Cooking for a vegetarian guest can be a daunting thing, particularly if you don’t know them too well or haven’t cooked for a vegetarian before. It can seem like you’re going to need to create an entirely separate meal, making the original stress that you were already experiencing feel even worse! But vegetarian cooking doesn’t have to be stressful. To help you to figure out what to make, and how best to do it, we’ve brought together our top tips for hosting a vegetarian dinner party.
The type of vegetarian you’ll be cooking for
Firstly, it’s important to establish what type of vegetarian you’re dealing with. Although the true definition for vegetarian is someone who consumes no meat or fish, but will eat dairy and eggs, not all vegetarians are the same. Some eat fish (known as pescatarians) and others like to cut back on dairy (known as vegans). The best way to find out your guest’s diet is to ask them – they really won’t mind and it helps to establish what’s best to cook. This way, you can write a list and know what you’re getting, rather than rushing around the supermarket, picking up things you don’t need in panic!
Consider hidden animal products
Animal products can be found ‘hidden’ in places where you wouldn’t expect them. This can seem a little scary, but these items can pretty much be divided into three categories: cheese, sauces and wine. We’ll talk you through what to look out for, to make it a little easier.
Cheese: Hard cheeses can be a problem here. If you’re hoping to make a dish that will include parmesan, it’s best to either not include this or to substitute it for a vegetarian hard cheese, as by law parmesan must be made with a recipe that includes animal rennet.
Sauces: Some sauces contain anchovies, which aren’t suitable for vegetarians. The two main sauces to look out for are Worcestershire sauce and Caesar dressing. If you avoid these, or use vegetarian alternatives, everything should be fine!
Wine: Some wine requires fish in the process of making it. This one is an easy one, since plenty of wines are vegetarian and most say so on the bottle, so just take a look at the label before serving.
If you’re nervous about creating two separate meals, the best approach is to create a DIY or ‘build your own’ meal. Not only does this take the stress away from you, since the vegetarians themselves are able to choose, it also creates a fun environment that brings everyone together. The best cuisine for this approach is Mexican, since you could make a selection of dishes that complement each other, and the basic components aren’t too difficult to make. Our favourite way to do this is to cook a couple of types of chilli (beef and bean) and serve with a choice of wraps, tacos or nachos! If Mexican isn’t for you, tapas works well here, or even a pasta station with a choice of sauces.
If you like to cook from scratch and choose to deal with vegetables instead of meat substitutes, the best approach is almost certainly to roast them. Roasting an aubergine to create aubergine steaks can be a great alternative to meat, and can be served alongside the same sides that you’ve made for the meat eaters, since the majority of these are likely to be suitable for vegetarians.
Ask guests to contribute a dish
If none of these ideas seem to be working out, you could ask each of the people invited to bring their own dish. This helps to alleviate the stress and allows the vegetarian to bring something they’re sure to enjoy. This is also a great way to share recipes, and you might just find that you enjoy the vegetarian dish yourself!
Hopefully these tips have helped to comfort you a little and introduce you to vegetarian hosting. Once you get used to what’s on offer, it becomes an easy way to cook and allows you to try new dishes, making your meal even more interesting. If you still feel lost, you can always consider eating out instead! Click on the name of your city below to find a list of vegetarian-friendly restaurants local to you.
Do you have any more tips for cooking for a vegetarian guest? How do you ensure everyone’s kept happy and your experience is stress-free?