Friday, July 4, 2008

Great Wiki Article on How to Accommodate Veg'n Guests

What happens when you're having guests for dinner, and they are either vegan or vegetarian? Some preparation beforehand can ensure that your vegan and vegetarian guests enjoy the event as much as the other guests.


  1. Ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions when issuing an invitation to a meal, and try to remember them - they'll greatly appreciate your efforts and respect you. When discussing the subject, ask them if they are willing to eat Jello, eggs, dairy products, honey, or animal-derived gelatin. Individuals may differ in how strictly they adhere to their chosen restrictions under certain conditions.
  2. Know the differences to avoid awkward errors or unneeded effort on your part. There are different types of vegetarians. Don't be afraid to ask specific questions and what options are safe to serve.
    • Lacto vegetarians eat non-meat animal products, e.g. dairy (milk, gelatin-free yogurt, butter, rennet-free cheese) and honey, but no fish, chicken, meat, or gelatin.
    • Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs in addition to dairy products, but no fish, chicken, meat, gelatin, or cheese that contains rennet.
    • Vegans avoid eggs, dairy products, honey, and gelatin.
    • Pescetarians aren't technically vegetarians but may eat a mostly vegetarian diet. They will eat seafood. Some eat more than others or specific types of seafood.

  3. Check the ingredients of the recipes you were planning on serving. Some recipes may already be acceptable, or could be easily adapted (for example, using soy milk instead of cow's milk to make a dessert vegan). When purchasing products, look out for hidden animal ingredients such as meat broths, gelatin, casein or whey, lactose, butter, cheese, etc.
  4. Don't guess. If you have a question about something, ask. Or better yet, consider having your vegetarian friend cook with you - if they enjoy cooking. You can learn a lot about vegetarian cooking this way. Ask them about a particular recipe and if it's agreeable and then pick up ingredients. Most vegan ingredients will have a vegan label.
  5. Do not assume that vegetarians will pick the vegetables out of a meat dish. Prepare a separate meat-free dish for them, without using the same utensils utilized in cooking the non-vegetarian dishes.
  6. Make sure that the quantity and quality of food served to all the guests is similar. Don't expect a vegetarian guest to feel satisfied with an iceberg lettuce salad while everyone else has a full meal. It is a surefire way to ensure that they don't want to return.
  7. Include filling dishes such as pasta, rice, or potatoes as well as fruits and vegetables. Don't forget to include protein, otherwise the guest will still be hungry. Good protein sources are vegetarian lentil soup or chili (made with beans). Mock meats can be useful, but check their ingredients as some may not be vegan. Also, not all vegetarians are crazy about mock meats, especially if they were raised as such all their lives.
  8. Search. It is easy to Google for vegetarian recipes online, or buy a vegetarian recipe book and plan in advance.
  9. Order out. If you cannot plan to cook separately for your vegetarian guests, then order some food from a local restaurant, checking that their dietary restrictions are met. Lots of restaurants accommodate vegetarians, e.g. Indian, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, and Ethiopian among others. Many cities also have vegetarian restaurants. In a pinch, even pizza (as long as they eat cheese with rennet) will do. You can also do a cheese-free veggie pizza. Tell the restaurant your needs and they may be able to steer you in the right direction for your order.
  10. Make simple non-meat dishes if you're feeling lazy or don't have vegan or vegetarian versions of things (such as mock meats or soy dairy, or switch vegetable stock for meat stock in recipes). Things like macaroni and cheese or sandwiches are incredibly easy and don't require anything extra.
  11. Look for ingredients at your local health food store. Many have delis and the staff are often quite knowledgeable. Don't be afraid of ordering dishes from the deli or asking questions of the deli workers. They'll be happy to help.
  12. Buy enough for your vegetarian guest and also enough for your other guest to try. It could be a great time to sample vegetarian dishes and your vegetarian or vegan guest won't feel singled out at the table.
  13. Remember to pick up dessert items and appetizer items your friend can enjoy as well. Consider doing a dessert assortment so everyone can have a little something. Veggie trays work well for everyone but the deli at your local health or fresh food store may also have tasty options.
  14. Give them notice. If you truly cannot accommodate your vegan or vegetarian guests, then warn them in advance so they can eat before the event or bring some food with them. You should still offer a veggie and/or fruit tray selection that everyone can nibble on.
  15. Remember that many of the foods that you eat may already be vegetarian or easily converted to vegetarian versions.
  16. Consider stocking up on several dishes and ingredients if your guest will be there over night or eating more than one meal. You may prefer to wait until they arrive and take them to the grocery store with you. Try to find a health food store in town and consider stopping there. You may also prefer to plan more meals out.


  • Always ask guests about their dietary requirements and be as clear as possible. Have them write it down if necessary. If you are not sure whether or not you can accomodate them, ask them for suggestions!
  • Consider how you would want to be treated if you were a vegan or vegetarian. Asking someone why they are vegetarian at the dinner table can be considered rude, and it puts them on the spot.
  • A search on Vegetarians and Vegans to understand your guests' choices better may help prevent giving unintentional offense.
  • Don't embarrass a guest by making an entire separate meal for them. You should incorporate their options into your menu.
  • Please do not be offended if your guest cannot eat what you prepared because of a certain ingredient overlook. For many vegetarians, this is not a flexible subject and "just a little" cheese/chicken stock/gelatin, etc. is not acceptable. The effort is greatly appreciated,and they should be gracious enough to explain that they cannot eat a certain product but that they appreciate the effort. It's not a personal attack, they just simply cannot eat certain items.
  • Vegetable bullion is readily available on the supermarket shelf next to chicken and beef. It's tasty and when used as the base for soup, risotto, or in which to cook beans, it works fabulously.
  • Most cheeses sold in the US/Europe contain rennet, an enzyme complex derived from cow stomachs. Unless the label says "microbial rennet" or "vegetable rennet" cheese is not vegetarian.
  • Another consideration when accommodating some vegetarian/vegan guests is that your soap is animal friendly and hasn't been tested on animals. If the label doesn't say that it wasn't, it has been tested on animals.


  • Do not lie to your guests and claim that dishes are vegetarian when they are not. This may very well be violating their ethical and/or religious beliefs. This is a very big violation of trust and friendship. If they find out you've lied, which is likely, they will feel they can no longer trust you. Some people may have severe allergic reactions to the animal ingredients you are trying to sneak in. Many vegetarians and vegans will become sick after eating animal products as their bodies are not used to consuming them.
  • Don't forget to keep a vegetarian dish vegetarian by using separate kitchen tools and equipment, both when preparing and serving it. It is generally not acceptable to slice a pot roast and then slice your vegan guest's tofu with the same knife. If you must use the same utensil, make sure to serve/prepare the vegetarian dish first.
  • Check the labels of all foods/snacks/seasonings to ensure they don't contain meat or meat-derived ingredients. For a vegan recipe, additionally avoid: "Lactose," "Whey Powder" "Modified Milk Ingredients," "Honey," "Dried Egg -Whites or -Yolks." "Gelatin" usually refers to the kind produced from animal bones or hides, so avoid it if it's not specified as coming from a non-animal source such as carrageenan, agar-agar, or Irish moss.
  • Not everyone likes giant mushroom sandwiches, bell peppers, and tofu. Don't try anything weird to impress the vegetarian guest. Rice, beans, rolls, macaroni, salad, corn, and other plain old foods will suffice.
  • Don't lecture your guests about their diet. Chances are, your vegetarian guest knows way more about how much protein, B12, and other nutrients they need than you think you know! They have done the research, and they have made the choices that they feel are best for them.
  • Don't make fun of the foods that your guest likes. Don't joke about the guest eating bark and seaweed or rabbit food. Don't joke about the guest being a "hippie", "tree hugger", or "new age nut". Vegetarianism has been around for ages and shouldn't be equated with any specific political slant or religious affiliation.
  • Not so much a warning as a request: Please don't spend the entire meal asking the vegan/vegetarian guest to explain why they are so. Don't tell them horror stories about how you know someone who has a relative who met someone whose neighbour was a vegetarian but got so sick he almost died. That's just rude and sick.
  • Most health food stores offer a higher quality product, offer foods with less preservatives or have a more specialized staff. This usually results in higher prices passed along to the consumer. Plan to spend more when shopping specialty stores or in the health food section of your better grocery stores.
  • If using cheese, find out if it was made with rennet (, which is made from a calf's stomach. There are cheeses made from "vegetable rennet" available.

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