Side Dishes to Entertain Vegetarians & Vegans

Hey friends!

I hope everyone is off to a fantastic week so far. I’ve been working some late hours to get this week’s blog posts to you, but it’s so worth it! It’s midnight as I type, but I have some hot tea to sip and bed to hit up soon.

I’m so glad you guys liked the Coconut Cream Cake Minis recipe. Has anyone tried it out yet? I know some of you are waiting on the Carrot Cake version (did you see those photos!?), and I’ll be posting those later this week (as in before or no later than Friday).

Ooh, and I loved reading everyone’s comments on the Vegetarian Dining Tips (for the meat-eating host). There’s some good stuff in there! Thanks for adding your feedback and additional tips.


I was really looking forward to leftovers for lunch on Monday. (I know…me? Loving leftovers? That’s a rarity).


Mostly I was looking forward to this veggie burger Kelly left after our Sunday bloggie dinner get-together.


And for lunch #2, I enjoyed some of my Tuscan 3-Bean and Veggie soup (no recipe yet…do you want it?).


I went to Zumba till late, so hubby ended up making dinner. Salad from the Earthfare salad bar.


And for the main event…


He made one of my recipes!


It’s my Penne Arrabiata (with chicken, fresh mozzarella balls, and basil from my garden).


I even used some of my purple basil leaves! They’re so pretty!

Vegetarian Entertaining – Side Dishes

So yesterday, I introduced four tips on Vegetarian Entertaining (for the Omnivore Host).

The first tip was about low expectations, which I think is pretty self-explanatory. But, I did want to talk a little more about the others, starting with Side Dishes.

So we’ve established the sad truth that vegetarians and vegans have low expectations of eats in social settings (dinner parties, office pot lucks, etc.), but how can you show your veg-friends that you want to make sure they don’t go hungry next time you entertain?

One easy way you can accomplish this, without changing what you had planned already for the main entree (roasting a brisket, eh?), is to offer a lot of or nice variety of side dishes. I’m not saying you need fifteen side dishes. I’m just saying, for the side dishes you’re doing, which is usually between 2-4, maybe make them all (or most) vegetarian and/or vegan friendly. Here are some additional tips:

Leave the meat out

Bacon on your spinach salad or in in your potato salad? That sounds awesome for me…but vegetarians aren’t just picky eaters, most can’t eat meat or anything that’s touched meat. If it’s easier, pretend they’re allergic to meat. You wouldn’t make someone allergic to avocado pick it out of a salad, would you?

Put the meat (and other options non-vegan ingredients) on the side

Put those bacon bits on the side, not mixed into your salad. Cheese on that baked potato? Only if someone adds it themselves. Granted some things require certain ingredients mixed in, but not all. Choose the dishes that are customizable to satisfy everyone.

Substitute veg/vegan-friendly ingredients

Vegan and vegetarian friendly options are pretty easy to find these days (and are pretty affordable). Want to make mashed potatoes? Use Earth Balance instead of butter. Use non-dairy milk, like plain rice milk, instead of dairy-milk. They’re not weird ingredients that you’ll never use again. If you have leftover ingredients, test them out. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find something you like. You don’t have to be vegan to like rice milk. I drink it all the time and think it’s quite tasty.

Let your veg friend bring a side dish

Most vegetarians/vegans are used to bringing dishes they know they can eat to parties (it’s true! Check out the comments from yesterday). You could offer to your friend that they could bring a dish if they want, but don’t force them to. Offer politely. They may even offer on their own. But don’t rely on their single dish to keep them happy. You should still come up with at least one or two other dishes that they could eat. The more the merrier.

Take help from the store

Many health-food-focused grocery stores, like Earthfare or Whole Foods, have prepared foods. They’re probably more familiar than traditional grocery stores with people with vegetarian or vegan dietary styles. So, if you don’t know, ask them for tips on a good side dish to pick up for your next get-together.

I love all the bean, pasta, and potato salads. I also like prepared eats they make like marinated kale, mixed veggie salads, and dips. Veggie platters are always a win.


If you’re expecting your veg friend to fill up on side dishes, include some that are good sources of protein. I mean, have you ever tried filling up on a bag of potato chips? It’s not going to happen…maybe ever. They’re just not filling. Please note, as Katie pointed out, some people have soy allergies/aversions, so you may want to ask your veg friend before going down that route.

Good vegetarian proteins – base ingredients: beans, quinoa, tempeh, lentils, nuts/seeds. (Cheese and for some even eggs can be good for the non-vegans)

Some of my personal fave recipes with veg-friendly proteins: Balsamic Roasted Chickpeas and Southwestern Quinoa Salad (has quinoa AND beans!).

Keep this simple and easy – it’s not hard!

You probably already enjoy eats that are vegetarian/vegan and you don’t know it. Like hummus? Chances are good that it’s vegan (it’s usually made of chick peas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil). Don’t freak out. Think out…outside of the box. The answer may be easier than you expected.

Side Dish Recipes from around the blogosphere

Here are some wonderful vegetarian AND vegan side dishes from my blog friends:

Know of any other good vegetarian/vegan side dish recipes? Share the recipe link in a comment. 🙂

Entertaining for your vegetarian and vegan friends may seem scary at first, but it’s not only easy, it’s fun to think creatively on ways to keep everyone happy and full.

Next time – more on Vegetarian Entrees that please everyone! 😉


Want to help get better vegetarian options at more social eat-togethers? Share these tips by clicking the Facebook-Like button, tweeting this post, or using one of the other “share” buttons at the end of this post.


Vegetarian & vegan friends – What side dishes are you most happy to see in social eating settings? What do you wish you would see in the realm of side dishes at dinner parties and group pot lucks?

15 thoughts on “Side Dishes to Entertain Vegetarians & Vegans”

  1. I think, unfortunately, that a lot of people assume that being vegetarian/vegan translates into being a high-maintenance or picky eater. I’m definitely neither – just a bit more selective than most! I’m always happy to see a crisp salad, a veggie soup (mayjah bonus points for beans in it!), bread + earth balance, a fruit plate, chips + guac + salsa…lots of basic things that everyone – vegan, vegetarian or carnivore – would enjoy!

  2. Aw, thanks for the shout-out and for this thoughtful post, Diana! You are a peach 🙂 The vegetarian (and vegan) world thanks you for not only broaching the topic, but also for providing some awesome solutions, tips, and ideas for hosts that aren’t as familiar with the veg lifestyle. It really is such a kindness when omnivore friends are this considerate of their veg guests. Reading your post was the equivalent of being invited into your home and served a yummy vegetarian dish 🙂 Such hospitality on this blog! xoxo

  3. I’m THRILLED whenever there is some sort of bean or quinoa salad. Often times the hardest part for a vegetarian is getting protein – a greens salad (like the potato chips) just isn’t going to be filling. Protein is key!


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