Ideas for Lunch Dishes to Take to an Office Potluck

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You’re working on an excruciating spreadsheet when an email hits your Inbox: “Next Week’s Potluck Lunch!” Some well-meaning soul is trying to boost the group’s morale, perhaps during an austerity phase when the company won’t fund pizza parties. The email asks everyone to bring something. The sign-up sheet is waiting in the empty cubicle next to the printer.

If you're not eating meat, eggs, and dairy, don't worry. You won't have to sign up for paper products or drinks. Whether you cook or not, this is an excellent opportunity to show others that your new way of eating is easy and delicious.

I’ve provided some ideas below for dishes to take to an office lunch potluck. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but I hope it speeds along your decision about what to take. 

For those of you who cook, I’ve provided links to recipes. All the recipes are tested and approved by me, the Gracious Vegan.  

For those of you who don’t cook and will be buying your contribution, I beg you to skip the big grocery stores and tired brands of dips and chips. See my ideas below. Find a higher-end grocery store with fresh, store-made choices or, better yet, get dishes to go at good restaurants or cafes (e.g., real hummus from a Lebanese restaurant).

Appetizers

If you’re cooking:

  • Red Pepper, Walnut, Tahini Dip (from Real Simple, recipe here) with pita chips or mini bell peppers
  • Spiced Flour Tortilla Crisps (from Real Simple, recipe here) and any guacamole, romesco, salsa or hot refried bean dip

If you’re buying:

  • Tapenade, marinated red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, and baguette slices or crackers
  • Pita bread and two or three of the following: hummus, baba ganoush, foul madammas, stuffed grape leaves

Main Dishes

If you’re cooking (all of these could be microwaved at the time of serving and/or kept warm in a crock pot):

  • Chili (the link to my favorite recipe is here)
  • Ratatouille (my favorite recipe is here, from Fine Cooking) and some good bread   
  • Curried Chickpeas and Summer Vegetable Stew (also from Fine Cooking, here)
  • Curried Red Lentil Stew with Vegetables (from Epicurious, here)
  • Tofu, Veggie and Sesame Fried Rice (I would leave out the tofu) (from the HuffPost Taste website, available here)

If you’re buying:

  • Look for dishes similar to the ones above at a high-end market or a café that sells by the carton or pound

Salads

If you’re cooking:

  • Curried Couscous Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing (originally from Jeanne Lemlin, Main-Course Vegetarian Pleasures, available here)
  • Spinach Salad with Curry Dressing (Gracious Vegan, available here)
  • Rainbow Raisin Coleslaw (Gracious Vegan, available here)

If you’re buying:

  • Look for dishes similar to the ones above at a high-end market or a café that sells by the carton or pound

Soups (take in a crock pot)

If you’re cooking:

  • Moroccan Chickpea Soup (from Gourmet, here)
  • Turkish Red Lentil Soup (from the New York Timeshere)
  • Black Bean Soup (Sally Pasley’s Tao of Cooking version is my favorite, but another excellent recipe is here)
  • Minestrone (there are lots of good minestrone recipes)
  • Gazpacho (Gracious Vegan, available here)

If you're buying:

  • Look for dishes similar to the ones above at a high-end market or a café that sells by the carton or pound

Desserts

If you're cooking:

  • Chocolate Cake (The Candle Café Cookbook’s recipe is here, or this one is excellent too)
  • Carrot Cake (the absolute best is from Robin Robertson’s 1000 Vegan Recipes; she shares the recipe here)
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti (from Veganomicon, recipe here)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies (a great recipe is in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking--see here for link to this recipe)
  • Fruit Crisp (Gracious Vegan, available here)

If you’re buying:

  • It may be hard to find good vegan desserts in your area. One option is vegan ice cream, vegan chocolate syrup (Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup is vegan, but there may be other brands at your store that are fudgier), and maybe some chopped nuts too. If you can find or make vegan brownies, you could blow people away with vegan brownie sundaes.
  • I wouldn’t just bring fruit – that communicates to people that vegan eating is limited and not very exciting. 

Good luck with the potluck. I hope your food is the most popular dish there.