With so many different diets out there — Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian — it can be confusing as a host to know what exactly your guests can and can not eat (hint: How about these snacks?). If your newest book club member is vegan, don’t fret that you’ll have nothing to feed her when you normally bust out a crowd-pleasing cheese platter. It’s okay if you’re drawing a blank, but before you grab the takeout menus and order a giant cheese-less pizza, allow us to share some very simple hacks to make a dairy-free and meatless meal easy peasy.
1. Vegan blogs are your friends. There are tons of great vegan recipes available at the click of a button. If you’re a total newbie at plant-based cooking, check out Minimalist Baker, Post Punk Kitchen and Happy Healthy Life.
2. Pick up vegan appetizers. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have a plethora of vegan goods. Speculoos cookies are accidentally vegan and not accidentally delicious. TJ’s coconut milk ice cream is da bomb (go for the chocolate because it’s awesome). Whole Foods baked goods section usually has vegan donuts, muffins, pies and more. Raid the vegan cheese section at Whole Foods for a cheese platter that will wow your favorite herbivore.
3. Find a local bakery that serves vegan pastries. Buy vegan cupcakes. Earn major brownie points.
4. Serve a kickass salad. Salad doesn’t have to be iceberg lettuce with a few soggy croutons. We recommend this kale salad with crispy chickpeas or this farmers market cobb salad with spiced sweet potatoes.
5. Guacamole and hummus are vegan and delicious. Serve freshly cut veggies like red pepper slices, cucumber slices and carrot sticks alongside pita chips with a garlicky hummus, or make a big bowl of guacamole (may we suggest Chipotle’s addictive avo dip?).
6. Whip up a batch of vegan dark chocolate truffles. It only takes five steps to woo your soon-to-be boyfriend or girlfriend with these romantic treats.
7. Throw a make-your-own pizza party. Buy pre-made pizza dough, get some pizza sauce and, when it comes to toppings, go crazy. Think dried figs, arugula, green olives, vegan bacon slices and some shredded vegan cheese.
8. Buy or make a loaf of bread and serve it with a nice olive oil. Easiest appetizer ever! (And yes, most breads are vegan except for anything eggy like challah).
9. If you’re a foodie, try your hand at making more complicated recipes over at Olives for Dinner. We highly suggest the Cheese-Stuffed Homemade Ravioli with White Wine Sauce.
10. Four words: vegan ice cream bar. Make your own homemade coconut milk ice cream or grab a few pints from your local health food store. Serve with shredded coconut, crushed Oreos (which are accidentally vegan), vegan marshmallows (Dandies or Sweet and Sara are great) and this five-ingredient salted caramel sauce and you’re all set.
11. Check out a vegan cookbook from your local library. There are hundreds of fantastic cookbooks out there. Popular vegan cookbook authors like Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Chloe Coscarelli and Terry Hope Romero have delicious recipes that are guaranteed to be a success at any dinner party. Isa Does It is chock-full of great recipes for beginners.
12. Veganize your favorite recipes. Have a great marinara sauce recipe? Great. Pair it with these 10-ingredient meatless meatballs and your favorite pasta. Done-zo. Want to bake your favorite cake or cookies? Here’s an easy guide to substitute for eggs.
13. Bust out your grill. If you’re hosting a barbecue, and you’re thinking, “What does a vegan eat at a barbecue?,” here’s your answer. Grilled tofu tacos go way beyond the standard veggie burger. (Photo via Love + Lemons)
14. Ask them for their favorite recipe, then make it. There’s nothing vegans like more than sharing what they love to eat. We’ve dedicated entire Instragram accounts to our love of food.
15. Make it easy on ourself. If you’re really kitchen averse, these super simple vegan blogs — The Vegan Stoner and Thug Kitchen — break it down for you so that you can look like a star chef. The Vegan Stoner has cute illustrations and step-by-step instructions so the recipes are guaranteed to be foolproof.
16. Turn to YouTube. Vegan cooking stars abound on YouTube, and they show you how to master some killer recipes. The Vegan Zombie teaches you how to make a burrito bowl, a Southern kale salad with a smokey Ranch dressing and more. If you’re more into the healthy aspects of the plant-based lifestyle, Carolyn Scott-Hamilton has a great Healthy Voyager TV channel complete with cucumber dill margaritas, Southwest quinoa salad and Caesar salad.
17. Order some (Chipotle) burritos. Chipotle offers vegan sofritas, a tasty blend of shredded tofu and spices, as one of its options. The sofritas are available at all Chipotle locations after a successful rollout in California.
18. Go crazy with an awesome dessert. If you’re wondering what you can serve beyond sliced apples, here are 16 scrumptious vegan desserts that will have your entire dinner party demanding seconds and thirds.
19. Serve breakfast for dinner. Brunch doesn’t only need to doled out on weekend afternoons. Flip some Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes for your herbivore guests. Ladle out some Maple-Spice Ginger Cookie Breakfast Risotto (yes, please) or crank out some warm Gingerbread Waffles.
20. Hit up your local farmers market. Besides snagging the best seasonal produce, there are often health-conscious vendors selling everything from vegan cheese to homemade almond butter. There’s nothing better than eating locally made goods.
What creative ways have you catered to your vegan friends? Share your tips with us in the comments.