Thursday, August 29, 2013

Throwing a Dinner Party for the Dietary Diverse: Vegans, Paleo, and Vegetarians. Oh My!

I've discovered I have a rather diverse group of friends when it comes to dietary needs. Among my social group there are people who eat vegetarian, vegan, paleo, and "clean."

While my own household is solidly omnivorous, we have dabbled with paleo and clean eating, and have eliminated a lot of processed foods from our cooking.

It's usually pretty easy to make a vegetarian meal for a get together, but what happens when the get together also includes people who are on a paleo diet? Depending on the particulars of anyone's individual diet, it can seem like the only safe bet is to set down a big bowl of fruit and hope everyone isn't that hungry.

Fruit Bowl
Here it is. Appetizers, dinner, and dessert. Dig in!

Since I don't want my guests having to go out to eat as soon as they leave dinner, I've started trying to think of ways to make a single meal that will suit everyone's tastes.

So far I have two favorites.


Chili is a great solution because you can do so much with it. The problem was that a vegetarian chili is usually pretty dependent upon beans in order to be filling, and the paleo crowd can't eat the beans. If I make a chili meaty enough to be filling without beans, it's obviously not vegetarian.

The solution? Two pots of chili: one vegetarian, one paleo. Vegetarians can have veggie chili, paleos can have meaty chili, and anyone else can mix the two together.

Chili is also nice because side toppings like cheese, sour cream, and guacamole can be used or not, leaving guests plenty of options without having to avoid the main meal. 

Here's a paleo chili recipe that's fairly meat-dependent, using both ground beef and stew beef.
Here's my favorite paleo chili that relies a little more heavily on sweet potatoes for substance.

This vegetarian chili boasts as being the best in the world, and it certainly has enough complex flavors to make it a contender.
I'm a big fan of black beans and corn, so this is one of my favorite vegetarian chili recipes.

Nacho Bar

I love tacos. We probably eat some version of tacos at least once a week. They're fast, easy, and delicious. But tacos can be problematic for a mixed crowd. The shells aren't paleo friendly, and a taco without the meat can be pretty skimpy for vegetarians. 

The solution? A nacho bar.

I make up a batch of sweet potatoes spiced with chili powder, oregano, and cumin. Then I toss in a jar of salsa and let them simmer with a lid on until they're soft. 

Meanwhile, I cook a pan of ground chorizo.

Vegans can have the sweet potatoes topped them with salsa and cilantro. Vegetarians can add cheese and sour cream. Paleo people can top the potatoes with the chorizo and salsa, with no need for chips. Everyone gets full!

And that bowl of fruit? It looks a lot more satisfying when it can serve as the side dish to a filling meal that meets everyone's needs. 

That's what I've come up with so far. How do you entertain for people with diverse dietary needs? Do you have any go-to recipes that work for a variety of people? What adaptations can you make to your favorite meals to make them work for everyone?

Photo: M. C. P.


  1. I read an article a ways back discussing this very dilemma. It didn't have a helpful conclusion. The author decided this sort of eating culture is the death of dinner parties and potlucks. :) We have sort of the same experience with our group of friends and one of the solutions we have come up with is a homemade take on a local restaurant called Yum Bowls.

    It's essentially a rice bowl with a variety of toppings and a super delicious sauce called yum sauce. (google for the homemade recipe: For the paleo you could julian squash and zuchinni for the base or spinach salad whilst the others use rice. All other toppings can be a build your own situation. It's fun for everyone to choose their toppings. Even all the kids like this dinner.

  2. That's a great idea, and it sound delicious! I'm not sticking to a strict paleo diet, but I do love swapping out squash and zucchini for rice and noodles.