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Do you cater to a vegetarian for a party?

  • c

We are throwing a party for about 26 people. We're having caesar salad, fruit salad, lumpia, chicken jerk sandwiches. We'll have a really busy day cleaning up & getting ready for the party since we both work & have 2 young children. We have 1 vegetarian coming. Do you make a vegetarian dish (besides the salads) for that 1 person? What if they don't end up coming? On the other hand, I would feel like I'm not being a good hostess to cater to her diet.

Any thoughts?

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  1. I might make sure there was 1 veg app and sandwich alternative (grilled vegs) but that's it, especially if there is only 1 person with that diet out of 26.

    1. As a former vegetarian, I can say with all honesty that your veg friend will be used to fending for herself, cobbling a meal together via non-meat side dishes. As long as you have a few different "safe" foods, it's fine.

      1. As a former vegetarian - if there was one decent dish id be happy. So assuming either that person eats anchvovies or your salad doesn't contain them id be happy enough.
        But if all I could eat is fruit salad I would be sad/hungry but not mad at the host.

        1. Chele,

          Since veg dishes can be enjoyed by non-vegetarians, it wouldn't put me out in the least. I make a salad with a little quinoa, feta, black beans and black soybeans (it's a cold salad) tossed with halved cherry tomatoes and a vinaigrette that is nice. It's really easy to assemble, too, and not expensive, but if you're truly pressed for time, you can find salads like this at TJ's. etc.

          Sounds like a fun party! :-)

          1 Reply
          1. re: pinehurst

            Yes, this is the kind of thing I'd add to the menu

          2. I am with the others, no need to create something special.

            If you left the meat out of half the lumpia, then that would be a great meal for a vegetarian. As an omnivore, I choose veg dishes first and often, instead of meat dishes.

            1. Is it possible for the lumpia to be vegetarian? I assume you're buying them as it is a job of work to make from scratch. A plate of lumpia and salads is pretty hearty.

              I love lumpia but given their nature, probably wouldn't even notice if they were meatless. And I love meat!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Violatp

                Thanks for the suggestion, but my parents are making them & they are making it from scratch. I think they have already made them & froze them.

              2. I do, I want everyone to feel welcome and included. I think, because I don't eat grains very often and have been places where there has been nothing other salad that I can eat, that I might have a different perspective than someone with no food restrictions.

                1. Personally, I'd probably make this to give to the vegetarian, using whatever sauce you already made for the chicken. But mostly because I'd like to see if it works.

                  Yes, the guest would probably be happy with the other dishes.


                  1. My ex SIL is a vegetarian and we found that it was easiest to just to make all sides vegetarian friendly. And if they weren't substantial we made a baked pasta dish.

                    When the BF and I host bbqs I make all the sides vegetarian friendly and buy veggie burgers for our vegetarian friend.

                    For me its not difficult to do and I don't mind the leftovers.

                    My BF's mom ( a very good hostess) is still a little embarrassed about the time she cooked dinner for my family. She knew my SIL doesn't eat meat and thought that she planned accordingly. Unfortunately all my SIL could eat were the carrots and string beans because everything else contained meat. SIL was very gracious, but BF's mom was pretty upset that a guest wasn't "properly fed".

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: viperlush

                      "My ex SIL is a vegetarian and we found that it was easiest to just to make all sides vegetarian friendly."
                      I'm an ex-vegetarian and this would always have worked for me.

                      1. re: viperlush

                        That's what we usually do- there may be a meat "main" but everything else will be vegetarian- sides, nibbles, etc.

                        1. re: viperlush

                          The challenge with only preparing sides that are veg-friendly is that the vegetarian might not get enough protein. It helps if at least one side has some source of protein. Of course, you have to make sure that the guest isn't actually vegan, which eliminates some sources of protein.

                          1. re: alwayshungrygal

                            Exactly, but if all sides are already vegetarian it's easy to just make one vegetarian main instead of making both meat sides and vegetarian sides.

                        2. I might be inclined to add some sort of bean dish... something like a 3 bean salad or a baked bean pot. My baked beans always start out with a large jar of Randall's Mixed Beans which offers huge variety in colors, texture and heartiness.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Scoutmaster

                            As an ex-vegetarian, I was also thinking that a bean dish would add protein & bulk for the vegetarian who might otherwise just have a fruit salad (I wouldn't have eaten the caesar salad unless I was sure there were no anchovies in it, and unless the host volunteered that info., I wouldn't have wanted to ask, 'cause I didn't want to create a hassle). I'd add some crispy pita or tortillas triangles, too. I bet even the non-vegetarians would like those additions. Or, a bowlful of roasted veggies so the vegetarian can make a sandwich & not stand out as an "outlier" while others are eating the jerk chicken sandwiches. Menu sounds great, and good for you for being a considerate host.

                          2. i think most vegetarians are used to cobbling together a meal when at parties, but i do always make veg options. that being said, i never serve leafy salads for buffets -- they take up too much plate real estate. and a veg-head would likely avoid a caesar for potential anchovy.

                            a nice chopped salad with cukes, avocado and tomatoes could work here and won't get limp like dressed lettuce.

                            1. If you're planning on the Caesar salad being an option for the vegetarian, you should leave out the anchovy and be sure they eat eggs and cheese.

                              I think a bean salad is an appropriate addition, especially if the lumpia can not be made vegetarian.

                              1. I'm with what the others have said, but would add that it doesn't hurt to have a veggie or portabella mushroom burger just so that the vegetarian can feel like they are getting a "main" dish. They are easy to whip up.

                                1. I always have a selection of vegetarian items at my parties since everyone will eat vegetarian food. Here are some suggestions, take a look at your menu, you have:

                                  1 Mexican Salad
                                  2 Generic Fruit salad
                                  3 Chinese Appetizer
                                  4 Caribbean main dish

                                  You are kind of all over the map. I would suggest that you pick a theme and go for it. For example.

                                  Asian Theme

                                  Asian Cucumber Salad
                                  Thai peanut noodle salad
                                  Stir Fried Rice
                                  Sweet and Spicy chicken kebabs

                                  Caribbean Theme

                                  Jicama salad
                                  Jamaican vege patties (aka empanadas)
                                  Coconut Rice and Peas
                                  Jamaican jerk chicken Kabobs

                                  All of these items are easy to make, cheap, hold well and show continuity of food throughout the courses. Plus vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike will be happy with their selections.


                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: RetiredChef

                                    I was staring to wonder if I was the only person that thought nothing went together!

                                    1. re: LaLa

                                      nope. lol, but seemed like the menu was already pretty set.

                                  2. I look at vegetarian dishes as something everyone could enjoy and not special to the vegetarians coming. More and more non-veg people love good veg food and are de-emphasizing meat in their diet. a good gran, veg or bean salad is very good for this purpose, since its more hearty than a lettuce based salad. Something in lieu of jerk for a vegetarian to put in a sandwich - lets say even a few veg sandwiches- would also be good.

                                    that being said, I think that if the caesar is truly vegetarian and if you have some bread, rolls or such on the side, that your vegetarian guest would likely be able to get by with the caesar and fruit salads as a meal.

                                    1. I don't cater to vegetarians, but I always have several vegetarian sides and apps so that the veg person/people can eat enough and be satisfied.

                                      I would do some sort of pasta salad or something that can work as a side for the non-veg people and the main for the veg person.

                                      1. If I have someone with dietary restrictions coming, I like to make sure they will have something... For this menu, I think I would marinate some tofu slices in your jerk sauce, then roast (425F on parchment paper with some oil).

                                        1. It would not occur to me NOT to give prominence to a vegetarian main dish option, though I am a carnivore. I think it is inhospitable to leave a vegetarian no option but to pick around on side dishes. Mujadarra is a good choice because it is so versatile. It's a satisfying hot main but also a good side, warm or cold, and a great topping for bruschetta or other breads. I would be happy to have a lot left over - though that's unlikely to happen. To use it up with eaters who insist on meat entrees, combine it with cut-up cooked sausage.

                                          1. As a veg for 20+yrs i would never expect special treatment. However, i recommend you send a quick email to confirm their attendance and include the menu with a note saying re:anchovies in salad and that you are thinking to offer her/him a grilled portabello option for the sandwich.
                                            Then she/he will have a heads up on the menu and all you will need to do is buy and grill/roast a few portabellos with olive oil and basalmic and set them aside for that guest. Really not expensive or time consuming

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                                              i was a vegetarian for a long time too and would have felt totally weird being made special food.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                On top of that, I had an Thanksgiving where I made a special fish dish for an African friend of friend who really only ate fish as her protein and then made EXACTLY the right number of vegetarian pot pies for the vegetarians on top of the turkey and everything else. The fish eater saw the vegetarian options and insisted on having one, despite having her own specially made dish. One of the vegetarians did without and filled up on all of the sides, which thankfully, were all vegetarian. My rule now is to make sure the whole menu can accomodate a variety of needs - I have substantive dishes that are vegan and gluten free (oh quinoa how i love you).

                                                1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                                  Ha! What a complicated dinner to execute!
                                                  I have a southern friend who has bbqs often in the summer, with seriously nothing veg (bacon in the potato salad!) so i always bring with me a big main dish kind of salad. Once i had put it out on the buffet (mixed greens, jicama, black beans, pumpkin seeds, green onion, cilantro, avocado, cherry tomatoes, corn with a lime vinegrette) and by the time i got to it all the omnis loved it so much it was gone!! Hahaha. I think that was the night i had grilled corn for dinner and a few too many margaritas......

                                              2. re: Ttrockwood

                                                Agree with the above. Also a 20+ year vegetarian.
                                                I don't want to be treated "differently", nor do I expect special meals.
                                                I am coming to your party to see YOU and your guests and to socialize.

                                                A heads-up might be a nice gesture --- but I generally make sure I get my protein ~before~ a party anyway. It is not the job of my host(ess).

                                              3. I try my best to have a vegetarian option if I am having a party.

                                                1. Mom allllllways makes a vegitarian main griilled portbella mushroom caps or eggplant steaks... she doesnt want someone to have "cobblesomething together" drives my dad nuts... but a lot of times even the omnivores will choose the veggie option

                                                  1. I have a vegan friend, and she doesn't always trust that the offerings are vegan -- she's very kind about it and doesn't make a fuss, but she doesn't eat. I ask her to bring a dish, and I make sure that at least the bread is vegan (and I mention to her it's made only of flour, salt, honey and yeast).

                                                    It's not that hard to offer an extra salad that's all veggies. If your friend is ovo-lacto OK, then maybe devilled eggs could be a good option that everyone will enjoy with a meal like you've got.

                                                    Fussing too much can make your friend uncomfortable, too.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                      1. re: youareabunny

                                                        some also dont eat sugar.. due to the fact that part of the processing may involve animal char..not enough for it to be considered "unkosher" for religious purpouses but unclean for vegan consumtion ...
                                                        Honey is an animal - byproduct

                                                        1. re: youareabunny

                                                          Ooooohhhhh. Well, I guess my vegan will choke it down. Insecto-vegan?

                                                          Most of the vegetarians I know are very nice and say, "Oh, don't worry! I'll bring my own/eat around it" because they know their requirements are somewhat . . . byzantine. I know some people who say they are vegetarian, but they'll eat fish. I live with two elderly people who don't eat meat, but will eat hot dogs. You can break your heart trying, but very few vegetarians actually demand that you do. IME.

                                                          I guess the most polite thing to do is to say, "Well, I'll be serving this, this, and this, but you are welcome to bring anything you like." And then make sure you provide plenty of non-food good times.

                                                      2. It doens't hurt to have a non-carnivorous option available besides the fruit salad. If it's a 'real' caeser salad it's not vegetarian anyway - it's got anchovy in the dressing. I'd add a bean salad or something like that to have non-animal protein available.

                                                        1. I wouldn't cater to meat eaters.

                                                          1. i could go either way, but if you decide to do something for him/her....

                                                            cheese+rice bakes are easy, cheap, fast and no-hassle. i usually do one that's as follows:

                                                            1 box zatarain's spanish rice
                                                            1 can diced tomatoes
                                                            1 can black beans
                                                            1 can sweet corn
                                                            shredded cheese

                                                            prepare rice as directed on box (i dump mine in a rice cooker, easy to do stovetop too). when done, stir in (drained) corn and beans.

                                                            dump into greased or PAMd baking pan/dish. sprinkle top with shredded cheese (i usually do cheddar or "mexican blend") to taste. toss into a 425F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until browning and bubbly. if it's not browning, switch to broiler for a minute or two. i usually serve with sour cream, salsa, and guac, but it's also good with ketchup, hot sauce, bbq sauce, whatever you have ...or just alone. can be cut into nice squares for serving and holds its shape. makes a nice big sheet pan of food for cheap and is not a lot of work or time to prepare. provides a balanced veggie meal in 1 recipe.