4 tips for welcoming vegetarians to the holiday table (Veggie Pot Pie)

Written by Jan of Family Bites.

For me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are about coming together around the table to share a special meal with those you love. I’m sure it’s the same for most of you, and I’m certain you’d agree that when it comes to holiday entertaining, most celebration menus lend themselves to focusing on the meaty main dish. And for good reason too. What’s not to love about a turkey roasted to golden perfection, bacon-wrapped anything, and glazed hams? Turns out a lot, if you happen to be a vegetarian.

Meat-laden meals are great if you’re an omnivore, but are certainly less than appealing if you happen to be a veggie eater. All too often, those who opt for a plant-based diet leave a special occasion dinner feeling as though they’ve consumed nothing more than an assortment of side dishes for their feast. While this wouldn’t bother me (and I’m a meat eater) I know that not all vegetarians feel the same way.

After years of planning holiday parties at a catering company, I would often hear from 1) meat-free guests who wished there had been a main course for them to enjoy at the dinner/party they were invited to, and 2) hostesses who felt fatigued by trying to plan a menu that was welcoming and delicious for all, including those who eat a plant-based diet. In fact, when it came to planning Christmas parties, the number one question I received before the holidays was “what should I serve to my vegetarian guest(s)?”

I eventually came up with a few tips for welcoming herbivores to the holiday feast. Each suggestion is a small way to ensure that what’s being served for dinner can be eaten by whoever is lucky enough to be attendance, regardless of their dietary preference.

Find Out the Specifics of Your Guest’s Dietary Restrictions

I have yet to meet two vegetarians who eat the same way. Some enjoy fish, while others do not. Some eat seafood, but many pass it over. There are also some vegetarians who avoid all animal products, including eggs and dairy. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests some questions in order to make a meal that will work for both of you.

Offer (Mostly) Fruit and Vegetable-Based Appetizers

After spending days (weeks?) preparing for the big feast, I don’t want to see my guests filling up on platters of creamy cheeses, overflowing bowls of spiced nuts or sausages tucked inside a puff pastry parcel. I want those ravenous appetites saved for the meal I’ve been working on since last Saturday. Instead, I prefer to serve something simple, offering a small and satisfying bite, while leaving plenty of room in the tummy for the main meal.

My favorite appetizer is a small demi-tasse of soup. It can be prepared a few days in advance, is typically liked by everyone including the pesco/meat-o-tarians, and only takes a quick reheating before it can be passed around. Just remember to make your soup with vegetable stock so everyone on the guest list can consume it. Suggested recipes to try:

Make Your Side Dishes and Desserts Veggie-Friendly

If you substitute vegetable stock for turkey broth, and select side dishes that don’t contain any meat, you won’t have to make several special dishes for the vegetarians in attendance. When it comes to the stuffing, if you opt to put yours in the bird, reserve a few portions and cook them separately in a baking dish, away from the meat. Don’t forget to give some thought to the dessert as well. Most gelatin-based sweets contain animal products and pie crusts will need to be made with an all-butter base, as lard won’t be an option. Suggested recipes to try:

Serve a Vegetarian Main Course Too

I can’t stress this point enough. Don’t just offer an assortment of sides, and hope your guests leave feeling sated. Plan to serve a meat-free main dish along with your turkey or other holiday protein. I like to prepare something hearty so I feel as though I’ve fed my guests a proper dinner. Suggested recipes to try:


Caramelized Onion and Root Vegetable Pot Pies
5.0 from 2 reviews
Print
Recipe type: Vegetarian Main
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 4
I like to make these pot pies in single serving portions for a prettier presentation. Feel free to put the entire filling in one casserole dish and top it with a full pastry lid, if you desire.
Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced butternut squash
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 – 9” unbaked pie crust
  • 1 egg + 1 Tablespoon cold water (egg wash)
Instructions
  1. Heat one tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or saucepan. Add the onion, season lightly with salt, and stir until evenly coated with the butter.
  2. Lower the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the onions are soft, golden brown and slightly caramelized.
  3. Add the carrot, parsnip, sweet potato and butternut squash. Cook until softened about 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a clean bowl and wipe the pot clean (don’t worry about any browned bits that may stick – they will add flavour to the sauce).
  4. Return the Dutch oven to the stove and melt the remaining butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and stir until well combined, cooking for at least two minutes. Slowly stir in the broth, whisking as you go. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
  5. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly. Check the seasonings and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Add the cooked vegetables, peas, parsley and thyme to the pot and stir well.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Divide the filling evenly between four ovenproof soup bowls. Set the bowls on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Divide the pie crust into four equal portions and roll each piece into a 6” circle.
  7. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the pastry on top. Trim the circle to ½” larger than the top of the bowl, and fold over the underside of the dough, pressing it to the bowl to make it stick.
  8. Brush the dough with the egg wash and make three slits in the top. Place the pies on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is heated through.
Notes
The filling can be made up to two days in advance and stored in the fridge in a little container. The dough can also be made up to two days in advance, if storing in the fridge, or six months ahead if storing in the freezer.

 

Tell me, what is your favorite vegetarian dish for entertaining?

About Jan

Jan Scott is a Canadian food writer, party planner, and mom of two active tween boys. She is the home cook and creative behind Family Bites, a blog inspired by the simple recipes and party ideas she’s put to the test on her family. Prior to making the transition to freelance writer, Jan spent five years as a party planner for a private catering company, but shifted to working from home in order to spend more time with her growing family.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for your post. I was vegetarian for many, many years, and while I really didn’t expect a special main dish for me, it always killed me to go to my mom’s house and have bacon in the green beans, sausage in the stuffing, and meat or meat broth in everything else that was a side dish. Just that small act will mean so much to your vegetarian friends, and if you do go with a second main dish that’s veggie friendly, your friends will feel extra special. One more tip I’d like to add is to point out which dishes are vegetarian to your veggie friends before dinner starts, and then don’t talk about vegetarianism over the dinner table. Nothing is more uncomfortable than talking about why I don’t eat meat while people are eating meat. Plus, while I like to share my ideas, it’s nice to just be a part of the group and conversation at the dinner table without being pointed out a different or having special needs. Food is such a social event, and everyone wants to just feel included.

  2. bobbie-sue says:

    I was a vegetarian for 15 years, and for me the issue wasn’t the lack of a special main dish, but a lack of protein and complete overdose of carbs. If you add a dish made with lentils, beans, or chick peas to your menu, everyone will get a balanced meal. A lentil and nut loaf is a great option, especially if you have a vegetarian gravy available. If anyone is planning to make the veggie pot pie listed above, please add in a can of chick peas and your veggie guests will thank you.

  3. I usually go the route of a Ukrainian dish, as those are traditionally vegetarian for Christmas. Perogies, cabbage rolls, lemon-grass stuffed and baked tilapia (if they are pescatarian). Or one year we did stuffed portobellos with goat cheese and pine nuts. That was heavenly.
    Amie’s last post: Honeymoon Hopeful

  4. All great tips! Personally, Thanksgiving is the one meal where I’m perfectly content without a vegetarian main dish as long as most sides are veggie-friendly. There’s always SO MUCH FOOD at Thanksgiving that there is still more than enough to choose from as long as the host doesn’t put meat in everything. For other special occasions, I couldn’t agree more with the meatless main dish option.

    I shared a list of similar tips and included one more: when your vegetarian/vegan/special diet guest offers to bring a dish, LET THEM!

    Oh, and those pot pies look absolutely amazing. Yum.
    Kare @ Kitchen Treaty’s last post: Tips for Hosting a Vegetarian on Thanksgiving

  5. This is such a great collection. I am seriously going to send this to all my relatives, lol.
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar’s last post: Tuna Fish-Free Sandwich

  6. I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 25 years, and my problem has always been how to accommodate the meat eaters! We have all the traditional side dishes, and every year make a different main course, often based on winter squash or mushrooms, and frequently incorporating seitan. For non-holiday gatherings, I usually serve a meal based on ethnic foods. Many cultures have strong vegetarian traditions and the foods are amazing — and meat eaters don’t feel something is “missing” because they have no preconceptions of what a meal “ought” to look like.

  7. I am vegetarian and we have the opposite ‘problem’ when having guests. My husband (who is a meat eater) wants to balance my choices with some meat or fish for other people. I was just talking about veg pies yesterday with my son so am thrilled to see your recipe!!!

  8. I appreciated the graciousness of this post and all the creativity! We are not vegetarian but don’t eat a lot of meat due to the cost of grass-fed meat in our area and we feel better when it’s a side rather then a main every.single.night.
    Many of these tips could be applied to any special diet (celiac, lactose intolerant etc). It is a special gift to offer someone a meal they can enjoy without just filling up on salad. =)
    Breanne’s last post: Growing and Being Quiet

  9. Thank you so much for this post! It is always so awkward being the vegetarian, and I hate thinking about hosts agonizing over what the specially make me. :( I’d like to add that you should always feel free to ask the vegetarian to bring something if you are really stumped about what to serve!

    Extra points for the legume/bean suggestions, and pointing out which dishes are edible for veggies *ahead* of time! (Totally agree Rachel—nothing is worse than having to mumble something about the treatment of animals, kosher laws, or environmental impact of meat to a bunch of meat eaters who are currently eating a bunch of meat! Yikes.)

  10. I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat a lot of meat. Dinner for myself is vegetarian probably 50% of the time or more. But the thing about “occasion” meals is that everyone expects a “main” dish and several sides. All the of vegetarian main dishes you listed above would count as a side dish in my extended family, with the exception of the pot pie in the headline. If I was eating alone, I would count one of them as my entire meal, but for a holiday, those are side dishes.

  11. I think it’s a great tip to use veggie stock and keep the sides vegetarian. I love meat but thanksgiving can totally be a meal of sides!
    Stephanie’s last post: 60 Minute Mozzarella {Cheesepalooza}

  12. This recipe is fabulous. The flavors are perfect together. Sweet and comforting. As meat eaters, we will add pasture raised chicken next time for the protein. This was so so good. I love your blog!

  13. I linked to this in my March Real Food Monthly Meal Plan post. I love the idea of caramelizing the onions, and I love parsnips in anything.

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