Appetizers are arguably the best part of a meal, maybe second only to dessert. In French its called hors d’oeuvre which means “outside the work”, alluding to them being outside the regular dinner menu. Just about every culture has some version of a small, tasty food that doesn’t serve the main purpose of a meal, feeling full and sustained.
Vegan appetizers are a great choice for a lighter, healthier appetizer even if you’re not vegan. Skipping the meat and dairy let’s other flavors shine through and can make some really unexpected versions of old favorites. Give these a try!
Grilled Vegetable and Tofu Kebabs
Make the veggies the star of the kebab with this vegan recipe. This kebab replaces the meat with tofu and suddenly you’ll be piling your dish high with these at the neighborhood barbeque (leave some for the neighbors!)
Olive oil, garlic, and the Pomegranate-Peach Barbecue Sauce are a power force of flavor for the other ingredients. Did you know that freezing and thawing tofu gives it a chewier texture in addition to increasing its ability to absorb marinades? It’s perfect for kebabs. The best part of these is the potato. Why didn’t we think to have potato on kebabs before?
“Crispy Potato Balls” just sound like the best appetizer ever already, don’t they? Spinach and potato have been a dream team together ever since aloo palak (potato and spinach Indian curry) was invented millennia ago, people have loved pairing the two. By the way, did you know Spinach is low in fat and even lower in cholesterol? It’s also high in niacin and zinc, as well as protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese. Wow!
Tempura seems daunting, but it’s about the same work as making homemade french fries. The hardest part is frying.
Tempura has never used egg in its batter the way a lot of battered food does, so it has always been vegan. There are a lot of tips and tricks to making the batter “light”, but this fun recipe uses seltzer water. How cool is that?
People think Tempura is Japanese, but it was actually “influenced by fritter-cooking techniques introduced by Portuguese residing in Nagasaki in the 16th century”. Interesting!
Have you heard of lycopene? It’s an antioxidant that’s been linked to lots of health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. It’s just packed into tomatoes, one of the main reasons they are so healthy.
Of course, the topping of bruschetta, usually tomatoes, basil, olive oil and just a bit of salt, is vegan already. Bread should also be vegan, baked the old-fashioned way it is just yeast, flour, water, and salt. This recipe takes it all to the next level by adding in some yummy flavors like olives, onion, and balsamic vingar. Try it today!
Arancini means little orange in Italian. It’s a creative food that became popular in the 10th century as a traditional food for the feast of Santa Lucia on 13 December, when bread and pasta are not eaten. They are usually balls of risotto coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. They are filled with ragu, mozzarella, and peas.
If you have made vegan risotto and chilled the leftovers in some tupperware in the fridge, this vegan recipe is a snap to prepare. Almond milk replaces egg in the batter with flour and breadcrumbs. Did you know most store marinara sauce is vegan? Trader Joes, Raos, Barilla, and Newman’s Own are just a couple examples. So grab a jar for a tasty and quick dipping sauce for these tasty little “oranges”.
It’s easy to make vegan onion rings; just replace the egg in the batter with a non-dairy milk like almond milk. This recipe goes way beyond that by using a blend of brown rice flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper for the batter. This vegan 5-Ingredient Chipotle Aioli is amazing as a dipping sauce…or just use ketchup!
“Parmesan” Zucchini Crisps are as tasty as they sound. The recipe is super easy. Just slice zucchini into 1/4 inch discs. Put them on a sheet of paper towel and lightly sprinkle them with salt to draw out the excess water.
Then mix together breadcrumbs, vegan parmesan, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Put flour in a small bowl and almond milk in a different small bowl.
Dip your dried zucchini circles discs in the flour first, then the almond milk, then the breadcrumbs. Put them on a baking sheet and bake. That’s it!
A simple marinara sauce is a perfect sauce for these tasty vegan appetizers.
Have you heard of some people doing a potato diet? They only eat potatoes for a month or longer! It’s possible because potatoes have nearly half your daily value of vitamin C, more potassium than a banana, are a good source of vitamin B6. They have fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants too!
(You probably shouldn’t just eat potatoes though, and if you do, consult a doctor!)
This recipe is for the more advanced vegan, as it calls for both TVP bacon and vegan sour cream dip. Even though this recipe calls for a lot of meat and cheese substitutes, it turns out to be the ultimate guilty pleasure for vegans and non vegans alike.
If you think you hate brussel sprouts, this recipe might be the one to convert you. When you take them from being moist to crispy and carmelized, that slightly strange, funky brussel sprout-y flavor transforms into a vessel for sweet, savory, and spicy. Maybe this was always how brussel sprouts were made to be eaten?
It takes less than 30 minutes to flash fry these crispy garlic Brussels sprouts paired with a creamy, vegan Sriracha aioli.
Vegan meatballs sound like an oxymoron. Maybe because there’s not a good work for these balls made from farro, chickpeas, oats and flax egg? Or maybe because you could serve these at a party and just call them meatballs, and no one would know that they are a super healthy, non meat alternative?
The recipe for these is so simple, you might find yourself making them for a ton of different recipes. The spicy Asian flavor comes from a mix of ketchup, mirin, tamari and sriracha. But you could easily pop these in marinara and put this over spaghetti, or slather them with bbq sauce, Southern style. So many possibilities, why not give this recipe a try?
In 1930, a man named Crosby Gaige invented the crab cake. He revealed, in his cookbook called the New York World’s Fair Cook Book, the first recipe for what he called the “Baltimore Crab Cake.”
Of course, you can’t have crab in a vegan recipe! Hearts of Palm and garbanzo beans create a flakey, fishy mouthfeel that will immediately trick you into thinking, ‘hey, is this actually crab?’ The rest is traditional crab cake flavor, like Old Bay. If you’ve never tried Old Bay, be ready, it may totally change your life.
Plantain chips are awesome! They’re a little bit like banana, but also really, really different. They bake up so easily into tasty chips. You can buy plantain chips in most grocery stores, but the homemade ones are radically better.
What makes this recipe an appetizer that would rule any party is the Garlicky Guacamole. Something about the garlic pairs so well with the plantain chips, like plain guac and corn tortilla chips do. Best of all, this recipe is incredibly healthy, as baked plantain, fresh avocado, and garlic are packed to the brim with nutrients.
Zucchini Rollatini is a famous Italian recipe that uses mozzarella and prosciutto. This recipe is stuffed with vegan cashew ricotta. Made with just four ingredients – cashews, lemon juice, granulated garlic, and almond milk – it’s downright life changing how comparable this is to the original.
Traditional non-vegan Zucchini roll ups tend to be heavy due to all that meat and cheese, so these are actually quite a big hit in the summer, when their light flavor makes them a big crowd pleaser.
If you’re a vegan, Mexican-inspired food like bean burritos are a regular, everyday staple of your diet. Even vegans would be tempted to make this quesadilla with vegan cheese.
But it has no cheese! And it’s delicious!
Cooked sweet potato pulsed with lime juice, honey, smoky chipotle peppers, tahini and a few other ingredients can be simple spread between two tortillas, along with thin sliced roasted onion and poblano peppers, to make a much lighter version of a quesadilla. Serve this at a summer barbeque and you’ll be a huge hit!
People used to believe walnuts were good for your brain because they looked like brains. And they were right! Walnuts contain a number of “neuroprotective compounds”: folate, vitamin E, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants. Researchers think that they may really support brain health, like increasing inferential reasoning in older teens.
Muhammara is a Syrian red pepper and walnut dip that’s always been vegan, but isn’t super common in the West. It is very easy to make with those super healthy walnuts, red pepper, garlic and a few other ingredients mixed in a food processor. Pita bread is a great vessel, but it also pairs well with crudites.
There are a lot of roasted chickpea recipes out there, and you can even find them as a premade snack at most health stores. Chickpeas are a great source of protein and roasted they are just as tasty and addictive as popcorn.
This recipe is great because it uses two popular flavors: lime and coconut. It’s just chickpeas, lime, coconut, salt and pepper, and it’s so delicious.
Tahini, a sauce made from sesame seeds, is a major condiment all over the world including the Balkans, South Caucasus, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. It is even used in many Chinese and South East Asian cuisines.
Both tahini and falafel are usually vegan, but this recipe is extra healthy because it is baked. It has a lot of great tips and tricks for getting the falafel just right, as even the usual fried version can be very tricky for beginners. Once you make your own falafel and tahini, they’ll surely be a regular appetizer at many of your dinners.
Spinach Artichoke Dip… Bites? Yes, you read that correctly. This recipe uses flaky puff pastry as little edible bowls for something you traditionally use as a dip. No one will ever worry about double dipping at your parties!
The dip is made with thawed, frozen spinach, canned artichoke, and cashew cream, pulsed in a food processor. Then it’s so easy to spoon them in puff pastry and give them a quick bake. It’s a great recipe for when you want a “fancy” appetizer, but don’t have a lot of time.
Corn, corn, and corn! These corn fritters combine whole corn kernels, cornmeal and “creamy corn” to make a weirdly addictive appetizer your friends will beg you to bring to any party. Fresh corn and almond milk blended into a “creamy corn” liquid make a surprisingly great replacement for egg in traditional corn fritters. Green chilis and vegan mayo dipping sauce break up the corn flavor, making it delicious and just so yum.
Seven layer dip tends to get a lot of flavor from processed cheese in its original non vegan version. This vegan version truly elevates this traditional party appetizer into something light, complex, and so healthy you could eat it every day! Really! Chili spiced quinoa makes this dish heartier and gives it a triple protein boost – refried beans and cashew cream “sour cream” are in this dish too. The veggies are what really make this dish! Kale guacamole, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, and jalapenos are the yummiest part of this very yummy appetizer.
This list of vegan recipes is a great way to try incorporating some vegan recipes into your regular menu, or to lighten up a heavy meal. Try one of the simpler ones today!
Melanie works full time at Tuft & Needle and blogs part time evenings and weekends when her daughter is working on the cars with her dad!