Hosting a Vegetarian Dinner Guest? How to make a vegetarian version of any main dish

A common dilemma when hosting a dinner party is how to best accommodate a vegetarian dinner guest.

An easy solution is to make two versions of the main dish; a meat version and a vegetarian one, and ensure side items are all vegetarian. That way you’re always on familiar ground as you cook, yet you’ll satisfy all guests.

The secret to making a vegetarian version of any main dish

Simply substitute the meat with a protein-containing ingredient of similar color and texture according to the following substitution table. That’s all there is to it!

This way you can cook a balanced vegetarian version for any main dish without requiring any complicated or hard-to-find ingredients. You needn’t have had any prior experience with vegetarian cooking to make this a success!

If your meat version contains…Replace it with this for the vegetarian version:
Diced or ground chicken, diced or ground pork, or flaked fishChick peas/garbanzo beans, or any light colored beans (e.g. butter beans or northern beans)
Diced or ground beefMedium or dark colored beans (e.g. pinto beans or black beans)
Large pieces of any type of meatVegan patty (often sold in frozen section of supermarket). Prepare and cook as for the meat version, or simply cook plain as directed on package.
Chunks of meat to be skewered onto a kebabTofu

For example, create a vegetarian lasagna by substituting canned pinto beans for ground beef as shown in the table. The look and consistency is similar to the meat version, leaving you on familiar territory with no problems as you cook. By contrast, a spinach and mushroom lasagna can become watery if you’re not careful.

Tips for making the substitutions as painless as possible:

  • Avoid lentils; they mush up and can ruin the texture of your dish. Plus, it takes a lot of extra time to prepare these.
  • If you’re using beans or chick peas/garbanzo beans, use canned versions; they are ready-to-use. In contrast the dried versions take lots of extra prep time.

Advantages of the two-version system:

  • You’ll be cooking a recipe with which you’re already familiar; so no unexpected hitches on the night of your dinner party.
  • Both main dishes can be treated similarly in terms of timing, letting you focus on being with your guests the rest of the time.
  • Very little extra work is required; only the main dish is being duplicated, and it still takes less than twice the work because you’re simply splitting your ingredients into different pans.

Be aware…

  • In the vegetarian version, in addition to omitting the meat itself, you’ll also need to avoid products made from meat. These occur most often in stocks, broths, canned soups, sauces, dressings and more; read labels carefully. e.g. anchovies are an ingredient of Caesar dressing.
  • Some vegetarians are more restrictive with their diet than others. Find out about your guest’s needs. For example, vegans are very strict vegetarians who do not eat anything that comes from an animal, meaning you also need to avoid things like milk, eggs and cheese if you’re cooking for a vegan. This may mean you have to be careful about selecting the main dish you plan to serve for everyone.
  • Use dedicated cookware, prep tools and utensils in cooking and serving the vegetarian version of the dish. Anything that has touched the meat version should never then touch the vegetarian version.

At the end of the day…

The success of your dinner party comes from having fun and being all together – not just from the menu; vegetarians and meat eaters are alike in that respect! So enjoy yourself and have fun with your new talent of turning your favorite recipes into cuisine which vegetarians will love.

Ultimately, your vegetarian dinner guest is certain to notice and appreciate any efforts you make to accommodate their dietary requirements, particularly a vegetarian version of your main dish as described here.

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