How to feed a vegetarian dinner guest..

This time of year, I see a lot of articles and posts talking about what to feed a vegetarian guest should you find one sat at your Christmas dinner table; I always find it interesting to see what suggestions are proffered and I’m afraid, I very rarely agree. So often the solutions offered are pasta dishes smothered in some sort of cheese sauce, or something wrapped in pastry…basically, heavy dishes that, quite frankly, I wouldn’t eat.  Where are the beautifully cooked vegetables in all their glory?? 

So, I thought I would give my view point, being as I am, the ‘vegetarian guest’.. 

It’s funny because in my world, I’m one of many; I share my virtual world with many vegetarians & vegans, and in my real world my two best friends are also vegetarian – it wasn’t a prerequisite of our friendship or anything, it just happened that way; just shows that like minded people are drawn to each other doesn’t it? But if I find myself amongst family or a wider circle of friends, then I’m the alien (throw into the mix that I prefer low or no gluten, I don’t eat any sugar or sweet things, AND I don’t drink alcohol, and I really am an island…but that’s just me, that’s not all vegetarians) but I’m really not an alien, and I’m a lot easier to feed than you’d think..

So what would you think of feeding me if I came to your house? (Let’s pretend for a moment that I don’t have a blog full of ideas…!) Would you be completely stumped? Or drive yourself crazy with worry about the dish for this one person? Or just assume I must want to eat nut loaf?? (I don’t, by the way.)

Stop. It’s easier than you think. 

Do you mind if I offer some suggestions? 

My top tip would be: 

Don’t make your life difficult! Especially if you’re making food for lots of people, don’t let the addition of a different eater at your table cause you stress. 

And don’t make assumptions: I am labelled ‘vegetarian’ by most people in that I don’t eat any meat or fish, but I do eat cheese and eggs. Not all vegetarians are the same. Best to double check with them. 

So…make life easy…

First, tell me what you’re already planning to cook..for example..last year we visited my brother & sister in law over Christmas; my sister in law Tina is a great cook and she cooked a huge roast dinner for 7 of us; knowing how much she’d already have to do, I asked if she’d like me to bring a dish for myself? She very happily accepted the offer with great relief as she had been concerned about it, and I made a small sweet potato casserole which I took with me to heat up in her oven. 

When dinner was served there was about 10 different dishes of vegetables – I really didn’t need my dish too. I would have been quite happy with a plate piled high with lovely veg, and I’d have grabbed some of the nuts and seeds she had in the cupboard and sprinkled them over the top and been very happy. Whenever I cook a roast dinner at home, I just make sure there’s lots of vegetables with it and I eat them with some homous or any dips I’ve made, like the squash below, or with some grains I’ve got leftover from during the week. It’s that easy!  

Butternut squash, beetroot and quinoa 

The only notes I would make here are…consider your gravy, you may need to make a vegetarian version if your guest is a gravy lover (I’m not!); and if you roast your potatoes in goose fat, it’s only fair to to let your vegetarian guest know. Or maybe on this occasion, use a non animal fat to roast your potatoes in? 

The moral of this story is..consider what you’re already making and whether you’ve actually already got an answer in your menu. You may already have a perfect solution…can you make something ahead, like these marinated vegetables, or these, that will just need flinging in the oven in the day? 

Are you doing a dish with meat that you could produce a small amount of it without meat? Could you plan it that way? Make two versions of the same chilli or casserole/tagine for example? 

Or, make a vegetable based soup and offer a platter  antipasti, cruditΓ©s, bread etc along with it and allow everyone to choose what they want. 

Salads are a godsend; especially warm salads (like the one below) in the cold temperatures; buffets are even better – let your guests choose; and side dishes are often the answer – I’ve often ordered just a selection of side dishes at a restaurant. 


A cordon bleu creation really isn’t necessary. For me, the aim would be to ensure that that guest is made welcome and not made to feel like they are the alien at the table. I can tell you that it isn’t a pleasant feeling.

So, why not just ask me what I’d like? As one of my vegetarian friends said: “I think you’re right, people rarely ‘ask’ what you like to eat, so you can end up with a Supermarket version of what a veggie [supposedly] likes to eat, which, can often be wrapped up in a huge parcel of stodge, ie, pastry. Why do they do that?!” Yes, why do they?? For me it just shows lack of imagination.

Although…if you do fancy offering a pie or flan of some sort that everyone might fancy a bit of, how about making it a healthy, tasty option like this beetroot galette with a lovely light gluten free crust..

 Or make life really easy, and let me bring a dish. I wouldn’t be offended at all. I’d rather not give a hostess added worry and I’d definitely prefer not to be presented with a dish that I’d rather not eat and then feel rude. And I’d really hate to cause any stress or extra work! So let me help. 

Of course, I am a blogger with a list of recipe ideas so I do have a list of suggestions on this here blog in case they be of use, including a Christmas feast I made for guests last year and all of my Pimp Your Veg ideas, plus lots of healthy, vegetarian snack and Christmas cake ideas, but I’m also available if I can be of help.  

 I hope this has been of some help to you and my friends at Fiesta Friday, com hosted this week by lovely Liz and Johanne. Enjoy! 

NOTE: many of these recipes and suggestions would satisfy vegan diets and/or ideas for guests with various food intolerances. 

Disclaimer: these are only my views, not all vegetarians are the same! All the more reason to ask πŸ™‚ 

90 thoughts on “How to feed a vegetarian dinner guest..

  1. sallybr

    Great post! This past Thanksgiving we had two vegetarians with us. One person is from India and arrived in the US just a few weeks ago. Of course, being Sally I worried about the meal for a while, but everything was perfect, basically all the side dishes were fine, Phil made two batches of dressing, one with sausage in it, one without (plenty of cremini mushrooms though) – and guess what the student from India loved the most? The cranberry sauce! Can you believe it? He had never had it and basically his dinner was a huge serving of cranberry sauce with a bit of mashed potatoes and green beans on the side πŸ˜‰ He’s still talking about it….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Serena

    Such timely wonderful advice, because guess what? I have a vegetarian joining us for Christmas this year! I agree whole-heatedly with what you said. I too was a vegetarian in my mid- to late-20s, and I remember being treated as an alien (especially during my month-long visits to Italy!). Great post, Elaine! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. apuginthekitchen

    Great tips Elaine, always good to have vegetarian options and your suggestions are wonderful. You are so right about how different the vegetarian food repertoire can be. Any of your recommendations can be veganized if they are not already. Timely post Elaine, Happy Holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loretta

    Great post, I too always fuss when I know there will be vegetarians over for dinner. But then, I do enjoy vegetarian dishes too, so I’m happy to cook all vegetarian or perhaps some grilled fish. I’ve started to use my tagine quite a bit now, and already have an eye on a great vegetarian tagine.

    Liked by 1 person


    Reblogged this on What's for dinner, Doc? and commented:
    Here’s an interesting blog about feeding a vegetarian guest. I’m not a vegetarian but friends often ask me, “What do you eat?” I eat real food, mostly vegetables and fish. I agree with Elaine, my favorite vegetarian: ask your guest what they would like to eat, ask them to bring a dish that fits their diet and don’t stress out about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lynz Real Cooking

    Love the ideas and the first hand advice! My daughter in law is a vegetarian she is very easy going. I have known her for 6 years and I have kind of figured out some alternatives. Basically I just do whatever dish without meat! I love your ideas and next time I see her I will do something different! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Laura @ Feast Wisely

    Elaine – love the thoughts in this post, and your reference to feeling like an island made me laugh – although not as strict as you (I have meat as a treat) I often feel the same – especially when at work events where I simply can not find anything that’s not loaded with gluten, sugar or suspicious cured meats!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elaine @ foodbod Post author

      It’s a nightmare isn’t it?? And for me just shows such a lack of imagination or planning at events like that. I’d always have a bag of nuts in my bag because I know I won’t find anything I’d want to eat; I’m not going to eat something to keep someone happy that has the chance of making me feel unwell or that I really don’t want in my body. I’d rather be an alien!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Johanne Lamarche

    Welcome to FF Elaine! Thank you for this very helpful perspective. I would add it is a good time to be vegetarian with the farm to table movement and the availability of wonderful heirloom vegetables. I find when I cook for a vegetarian friend I need to bring my A game into the kitchen. Much easier to throw a roast in the oven. I had a whole luncheon this fall where 1 guest was vegetarian but I decided to serve a vegetarian 5 course meal. Everyone loved it and no one missed meat. Of course our friend Ottolenghi helped inspire me!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Susan Edelman

    What a great post! I’m going to link to it on my blog in the coming weeks if you don’t mind. I do think people like ideas and view us vegetable eaters as a bit of a challenge maybe πŸ™‚ Your ideas are just beautiful (and helpful).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. apsara

    A very timely post for this season. Yes, I understand how we vegetarians may be alienating ourselves. I sometimes do not bother to let people know ahead of time that I have gone gluten and dairy free as well. That would only make them more stressed. I always take some food with me when I go to dinners, in case there is nothing to eat. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Gerard Villanueva

    Excellent ideas Elaine! I always try to keep my diet as stress free as possible for others as well. I think one of the key ideas you’re getting at is that veggies are enough to satisfy vegetarian/vegans. I always try to reassure them. There is no need for the host to feel like they haven’t done enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. petra08

    There are some lovely dishes here! I have to admit I do get worried when I get vegetarian guests, worrying that they won’t get a “complete” meal but it just takes a little planning. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Fae's Twist & Tango

    Sweet Elaine, All of it a feast for non-vegetarian alike, who appreciate flavor and thoughtfulness put in the preparations. I just posted a vegetarian dish, which can please every diet and palate too. Your creativity is exemplary! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  14. cafegarima

    I love the wide selection of choices you have shared πŸ™‚ Here in India we vegetarians are offered cottage cheese/paneer curry in lieu of the staple chicken/mutton. Now I would prefer a mixed vegetable stir fry or a skillet mixed veg over a cottage cheese curry any day! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  15. FrugalHausfrau

    This is a great and timely post!! And you’re so right about how everyone eats differently! I often try to make sure I have a hearty salad full of veggies with some chickpeas and nuts and full of lots of different veg, not just wimpy lettuce – works for everyone! πŸ™‚

    I also know with so many people that aren’t vegetarian, there are still a lot of rules people go by, so I ask almost everyone…

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Vegan Christmas Side Dishes: Time To Start Cooking! | watch hatch fly

  17. Pingback: How to feed a vegetarian this holiday season: ask! (And new tips for roasting veg)Β  | foodbod

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