Dinner Party–Worthy Vegetarian Dishes

Sarah McColl
Editor in Chief
January 22, 2014

Your vegetarian friends might revolt if you serve them chili or lasagna one more time. Those tired recipes are shorthand for, “Your food restrictions don’t inspire me.”

Don’t say that. Say, “I admire your choices, whether they are based on ethical or health reasons!” Say, “I am going to make you something crazy delicious!”

And so you will! Because vegetarian cuisine need not be a soulless gruel of gray. (Vegetarians know this, of course, but their carnivorous friends can be set in their meat-at-the-center-of-the-plate ways.) Starters and desserts are the easy part—a crisp kale salad, some decadent chocolate thing—but the main course is where you need help. So we present a cheat sheet of sorts for vibrant, comforting, and celebration-worthy vegetarian dishes. Be a good friend; here’s how:

Beet, Cheddar and Apple Tarts: Like a Rothko painting on your plate.

Vegetarian Cassoulet: Once you make this version, you may never go back to the genuine article.

Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Puree: Meat and potatoes for the cruciferous set.

Savory Gruyère-Stuffed French Toast: The kind of breakfast-for-dinner dish everyone can get behind.

French Onion Soup: The ideal winter comfort food; just use mushroom or vegetable stock instead of beef.

Radish Pecan Grain Salad: A hearty grain salad can be a main course when it’s got the heft of toasted nuts and bright, snappy veggies.

Penne with Tomato, Cream & Five Cheeses: We’ve limited the pastas here to only the most worthy of the bunch. This decadent recipe is silken with cream and a smattering of cheese.

Wild Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Fontina, and Rosemary: One rich ingredient after another means it just keeps getting better with every bite. 

Bean Thread Noodles with Pickled Vegetables: This one might cause a riot with its out-of-control, kicky flavors.

Ricotta Gnocchi: The only thing better than homemade potato gnocchi is homemade ricotta gnocchi. Serve with a simple sauce of brown butter and sage. 

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip-Potato Mash: A brilliant adaptation, wherein earthy lentils replace ground lamb.

Wilted Escarole with Feta, Walnuts and Honey: A similar treatment to the cauliflower “steak.” Put it in the center of the plate because it deserves to be there.

Soft Polenta with Roasted Portobellos: Sub in a green seasonal vegetable, such as escarole or frisée.

Martha Stewart’s Macaroni and Cheese: A no-brainer.

Mushroom Bourguignon: The traditional French beef stew gets the vegetarian treatment, to everyone’s delight.