Whether you're an omnivore, pescatarian, or vegetarian, vegan recipes 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 or dairy.
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 tasteless 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 and savory zucchini fritters to crispy broccoli tots and a creamy chai butternut squash soup, these 13 easy-to-make appetizers prove that vegan cuisine is varied, enticing, and much simpler to prepare than you may think.
Instant Pot Hummus With Canned Chickpeas
The Recipe: Easy Instant Pot Hummus with Canned Chickpeas
The Hero Ingredient: Using canned chickpeas is key; otherwise, you'd have to soak their dried counterparts in water for at least eight hours.
Pro Tip: The Butter Half blogger and holistic nutritionist Abbey Rodriguez blends the garlicky mixture in a food processor with high-quality olive oil and just a smidgen of tahini, 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
The Recipe: Chai Butternut Squash Soup
The Hero Ingredient: This soup's creaminess comes from unsweetened coconut milk that's stirred in at the end, and it's garnished with ground cinnamon and star anise pods.
Pro Tip: 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.
Eggplant Dip With Toasted Walnuts, Tahini, Lemon, and Yogurt
The Hero Ingredient: According to chef and cookbook author Laura Wright of The First Mess, "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.
Corn and Zucchini Fritters
The Recipe: Corn and Zucchini Fritters
The Hero Ingredient: Grated zucchini
Pro Tip: "Don’t skip the step where you need to squeeze the excess water out of the grated zucchini," says The Minimalist Vegan recipe developer Maša Ofei. "Your batter will be too wet otherwise, and it won’t stick together. If for whatever reason you don’t do it, just add a couple more tablespoons of flour."
Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash
The Recipe: Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash
The Hero Ingredient: "The savory, herby cauliflower stuffing," says Food Faith Fitness' Taylor Kiser. The vegan concoction "comes together and then gets mish-mashed with the slightly sweet, creamy butternut squash."
Pro Tip: Use the leftover scooped-out squash for other dishes, suggests Kiser. A few ideas include mashed squash breakfast bowls or as a protein-packed topping on oatmeal.
Veggie, Hemp, and Millet Nuggets
The Recipe: Super Savory Vegetable, Hemp, and Millet Nuggets
The Hero Ingredient: 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.
Pro Tip: To keep the mixture from sticking to your hands when forming the nuggets, lightly add oil to your hands.
Roasted Potatoes With Arugula and Creamy Beets
The Recipe: Roasted Potatoes with Arugula and Creamy Beets
The Hero Ingredient: Inspired by a Jamie Oliver dish, this salad calls for "new (young) potatoes," says Alice of Sugar Salted. "Once baked, [they become] super crispy and flavorful. Young potatoes hold their shape really well, especially when cooked, so they’re great for all sorts of salads." If they're not in season where you live, peeled yellow potatoes are an equally delicious substitute.
Pro Tip: Instead of Parmesan shavings (seen above), use nutritional yeast for "cheesiness," and garnish with lemon zest and a couple of handfuls of pine nuts.
Alice uses pre-cooked baby beets to minimize cooking time; if you make your own, tack on another 30 minutes.
The Recipe: Broccoli Tots
The Hero Ingredient: The chopped oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes bring "savory and tangy notes" to this healthy broccoli version of classic tater tots.
Pro Tip: After you blanch and drain the broccoli florets, make sure you pat them completely dry using paper towels or a tea towel, explains Caroline Phelps of Pickled Plum. Then after that, "it’s super important to chop the broccoli quite finely. If the broccoli has large pieces, the mixture won’t stick together when you go to form it into individual tots. You can easily use a knife here, or feel free to break out the food processor."
Probiotic-Cultured Vegan Cheese
The Recipe: Easy Probiotic-Cultured Vegan Cheese
The Hero Ingredient: Unsalted cashews, which you can use whole (just soak for one hour) or in slivered (unsoaked) form. "The cashews are blended until creamy and smooth with delicious things like fresh garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and sea salt," explains recipe developer and cookbook author Dana Schultz of Minimalist Baker.
Pro Tip: "The longer [the mixture] sits, the tangier and firmer it becomes," Schultz 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
The Recipe: Ottolenghi's Roasted Red Pepper Dip
The Hero Ingredient: Broiled or charred red peppers are the star of this appetizer by I Am A Food Blog creator Stephanie Le, who adapted the recipe iconic Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi's Levantine muhammara.
Pro Tip: 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.
Vegan Bruschetta Toppings Done Four Ways
The Recipe: Vegan Bruschetta Toppings Done Four Ways
The Hero Ingredient: All four of the tasty toppings have olive oil in common, which brings out the flavors of the herbs and fresh produce.
Pro Tip: For the perfect carb pairing, Maša Ofei suggests "a crusty Italian baguette, a sourdough baguette, a classic French baguette, a locally made sourdough, or a ciabatta," preferably freshly-baked and organic options.
Walnut-Miso Vegan Cheese
The Recipe: Walnut-Miso Vegan Cheese
The Hero Ingredient: The white miso brings a nutty finish that rounds out the walnuts and parsley.
Pro Tip: If you plan on making this dairy-free "cheese" log for a crowd, make sure you account for enough time to soak the walnuts for at least 12 hours in advance.
Sticky Sweet Vegan Meatballs
The Recipe: Sticky Sweet Meatballs
The Hero Ingredient: The dairy-free and vegan Gardein "meatballs," which makes this recipe easy to whip up in just 20 minutes. Recipe creator Amy Stafford of A Healthy Life for Me says the plant-based ingredient even fooled her own meat-loving family.
Pro Tip: When you have unexpected guests to entertain, reach for this easy, 20-minute appetizer. It's fairly straightforward—simply chop and mix together the sauce ingredients and pop the Gardein meatballs in the oven.