So you’ve invited your vegan friends over, but you have no idea what they can eat. First, take a deep breath and calm yourself with a handful of cheese and a slice of pork from the rotating spit I assume every meat eater has in their kitchen.
Accommodating your animal-loving guests is easier than you think. I’ve been vegan since the late ’90s when there was only one brand of non-dairy ice cream and the cheese alternatives tasted like plastic. Now everything is plant-based: There’s even a powder that mimics scrambled eggs, and White Castle has meat-free sliders. White Castle!
A lot of companies make vegan shopping easy by clearly labeling their products. But if you’re flying blind and concerned about ingredients, you can download the Is That Vegan app to greenlight your grocery purchases.
Some vegans are stricter than others—especially when it comes to hard-to-pronounce additives—so keep your menu as simple as possible. Here are a few easy meals I’ve shared with my meat-eating friends.
If it’s a big dinner party and you want to make the meal more inclusive, set up a make-your-own station with bowls of ingredients for everyone. That way your vegan friends don’t feel singled out.
I don’t always add imitation meats, but if you want to get fancy, you can pick up some fake beef or chorizo. Boca and Gimme Lean meat crumbles are vegan meats that are available at most grocery stores, but head to Whole Foods if you want more options.
Corn and flour shells are usually safe. A quick glance at the ingredients will let you know if there’s lard in them. Tortilla chips are almost always vegan—except some lime-flavored options that add dairy for some reason.
You can set out toppings like Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds and Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, or keep it basic by having guacamole on hand. And make it yourself. Not that store bought isn’t vegan, it’s just that anyone who doesn’t make their own guacamole should be ashamed of themselves.
Some of my friends say if you’re not using dairy cheese and processed meats as topping, then it’s not technically pizza. I’ll agree to disagree, but I’ve had great pizza nights with some of my meat-eating friends.
If you’re not making your own dough, pre-made options can be found in most grocery fridge or freezer sections. My favorite is the ready-made regular or whole wheat at Trader Joe’s, but even Pillsbury’s Pizza Crust (the kind next to the biscuits) is vegan.
For toppings, vegan versions of pepperoni, sausage and bacon are available at any natural foods store or Whole Foods. And the brainiacs at Daiya have figured out how to make dairy-free mozzarella taste good and melt like real cheese.
You might have to eye the ingredients on the sauces, but plain options like marinara are usually a safe bet. I tend to go for the Newman’s Own Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce.
If you’re one of those people who think bread isn’t vegan, I’m here to blow your mind: A simple loaf is made from flour, water, yeast and salt. There’s an old wives’ tales about vegans who won’t eat bread because the yeast is a living microorganism, but I’ve never met one in person.
There are plenty of vegan options on the shelf, but fresh bread from the bakery is always a good choice because it’s less likely to include non-vegan ingredients used to improve shelf life. I always opt for sourdough.
For filling, grab some Tofurky or Lightlife slices. If you want to avoid the meat alternatives, you can fry up some tempeh or tofu on your own and flavor with soy sauce. Plain mustard is vegan, and Just Mayo or Veganaise are great egg-free mayonnaise options.
Top with spinach, tomato, and avocado. I’d avoid the romaine.
If your guests are already on their way and you’re in a panic, try to get creative and think more about what vegans can eat instead of what they can’t. I’ve made a dinner from boxed pasta, tomato sauce, and a can of black beans from my mom’s kitchen.
Or just pretend like takeout was the idea all along and everyone can get their own dinner delivered.