How to cook for vegans (when you’re not one)

Try these tips for vegan-friendly dishes that even carnivores will enjoy.


If you’re suddenly cooking at home everyday for a large family that has different tastes and mixed diets, it can be tricky to find ways to appease carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. While it’s okay to stick to some of your meat and dairy stand-by dishes, it’s a good idea to offer some flavorful alternatives that everyone can enjoy.

What’s the difference between vegetarian and vegan diets?

Vegetarians avoid eating meat, but may still incorporate other animal products into their diets, such as eggs, milk and cheese. People who follow a vegan diet do not eat any foods that come from animals, which includes meat, eggs and dairy.

Although only 2% of the U.S. population identifies as vegan, approximately 20% of U.S. adults say they choose to eat vegan some of the time. Some people may choose to be vegan for animal rights or environmental reasons, while others may simply be trying to avoid saturated fat. For some, it’s the only option if they have certain food allergies, such as a dairy. Plant-based diets have also been shown to have many health benefits, and may reduce your risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

People who follow a vegan diet do not eat any foods that come from animals, which includes meat, eggs and dairy.

If you’re stressed about cooking vegan dishes — relax! You’ll be able to prepare something for everyone. There are a lot of great ways to add meaty flavors and creamy textures to dishes that both carnivores and vegans will love. Here are some tips you can try:

Fake the dairy

If you think you can’t swing dinner without dairy, think again! There are plenty of ways you can create creamy textures without milk, butter or cheese. There are vegan cheeses available in most grocery stores, but you can also use nutritional yeast flakes or tofu in place of cheese. To create creamy sauces, blend ingredients like cashews, potatoes or avocado with some vegetable broth. Try this cheese-less macaroni & “cheese” recipe (you heard us right — no cheese!) or these dairy-free desserts.

Remember texture

When it comes to eating meat, carnivores consider taste and texture. When you’re trying to mimic meat in a dish, creating something that is a little chewy can help make the meat-eaters happy. Seitan, quinoa, farro or lentils are great meat copy-cats and are also very filling — try adding some spice and using them as the main ingredient in tacos. You can also check out this lentil meatball recipe.

Serve meat on the side

Dinner should be fun, not stressful, and having diverse diets in your house shouldn’t change that. Try making one main vegan-friendly entrée, such as a pasta dish or big salad, and offer some meat on the side. The meat-eaters can add the chicken, shrimp or steak on top of their pasta and salad. Don’t forget to prepare and cook the meat separately.

Check your labels

Just because a product is labeled “dairy-free” or free of animal products doesn’t always mean it’s vegan. It’s important to check labels on any store-bought products you’re planning to serve your vegan guests. Many foods use animal products to add flavor or incorporate egg whites for stabilizers. Even some alcohol is not vegan-friendly, so be sure to check the ingredients closely or look for a “vegan” stamp.

You can also fake eggs — flax seed “eggs” can be a substitute in certain recipes. Here’s how to make them.


When working on a menu to please the vegan and carnivore palate, try these tips to incorporate new spices, add ‘meaty flavors’ to dishes, roast veggies or use plant-based proteins.


Find a doctor

Looking for more advice on healthy, vegan-friendly meals? Your doctor or dietician can work with you to find ways to incorporate healthy, plant-based foods into your daily diet. You can find a Providence doctor using our provider directory. Or, you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.







Plant-based foods that pack a protein punch

Ask a Dietitian: Should I Eat a Plant-Based Diet?

Cooking for Vegetarians

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.


About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

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