The Most Challenging Dinner Guest Ever: And 5 Delicious Meals To Feed Them

updated Jun 5, 2019
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(Image credit: Amy Sly/Buzzfeed)

We’ve all been there. The Most Challenging Dinner Guest Ever is coming to dinner. The vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, how-in-the-world-do-I-feed-them friend. Rise to the occasion — we have five delicious meals that will not only work but satisfy and delight in even the most ingredient-constrained circumstances!

I saw this infographic above at the marvelous designer Amy Sly’s portfolio and had to laugh.

Haven’t we all been there? Looked around the dinner party plan and realized that our guests overlapped in a particularly challenging way, or that one person at the table stretched our culinary ingenuity? It’s not fair, of course, to label someone the “worst” dinner guest just if they have allergies (it’s not their fault!). But privately perhaps you’ve been dismayed — how do I take care of this person?

And sometimes we ourselves are that Most Difficult Dinner Guest, cringing a little as we tell our host that yes, soy milk is still OK, and teff flour is in, but we’ve recently developed a nasty allergic reaction to eggplant.

Sometimes the Most Difficult Dinner Guest is an aggregate (one guest is gluten-free, another vegan, another races to the hospital if they touch a peanut).

To the engaged cook, however, these guests and challenges are not moments of exasperation — they are inspiration and a challenge to create something delicious in constrained circumstances. Anyone can make buttery foie gras on white toast taste good; it is the constraints that show what you’re really made of, as a cook.

We here at The Kitchn run the gamut of omnivores to sometime vegans, with many food avoidances and allergies between us. Over the years we’ve come up with a few knock-out meals for our own Most Difficult Dinner Guest dilemmas. Here are five meals that will always work, always delight, with care and deliciousness both.

5 Meals to Feed Nearly Anyone

• 1 Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions – Vegan, gluten-free, full of flavor.

• 2 Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas with Lemon – A deeply delicious stew, vibrant and colorful

• 3 Soba Noodle Salad with Bok Choy – Make sure to use gluten-free soba noodles in this fresh soba dish.

• 4 Very Simple Dal Palak – Garnish with cilantro and serve with brown rice for a rich, warming meal.

• 5 Curried Coconut Carrot Soup – An amazingly delicious soup, filling from the coconut milk.

Throw together a good green salad and some brown rice as a side dish, and then on to dessert…

5 Desserts Nearly Anyone Can Love

• 1 Vegan/Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Icing – It’s hard to make baked good that’s both vegan and gluten-free, but this one will please anyone.

• 2 Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Smoked Sesame Seeds – Sweet and creamy pudding.

• 3 Spring Dessert Recipe: Strawberry and Honey Sorbet – Pretty and bright. Make with agave instead of honey for vegan guests. Also try these sweet wine slushies!

• 4 One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream – The one and only banana ice cream! Dress it up with some melted chocolate.

• 5 Thai Mango with Coconut Sticky Rice – A delicious sweet dish of creamy coconut rice and sliced mango.

What are your favorite dishes for feeding the guests with eating challenges, intolerances, and allergies? Do you have some go-to crowd-pleasing dishes that anyone can enjoy?

(Images: Amy Sly/Buzzfeed; see linked recipes for full image credits)