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Vegetarian Dinner - Menu Suggestions


I`m planning a dinner over at my house for some vegetarian friends.
I come from a family where a vegetarian concept simply doesn't exist, and a meal without any meat is not even considered a real meal, just a snack. That`s the reason why I have hard times thinking of a nice vegetarian dinner menu. I can think of billions vegetarian side dishes, but can`t think of a main vegetarian dish besides pasta.

Do you have any suggestion besides pasta and tofu dishes (one of my guests just hates tofu).

Thank You.

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  1. eggplant lasagnette (no noodles) Michael Chiarello's recipie,
    stir fry, chili or a rich soup, quesadillas or fajitas, falafel, mediterranean or ethiopian style lentils, stuffed tomatoes or zucchini, ratatouille, pizza...maybe this will bring some ideas...

    1. Do they eat cheese (as long as they are lacto-ovo vegetarian, not vegan, they will)? If so you can make saag paneer. You can do a lot of Indian dishes that are vegetarian (saag paneer, chana masala, garlic naan, cauliflower, zucchini and potato casserole (I have a good recipe I can get for you).
      If they don't like Indian food, you can do several different types of moroccan/spanish/middle eastern dishes - couscous with chickpeas, paella without the meat and seafood, dolmades, greek salad, hummus, fried eggplant.
      Speaking of eggplant, you could do a eggplant parmesan.

      2 Replies
      1. re: pescatarian

        Yes, they do eat cheese. Some of my guests don`t like Indian.
        I`m kind of leaning towards eggplant parmesan. I love that dish, and don`t know anybody who doesn`t like it.

        Cauliflower, zucchini and potato casserole sounds really good. May I get the recipe?

        1. re: IthacaSnow

          Sure, I'll get it at home tonight (it has indian inspired flavours - cumin, garlic, coriander, cardimon, etc). It's simple but it is delicious.

          Re the eggplant parmesan, if you think you and your guests would like it, try roasted fennel and garlic on the side - delish and I think it would be a nice side with the eggplant parm with a nice salad.

      2. I think that most of the suggestions above sound great. Another idea would be risotto - some of the recipes have some really interesting combinations of ingredients that make them seem more like main dishes. For example, I had recently had one with butternut squash and blue cheese that I really liked. Served with some sort of green vegetable and a dessert it would make a great vegetarian meal.

        1. Many vegetarians eat seafood - that'll give you tons of options if your guests do. Worth finding out.

          What's wrong with pasta? There are pletny of great veggie lasagna dishes out there and usually are pretty satisfying to meat-eaters.

          Otherwise, you might try pan fried blackbean cakes. Veggie wraps or tacos, while less fancy, are also good.

          2 Replies
          1. re: michael23

            yum fried black bean cakes? recipe?

            1. re: lollya

              I've used a variety of recipes - last one was roughly as follows:

              2 cans black beans (yes, canned beans) - well drained
              1/3 cup cooked corn (fresh or frozen is fine)
              1 tbls mayo
              1/2 tsp cumin
              black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
              bread crumbs

              Mash 3/4 of black beans into a paste (i've used food processor or just chopped with knife)
              Mix well with mayo, add 1/4 of (non-mashed) beans and rest of ingredients - except bread crumbs
              Form into 3" patties and coat with bread crumbs

              Use enough oil to coat bottom of med-hot pan
              Cook patties a few minutes on each side until browned.

              Last time I served with shrimp and corn in a chipotle flavored demi-glace poured over top, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro.

          2. I used to do Indian for vegetarian when I had guests who wouldn't eat fish. But now I eat vegetarian every Friday so I've become more creative with menus.

            Roasted eggplant soup with goat cheese drizzle
            Eggplant tian
            Potato croquettes

            Chickpea-flour crepes with ratatouille
            Linguine with porcini sauce
            Angel hair frittata
            Roasted winter vegetables with mustard sauce
            Asparagus flan with fontina sauce

            I've done eggplant parm as an entree before, too. It's one of my faves, except kinda defeats the purpose of my eating healthily once a week.

            2 Replies
            1. re: JungMann

              Wow, how about recipes for the soup, eggplant tian and veggies with mustard sauce

              1. re: nance

                Roasted eggplant soup
                Oil 3 tomatoes (halved), 1 large eggplant (halved), 1 small onion (halved), 6 garlic cloves (peeled) and roast at 400 until they begin to brown. Let cool. Add insides of eggplant to pan and discard skins. Add other roasted vegetables and 3 sticks worth of thyme. Cover with vegetable stock, boil and simmer until vegetables are tender. Puree and return to the pot. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Add 1/2 pint whipping cream or full-fat yogurt. Reduce until thick and creamy. Garnish with goat cheese and paprika.

                Veggies with mustard sauce is a combo of new potatoes, onions, quartered fennel and baby carrots, 1 clove garlic (minced), 2 tsp. thyme, and equal parts oil and butter. Roast. Meanwhile water down 1/4 c. dijon mustard with some vegetable stock. About 4 Tbs. After roasting vegetables 25 min., add mustard sauce and combine with browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Roast until done.

                Eggplant tian I have to look for.

            2. get some brussels sprouts. Preheat the oven to 475 F. Toss the sprouts in a bowl with olvie oil, salt, pepper, lemon zest and a few cloves of garlic. Roast on a cookie sheet or baking pan till yummy and brown. Remove to bowl, toss with fresh shaved parmesian and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

              I personally hate brussels sprouts, but my husband inhaled these.

              1. I'm going through a bit of a veg stage.....

                Basically, you need to scrap the idea of meat, starch and veggie....and re-design your concept of dinner. I love things like stuffed peppers, veggies and feta in pastry, lentil dishes, curries, eggplant parmesan, etc.

                Here are some links to veg recipes I've made/created:
                Stuffed Roasted Peppers: http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.c...
                Truffle-scented sweet potato purée topped with a roasted veggie and lentil phyllo strudel and port-braised mushrooms (divine! and vegan!): http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.c...
                Glazed Seitan - http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.c...
                Two kind of indian curries - http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.c...

                Stepping outside of the north american box helps a lot - legumes are wonderful, and if cheese is acceptable, it's always a lovely addition. There's a lot more to veggie cuisine than a vegetarian lasagna! :)

                1. grilled portabello mushrooms make a really terrific "meaty" main

                  barley & quinoa are two more unusual grains with good mouth feel that can add heartiness.

                  you could go wild and make gluten (wheat meat) if you wanted something actually meat shaped.

                  1. Hi. Ovo-lacto vegetarian here. Some of my favorite non-pasta dishes

                    Polenta with any number of toppings (roasted peppers and gorgonzola cheese, an olive and tomato mix, sauteed greens and nuts.

                    Grilled or roasted mushrooms with mashed turnips/celery root/potatoes (choose one or mix) and sauteed greens

                    Different chickpea or other bean stews

                    Cauliflower gratins

                    Various risottos

                    If you can get your hands on Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (check your library if you don't have it) I think you'll find lots of wonderful ideas there. Many of the dishes I make now evolved from something I found in that book. Oh...her Vegetarian Suppers book has a dish that we have made for non-vegetarian company: Wine braised lentils over toast with spinach and red pearl onions. This is a divine dinner. I usually make extra spinach. I think I'll make it tomorrow night.

                    Recipe here:

                    1. I heard this mentioned, and I really love stuffed peppers. I use soy sausage (Italian favor) and brown rice, bulgar wheat or quinoa. Flavor stuffing with onions, tomato sauce, bit of pepper flakes and garlic. Top with Parmesan cheese and fill pan 1" with tomato sauce. It is very rich and satisfying. I made it with the soy sausage for my husband and he couldn't tell that it wasn't real sausage.

                      Serve with a great red wine, a big loaf of bread and a salad. Sounds great!

                      1. This has got to be my favourite dish and you would sware you are eating the real thing Vegetarian Chile made with Yeves similated ground beef is unbelievably delicious and simple to make. 1 5 oz can of tomatoe paste
                        1 pkg of yeves ground
                        6 white mushrooms diced
                        1 red pepper diced
                        1 small onion diced
                        5 0zs of water
                        your favourite spices
                        Saute the mushrooms peppers and onions add the Yves ground and the can of tomatoe sauce, then add the water, your spices (salt and pepper will do fine or a little chili spice)stir for several minutes and its all ready. You can spoon it on Basmati rice or a burger bun. Bon Apetite

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Mr.D

                          All about Vegetarian Chili here too.... I use ground Boca to substitute the beef... I've been all about hearty tomato soups too, maybe as a starter?

                        2. My standard dish when I have non-meat-eaters coming to dinner is spanakopita. Just about everyone loves the spinach-cheese-eggs in filo. You can prepare it ahead of time and just put it in the oven before your guests arrive.

                          If your options include fish/seafood there are many more recipes that will satisfy everyone.

                          1. Don't forget about quiche...any number of combos there including spinach and Swiss cheese, broccoli and roasted red pepper. Or a cheese souffle. Either of those with a nice vegetable-based soup to round things out. If it's a more casual dish, the ground beef substitutes -TVP- (also in bulk at health food stores) can be used for tacos, chili, spaghetti sauce, etc. There are also some decent TVP "meat"balls out there (frozen) that make great meatball sub sandwiches. We don't eat land-meat and sometimes I like to just make a meal out of a variety finger foods/appetizers; very easy to come up with non-meat ideas there.

                            1. You could go Asian with Sechuan sesame noodles and then side it with Broccoli or sugar peas with ginger garlic sauce. I know it's pasta, but it's not Italian.

                                1. Yes, souffles! Don't be afraid... Here are some very detailed instructions plus a fantastic dish (I made it for Thanksgiving) for Butternut Squash Pudding Souffles (the pudding part just means you can actually make in advance and reheat). All the meat eaters were jealous:


                                  Or how about the Zuni Chard and Onion Panade with Fontina? Very simple, all the work is done 2 hours before serving (it bakes long and slow), and everyone will want seconds. Read all the drooling in this post (plus link to the recipe):


                                  Serve a salad on the side and call it done! More time for wine.

                                  1. this is a good time of year for sheperds' pie. to make a vegitarian one, have the 1st layer be a savory mix of beans and/or lentils and/or no-meat ground meat all sauteed with onions, garlic, lots of herbs & spices, fresh ginger, some soy or worsteshire sauce. 2nd layer is sauteed sliced carrots (also dolled up), top layer is good homemade mashed potatoes. bake it all in the oven, make a nice big salad. winter vegitarian heaven.

                                    1. FYI
                                      I believe that Fontina is made with Rennet and know that Worsteshire Sauce is made from anchovies...not sure how strict your veggies are.