Last week I attended my good friend Sarah’s beautiful wedding in Santa Cruz. Sarah and her new husband Dylan are both vegan, and they decided to have an entirely vegan menu for their wedding meal. My date was skeptical, and so were a lot of the guests, no doubt, but as a chef, I was excited and a little curious. While everyone was likely expecting Buddha bowls and bird seed, the meal—much to everyone’s surprise—was sensational, elegant, complex in flavor, and filling.
Whenever you gather a group of people for a meal—whether it is a wedding reception, a special event like a sweet sixteen birthday party, or a corporate retreat—there are bound to be more than a few guests who don’t eat meat or any animal products. If this is the case, you have two options. You can either order special meals for the guests with specific dietary preferences, or, if a large number of the guests are vegetarian or vegan, you can make the entire menu veg-friendly!
Here are some vegan and vegetarian catering ideas—from how to organize your menu to delicious meal inspiration—that are sure to please at your next event.
Ideas for Organizing a Vegan or Vegetarian Catered Meal
Feeding vegan or vegetarian guests at your wedding, special event, or meeting can seem like a complicated endeavor, but it really doesn’t have to be difficult. People are often afraid that they will have to order several additional dishes or dramatically expand the menu options, but this really isn’t the case. If there are only a few vegan or vegetarian guests in attendance, it is perhaps easiest for the kitchen to prepare a few plated meals for them that will be sent out directly to the guests.
Alternatively, if there are more than a few vegetarian and vegan guests and you have a buffet-style meal, include vegan options in the buffet that everyone will love. This way nobody will be singled out and all the guests can share much of the same meal, which is an important aspect of any celebration. To make things extra simple for everyone, ask that all side dishes and salads be made vegan so that everyone can enjoy them. For the kitchen, this may mean simply swapping out butter for olive oil, leaving the cheese on the side, and labeling each veg-friendly item appropriately. The only dish that has to be different for the vegetarians and vegans is the protein.
Delicious Vegan and Vegetarian Catering Ideas for Meals That Meat Eaters Will Love Too
When it comes to the dishes themselves, the key to delicious vegan and vegetarian food is the use of a variety of colors, flavors, and textures. You also want to make sure that you provide dishes in the following four categories: salads, cold sides, hot sides, and entrees.
Here are a few vegan meal ideas (free of animal products) to inspire the menu for your event:
- Baby Spinach Salad with Sweet Red Onions, Dried Cranberries, and Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Strawberry Fields Salad with Strawberries, Slivered Almonds, and Lemon Vinaigrette
- Local Mixed Greens Salad with Cranberries, Candied Walnuts, and Champagne Vinaigrette
- Roasted Quinoa and Vegetable Salad
- Antipasto with Artichoke Hearts, Mixed Olives, and Seasonal Grilled Vegetables
- Rice Pilaf with Slivered Almonds
- Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Herbs
- Couscous-Stuffed Portobella Mushroom Caps
- Polenta with Rosemary and Sundried Tomatoes
- Stuffed Bell Peppers with Quinoa and Vegetables
- Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
- Vegan Chocolate Mousse
While any of the vegan ideas will work for a vegetarian menu as well, here are a few ideas for a vegetarian menu that include animal products but no meat:
- Creamy Caesar Salad with Croutons
- Kale Salad with Raisins, Pine Nuts, Champagne Vinaigrette and Parmesan Cheese
- Orzo with Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, Feta, Olives, and Pinenuts
- Penne Primavera with Asparagus and Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Potatoes Au Gratin
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Eggplant Parmesan
- Cheese and Spinach-stuffed Ravioli with Pesto Cream Sauce
As the dishes above demonstrate, the days when meat was the feature of every feast and vegetables were merely an afterthought are behind us. Veggies are in vogue, and as a result, vegan and vegetarian food has never been so tasty. Chefs are using their culinary creativity to dream up dishes for their menus that are every bit as satisfying as those with meat.
You may even consider making your entire menu vegan or vegetarian (as my friend Sarah and her husband Dylan did)—especially if there a lot of guests following either diet. As long as you offer enough delicious variety and plenty of plant-based protein (like nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and lentils), the meal can satisfy everyone—even meat eaters.
Whether you decide to simply provide vegan and vegetarian options at your event, or serve an entire vegan or vegetarian meal, the most important thing is to make sure that there is plenty of delicious variety for everyone to enjoy. Food, after all, is an important part of a celebration, so ensuring there is something special for everyone will make the occasion memorable for everyone.
At Kennolyn, our chefs are masters at creating delicious vegan and vegetarian food for weddings and special events. Whatever your dietary requirements, we are happy to customize a special menu for you to suit your tastes. To find out more about our exquisite catering services at our beautiful all-inclusive venues, contact us today.
Image Source: Unsplash user Stefan Johnson