I am a lifelong vegetarian, which means I’ve spent a couple of decades making my diet somebody else’s problem. This counts doubly at Christmas, where the kindness of friends and extended family is pushed to its limits.

Let me get this out of the way: I deeply appreciate any efforts made to accommodate my diet, and I trust that most vegetarians and vegans feel the same way. Being literally catered for? It rocks, and it’s a sign of friendship and understanding that’s hard to replace. Put in the effort, and I’ll eat whatever you put in front of me.

That said, if you feel like moving beyond the Greek salads and grilled portobellos, here are some ways to elevate your Christmas offerings for the vegetarians and vegans in attendance.

O cauli night, the carbs are brightly shining

Christmas lunches often revolve around big, juicy centrepieces, and much of the tradition lies in carving away at the farmyard animal of your choice. I won’t pretend vegetarian or vegan dishes can fully match this experience: there’s just no plant-based way to emulate a roast ham’s meaty authority. But I will say that in terms of audacity and look-at-me splendour, a whole roast cauliflower is a pretty good bet. 

I cobbled one together for a small Christmas gathering a few years back, and its golden-brown exterior and perfectly tender florets received solid reviews from the omnivores in presence. Consider this recipe for miso-topped cauli, perfected by Melbourne institution Supernormal. Hold the bonito flakes and you’ve got yourself a festive showstopper. Elaborate, unwieldy, delicious. 

The classics still count

By the same carb-heavy token, roast veggies are always a hit. A plate full of roast potatoes, butternut pumpkin, turnips, and maybe even some sliced garlic? That’s pure bliss, baby. While the purists may opt for animal fat for the optimal roast, it’s not a necessity for crispy vegetarian nirvana. Just make sure those sliced-up root veggies are cooked away from the meaty bits, and you’re set.

Meat me halfway

I was raised on canned meat substitutes, many of which resemble dog food. Worse still, I think they’re great. Not everyone feels the same way, and I can see why: for a long time, faux-meats were far too fugly to plate up during a Christmas lunch. 

That said, veggie and vegan alternatives have come a long way in recent years. If your Christmas feast generally revolves around the barbie, consider throwing a few Impossible Burgers on the grill. I can personally vouch for the Plantein chicken substitutes, too. Elsewhere, there’s a whole swathe of nut-based ‘cheeses’ which can populate your Chrissy charcuterie board. Don’t be afraid to see what meat alternatives are out there.

We fish you a merry Christmas

The worst part of being a vegetarian isn’t avoiding meat. It’s disappointing the people who believed they had your diet figured out. It feels terrible letting someone know they went to a huge amount of effort to prepare some ripper seafood under the false assumption that you’d be tucking in. If in doubt, just shoot any potential guests a message asking what they specifically cannot or will not eat. Everything else is gravy.

Speaking about gravy…

Sure, making your own gravy is legit. But if you’re looking to cut down on cooking time and provide a veggie-friendly option, some of the instant stuff is fine, too.  If in doubt, peep the ingredients list.

(Fedde Le Grand voice) Pud your hands up for dessert

Many traditional Christmas puds still use suet, which ain’t too great for vegetarians and vegans. If you don’t think your plant-based mates will be incapacitated by all of those snacks and the main course, maybe you could think about handing ‘em some vegan ice cream, instead. I mean, I’d be stoked on that, at least.

Given the new wealth of vegan and vegetarian options on the market, it’s never been easier to whip up a killer Christmas feast. Follow these tips and you might consider ditching meat next year, too.

Image: Getty Images