Some customers unfamiliar with the versatility of vegan cuisine may be afraid they will still suffer from hunger even after polishing off vegan meals in restaurants and health care or educational settings. They have no cause for fear. The days of steamed vegetable plates with a side of plain rice should finally be over. Vegan entrées can stand right up there with the “big meaty boys” when it comes to customer requirements for interesting and hearty meals.
It depends on your clientele and your kitchen as to how similar to non-vegan items you want to keep your vegan offerings. Variations on the same theme are often easy. For example, a vegan “steak” and potatoes platter can be a portobello steak marinated in an herb dressing and grilled on a char-broiler. You can keep the side dishes, such as a baked potato and vegetable du jour (without animal fat), exactly the same. Offer vegan margarine, soy sour cream, chopped chives or onions, salsa, or sautéed onions as potato toppings. Other “steak” options are grilled or baked seitan or tofu “steaks,” soy “ground round” formed into a Salisbury steak, or fake meats such as Field Roast or Tofurky, grilled and seasoned with black and white pepper, chopped onions, and garlic.
The same can be done with sandwiches. Instead of a roast beef dip, offer a tempeh or mushroom dip with mushroom or onion gravy. Keep the crusty rolls and the side salad the same. Hot Tofurky sandwiches can be served on whole wheat bread with a scoop of stuffing, mushroom or vegetable gravy, and a side order of cranberry sauce or cranberry chutney (see recipe in this issue). No one will miss the turkey.
You can prepare or purchase firm tofu with Southwestern or Teriyaki flavoring. While carnivores may be selecting chicken for their entrée, offer tofu as an alternate. Southwestern tofu can be baked or grilled and served with rice, black beans, and tortillas. Teriyaki tofu is great served with rice, stir-fried vegetables, and vegan spring rolls (steamed rice paper wrappers filled with minced vegetables). Sliced, flavored tofu can be offered to top pasta instead of chicken or turkey breast.
For hearty, baked vegan entrées, think of the layered look. You can purchase frozen vegan lasagna and add your own touches with house sauces or homemade salsas. Or you can prepare your own lasagna and freeze it until you are ready to use it. You can choose whole wheat, spinach, carrot, or tomato lasagna noodles. If you’d like to skip the pasta, just peel eggplant or summer squash, such as zucchini or yellow squash, and thinly slice it lengthwise. Items to use between the layers can include shredded or sliced vegan cheeses or cooked and crumbled vegan breakfast strips or soyrizo. Chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, sliced black olives, bell pepper strips, sweet onion slices, a smattering of minced garlic, fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced firm tofu, seitan, or tempeh, crumbled veggie burgers, minced broccoli florets, and shredded carrots fill out the layers. Use a fresh or prepared tomato sauce for a “red” lasagna and a creamy tofu sauce for a “white” lasagna. Creamy tofu sauce can be made by puréeing silken tofu with powdered garlic, oregano, a drop of soymilk, ground black pepper, and a small amount of nutritional yeast.
Make a large batch of creamy tofu sauce for your next layered creation, strata. Traditional strata is made with alternating layers of bread and cheese covered with a custard sauce and baked. Your vegan version can alternate bread with vegan cheese and sliced tomato, fresh spinach leaves, sliced sweet onion, or flavored tofu. Select a deep baking dish and trim off the crusts of various types of bread. Alternate layers of bread with vegetables, tofu, or vegan cheese. Pour creamy tofu sauce over the assembled strata, cover, and bake until bubbly. Add a garden salad or a baked sweet potato and some specialty salsa and you’ve developed a satisfying meal.
Beans are easy to cook and easy to serve. A three- (or four- or five-) bean chili, served over cornbread with a side of brown rice will please hearty eaters. If you’re cooking for the small fry or for adults with milder palates, leave out the chili powder and create a bean stew. We like to make a bean stew with a combination of white and kidney beans flavored with mild onions, a small amount of black pepper, and a smidgen of garlic powder. Depending on our mood, we may add cut corn, cut wax or green beans, and green peas. Bean chili can be made into a tamale pie by covering a baking dish of prepared chili with uncooked cornbread batter and baking until the cornbread is set. Covering a baking pan of bean stew with prepared mashed potatoes and baking until heated through can make a vegan version of shepherd’s pie. A chili size is a Western entrée of a large hamburger topped with chili con carne. A vegan version can include a veggie burger topped with a generous portion of bean chili.
Omelets are a breakfast and lunch favorite. Tofu may not fold like eggs, but it can carry flavor and color. Think of scrambling soft tofu with chopped bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions, then garnishing the tofu with several slices of avocado. Team this with freshly baked muffins and a side order of hash brown potatoes or some vegan breakfast strips or a veggie burger, and a large breakfast is ready for your hungriest patrons. Or, try offering scrambled tofu with two, three, or four add-in ingredients, paired with seasonal fruit salad and breakfast potatoes.
Pasta and potatoes are popular as well as filling ingredients. Serve pasta paired with “neat”balls and marinara sauce (tomato-vegetable sauce) or vegan pesto (use olive oil, pine nuts, and basil; substitute nutritional yeast for Parmesan cheese). You can purchase soy-or vegetable-based “neat”balls or you can prepare and freeze your own. Pasta or potatoes topped with crumbled, seasoned soy “ground round,” or crumbled veggie burgers, shredded vegan cheese, seasoned beans, chopped raw onions, sautéed onions and garlic, sliced raw mushrooms or sautéed mushrooms and peppers, diced sweet peppers, chopped olives, crumbled seitan or tempeh, chopped tomatoes, and nutritional yeast look bountiful on a plate.
Hearty vegan entrées are easy to plan and prepare. Remember to include different colors and textures on the plate, make the serving sizes customer-appropriate, and offer variety. Here are some more entrée ideas to get you started:
|Hot roast beef in a sandwich||Hot Field Roast with mushroom sauce|
|Sausage and egg burrito||Soyrizo and scrambled tofu or vegan breakfast crumbles and tofu|
|Roast beef, lamb, or pork in a French dip sandwich||Sliced fake meats with onion sauce|
|Steak in a steak dinner||Grilled whole portobello caps, seitan, or tempeh|
|Meat loaf||Combination of soy ground round and TVP with chopped vegetables, formed and baked into a loaf|
|Pork loin for a pork roast dinner||Sliced tofurky with an onion-garlic gravy|
|Ground beef for tamale or shepard’s pie||Crumbled Field Roast or soy ground round pie|
|Filling for lasagna||Thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, vegan cheese, olives, and smoked tofu|
|Filling for enchiladas||Chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, chilies, mushrooms, shredded vegan cheese, mashed or whole beans, brown rice, cut corn|
|Turkey in hot turkey sandwich||Marinated sliced Tofurky or firm tofu with poultry seasoning, served with vegetable gravy and cranberry sauce|
|Burger with the “works”||Veggie or mushroom burger with sliced tomato, shredded carrots, shredded beets, sliced cucumber, diced bell peppers, sliced chopped onions, shredded red and green cabbage|
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