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10 Vegetarian Easter Meal Options

Even if you pass on pork, Easter dinner can still be delicious. These vegetarian meal options will delight!
Even if you pass on pork, Easter dinner can still be delicious. These vegetarian meal options will delight!
©iStockphoto.com/Liliboas

Yeah, we know. Being a vegetarian around the holidays can be tough, and being a hostess to vegetarians is no walk in the park, either. From traditional Thanksgiving turkeys to Christmas hams, meat-abstainers have it rough when families get together to break bread and eat animals. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are plenty of delicious vegetarian-friendly options that everyone can enjoy.

With its offerings of honey-glazed hams and Cornish hens, Easter is one holiday that challenges a lot of vegetarians. TLC has some tasty alternatives to the meat-laden meals that are so often associated with this special day. When you're planning the Easter menu, don't forget that vegetarians want complete meals, too -- not just an assortment of sides. Combining foods from different food groups like legumes and grains produces dishes with all the essential amino acids found in meat, creating vegetarian options that are well rounded and filling. The items on our list will get you thinking about how to build a meal around some popular Easter favorites.

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Dining with unflinching omnivores? Click over to the next page to see what vegetarian-friendly side and appetizer is guaranteed to be a hit, regardless of your party's eating habits.

OK, so you probably don't see the word "bread" and start thinking about delicious Easter appetizers. Sure, bread might seem like an obvious and not overly exciting option, but the trick is all in the type of bread you choose and how it relates to the rest of your meal. Because Easter feasts so often incorporate seasonal fruits and greens, try going for light, crispy breads that will go great with a nice salad or bowl of fruit. If bread still seems kind of boring, try adding a spinach dip or a smooth bean puree for some extra flavor and texture.

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There's no better example that good things come in small packages than that delectable accompaniment to special gatherings: the appetizer. This petite repast before the meal can be a bonanza for your favorite vegetarian. Goat cheese with figs or a freshly prepared bowl of hummus (chick pea dip) on a crudité platter can offer your guests some international variety while still keeping it simple. If you're in a cocktail wiener, smoked salmon or goose pate rut, leave the fur, fin and feathers behind in favor of some appetizers that are light but flavorful.

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The great thing about a bowl of seasonal fruit is that it can be incorporated into any part of your Easter feast. In fact, even if it's the first thing on the table, people will probably still be nibbling on it after dessert. Best of all, there are a lot of fresh fruits available in the spring, so it's easy to create a delicious and flavorfully diverse Easter offering that anyone can enjoy.

Oranges, pineapples, figs, apricots, strawberries, mango and honeydew melons are all fresh and readily available this time of year, so gathering the ingredients for your fruit bowl masterpiece shouldn't be a problem. Try selecting fruits that play off each other well, like figs and apricots or strawberries and oranges. If your vegetarian guest indulges in dairy products, an accompanying cheese tray may be the extra touch to put some pizzazz into your fruit medley and make Easter dinner a bit more delicious for everyone:

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Feeding a crowd of vegetarians? You can still fire up the grill if you toss eggplant on the coals instead of steak.
Feeding a crowd of vegetarians? You can still fire up the grill if you toss eggplant on the coals instead of steak.

Just because you don't eat meat doesn't mean you can't have a cookout. And what better excuse is there to fire up the grill than getting together with friends and family for a holiday dinner? Try spreading a tasty garlic-cream sauce over freshly grilled carrots, fennel and okra for a delicious Easter treat, or pacify any meat eaters in your dining entourage by grilling up some portabella mushrooms. They have a thick, meaty texture and are as filling as any burger.

Remember, it doesn't matter if you're cooking meat or mustard greens: Virtually everything tastes better on the grill. You can even toss a few of the extra pineapple slices from the fruit salad onto the grill and surprise everyone with a uniquely delicious dessert that's both sweet and satisfying:

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Make sure the vegetarians on your guest list have some main menu options worthy of a place at the table with at least one stew or other dish that combines starches and lots of vegetables. Baked or simmered low and slow, one pot vegetarian meals deliver a savory mouthful with a minimum of fuss. You can even prepare one in your slow cooker -- which leaves your oven and stovetop free for other tasks:

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Cut out the sodium along with the meat with winter squash soup.
Cut out the sodium along with the meat with winter squash soup.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Why not modify one or two of your favorite soup recipes to eliminate the animal products. From a hearty French onion soup made with vegetable stock instead of beef stock, to a thick and rich cream of mushroom soup that uses a number of dried mushroom varieties to add richness to the broth, soup is a great place to experiment with vegetarian elements. Some of the most famous soups in the world are virtually meatless, and you can easily eliminate the traditional soup bone with a hearty prepared veggie stock. Substitute vegetable stock for beef or chicken stock in the suggestions below, or try adapting one of your own. You won't be sorry:

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Just because your holiday ham looks great at the center of a laden table doesn't mean vegetarian offerings are any less dramatic or eye catching. In fact, when you use a little creativity in the presentation, you can make a few peppers, mushrooms and even cheese stuffed pasta look positively festive. We like the idea of mixed stuffed tomatoes and bell peppers, but you can also stuff mushrooms, olives, dates, eggplant, and, of course, potatoes. This is one way to present vegetarian options beautifully and show the meat eaters in the family that there's more to meatless meals than carrot sticks and tofu:

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This rigatoni salad will have your Easter guests coming back for seconds.
This rigatoni salad will have your Easter guests coming back for seconds.
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It's never a copout to serve salad to your vegetarian friends. There are a lot of ways to corral vegetables in a bowl, though. In previous centuries, salads often boasted 100 ingredients or more. You don't have to break the bank or spend all day constructing a huge tossed salad for Easter dinner, but try including a few new and interesting ingredients like sunflower seeds, almonds or mandarin orange segments. You'll be surprised at how lovely, nutritious and delicious you can make this old standard. We have some recipes below that will inspire you, but use your imagination, too. From avocados to raisins to jicama, liven up a simple salad with color, texture and a few unexpected flavors:

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A light pasta tossed with tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil is ready-made for spring dining al fresco.
A light pasta tossed with tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil is ready-made for spring dining al fresco.
©iStockphoto.com/Ekspansio

This one's easy. After all, who doesn't love pasta? The great thing about making a delicious batch of sauce and noodles for Easter is that it's filling, so everyone, even those with omnivorous eating habits, can gorge themselves and probably won't miss dining on foods of a more animalistic nature.

Pastas can be extremely diverse, so try to cook up something that will play well off the other foods you're preparing. For example, if you've offered a fruit course of figs, apricots and a cheese, try making a pasta that's both sweet and distinctive, maybe with a smooth, creamy sauce that includes flavors like basil and oregano. On the other hand, if you're serving noodles alongside a spinach salad and baked bread, a more familiar dish, like spaghetti and marinara, will suffice.

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Who could resist these festive Easter cupcakes?
Who could resist these festive Easter cupcakes?
©iStockphoto.com/RuthBlack

Ahh, dessert. It doesn't matter if you're a strict vegetarian or a dedicated meat-eater, everyone seems to agree on the sweet stuff. Best of all, most desserts are vegetarian-friendly anyway, so you don't really have to go out of your way to come up with something special. However, you've come this far, right? You might as well use some of your veggie-powered knowledge of seasonal fruits to concoct a fresh and fabulous dessert.

If you get stumped, look to your fruit bowl for inspiration. You can make strawberry or fig pie that everyone is sure to love, or serve dishes of sliced oranges and chocolate for a unique and delicious treat. Rhubarb is also currently in season, so rhubarb pie isn't out of the question. For a real time-saver in the dessert department, re-serve the fresh fruit you had out for an appetizer with a dollop of whipped cream.

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Sources

  • Davidson, Alan. "The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. 1999.
  • Bittman, Mark. "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian." Wiley Press. 2007.
  • Green, Aliza. "Starting With Ingredients." Running Press Book Publishers. 2006.
  • Stahler, Charles. "How Many Vegetarians Are There?" Vegetarian Resource Group. 2009. (11/30/11). http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2009issue4/2009_issue4_2009_poll.php

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