Usually the first dishes to be eaten are the familiar and high-fat ones—mac ‘n’ cheese, scalloped potatoes, cheddar-cornbread-chili casserole. Occasionally an underdog wins the day. I once made a Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry from one of my favorite cookbooks, Veganomicon. It was a plain-looking brown dish with cauliflower and parsnips (what was I thinking?), but after one or two people tried it and began spreading the word, it was the first to disappear.
When you don’t eat meat, eggs, or dairy, you automatically forfeit some of the visually appealing elements that catch people’s eyes, like melted cheese, bacon, sour cream, and crumbled sausage. But there are still infinite possibilities--and not just dull-looking ones either. I’ve carefully rummaged through cookbooks, favorite websites, Pinterest, and old recipe cards to devise a shortlist of winning dishes suitable for a church potluck. I’ve chosen only dishes that can be served several hours after making them, since potluck dishes have to sit. And I’ve avoided strange ingredients like tofu or tempeh that might put people off. These are good-looking, good-tasting creations made from 100% plants.
You don’t have to broadcast to the folks at church that the dish doesn’t have meat, eggs, or dairy. Let them ask about it, and even then, make them coax the ingredients out of you. Once the cat is out of the bag, then you can let them know what you’re doing and why.
Give the dish a cute name if the one here isn’t good enough (using “Elvis” in the name is always effective). Doll it up with garnishes and put it in a beautiful dish, with a colorful cloth napkin underneath.
Meatless cooks unite! We do not have to lose to the cheesecake and ham-salad-sandwich peddlers of the world! (Oh, wait, it’s not a contest… right, right…)
Please add more ideas in the comment section or share how a dish from this list went over at your potluck. Happy cooking and eating!
Creamy Artichoke Spinach Dip (from One Green Planet) with slices of baguette: much healthier than the dairy equivalent, and just as good
Red Pepper, Walnut, Tahini Dip (from Real Simple) with pita chips or mini bell peppers: it has an intriguing blend of flavors that will keep people guessing and eating
Indian-Spiced Cashews (from Leslie Beck): I used these for holiday gifts one year, and people talked about them for weeks! They are not hot-spicy – a must-try.
Pinwheels: use your favorite recipe for these, but instead of cream cheese, use hummus; experiment with colorful combinations of vegetables
Rice and Black Bean Salad with Cumin Dressing: See link for my comments
Spinach Salad with Curry Dressing: See link for my comments
Couscous Salad with Ginger-Cumin Dressing: See link for my comments
Gracious Vegan Mexican Salad: See link for my comments
Green Bean Casserole (from the Minimalist Baker): I’ve tried many recipes for green bean casserole without Campbell’s Soup (which contains milk), and this is the best one. Delicious.
Sweet Potato Puree with Browned Butter Maple Syrup (from Martha Stewart): I use Earth Balance margarine instead of butter; this is a marvelous way to take sweet potatoes to a potluck
Roasted Carrots & Parsnips with Shallot and Herb Butter (from Fine Cooking): Every time I take this somewhere, I get requests to make it again. I use Earth Balance margarine instead of butter, and I halve the butter recipe.
Marisa’s Baked Beans (from me, the Gracious Vegan): These are semi-homemade, so they’re half the work; you’ll be amazed at how great canned beans can taste with a little help.
Cheesy Vegan Potato and Broccoli Gratin (from I Love Vegan): Wonderful taste and texture—my husband scarfs this up when I make it
Bryanna's Baked Vegan Bubble And Squeak (from Bryanna Clark): This one surprises you; how can cabbage and potatoes taste so good? But they do.
Skinny Vegan Lasagna (from Hummusapien): You might get pushback because this is meatless, but the taste is great. I don’t like bottled spaghetti sauce, so I use my own; otherwise this is a winner.
Black Bean and Zucchini Tortilla Casserole (from Veg Kitchen): This is a nice alternative to enchilada casserole and tastes yummy.
Vegan Penne Pasta Casserole (from Veganosity): This is another baked cashew-based pasta dish. You can’t have too many of these, really.
Candle Café Chocolate Cake: See link for my comments
Apple Raisin Cake: See link for my comments
Carrot Cake (from Robin Robertson): I thought I would never taste carrot cake again after giving up eggs and dairy, but this brought me back from deprivation. It’s as good as my old recipe. I recommend the frosting from www.veganbaking.net (recipe here)
Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti: See link for my comments
Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies: See link for my comments
Pecan Pie Truffles: See link for my comment
Here is the cookbook that contains the recipe for the Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry. It's a wonderful resource.