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Comparing Vegetarian, Vegan, and Plant-Based Catering Menus

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Published: January 4, 2023

Read Time: Approximately 15 Minutes

Vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals are all variations of diets that focus on minimizing the consumption of animal products. The three may sound similar, but they have some unique differences. When it comes to catering an event, the host will want to make sure that they are aware of their guests’ dietary preferences and offer vegetarian, vegan, and/or plant-based meals, when required. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals.

“Vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals share a lot of similarities, but they also have unique differences.”

Defining Vegetarian, Vegan, and Plant-Based Diets

As mentioned above, vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals share a lot of similarities, but they also have unique differences. Let’s start by looking at how each meal is defined.

Vegetarian Meals: A vegetarian diet does not include any meat, but it may include other animal products such as dairy, eggs, and sometimes fish. There are different sub-categories of vegetarian diets to represent those exceptions. For example, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet includes dairy and eggs, but does not include meat or fish. A lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy, but excludes eggs, meat, and fish. An ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs, but excludes dairy, meat, and fish. And lastly, a pescatarian diet includes fish and other seafood, but does not include any other form of meat.

Vegan Meals: Vegan diets are more strict than vegetarian diets regarding consuming of animals and animal products. Vegan diets avoid all meat, dairy, eggs, and any other animal by-product. For example, honey, as a product that comes from living honeybees, is not eaten in vegan diets.

Plant-Based Meals: If a vegan diet is stricter than a vegetarian diet, a plant-based diet is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Plant-based diets emphasize whole, minimally processed foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It will often minimize animal products, but not remove them completely from the diet. Plant-based diets are the most flexible of the three, and people who follow a plant-based diet may still eat the occasional meat or animal product.

“There may also be ethical or environmental considerations, which are particularly common at corporate events, and having a vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based menu might best align with the event’s mission”

Does The Entire Menu Need to be Vegetarian, Vegan, or Plant-Based?

When you’re planning an event and some of your guests follow a vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based diet, a common question is whether the whole menu needs to be vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based. The short answer is no, it does not. But you may choose to make the whole menu vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based depending on a variety of factors.

For example, if you know that the majority of your guests follow one of these diets, you may choose to make the whole menu align with those preferences for consistency and simplicity. If you’re the host and you personally follow a vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based diet, you may also want to showcase these types of foods to your guests by choosing to make the entire menu vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based. There may also be ethical or environmental considerations, which are particularly common at corporate events, and having a vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based menu might best align with the event’s mission.

Ultimately, the decision as to whether the entire menu should be vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based will depend on the nature and purpose of the event, as well as the dietary preferences of your guests. It’s always best to communicate with the guests in advance to learn about their dietary preferences and restrictions, and then decide on the best catering menu from there.

“Having a menu that is partially or exclusively vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be more expensive than alternate menus.”

How Much Do Vegetarian, Vegan, and Plant-Based Menus Cost?

Prices for a vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based menu can vary widely. When looking at different food options for these types of diets, there are plenty of options to choose from that range from budget-friendly and affordable, to high-end and premium. In addition to the food itself, there can be different levels of customization and other aspects that affect the price. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics.

Ingredients: Some vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based ingredients may be more expensive than their animal-based alternative. Just like any dish that’s part of a catering menu, the ingredients will vary, and so will their costs.

Customization: If you’re having a menu that isn’t exclusively vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based, the caterer may charge an additional fee for the extra level of customization that’s required for the menu. There may be more labour and/or kitchen equipment required to prepare the meals, and the ingredients may need to be purchased in smaller quantities. More variety on a catering menu may lead to an increased price for the menu.

Event Size: Events that have a large guest count may benefit from economies of scale with food production. If there are only a few different types of meals being served, the caterer can be more efficient in the production of those meals. However, if the menu is more complex with a range of dietary accommodations, this may increase the price of the menu, especially if certain vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based meals require unique ingredients and intricate preparation.

As you can see, there are a number of factors that may influence the price of your catering menu. Having a menu that is partially or exclusively vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be more expensive than alternate menus. While some specialty ingredients may be pricier, vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals can also be cost-effective, especially if they rely on ingredients like grains, legumes, and seasonal vegetables.

There is no one-size-fits-all cost to have a vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based menu. It’s best so speak with your caterer, discuss a budget, and build your custom menu from there.

“Vegetarian menu options are becoming increasingly popular, and a number of caterers are including vegetarian options as part of their menus.”

Vegetarian Catering Menus — Examples and Ideas

Vegetarian menu options are becoming increasingly popular, and a number of caterers are including vegetarian options as part of their menus. Let’s take a look at some vegetarian meals to help inspire your next vegetarian catering menu!

Plant-Based Bowls: Customizable, fresh, and healthy — a staple vegetarian option! There are plenty of vegetarian bowls to choose from like a Mediterranean Cobb, Power Salad, and more.

Truffle Mushroom Tagliatelle: This mushroom-based dish is a great way to incorporate rich flavours into your menu, with ingredients like truffle crema, wild mushroom, chive emulsion, chili lemon panko, and pecorino.

Sushi Rolls: Always a favourite at events, a selection of creative sushi rolls can include interesting vegetarian combinations of tofu, avocado, cucumber, and more.

Primavera Panino Wrap: With marinated artichoke, roasted red pepper, grilled seasonal vegetables, spinach, and basil aioli, this tortilla wrap is perfect for any social or corporate lunch event.

“Planning a vegan catering menu might seem difficult at first, since vegan meals can be very restrictive. But don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds!”

Vegan Catering Menus — Examples and Ideas

Planning a vegan catering menu might seem difficult at first, since vegan meals can be very restrictive. But don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds! Here are a few vegan-based menu ideas to get you excited about your next vegan menu.

Tropical Berry Blast Chia Pudding: Overflowing with blueberries, mango, and coconut, these chia puddings are colourful, trendy, and best of all, healthy!

Watermelon Mimosa: If you want a high-end passed hors d’oeuvres, these champagne compressed watermelon with candied ginger, lime gelee, and mint balm are exactly what you’re looking for.

Stakt Chopped Salad: Salads are a straightforward choice for vegan dishes, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be simple. The Stakt Chopped Salad is loaded with kale, napa cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, oregano, mint, parsley, red wine vinaigrette, beet hummus, sumac chickpea, and crispy pita.

Yam Wellington: Don’t forget about the main entrée—the yam wellington is a slow roasted yam steak with mushroom duxelles, wrapped in puff pastry, and served with olive mash and brussels sprouts.

Chocolate Ganache Cake: Indulge at the end of the meal with a chocolate ganache cake. Chocolate mousse, fresh berries, and chocolate sauce… what more can you ask for!

“Plant-based menus primarily use whole, minimally processed ingredients and experiment with a variety of flavours and textures.”

Plant-Based Catering Menus — Examples and Ideas

Plant-based menus can bring creativity and diversity to your next catering menu, without focusing on animal products. Plant-based menus primarily use whole, minimally processed ingredients and experiment with a variety of flavours and textures. Here are a few plant-based menu ideas that steer clear of animal products.

Rice Paper Rolls: Fresh vegetables and sliced mango wrapped in a rice paper roll, with a sweet chili dipping sauce on the side. In addition to being plant-based, it’s also gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and vegan.

Purple Kale and Stone Fruit Salad: Loaded with organic purple kale, seasonal stone fruit, blueberries, baby radish, candied ginger, kombucha vinaigrette, and spiced pepita granola, this is a salad that is guaranteed to impress anyone that follows a plant-based diet.

Thai Lemongrass Cod: Perfect for the pescatarian and the plant-based diet follower, this dish includes lime-crusted cod, coconut, lemongrass, Peruvian potato, and carrot ribbon.

Modern Caprese: A staple from our Buffet Menu, the Modern Caprese has leafy greens, pesto marinated bocconcini, grape tomato medley, parm crisps, fresh basil, and a balsamic emulsion.

“Making your guests feel inclusive is important for any event, especially when there are vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals as part of the menu.”

Making Everyone Feel Inclusive At Your Event

Making your guests feel inclusive is important for any event, especially when there are vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals as part of the menu. This starts before the event takes place; hosts will often reach out to their guests ahead of time to ask about any dietary preferences or restrictions. This shows that you value their needs and are making an effort to accommodate them.

It may be possible to swap certain ingredients to accommodate the vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based requirements, instead of choosing a different dish altogether. By keeping most of the dish the same, with a slight customization, this allows the guests with dietary restrictions to enjoy the same food as the other guests at the event. For example, DIY food stations are a great choice because guests can build the dish to meet their own preferences.

When the food is being served at the event, most caterers will clearly label and identify any menu items with special dietary accommodations. This can be a label on the package, for individually served meals, or a display card for passed options like hors d’oeuvres.

Lastly, be sure to check in with your guests during the event! Making sure that they have everything they need goes a long way in showing that you care about making them feel comfortable and included. By following these steps, you’ll not only make your vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based guests feel included, but you’ll also create an environment where all attendees feel valued and cared for.

“There are a variety of factors that go in to choosing the perfect menu for your event, but it’s always best to plan a menu that accommodates everyone’s needs to ensure your guests have an enjoyable and unforgettable experience.”

Conclusion

Vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals becoming increasingly popular at events. Caterers are including more of these options as part of their menus, and clients are choosing to incorporate more of these menu options to accommodate the dietary preferences of their guests. There are a variety of factors that go in to choosing the perfect menu for your event, but it’s always best to plan a menu that accommodates everyone’s needs to ensure your guests have an enjoyable and unforgettable experience. If you need help creating a custom vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based menu for your next event, contact us today or send us an email at info@encorecatering.com

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