6 "Polite" Things You Do When Cooking for Your Vegetarian Friends That Are Actually Rude

This guide to cooking for vegetarian friends (when you eat meat) will help you avoid some pitfalls. Here's why dishing up some eggplant Parm might not be the best idea.

If you love to have folks over for a meal, chances are you've been faced with a vegetarian dinner guest. After all, eating vegetarian can be good for you and the planet, so it makes sense that lots of folks are turning to vegetarianism as a healthy eating pattern. But if you're typically a meat-eater, you might feel a little clueless when it comes to planning a delicious, filling meal without any meat in sight.

That's OK! Cooking vegetarian for the first time may be intimidating, especially if you're trying to make an impressive dinner party spread. But incorporating vegetarian-friendly options into your next shindig can be pretty darn easy—so as long as you avoid any major pitfalls. That's why we rounded up our best tips for hosting all your veggie friends, even when your overeagerness gets in the way.

1. You assume all cheeses are vegetarian-friendly.

No one could blame you for looking to cheese as a suitable option for pleasing a meatless crowd—cheese is truly one of the great unifiers. But you should do your research before hitting the cheese counter if you want to keep your meal vegetarian-friendly. Certain cheeses use rennet, which is comprised of enzymes found in the stomach lining of various mammals, to separate curds from whey.

For instance, Parmesan cheese is not typically vegetarian. Since Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from a specific region and uses only one specific recipe, any cheese calling itself Parm is going to have calf rennet in it. Other cheeses like Grana Padano, Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Gruyère also use rennet in their curdling process. Some vegetarians may make an exception for cheeses, so you can always ask your guest if they're a Parmesan eater. Otherwise, its best to do a little research about the cheese you'd like to use in your recipe, so you can make sure it's appropriate for a vegetarian meal. A resource like this list of vegetarian cheese producers from Vegetatio can also be a helpful tool.

2. You throw a veggie burger on the grill so they can partake with everyone else.

A summer grilling session might be the easiest way to make sure all your guests—vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike—have something delicious to eat. There are so many convenient, grillable plant-based options out there, from carrot dogs and quinoa burgers to meat analogs like Beyond Meat. Just remember to handle the vegetarian or vegan options with care. Keep vegetarian options on a different side of the grill than your regular ol' burgers, and use a different utensil to flip them. You don't want to contaminate the vegetarian dishes with a spatula that's been flipping beef patties, and if you're cooking a "bleeding" veggie burger, you definitely don't want to get it mixed in with your almost-identical beef burgers.

And remember that it can't hurt to check in about their food preferences beforehand—maybe they strongly prefer a classic black bean burger to a Beyond or Impossible patty, but you won't know until you ask.

3. You don't bug them about what their dietary restrictions are—after all, you already know they're vegetarian.

Don't get ahead of yourself on menu planning too quickly. It might be nice to prove yourself as a good, observant friend by whipping up a vegetarian meal, no questions asked, but there's always the chance that your veggie pal has other dietary restrictions that haven't come up in conversation. You don't want to find yourself serving chips and guacamole to a vegetarian who can't eat cilantro and is trying out a keto diet.

Checking in before you settle on a recipe to make sure your guest doesn't have any food allergies or aversions is thoughtful, and it will save you trouble in the long run.

Man being served salad
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4. You go a little overboard on making friendly conversation.

A friend of mine says it's not the food that's most daunting when it comes to eating with non-vegetarians, but the painful small talk. You probably won't be the first to trot out lines like "Not even fish?" or "I could never do it—I love bacon too much." If you're dead-set on getting vegetarian intel over supper, asking about their favorite recipes or the best places in town to get a vegetarian meal is a more fun way to go.

5. You offer all the food buffet-style, so they can eat what they're comfortable with.

Buffet-style is always a simple, effortless way to serve guests. But when you know you've got some folks with dietary restrictions to feed, the buffet line will need a little more effort from you. Use a pad of sticky notes to label the dishes, so folks know what's vegetarian, what has nuts in it and which appetizer is the one you've been bragging on all week.

Since it can be hard to tell if some dishes, like a mysterious casserole or a steamy lasagna, are actually vegetarian or not, a quick label can help everybody dish up their plates confidently. Plus, it'll keep you from having to answer the same questions over and over again.

6. You keep meat out of your dishes—but use ingredients like fish sauce or chicken broth to amp up the flavor.

Think twice before reaching for the carton of beef stock as you prepare your vegetarian take on French onion soup. Even if there are no pieces of beef floating in the pot, using ingredients like beef, chicken or fish stock still makes a recipe vegetarian-unfriendly. The same is true of condiments like fish stock, Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing. Some tortillas, pie crusts and canned refried beans include lard, another sneaky animal product that could ruin your menu. If a processed food doesn't describe itself as vegetarian on the packaging, doing a bit of internet sleuthing can help you avoid a misstep.

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