Whether you're an omnivore, pescatarian, or vegetarian eater, vegan recipes, too, are always handy to have in your cooking arsenal. Not only are vegan dishes great ways to add meatless variation to your current diet, but they can also be lifesavers at a dinner party when you find out that some of your guests don't eat meat.
It can be difficult for non-vegans to navigate a menu that accommodates everyone's dietary restrictions, but that doesn't mean you're relegated to serving boring crudité and blah side salads as starters. The fact is that it's well within your wheelhouse to make easy vegan appetizers so delicious that everyone will run back for seconds.
From a simple Instant Pot hummus to savory broccoli tots, and a creamy chai butternut squash soup, these eight easy-to-make apps prove that vegan cuisine is varied, enticing, and much simpler to prepare than you may think.
Easy Instant Pot Hummus with Canned Chickpeas
You may have never guessed you could make gluten-free vegan hummus in an Instant Pot, but Abbey Rodriguez of The Butter Half swears it's the easiest, fastest way to make it. Using canned chickpeas is key; otherwise, you'd have to soak their dried counterparts in water for at least eight hours. The recipe, "will take you only 20 minutes to make from beginning to end, as opposed to an entire day," she says.
Rodriguez blends the garlicky mixture in a food processor with high-quality olive oil and tahini (and just a smidgen of tahini at that), garnishes it with more olive oil and pine nuts, and uses sea-salted baked carrot chips to scoop it all up.
Chai Butternut Squash Soup
There's no better way to begin an autumn or winter meal than with piping bowls of chai butternut squash soup. Ali Martin, of Gimme Some Oven makes this vegan recipe easy by tossing all the ingredients—as well as one chai teabag—into a slow or pressure cooker, and then pureeing the mixture (sans teabag) with an immersion blender (or regular blender) until it's silky-smooth. Its creaminess comes from unsweetened coconut milk that's stirred in at the end, and it's garnished with ground cinnamon and star anise pods.
Luscious Eggplant Dip With Toasted Walnuts, Tahini, Lemon & Yogurt
Chef and cookbook author, Laura Wright, of The First Mess, sets her vegan eggplant dip out as guests arrive—and it's always gone come dinnertime. According to Wright, "the natural starting point of the dish [is] a traditional baba ganoush, with all of those typical flavor notes intact, plus some interesting extras."
Wright trades dairy-based for plant-based yogurt, such as Anita’s, to keep it vegan.
Roasted eggplant, garlic, walnuts, tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, ground Aleppo pepper, and cumin are combined in a food processor until smooth, producing a crowd-pleasing dip with, "a lush texture that feels almost whipped...[it's] fatty, creamy, toasty, tangy, and bright all at the same time," adds Wright. Serve it at room temperature with salted pita chips, sliced veggies, and marinated olives for a traditional Middle Eastern mezze spread.
Super Savory Veggie, Hemp, and Millet Nuggets
This vegetable, hemp, and millet nuggets appetizer is the vegan (and much healthier) answer to fried chicken nuggets, meat or fish croquettes, and Italian arancini (stuffed, cheesy rice balls). These nugs contain zero animal products, gluten, sugar, soy, and nuts, "and they’ve actually got some crunch on the exterior," says Wright.
Millet, a seed that's often treated as a whole grain, is the star of the show, and fiber-rich psyllium husk powder is the "glue" that binds everything together. Grated broccoli, carrots, and shallots with hulled hemp seeds, zesty spices, and a dollop of grainy mustard get whirred through a food processor before Wright shapes the mixture into small patties by hand and bakes them for 22 minutes. She accompanies the nuggets with a homemade, creamy maple mustard dipping sauce. Hint: Make extra.
Roasted Potatoes with Arugula and Creamy Beets
Boring and lifeless vegan side salad? Never. This filling roasted potato with arugula and creamy beets starter by Alice, of Sugar Salted, works as a meal or side just as well as an appetizer, but no matter. Set it out once guests arrived and they'll scramble to fill their bowls—and you'll love its 10-minute prep time.
Alice uses pre-cooked baby beets to minimize cooking time; if you make your own, tack on another 30 minutes.
Potatoes are simply roasted to crispness and then tossed with fresh, leafy sprigs of arugula and cooked beets coated with a vegan-mayo, lemon juice, and mustard sauce. Instead of Parmesan shavings (seen above), use nutritional yeast for "cheesiness," and garnish with lemon zest and a couple of handfuls of pine nuts.
If you're worried that oven-baked shredded-broccoli "tots" don't stand up to their deep-fried potato cousins, don't be. As Caroline Phelps of Pickled Plum, assures us, "These crispy, savory and super tasty broccoli tots are so good that eating them [doesn't] feel like a compromise at all."
Broccoli florets are blanched, drained, patted dry, and finely chopped to form the basis of the recipe. Then, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, panko breadcrumbs, ground flaxseed (it's the binding agent), nutritional yeast (for savory, cheesy flavor), and standard spices are mixed into the broccoli. Shape into tiny, tot-like tubes and bake for 20 minutes. Tangy ketchup for dipping is optional.
Easy Probiotic-Cultured Vegan Cheese
There's nothing like the beloved cheese board that properly whets the appetite while getting the party started. This easy, probiotic-cultured vegan cheese recipe by chef and cookbook author, Dana Schultz, of Minimalist Baker, takes some time to prepare, but the result is so worth it.
This cheese contains just six ingredients, and you can choose to use a base of cashews (soaked for one hour) or slivered almonds (unsoaked). "Once soaked, the cashews are blended until creamy and smooth with delicious things like fresh garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and sea salt," explains Schultz. Then, stir in the contents of two probiotic capsules, wrap the mixture in cheesecloth, and let it rest on the counter for 24 to 72 hours.
"The longer it sits, the tangier and firmer it becomes," she says, while adding that 48 hours seems to be its "sweet spot." For a gorgeous presentation, you can also opt to coat it with chopped herbs, cracked black pepper, or a spice mixture of your choice.
Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Looking for something a bit spicier than traditional chickpea hummus? This easy, vegan, roasted red pepper dip, or the Levantine muhammara, will hit the spot. Stephanie Le, of I Am A Food Blog, adapted her recipe from the one the iconic Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi first developed.
And it's pretty darn easy: Char three red peppers right on the grates of a gas grill (or broil them in an oven). Then steam them inside a bowl covered with plastic wrap until they're cool to touch. Once peeled and seeded, use a mortar and pestle to crush (or blend or process) them with breadcrumbs, lemon juice, molasses, cumin, chili, and garlic. Stir in chopped walnuts, finish with olive oil, and serve immediately, alongside homemade pita chips.