How times change. Thirty years ago, a vegetarian would be hard pressed to find anything inspiring to eat in a restaurant – a meat-free lasagne was about as exciting as it got. And being a vegan was just asking for a night out on an empty stomach. Roll forward to today and vegetarians are spoilt for choice and veganism is on the rise, becoming an acceptable and more mainstream dietary choice.

On the catering front, clever caterers understand that designing a menu around meat and fish – and providing a couple of token veggie dishes to satisfy a small number of guests – is no longer what people want. We’ve seen it time and time again – non-meat dishes that look so stunning and mouth-wateringly delicious that the most hardcore carnivore will happily tuck in to them!

So why the interest in vegan catering?

Once considered an extreme choice – vegan meals contain no meat, fish or animal bi-products such as milk, cheese and eggs –  the concept of plant-based eating has really taken off in recent years. A lot of this is down to greater awareness of the positive health benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables, which is then further reinforced by negative reports about meat consumption, such as the link between processed meats and cancer. There is also the whole argument around ethical and sustainable eating and the concerns about animal welfare.

Recent research suggests that more than a quarter of UK evening meals are now vegan or vegetarian, and Veganuary is a growing trend that is influencing long-term food choices. Naturally, it’s a trend that has been positively reflected in the supermarkets, restaurants and catering industry.

Vegan catering ideas to tempt your taste buds

All it takes is imagination and creativity to put together an amazing array of vegan dishes. Forget carrot sticks and cucumber batons, international cuisines offer a huge amount of inspiration – a lot of Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian food is vegan, full of so many exciting flavours that no one would think to question the absence of meat.

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Vegan dishes are actually a really good choice at large catered events. Options can be easily adapted to satisfy the dietary needs of most people – those who are vegetarian or vegan will obviously be very happy, but so too will anyone who is lactose-intolerant or those whose religious beliefs may impact on their food choices. And not only is it convenient, vegan catering can also be more cost effective because you’re not paying for expensive cuts of meat.

Bowl food is great when you need to feed people and satisfy their appetite without going to the extent of a formal sit-down meal. And vegan bowl food is brilliant –  you don’t need to worry about cutting through pieces of meat so the food is easy to eat with just a fork.

A few of our favourite vegan dishes include:

  • Aubergine, olive and butterbean cassoulet – simple and rustic it may be, but this is packed with flavour and a really hearty dish.
  • Thai green curry with butternut squash – with yummy ingredients such as edamame beans and asparagus, and sprinkled with red chilli, this dish looks vibrant, smells amazing and delivers on taste and texture.
  • Roasted vegetables with quinoa – seasonal veggies, avocado, tofu and quinoa tossed in a tahini dressing, this is super-bowl food at its best!
  • Parsnip gnocchi – a lovely winter dish that makes the most of a seasonal vegetable. Add a crunchy walnut crumb and this lovely take on traditional gnocchi is elevated to a whole new level.
  • Linguine with avocado, tomato and lime – the ingredients make this dish a little like a deconstructed guacamole. It works well hot or cold.

So if you’re planning a big get-together why not discuss going all or part-vegan with your caterer and serve dishes that will both surprise and delight – and even introduce some of your guests to some wonderful new tastes and flavours!

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