Expert Advice: Vegan Party Tips & Recipes

When it comes to vegan party planning, I immediately think of my friend Jennie Cook. (You may remember her Super Easy and Delicious Zucchini Butter, which remains one of my all-time favorite vegetable recipes.) As a caterer and owner of Plant Based Parties, Jennie knows all about creating menus that will satisfy vegans and omnivores alike.
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I asked Jennie for advice on vegan-friendly party food, and she shared these great tips that you can use whether you have months or minutes to plan.

Vegan dishes that wow:

The best foods for any party are always the seasonal foods. For instance, right now you could serve a citrus salad featuring cara cara oranges, the darlings of citrus fruits, with shaved fennel and walnuts alongside seared snap peas. Or tahini-drizzled asparagus, which jumpstarts any party right into the wow factor.

Also, keep it simple! Three great dishes make a meal! Ask a guest to bring the dessert, or order it from your favorite local bakery.

Serving a mixed crowd:

My goal for a plant based party is to create such a fabulous menu of fiber-rich, local, alive deliciousness that the absence of meat is but an afterthought of the carnivorous guests. For main dishes we have a few standouts like tempeh sliders, which I get made specially by Korean Dave. Our sweet potato lasagna, fritters, or samosas are requested daily!

For side dishes we really let the season dominate and we grill, roast and marinate the bounty. A plate of grilled asparagus and fennel, roasted achiote carrots, marinated beets and oranges are current recommendations. The vegetable tian is always impressive and delicious. Massaged kale continues to be intriguing, but I'm careful about who gets it; it can rub folks funny.

Even if you have omnivores at the party, I think the best thing to do would be to avoid the meat, and maybe add a little bit of chèvre to their dishes (I like Soledad Goats). Legumes and toasted and seasoned nuts can also enhance a recipe and add texture.

How to quickly accommodate a vegan guest:

For an unexpected vegan guest, the go-to would be adding a can of beans and a little diced onion into whatever vegetable dish is already working. Adding toasted nuts works, too, for the salad or side dish.

Helpful hints:

My staff has honey lapses every now and then – reading labels is very important. Eggs and dairy products are often hidden ingredients.

Folks tend to make too much of prepared starches like rice and pasta and then the recipe washes out. Don't be afraid to be generous with sauces and dressings. A tossed salad is far more appealing than dressing on the side. Make it delicious!

• For information on Jennie's catering company, and for more recipes at her blog, visit Plant Based Parties.

Thanks, Jennie!

Related: Beautiful Vegan Dinner Party Dishes

(Images: courtesy Plant Based Parties)

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