Perhaps you’re cutting down on meat and looking for an alternative, or maybe you’ve got a vegetarian or vegan guest for Christmas lunch this year. Either way, there are plenty of options. Try one of these delicious recipes for vegetarian and vegan starters, mains and desserts.
Canapés and starters
Mushroom, shallot and chestnut parcels
Vegetarian, easily veganised
These little mushroom nibbles can be served as canapés or as part of a starter, and can also be prepared as one large strudel to be cut into slices. This vegetarian recipe uses butter but replace with a vegan alternative such as Flora Original or Light, Pure or Vitalite to make it suitable for vegans.
Recipe: mushroom, shallot and chestnut parcels
Baked camembert with vegetable skewers
Vegetarian, veganised version possible
A rich, oozing starter served with skewers of seasonal vegetables that can be dipped into the melted camembert like a personal fondue. This starter is very easy to throw together, and a vegan version can even be made using homemade cashew nut cheese.
Recipe: baked camembert with vegetable skewers
Recipe: vegan cashew cheese baked camembert
Pea and spinach soup
Soup is an easy starter to make and it’s healthy too, meaning you can indulge at pudding! This pea and spinach soup has some festive flair thanks to a swirl of beetroot red against the pea green soup. Serve in a shallow bowl for a starter, or in shot glasses as a canapé. Vegetable soups are often vegan, just watch out for milk powder in stock cubes and buy a brand without milk in, such as Kallo vegetable stock cubes. Butter in a recipe can be replaced with olive oil or vegan butter-like spread (such Vitalite, Pure or Flora Original or Light) and a swirl of cream can be replaced with Alpro or Oatly branded vegan creams.
Recipe: pea and spinach soup
Other soups that make a good Christmas starter include maple and cauliflower, leek, parsnip and chestnut, celeriac, beetroot and watercress.
Main meal ideas
Chestnut and butter bean Wellington
Flaky pastry and a rich chestnut filling make this a real Christmas comfort food. What’s more you can make it a few days in advance and just keep it wrapped in tinfoil in the fridge, or even freeze it up to three months in advance.
Most shop bought pastry (such as Jus-Rol or supermarket own brands) are suitable for vegans, although the ‘extra special’ ranges will often have butter in it, so check the ingredients if you’re making this Wellington for a vegan.
Recipe: chestnut and butter bean Wellington
Vegan Christmas Wellington
This stunning seitan main from 'Avant Garde Vegan' chef Gaz Oakley is moist, flavourful and wrapped in a flaky pastry. Seitan is a high protein meat substitute but it's no frankenfood fad, it has been popular with monks in China for over 1,500 years, making it almost as popular as fellow vegan favourite tofu. Seitan is made from vital wheat gluten, a high protein flour made by removing starch from wheat flour. It is mixed with flavourful liquids (such as vegetable stock, soy sauce, tomato paste and seasonings) and kneaded like a dough, but once cooked (usually by boiling) it develops a meaty texture.
Recipe: vegan Christmas Wellington
Mini chestnut nut roasts
These individual little nut roasts are cooked in individual bundt tins which can then be decorated with cranberries and sprigs of rosemary for some festive flair. The mixture can be baked in an ordinary tin too – but they won’t look nearly so pretty.
Recipe: mini chestnut nut roasts
Mushroom and chestnut puddings
These savoury puddings are stuffed with mushrooms, chestnuts and a rich red wine sauce and the suet crust is made with vegetable suet – the Atora brand is available is most supermarkets packaged in a green box instead of the non-vegetarian blue.
Recipe: mushroom and chestnut puddings
Vegan lentil nut roast
Yes, nut roast is a bit of an obvious choice and as shown above there is more to a vegetarian or vegan roast dinner than a nut roast, but it is a staple for a reason. Easy to make, completely customisable and providing lovely leftovers for Boxing Day sandwiches, this nut roast stays nice and moist thanks to the inclusion of grated carrots and red lentils. Make ahead and freeze if you know you’re going to be short on time at Christmas, and serve in a sandwich with chutney, relish or leftover cranberry sauce on Boxing Day.
Recipe: vegan nut roast
Festive layered loaf
Vegetarian, easily veganised
A colourful centrepiece made with vegetarian mince, nuts and herbs, and layered with slices of roasted peppers for a lovely sweetness. Lining the tray with slices of orange gives the loaf an extra fruity kick. Quorn mince has egg in it so if veganising this recipe use a soya mince, supermarket own brands such as Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda are all suitable for vegans. The egg binder in the recipe can be replaced with gram (chickpea) flour, available in most large supermarkets in the world food aisle.
Recipe: festive layered loaf
Vegetarian and vegan gravy
Try our recipe for a delicious rich vegetarian gravy (also suitable for vegans as long as the stock doesn’t have milk powder in it) or buy one of the many vegetarian and vegan brands available. Tideford Organic make a tub of fresh vegan gravy with red miso that’s also gluten free.
A lot of branded and supermarket own brand powdered gravy is also vegan, including certain flavours from Knorr, Bisto and Aunt Bessie's, see a list of what gravy is available in different supermarkets on Vegan Womble.
Vegetarian puddings are easy – almost every pudding will be suitable, just watch out for anything with gelatine in (vegetarian jelly mixes, such as Just Wholefoods Vegetarian Jelly available from health food shops and online, and Hartley's powdered jelly, are available if you’re making your own Christmas trifle).
Visit our recipe section for a whole range of desserts.
Vegan puddings can be harder, although it’s getting easier all the time. Brands Oatly and Alpro both do pouring cream and custard (Alpro made from soy beans, Oatly from oats) and can be found in the free-from aisle of any supermarket. Even Bird’s powdered custard is vegan as long as it is made using plant milk instead of dairy. Elmlea makes a plant-based whipping cream that is usually found in the chilled free-from area, so it is easier than ever to completely veganise even creamy desserts. For example, you can easily make a vegan trifle using whipped Elmlea plant-based, just Wholefoods jelly, Bird's custard and, for the cakey based, chopped doughnuts can work very well (vegan doughnuts are available from Morrisons and Co Op).
Alpro, Oatly and Wall's Swedish Glace make ice creams in a range of flavours, and there is even vegan Ben and Jerry’s ice cream available (check the packaging for the range clearly marked ‘dairy free’). Most shop bought ready-made pastry is vegan, so think fruit or chocolate tarts, pies or parcels served with a vegan cream, custard or ice cream.
Even supermarkets have started to introduce vegan desserts into their line-up. Check Asda for their chocolate torte in Extra Special range, Tesco's Wicked range includes a vegan red velvet cake and a vegan pineapple dream cake, and Co Op's fruit pies from their bakery are suitable for vegans.
Alternatively, try making your own luscious mulled wine sorbet from Diana Henry or Jamie Oliver’s creamy vegan chocolate pot. You could even make a vegan tiramisu using this recipe from Gaz Oakley, a vegan pavlova made with aquafaba (chickpea water), coconut and almond creme caramel or this apple and cinnamon strudel from the Hairy Bikers.
Snacks and sweet treats
A range of nibbles both sweet and savoury should be easily available.
Think crackers with a good quality pickle and slices of cucumber, tomato and cheese or vegan cheese (Sainsbury’s do a vegan cheese with cranberries in that’s particularly good for the festive season). If making up a buffet table then stock with nuts (avoid honey-roasted if catering for vegans), pretzels, crisps (watch out for milk powder and chicken extract) and houmous with crudites. Linda McCartney and Tesco both make vegan sausage rolls (in the frozen section) and most supermarkets will sell vegetarian cheese and onion sausage rolls. V Bites and Linda McCartney both make vegan cocktail sausages.
Indian snacks like vegetable samosas, pakoras and onion are almost always vegan, and vegetable spring rolls or filo parcels usually are too. Serve them with dips that suit the cuisine type, such as mango chutney with the Indian snacks and sweet chilli sauce for Asian.
For vegan chocolates opt for dark chocolate, but do check the packaging for butter oil, whey powder or other sneaky dairy ingredients. Own-brand after dinner mint thins are almost all free from milk (After Eights themselves contain milk powder) so visit Tesco, Asda or Poundland and pick a pack up for a cheap but tasty sweet snack. Asher’s, available in Poundland, make dark chocolate orange and citrus cremes. Beeches and Whittakers both make dark chocolate fruit cremes, ginger thins, mint thins, rose creams and much more and all their vegan products are clearly labelled. Bendicks mint crisps, mint thins and their mint collection variety pack are all vegan and often on offer in the run-up to Christmas.
For those that don't like dark chocolate the free-from section of supermarkets will usually stock dairy-free chocolate, including foil wrapped coins, caramels and even Christmas variety boxes. Look out for brands such as Nomo, Moo Free and Rhythm 108.
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