How to Accommodate Vegan and Vegetarian Guests

What happens when you are 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.


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    Ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions when issuing an invitation to a meal, and try to remember them. They will greatly appreciate your efforts and respect you. When discussing the subject, ask them if they are willing to eat Jell-O, eggs, dairy products, honey, or animal-derived gelatin. Individuals may differ in how strictly they adhere to their chosen restrictions under certain conditions. Vegans and vegetarians alike will eat no gelatin, so be careful what you serve.
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    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 [Poach an Egg|eggs]] as well as dairy products, but no fish, chicken, meat, gelatin, or cheese that contains rennet.
    • Vegans avoid eggs, dairy products, honey, meat, and gelatin.
    • Pescatarians aren't vegetarians but may eat a mostly vegetarian diet. They will eat seafood. Some eat more than others or specific types of seafood.
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    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.
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    Don't guess. If you have a question about something, ask. 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 is agreeable and then pick up ingredients. Most vegan ingredients will have a vegan label.
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    Do not assume that vegetarians will pick the vegetables out of a meat dish, or eat fries or vegetable fare which has been cooked in the same oil as meats or fish. Prepare a separate meat-free dish for them, without using the same utensils utilized in cooking the non-vegetarian dishes.
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    Make sure 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 or pasta in boring, basic tomato sauce while everyone else has a full meal. It is a common error in restaurants also, and is a surefire way to ensure that they don't want to return.
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    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.
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    Search. It is easy to Google for vegetarian recipes online, or buy a vegetarian recipe book and plan.
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    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. Many 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 vegetarian pizza. Tell the restaurant your needs and they may be able to steer you in the right direction for your order.
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    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.
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    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.
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    Buy enough for your vegetarian guest and enough for your other guests 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.
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    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. Vegetable trays work well for everyone but the deli at your local health or fresh food store may also have tasty options.
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    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 vegetable or fruit tray selection that everyone can nibble on.
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    Remember that many of the foods that you eat may already be vegetarian or easily converted to vegetarian versions. Vegetarians are often delighted to see a host recognise meat-free cooking as a possibility... even if only briefly!
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    Consider stocking up on several dishes and ingredients if your guest will be there overnight 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.


  • 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.
  • 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 or chicken stock or gelatin, etc. is not acceptable. The effort is greatly appreciated. Naturally, many vegetarians feel very awkward about turning down food that was prepared specially, so please don't make it harder.
  • Conversely, a vegetarian 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.
  • Also do not assume all vegetables are acceptable to all vegetarians. Many (like Hindus, Jains) do not eat onions, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, vinegar, or fermented things like soya sauce (called "pure vegetarians") due to their beliefs. Others don't eat roots like potatoes, and some tomatoes. So ask.
  • A search on Vegetarians and Vegans to understand your guests' choices better may help prevent giving unintentional offense.
  • Another consideration when accommodating some vegetarian or vegan guests is that your soap / shampoo / laundry detergent is animal friendly and has not been tested on animals. If the label doesn't say that it wasn't, it has been tested on animals.
  • 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 you can accommodate them, ask them for suggestions!
  • Vegetable bouillon 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.
  • Many cheeses sold in the US/Europe contain rennet, an enzyme complex derived from cow stomachs. Unless the label says "contains no animal rennet", "microbial rennet" or "vegetable rennet" cheese is usually not vegetarian. A major exception is paneer, which is curdled using only lemon juice.


  • Don't make fun of the foods that your guest likes unless you know they will be comfortable with your jokes. 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.
  • 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 neighbor was a vegetarian but got so sick he almost died.
  • Don't lecture your guests about their diet. Chances are, your vegetarian guest knows more about how much protein, vitamin B12, and other nutrients they need than you think you know! They have likely done the research, and they have made the choices that they feel are best for them.
  • Most vegetarians prefer that their dishes are prepared and served using separate kitchen tools and equipment. It may not be acceptable to them for you to slice a pot roast and then slice their tofu with the same knife. If you must use the same utensil, make sure to serve or prepare the vegetarian dish first or wash it thoroughly between uses. On the other hand, some vegans and vegetarians eat out at restaurants where their food mixes with other ingredients, so they also should be understanding of your convenience.
  • Do not lie to your guests and claim that dishes are vegetarian when they are not. This may very well be violating their ethical or religious beliefs. This is a big violation of trust and friendship. If they find out you have 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. Then again, anyone who is allergic to any kind of food should be well notified.
  • 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. Many vegans eat honey, but you should check with them before putting it in their food.
  • Not everyone likes giant mushroom sandwiches, bell peppers, and tofu. Rice, beans, rolls, macaroni, salad, corn, and other plain old foods can suffice.
  • Most health food stores offer high quality vegetarian foods and have a 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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Categories: Event and Party Planning | Vegetarian Health