Don’t Overcomplicate: Tips and Dishes for Serving Vegans at the Holidays
These tips and recipes will give you all you to need to know to make a classic meal for everyone, whether they eat animal products or not.
With more and more people choosing to be vegan or vegetarian, it’s fairly likely that at a big gathering during the holidays you’ll be serving one or two people that follow this lifestyle. But, if you’re not vegan yourself, it can be difficult to know what to prepare and how.
“Don’t overcomplicate the situation,” says Seizan Dreux Ellis, executive chef of the vegan Cafe Gratitude in Southern California. “So many people tend to think that they have to do something that’s unusual or complicated or super different than what they’re doing.”
Chef Dreux Ellis also points out that some classic Thanksgiving dishes may be closer to being vegan already than you might think. “Many of the foods that we serve around the holidays are, if not vegetarian or vegan by nature, with small tweaks you can make them vegan or vegetarian,” he says. “That could be something as simple as replacing butter with a high-quality vegan butter, or using vegetable broth and gravy as opposed to chicken broth.”
With these types of substitutions, however, he does caution that you may need to pay a little bit more attention to flavoring and seasoning.
“You might want to add a few more herbs than you normally do, or spices, or make sure you’re using a better quality olive oil because meat or animal products have super high flavor profiles,” he says. “If you’re looking at incorporating tofu or tempeh or those kinds of vegetable proteins, then you might want to consider marinating first before using them in your recipe.”
There is the question of serving. Do you tell people that you’ve altered each dish? Of course, you can let your vegan and vegetarian guests know which ones you’ve catered to their needs, but beyond that, there’s no need to broadcast information that might turn other guests away from a perfectly good dish.
“If you stay with things that are familiar to people, they probably won’t notice necessarily that they’re vegan or vegetarian,” Dreux Ellis says.
Turns out when it comes to serving vegan food, the mantra of what they don’t know won’t hurt them remains true. Now it’s time to get out there with some recipes. To get you started, check out these dishes from Chef Dreux Ellis’s new cookbook, Love is Served.