omnivore friends and family over for a meal.
You’ve let them know that you’ll be preparing AMAZING vegan recipes that are filling and packed with flavor.
And yet, you have a feeling there may be some guests who, whether they verbalize it or not, are a bit uneasy or skeptical about meals that don’t contain animal products.
How can you make EVERYONE feel welcome and comfortable while enjoying a plant-based menu?
Where possible, put yourself in the shoes of your guests. Understand that depending on their level of familiarity with a plant-based diet, they may be worried or unsure about the menu, or afraid they’ll be hungry. Perhaps omnivores have preconceived ideas of what vegan food is. They may also fear that you’re judging them on some level through the food you’re preparing.
Here are some suggestions to showcase delicious, vegan recipes that ensure everyone, regardless of the diet they follow, are happy and well-fed.
1. Stick with known foods. Serve well-known and familiar types of recipes your guests already enjoy in order to establish a comfort level.
Chia seeds and tempeh are delicious, but not always the best ingredients to lead with when you’re first exposing people to plant-based foods. Recognizable dishes like a hearty veggie lasagna or enchiladas are more comprehensible and have broad appeal. Take these Kale and Portobello Enchiladas, for example.
2. Experiment with options that are already vegan. Think salsas, dips and condiments that offer bold flavors but that typically don’t contain animal products. If you’re going to venture ‘outside the box’ culinarily, foods people are already familiar with can be a great place to experiment. Perhaps you have a unique twist on salsa that people love. Or, try this flavorful Chimichurri Sauce.
3. Look to international cuisines. Many cuisines offer vegan options, and the bold flavors of Middle Eastern, South Asian and Mexican foods can be easily prepared without meat or dairy. Consider this simple Eggplant Chickpea Curry or these Mezze Platter Essentials.
4. Incorporate fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables. Their beautiful colors and unadulterated flavors speak for themselves, such as in this Nectarine Blueberry Basil Fruit Salad.
5. Encourage customization. Give people a sense of control over their experience by providing a wide range of tasty additions for dishes. Not only does this add variety, but it engages your guests in the food preparation. For example, if you’re serving a veggie chili, include optional toppings like chopped onions, avocado, sliced jalapeño, roasted corn, tortilla chips, etc. Try this Easy Slow Cooker Two Bean Chili recipe and then let people pile on toppings to their heart’s content!
On “Faux” Animal Products
Carefully consider whether you want to incorporate meat and dairy substitutes. Popular plant-based wisdom dictates you should avoid serving them to omnivores, as diners are likely to be highly critical about foods that attempt to emulate meat or cheese. Many people tend to compare these to the ‘real thing’ and are disappointed when the substitutes don’t meet their expectations. Even something as basic as tofu, which is by no means the domain of vegetarians, can also be a turnoff. Consider using ingredients like finely chopped mushrooms to emulate a meaty texture without going the faux meat route.
That said, there are some INCREDIBLE meat and dairy substitutes available these days, and I am slowly and strategically integrating them into the diets of meat eaters around me! So, depending on your audience, you may consider meat substitutes such as the delicious and uncannily meat-like, plant-based option, Beyond Meat. Their beef-free crumbles, cooked up hot and spicy, would be a delicious option at a make-your-own taco bar.
You can also incorporate small amounts of these types of products, such as the Daiya shreds in the enchilada recipe, where they are just a component, not the main feature of a dish.
Oftentimes your food will be so good, your guests will insist that there’s meat in it, simply because they are unaware that food without animal products can taste so good!
Communication and transparency are key when preparing a plant-based meal for omnivores. When your guests are aware of the ingredients in a dish, it tends to put them at ease. It will also be apparent that you’re making an effort to create delicious foods they will like. Relax, and enjoy your time together.
Have you been in a situation where you were preparing plant-based foods for omnivores? What was your experience?