Vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based menu items are becoming increasingly popular for various reasons, including health concerns, ethical concerns, and the desire to leave a smaller footprint on the planet. Eating a plant-based diet, either full or part-time, can no longer be considered a fleeting trend. Because of this, the demand for vegetarian and vegan menu items is also rising. And that means adding more vegetarian and vegan menu items can increase your restaurant’s profitability.
With a selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes on your menu, you’ll be serving a bigger customer base and improving your bottom line. You don’t have to take your restaurant 100% vegan, but offering a wider selection of plant-based menu items can bring more people in. Ignoring this market segment could be an expensive gamble when you consider the rise in the number of people who consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.
It may seem daunting at first, but there are many vegan menu ideas for restaurants that you can offer your guests. But before you start reconfiguring your menu, it’s essential to know the difference between vegetarian and vegan.
Vegan – doesn’t eat any animal products at all. No meat, of course, but also no eggs, dairy, and honey, as well as some types of vinegar, sugar, and wine that are processed with animal product-based filters.
Vegetarian – doesn’t eat red meat as well as fish, poultry, pork, and game. A vegetarian will generally avoid any food that includes animal products such as gelatin. They might eat dairy, eggs, cheese, and honey.
A mistake many people make is to offer menu items that are merely glorified side dishes. This can turn people off as they may feel their dietary choices are not taken seriously. You will win more customers with thoughtful vegetarian menu ideas and vegan menu ideas for delicious, balanced meals that will please almost any palate while adhering to vegan or vegetarian guidelines.
Include Vegan/Vegetarian Options Based on Your Current Menu
While you may want to move into experimenting with vegan and vegetarian menu ideas, you can also make the shift by making some of your current dishes easy to switch up. For example, see if you have any pasta dishes and salads on your menu that don’t require meat.
Often, vegetarians will take matters into their own hands and order salads without meat, and vegans may also order them without meat and cheese. You can take it a step further by letting customers swap the meat with tofu, beans, or another vegan protein. You can also offer vegan cheese or milk options for some dishes.
Vegan Menu Ideas
Sometimes vegan dishes seem the more difficult lift, so starting with some easy plant-based menu ideas and moving from there is a great way to conceptualize your menu. This makes preparation easier and service less complicated.
Below are several vegan menu ideas for restaurants:
Seitan Stir-Fries and Tacos
Seitan is a meat substitute made of wheat gluten. Once cooked, its texture is similar to meat. Seitan is a great meat alternative for vegan and vegetarian dishes.
For a stir fry, replace meat with seitan and add the same vegetables you would in a meat-based dish. You can also add chili powder, cumin, onion, garlic, and a bit of tomato paste, and you’ll have a tasty taco filling. There are many more ways to use seitan for vegan dishes that will fit with your restaurant’s regular menu.
Vegan Pasta Sauces
There are many mediocre vegan pasta dishes out there, so make sure your offering raises the bar. Of course, pasta is all about the sauce, and in this instance, the sauce is vegan. You can quickly whip up a rich, silky, decadent alfredo saucer perfect for vegans by using nut-based cheese, nut-milks, tofu, or even boiled cauliflower.
Pasta with a quick vegan pesto is a simple and elegant dish to add to any menu. Process garlic, basil, and pine nuts until they are finely chopped, drizzle in olive oil while the food processor is running. Add vegan parmesan cheese and run the food processor until it is combined.
A simple marinara or mushroom sauce is also a good choice for a vegan menu. Include vegetables such as broccoli or asparagus for a healthy meal.
Acai Bowls and Smoothies
This is almost a no-brainer. Acai bowls and smoothies are one hundred percent vegan, vegetarian, and very versatile. Many health-conscious non-vegans like them, too, so there is no reason not to offer a few options
Popular toppings for bowls include strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwis, granola, coconut shavings, and sliced almonds. Popular smoothie combinations include spinach and blueberry, banana and orange, tropical mango, and strawberry
Potatoes fritters are vegan, naturally, but you can level up this dish by serving zucchini fritters. Light, crispy, and loaded with vegetables, add a side of house-made aioli, and you’ve got the perfect vegan/vegetarian appetizer or side dish. You can also mix it up by adding combinations of corn, potato, carrots, and any seasonings you want.