Vegan Christmas dinner or Sunday lunch

This page is a guide to adapting a traditional meat + potatoes + vegetables + trimmings meal to make it vegan-friendly - and to reassure you that you really don't need to panic when you realise that your daughter-in-law/nephew/brother's girlfriend you've just invited to have Christmas dinner/Sunday lunch at your house is a vegan! I've primarily addressed Christmas dinner here, but the advice on this page also applies to adapting other meat + potatoes + vegetables meals such as a Sunday roast.

There are various ways to accommodate vegans and omnivores at the same meal (see Vegans and Omnivores at the dinner table), but for Christmas dinner I recommend the approach of just cooking a vegan alternative to the piece of meat and making sure that at least most of the side dishes are vegan-friendly, rather than cooking a separate self-contained meal for your vegan guest(s). This is for two reasons: firstly, when you've already got x million separate dishes on the go it's easier just to make a meat alternative than a whole additional meal, and secondly, it's nicer socially if everyone can share most of the same food. There are shop-bought meat alternative products available if you don't have time to do something home-made.

Remember that your vegan dish will also be suitable for vegetarians, so if you have vegan and vegetarian guests you can serve them both the vegan dish.

If you're serving wine or other alcoholic drinks, remember to get some which are suitable for vegans (see vegan alcohol for more information).

Christmas recipe pages

In addition to the ideas mentioned on this page, have a look at the Christmas recipes provided by Animal Aid, the Vegan Society and Viva! (all are vegan recipes) for starters, main dishes, side dishes, stuffing, gravy and desserts. The Vegetarian Society also have some nice Christmas recipes, not all of them are vegan but they label the ones that are or can be made vegan.

Adapting the meal: The 'meat alternative'

The 'traditional' (or should that be stereotypical) vegan Christmas centrepiece is nut roast, but one of the great things about a vegan Christmas meal is that you're not restricted by any traditions, so you can do what you like! Recipes involving puff or filo pastry or roasted stuffed vegetables are often suitably festive, or you could go for a vegetable, nut or bean-based casserole or pie. JusRol ready-made pastry is suitable for vegans, apart from the Sweet Dessert and All Butter varieties.

A few of my own ideas:

Roasted squash, cranberry, walnut and mango puff pastry parcels

Stuffed butternut squash with walnuts, canellini beans and thyme

Portobello mushrooms in puff pastry with tomato and red onion sauce

Shop-bought products:

Although I would recommend serving something home-made if you can (and the above recipes are not overly complicated or time-comsuming!), there are vegan bugers, sausages, nut cutlets, pies and the like available which could be served as a Christmas meat alternative if you don't have time to cook anything for your vegan or vegetarian guest(s).

Your best bet is to have a wander round your local wholefoods shop or Holland and Barrett as these tend to have the widest range of vegan products.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrison's sell vegan nut cutlets and Sainsbury's and Waitrose sell Goodlife's butternut squash roast. Asda sell a vegan individual-sized nut roast (in the 'Organics' range, find them in the chiller cabinets), which look particularly suitable for the one vegan or vegetarian guest at a Christmas meal.

New for 2009: Tesco have a nut and date roast with stuffing balls and gravy (which is actually labelled suitable for vegans - big step forward for Tesco) which would be a handy vegan Christmas dinner main dish for anyone needing a pre-prepared main dish to go with the 'trimmings'. Goodlife also have a very similar vegan product, root vegetable roast with fruity cumberland sauce (redcurrant sauce), which is sold in Sainsburys. Both are frozen products.

Redwood Foods make a 'Roast Turkey' and a 'Celebration Roast' including vegan turkey slices, sausages wrapped in bacon and gravy. Although many people enjoy fake meats, not all vegans and vegetarians enjoy eating products resembling meat, so it's a good idea to check with your guest(s) first if you can.

Making the rest of the meal vegan-friendly


The only thing you need to remember is 'no animal products', but here are some specific things to watch out for.

Starter

Choose a vegan-friendly starter for everyone, for example a suitable soup, marinated mushrooms or a fruit starter such as melon or grapefruit.

Main course

Roasted things (potatoes, parsnips, etc):

- don't roast them in the same dish as the meat, or anywhere where meat juice can splash onto them
- don't coat them in any animal products, including lard, honey, butter, goose fat or whatever the latest celebrity chef trend is this year. Vegetable oil or olive oil work just fine. Vegan roast potatoes recipe.
- Remember that honey is an animal products and therefore not suitable for vegans, so watch out for those honey-roast parsnips. If you're making your own, try using maple syrup instead of honey.

Vegetables and other potatoes:

- Don't put butter on them. Olive oil or vegan margarine are suitable alternatives (but remember most margarine isn't vegan).
- Don't put milk in any dishes, such as creamed potatoes. Non-dairy milk such as soya or rice milk can be used instead.

Stuffing, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, gravy etc:

- Many stuffing mixes are suitable for vegans (just check the label). Home-made stuffing can be made vegan by using vegan margarine instead of butter and not including any other animal ingredients.
- Many cranberry sauces and apple sauces are suitable for vegans, again, just check the label.
- Some gravy granules are suitable for vegans, and not just the 'vegetarian' granules. I use Bisto Onion gravy granules, their standard 'gravy granules' (the ones in the red packaging) are also vegan, these are better for a thicker brown gravy. The 'vegetarian' ones are thinner and more watery, they are more suitable for a lighter vegetable-based main dish.

Dessert

Some shop-bought Christmas puddings are suitable for vegans, including Tesco Classic, Tesco Value, Asda Classic, Asda nut-free, Sainsbury's Basics and Somerfield Rich Fruit Christmas puddings (but check the ingredients before buying in case they've changed the recipe since last year/last time they published their vegan lists!).

Serve with dairy-free cream or ice cream such as Alpro soya single cream, Swedish Glace ice cream or Tofutti ice cream (all commonly available in supermarkets).

Asda Classic and Sainsbury's Basics mince pies are suitable for vegans, but most shop-bought mince pies include milk products in the pastry, so check the ingredients. You're also likely to find vegan mince pies in wholefoods shops. Many brands of mincemeat are suitable for vegans, so it's easy to make your own mince pies using vegetable fat or vegan margarine in the pastry (or a pack of shortcrust JusRol!).

If you're not into Christmas pudding, how about a vegan cheesecake or nectarine and marzipan slice instead?