What do you serve a raw vegan for the holidays?

November 15 2013 | offbeatbride
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Here's a plate of raw veggies. Photo by: THORCC BY 2.0
My sister-in-law is a raw vegan and I'm stumped when it comes to including her in holiday meals.

This year, my husband and I are hosting Christmas dinner and we want to make his sister feel included, and not just give her a plate of raw veggies. Any suggestions on holiday, raw vegan food? -Christina

First of all, you might want to check out this post: 10 tips on cooking for your gluten-and-dairy-free paleo aunt without pulling your hair out. Specifically paying attention to tips one and five:

  • Ask them to spell out exactly what they eat. My vegan Buddhist nun doesn't eat meat or animal products like honey, obviously, but I had no idea she doesn't eat onions or garlic either; according to her beliefs they overstimulate the blood and are considered a no-go for some strict Buddhists.
  • One of the best ways to make an offbeat eater-friendly meal is to ask them for a recipe you can make, to which you can add few side dishes of your food — a vegan rice salad and a green salad with a few chicken nibbles or a wedge of brie on the side.

Speaking of recipes… we KNOW a lot of our readers are both vegan AND full of great holiday meal ideas. Let's combine the two!

Leave your favorite raw vegan recipes in the comments.

  1. Youtube is a great resource. You can also learn a bit more about the Raw Vegan lifestyle. My favourite is Raw Vegan Not Gross, she does a lot of desserts that you could probably serve to your whole family and not just your SIL.

    • I'm not vegan, but those brownies looked delicious and so easy, so I tried the recipe out today. (Figured they would be good for my gluten-free family members too). They are FANTASTIC. Thanks so much for the recommendation. It was a struggle to not eat the entire pan myself. 😉

      • The good thing is that it's much better to eat this whole pan than a whole pan of traditional brownies! I've actually made this and taken it on long runs with me as mid run snacks… oops!

        So glad you gave it a go!

  2. I'm just a regular vegan (non-raw), but I love sharing info and recipes when someone wants to cook for me. I'm also fine with bringing my own food or sharing cooking duties (I make a killer green bean casserole that my omni family members love). Your sis-in-law is surely used to explaining her diet and lifestyle and will probably welcome your interest. Also, keep in mind that many raw vegans are not raw 100% of the time, so she may be okay with eating some cooked food. If you send her an email just like the one you posted here, I bet you'll get a very enthusiastic and grateful response. You could also Google around and find a few recipes that look good, then ask her what she thinks. (I just Googled "raw vegan holiday" and got a ton of hits.) Everyone wants to feel included, so props to you for considering her needs! Happy holiday cooking!

    • " If you send her an email just like the one you posted here, I bet you'll get a very enthusiastic and grateful response. "
      THIS! I would be over the moon if my family sent me emails like this before every holiday event. My dad is good at this; my aunt is not. Last year for Christmas dinner I got a "I bought you this canned vegan beef wellington – you're going to eat it." I'm 24, not a child. Also, that shit was AWFUL.

      • Totally agree!! I was the sister-in-law in this scenario last year during a family wedding. It was a two day event and we were camping with 9 family members, so my sister-in-law was organizing to cook ahead of time for everyone. She was extremely thoughtful in considering my food allergies and diet restrictions by sending me an email with her meal plan and all the recipes attached asking me to make notes throughout on what worked and didn't work for me. I liked this because it didn't put a HUGE onus on me to come up with all the dishes she should cook but also let me voice my concerns.

        So I tracked changes through the document saying things like "Can you switch the butter to olive oil in this recipe?" and "I can't have the sesame in your homemade hummus but here's a great hummus recipe that uses peanut butter instead." She still served things I couldn't have, because there was plenty of other dishes I could have. We both walked away from the experience super happy I think.

      • As much as I love my family and I appreciate their good intentions, this drives me NUTS. I'm strictly gluten-free (celiac disease, which the rest of my family escaped somehow) and they'll buy me some wack-ass tapioca loaf "bread" and rock-hard cookies and they're like HERE, YOU CAN EAT THESE! It took me a few years to get over the guilt and just bring my own bread/cookies/pasta ahead of time.

  3. Here is a raw holiday salad that my mother in law makes every year:
    6-8 cups spring mix lettuce
    3 ribs celery, diced
    1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
    1 red apple, cored and diced
    1/2 cup cranberries

    For the dressing, mix equal parts apple cider vinegar to raw oil, season with salt, grated orange zest and fruit juice of choice. Serves 6.

    The green and the red together are very attractive, and the salad is something the whole family can love. If you don't have raw oils, perhaps your raw-foods guest can contribute some.

  4. First, let me start with this – I think when you are dealing with a guest who has a rather restrictive diet (and this certainly qualifies), there is nothing wrong with asking him/her to possibly bring a dish or two of their own to share. That way, multiple people can possibly share in the experience with them (as opposed to they just sitting there with their own dishes). Nothing wrong with that.

    Secondly, there are a ton of raw recipes online. I would steer clear of any of them that require specialty equipment you don't have (like those recipes that call for a dehydrator, for example – unless you happen to have one, but most people don't).
    In my experience, most raw foods are incredibly simple – which is often the point. I wouldn't worry about making dishes that are super complex. Most raw foodists I've met like the simplicity of the diet, so your sister likely isn't expecting a vast array of foods to choose from. My advice would be first to ask her what she wants. She probably has favorite foods that she enjoys. She might even have recipes. It's perfectly fine to ask her to provide a recipe for you.

  5. Here are some recipes from a restaurant I enjoy (a lot! and I'm an omni). Some will require special equipment, but I'm sure you can find some really simple yet delicious ones.
    http://www.crudessence.com/en/recettes/recipe-book

    Also, if for some reason you're uncomfortable asking your sister-in-law, then why not ask your brother? I'm sure he's just as good a resource! Also, if you do need a dehydrator, you might borrow theirs 😉

  6. I'm vegan and gf and I usually come prepared with my own food. I don't like to make my family or friends feel like they need to go out of their way to buy ingredients they will never use again just to make me something I can eat. I'll usually bring a main dish and a dessert that I will share with everyone. Or, since I'm not very strict, I'll just tell them no meat and not to worry about the rest of my dietary restrictions and I can survive through 1 meal.

    Asking what one can or can't eat or for a recipe they like is, IMO, the best route to take. Asking her directly will make her feel like she is being included and not ignored, which is how I often feel at fmaily dinners where, unless I make something, I don't get to eat.

  7. This post reminded me of a recipe for gluten-free/raw/vegan bars which I've been experimenting with recently – they are sort of fudgy, fruity, brownie-like bars or squares.

    I think the recipe could be adapted to be a lovely seasonal sweet treat for someone who is on a raw/vegan diet – they are delicious and feel quite indulgent, despite being quite healthy! The version I just made the other day is not raw or strictly vegan, but in case anyone is interested, here is a rough idea of what I did: (sorry it's not a very accurate recipe – it's not that sort of thing!)

    Ingredients:
    About 1 cup dried prunes, chopped roughly
    About 1/2 cup of mixed seeds (could substitute nuts) and desiccated coconut
    About 1/2 cup of gluten free cereal flakes (could substitute nuts or more seeds – I used Mesa Sunrise)
    50-100g dark chocolate
    Dessert spoonful of maple syrup
    A handful or two of pretty dried fruit (cranberries and chopped apricots work really well)

    Put the chopped prunes into a small saucepan with a splash of water (and a splash of rum or brandy, or vanilla essence if you like). Bring them up to a gentle simmer until the liquid has been mostly absorbed by the fruit. Let them cool for a few minutes.
    In a food processor, chop the seeds and cereal flakes.
    In a large bowl melt the chocolate (bainmarie style or in the microwave) then stir in the chopped seeds, cereal and coconut etc. Put the prune mixture in the food processor and puree. Then add this to the mix too. Give it all a good stir and then stir in the other dried fruit and a bit of maple syrup. It should be quite sticky and very thick – if it feels too dry add a bit more syrup. If it's too wet, add less syrup or add another handful of cereal flakes or nuts or seeds. Scrape the mixture into a cake tin lined with baking parchment. Pop it in the fridge to set for an hour or two – over night is even better as the longer you leave it the more it seems to 'set'. When set, cut into bars or squares – I usually leave them in the fridge to keep them firm. They last a few days too, so you could make them ahead.

    I was inspired by the recipe here, but I adapted it quite a bit to suit the dietary requirements of my household and the stuff I had to hand in the kitchen!
    http://www.inspirededibles.ca/2013/03/cranberry-chia-energy-bars-raw-vegan.html?m=1

    I imagine that a version made with raw peanut or almond butter, with some orange zest or cinnamon and dried cranberries or cherries would make a lovely christmassy after-dinner treat! 🙂

  8. I think emailing and asking what you could serve is the best option. Just because a dish fits a diet specification doesn't mean it's something that person likes to eat! And you certainly don't want to mistakenly use a wrong ingredient and possibly make her sick or upset.

    • Ohmigosh – THIS.

      I'm coeliac and while I am always super grateful for being catered for, I feel really awkward when something that has been made especially for me is also something I find hard to stomach. In the same sort of vein is when more food is provided for me then I can possibly eat and then set aside with a big 'GLUTEN FREE' sign so no one eats it.

      Recommended course of action – ask said person for recipes and/or favourite foods if you're the sort of person who likes a culinary challenge. Prepare said items in a batch big enough that everyone gets to share (ensuring that cross contamination does not occur), and then serve with separate utensils. Also, let those with specific food issues loose on the food before everyone else.

      • Yeahhhh celiacs unite! My dad always makes these elaborate meals, and I'll ask him "what's in this?" and he'll make a joke like "well I sprinkled the whole thing with flour, that's okay, right?!" I have to sit him down and say, "seriously, dad, what is in this?" Especially after the time he made me a whole chicken casserole and at the last minute sprinkled Panko breadcrumbs over it. Thankfully he realized his mistake before feeding it to me…

  9. My mother makes a fantastic cranberry relish, which could totally be made raw.
    Combine 1 16 oz bag of cranberries, the zest and juice of a navel orange, and agave syrup (my mother uses 3/4C of sugar, so I would guess about 1/3-1/2 Cup raw agave nectar would cut it. you could also try raw honey), in a food processor and blitz until well combined. Taste it, and add more agave if needed.
    While it's definitely not a whole meal, atleast it's a regular holiday dish, you could totally just serve it as your cranberry sauce to everyone!

  10. Raw pie! It's one of the greatest desserts ever – I served it at my son's first birthday party (since you never know what kids can't have sugar/gluten), and EVERYONE loved it.
    the basic recipe for the crust is pretty much the same no matter what filling you use (nuts, dates, shredded coconut, pinch of salt), and you can google recipes to find whatever filling you like. Here's one that looks pretty good!
    http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/fall-trifecta-raw-vegan-gluten-free-pumpkin-pie-235800881.html

  11. I agree with others to check with your guest to see if there are any other restrictions you don't know about first. Here are some recipes I found online. I haven't tried them yet but they look DELICIOUS! Enjoy:

    Raw green bean casserole:
    http://www.addictedtoveggies.com/2010/11/easy-raw-vegan-and-warm-green-bean.html

    Orange Cranberry Relish:
    http://youngonrawfood.com/cranberry-orange-relish/

    "Steak" and "Potatoes"
    http://www.choosingraw.com/steak-and-potatoes/

    • Totally recommend Addicted to Veggies. She's from my hometown and I've had her zucchini with "fudge" and macadamia nut roll things. They're delicious.

  12. This post is relevant to my interests as I am hosting a Thanksgiving style potluck dinner tomorrow for close friends, several of whom have restrictive diets, including myself. I also have to deal with my family who do not understand my diet, though I usually just suck it up and eat what they cook. Here are a few of my suggestions.

    This, but with vegan cheese, if that is an option for your guest:
    http://www.budgetbytes.com/2011/08/summer-vegetable-tian/

    I make this all the time at home. Its super tasty. I recommend adding cardamom, it really completed this dish for me.
    http://gourmandeinthekitchen.com/2013/moroccan-spiced-roasted-sweet-potatoes-carrots-recipe/

    I have made this twice and my husband eats it all every time!:
    http://eyesonthesource.com/apple-pecan-acorn-squash/

    Also, never under estimate the power of potatoes, or butternut squash, or carrots, or cauliflower. Pinterest is your friend here! Its where I go for all my alternative diet recipes. Good luck!

  13. When you have figured it out make sure that the vegan options are sure to be served to them first – nothing annoys my vegan friends more than when they find the only 2 things they can eat have been devoured accidentally by everyone else! Also, if its self serve, make sure the vegan stuff has specific serving cutlery and explain to everyone that it is the only one to go into this bowl – to avoid cross contamination. Thats also super important when there is gluten free options, contamination there can be very dangerous! One of my vegan friends who entertains a lot has colour matched dishes and cutlery to help that.

    Oh – and taking the time to find a dessert they can have too always means a lot to my vegan friends so they dont have to sit there watching everyone else enjoy sweets. I find that finding a great raw/vegan bakery is a big help there because they can be very hit and miss to make yourself.

    • Vegan bakeries can be hit-or-miss. There's one in my town that makes great cookies, but horrible muffins. But one by my family on the other side of the state makes THE BEST cupcakes, hands down, vegan or non-vegan.
      I recommend sampling a few before you buy, since vegan bakeries can be twice (or more) the price of a traditional bakery.

  14. How about a festive mezze plate? Sprouted raw hummus will get scarfed by even non-vegan guests and there are a million raw falafel recipes out there, and you can google a raw version of baba ganoush as well. Serve it with a carrot salad, and purple cabbage leaves in place of pita.

  15. http://www.choosingraw.com is an amazing high raw, vegan resource. Her recipes and how-to tutorials are accessible and make raw food easy. You'll be sure to find a couple easy recipes that are raw versions of what you normally would make.

    Don't forget that raw includes not only raw fruit and veggies but unroasted nuts and seeds too as well as dried fruit and sprouts. Dehyrdrated food also is raw but you would need a dehydrator (or you can buy yummy things like raw kale chips!)

    That all said, I think you should choose your recipes and then run them by her because she might have more restrictions that you don't know about (e.g. not all almonds labelled as raw are actually raw and some people are very strict about this).

  16. Equal parts raw tahini and medjool dates thrown in a food processor makes seriously delicious and lazy raw caramel. Just cut into squares, wrap, and stick in the freezer/fridge. You could even use holiday cookie cutters to add some extra festivity.

  17. I am sure it has already been shared but this blog is AMAZING for raw vegan recipes http://www.thisrawsomeveganlife.com/

    . I am pescetarian (used to be veggie but noweat some fish) But i have been toying with the idea of becoming raw vegan (my to my partners dismay, he is omni but eats mostly veggie with me) And this blog has loads of delicious sounding recipes. I have sofar made a RV 'chese'cake which was nice although next time i may tweak it a bit…. the only problem with RV is that it seems more recipe sites focus on deserts and not so much main meals. But i would deffinitly opt for seasonal stuff, salads or even some season veggies shredded and wrapped up in a thin slice or courgette, that seems to be a favourite (wouldnt know as i dont like courgette)

    but as ever google is you friend, there are tonnes of recipes out there, maybe choose a few that you think you would be able to prepare and maybe ask you sister in law what she likes the sound of.
    xx

  18. Non-raw vegan here. Can I chime in and ask you not to fuss too much? I am often embarrassed by the level of worry and drama that seems to come from hosts faced with the prospect of feeding me sometimes. At the end of the day, I eat vegetables (among other things, but for the sake of simplifying the point) so as long as you have some of those I won't starve. I know raw is a bit more specific, but I am always happy to munch on the side dishes and salads, as long as you don't cheese me out of those options.

    I understand that not people are not always in the know about my diet, which was my decision and shouldn't put you out or stress you out in my opinion. So ask me, let me bring something, or just make sure there's some extra veggies…but please don't email me repeatedly "what do you eat?" then, even though I've said "as long as there's something without meat or dairy in it, like salad, I'll be fine", call me and ask the same thing, then email my mother to ask her, and wonder aloud what to make for dinner etc. It makes me feel like a big nuisance =(

    • This! I am always very grateful when people go out of their way to make sure I have something to eat, but there are some family members who make me uncomfortable by repeatedly pointing out the special dishes they made, how they had to look everywhere for certain ingredients, and how much everything cost. I love being included but I am more than happy to bring my own food or make do with what is being served rather than be considered a bother.

  19. Not a part of the holiday meal, but having her favorite snacks on hand would be a nice gesture. Plus, it would help her stay comfortable during any downtime before or after the big meal.

  20. I am vegetarian and usually serve this as a starter for yule dinner. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/thebeanybutterbeanpa_6541 Its a great one that everyone I know can eat and none of my meat eater guests have ever noticed that it isn't a meat dish. It is very filling so not much goes a long way.

    I also second everyone else who says ask her, I especially love the idea of sending her any recipes you are thinking of before hand so she can clock anything that she didnt think of before! I am often asked what vegetarians eat and then have to be very apologetic when something comes with yogurt or bananas because they asked what vegetarians could eat and I didnt think to tell them of things Im allergic too or things that I just dont like the taste of.

  21. I'm not a vegan, but my partner is, and I've lived in vegan households.

    One thing that we find when we are visiting family or going to restaurants is that sometimes people forget or don't know that a complete vegan meal requires protein. Like, its great if there is a salad or something, but (vegan) bread and lettuce alone doesn't cut it for someone like my partner who is a big man and works at a physical job. Good,healthy veggie sources of protein are beans, chick peas, lentils- and including the delicious snack hummus. (also tofu and soy beans but a lot of people tend to be too reliant on them: but they are still good. Just to know that there are lots of options besides tofu and fake meat made from tofu) So something like a bean salad would be great for a raw vegan. (probably! i second the idea of asking. like my partner hates cheese so much he even hates vegan cheese that tastes too much like cheese). Also, we are way happier to bring a dish for him than have him sit down to an entire meal that includes no protein sources he can eat.

    • I totally second the protein! I love beans, but they may not count as raw as they have to be soaked and boiled to make them soft and edible (though sprouted beans and lentils would count as raw and go great in a salad), but nuts and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin etc) are great. Peas are also a surprisingly good source of protein. Oils are also important, not least because of helping the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A and E. Something like avocado (a good source of healthy fats and vitamin E) is a good addition to a salad. Raw vegans (or any vegans!) don't just subsist on salads with a few leaves of lettuce and some slices of cucumber. Protein, fats and complex carbohydrates are all necessary.

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