The winter holidays are almost here! Conjuring up delicious meals and thoughts of gatherings with loved ones brings smiles and anticipation.
From now to January, it’s game on for holiday planning, including planning the best plant-based holiday menu. If you’re new to vegan or plant-based eating or trying to plan a menu to accommodate plant-based guests, you may be afraid that you’ll be left noshing on pieces of lettuce.
Don’t be frightened. Plant-based eating leaves out the animal products but includes an eclectic array of scrumptious ingredients and foods. The right plant-based menu will delight the taste buds.
Step 1: Plan ahead
Think in terms of the event. Is it a party or a sit-down dinner? Want people to mingle? Choose a buffet. Specialty holiday drinks, appetizers, finger foods, tapas and mini desserts lend themselves to being more accessible. There are plenty of bean and vegetable dips, sauces, tarts, “cheese” balls, crudités, cookies and cakes. Opt for colorful dishes that create a visual spread, like a vegan charcuterie board, that are transportable for mingling and moving.
If you’re making a traditional dinner, think about the main course, side dishes and desserts. The main dish is usually the heartiest on the table, filled with flavors that will make diners go “ahhhhh” at the end of the meal. Get playful with it. There are many options. Since you’re going plant-based, choose dishes that showcase all those magical ingredients and go for whole foods recipes with less processing that let the natural flavors shine through.
Then move on to your side dishes. Pick dishes that complement your main course. Choose some that are light, full of healthy veggies that leave you feeling revitalized. Pair them with others that are starch-based and create that cozy sense of calm.
Add in some appetizers and, of course, seasonal drinks. Who could forget dessert? Pick a couple sweet treats to end the meal, and you have your menu framework.
Step 2: Let the fun begin
Now you can flesh it out by choosing the recipes. Let yourself get a little nostalgic. Are there any particularly memorable holiday flavors? Don’t worry if they’re meat or dairy-based. Plant-based alternatives will give you control in the kitchen. Have fun making a list of those old favorites and then looking up recipes for plant-based versions of those dishes. Wellingtons, roasts, “meatloaf,” casseroles, “brisket,” mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, savory stuffings and so much more are all out there replicated with healthy plant foods.
Get a little wild. Expand your repertoire by picking a few new dishes. Search The Upside blog for tons of creative ideas. Choose vibrant dishes that appeal to the senses and bring out the natural flavors.
Consider incorporating seasonal produce–apples, dates, persimmons, pears, pomegranates, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, leeks, kale and Brussels sprouts, plus seasonal spices like allspice, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, sage and rosemary facilitate the holiday vibe.
Impress your guests. They’ll have a satisfying meal that won’t leave them with the traditional bogged down feeling.
Step 3: Assess in advance
Review your recipes in advance (especially the new ones). Plan a schedule for making your dishes. Some may require advance preparation. Last-minute surprises are no fun.
Do a test run on any fancy dishes or ones with detailed steps. This way, you’ll be sure your guests will love them. Create a food prep and cooking schedule. Make your shopping list, and be sure there’s room to store everything, so you’re ready for the big day. You might want to clean out your fridge and pantry a couple days in advance to make room.
Don’t forget the decor. Add to your list any supplies you’ll need for decorating, party or table setting ideas. Even better, head outside and collect your table decorations straight from nature.
Double check your guest list to ensure you enough food to feed everyone comfortably. Plus, everyone knows holiday meal leftovers are all part of the fun. Happy holidays!