What to Serve When Vegans Come to Dinner

This post might be a little self-serving. Why?  I want to eat at your house!

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I understand that having someone over who eats differently than you can be intimidating. What do they eat? Will you be able to make something they like?

But really, I promise it’s not as hard as you think and you may even find it’s something you could cook for yourself every so often! In fact, you can probably make your favorite meal with just a few substitutions and still make everyone happy.

But what do I serve in place of the meat?

These are very loose substitution rules, but they work pretty well for almost anything. If buying a pre-packaged option, just double-check the ingredients to be sure they contain no milk or egg products)

  • Chicken: Try firmly pressed tofu or meat-free chicken substitutes (like Gardein). One of my first “veganized” recipes was Buffalo Chikn Dip, following this “rule”.
  • Ground Beef: Cooked lentils or meatless crumbles (like Boca). I’ve used these in sloppy joe’s, chili, & meatballs recently.
  • Steak: Grilled firmly pressed tofu, with the same marinade or rub you like on your steak. Need inspriation? How about my Whiskey Marinated Tofu Steak!
  • Pork: I haven’t tried anything that would imitate a porkchop yet, but I do bacon quite often. Try Lightlife’s Fakin’ Bacon Strips, most Bacon Bits, or this tofu bacon recipe. For the liquid form, I’ve recently discovered Torani’s Bacon Syrup, which I’ve used in donuts, bloody marys, & hummus – all within a few days of purchase! :)



There’s no way I can bake without dairy?!

I think this might have been more difficult in the past, but it’s a snap now!

  • Milk: There are so many non-dairy milks to choose from. My favorite is Almond Milk, but you can also look for Coconut Milk, Rice Milk, Soy Milk, Hemp Milk, Flax Milk…there’s probably more! You can use these exactly as you would regular milk in recipes.
  • Butter: The most common vegan “butter” is Earth Balance Buttery Spread. I use this in cooking & baking exactly as I would have used butter in the past.
  • Whipped Cream: You can chill and whip (full-fat) Coconut Milk or you might be able to find a non-dairy soy based version in your grocery store.
  • Eggs: There are a few options here, but I’ve found Ener-G Egg Replacer to be the easiest & most reliable. You can also use Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds mixed with water as a good substitute.
  • Cheese: This can be the hardest one for many people. If you’re cooking with cheese, I recommend looking for Daiya Shredded Cheese or Follow Your Heart blocks of cheese. Both of these are similar in flavor and melt fairly well. The only cheese I’ve found good enough to eat by the slice as an appetizer was homemade using this recipe.
  • Sour Cream and Cream Cheese: Two different products, but for both I just get the non-dairy version at the grocery store. My favorite brand is Follow Your Heart, but any will work.


I’m still nervous about serving the “wrong” thing!

Most people who eat a plant-based diet would LOVE to help make the meal, even if it is served at your house. Or, I bet they have LOTS of recipes that they could recommend to make it a little easier to plan for you. You can, of course, search the recipes on this site – all 100% plant-based!

Think about some foods that are already plant-based that you eat today:

  • Hummus
  • Salsa
  • Pita Chips
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Salad
  • Oil & Vinegar dressing
  • Rice, Quinoa, etc. (just make sure you use water or veggie broth in cooking)
  • Oreos
  • Sorbet

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And don’t forget about:

  • Wine
  • Mixed Drinks
  • Beer (just be careful about stouts, which are sometimes refined with fish bladder – gross, I know!)

This is a very small selection of items, but I hope it helps get you thinking. :)


Questions for you:

  • For the Plant-Based folks: What other tips do you have to share?
  • For the Non-Plant-Based Folks: What else do you worry about that we can help you with? Are you ready to invite me to dinner yet?!

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  1. says

    This is such a great summary. Meat-free meals are so much easier than people realize. And baking! After you know these substitutes, you make vegan-ize basically any recipe… and often they come out better!

    One to add: serve beans to bulk up a meal if you are nervous to buy a “meat replacement.”

    • says

      Thanks Laura – and how did I miss the beans?! I love finding new ways to veganize recipes, so much fun & you’re right that they can often be even better! 😉

  2. says

    I actually think that vegetarian / vegan cooking has a knack to it and I never expect my hosts to go out of their way for me if I’m going to someone’s home. I always volunteer to bring something.

    Now if I’m attending a meal out somewhere – I expect the chef/cook to be able to produce something edible (which rarely happens if I’m honest)

    • says

      Oh I agree 100% on that! I always offer to bring food, but I wanted to be able to help people cook for people the way they eat too. I know before I was plant-based, I liked to try. :)

      I’ve had really good luck eating out 95% of the time – I often find it fun to recreate something based on what on their menu too!

  3. says

    Great post, very resourceful. Though I’m a vegetarian & not vegan I often find myself explaining to others how to accomodate vegan friends when having them ovedr for dinner. It’s not that hard, with a little preparation you can make delicious, satisfying vegan dishes!

  4. says

    Thanks for posting this! I keep thinking I could go vegan. Then I remember all the animal stuff in EVERYTHING (and lord knows I’m already avoiding gluten … the thing that’s in everything else) … and that I love ice cream, yogurt and pretty much every dairy product.

    I might have to do a similar post on my blog about gluten. My family still doesn’t get it. My sister thinks potatoes are on the list.

    • says

      Yay! I was so hoping this would be helpful. :) I would love to read your post on gluten, I’m still trying to get it all straight in my head for friends that avoid it.

  5. says

    Lovely post! :) I have several Vegan friends but didn’t let it deter me from throwing dinner parties – but it took research! This is a great resource.

  6. Char @ www.charskitchen.ca says

    I love this post- so helpful! And your introduction made me laugh :) Wanna come for dinner?

    I usually tell people that vegetables, grains (like rice), or veggie burgers are fine. I tell them to keep it simple, especially if they’re new to the concept of veganism. Dallas’ mom reads my blog, and makes a lot of my recipes for us when we go to her house for dinner! So sweet.

    • says

      That’s so awesome that she makes some of the recipes you post (and that she reads your blog!) – you know you’ll love dinner that way! :)

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