Serving the strict vegan

Meeting the needs of those who shun all animal-based foods, while challenging, is necessary—and not as hard as you think.

Vegetarians typically make up a single-digit percentage of a non-commercial operation’s customers. Vegans represent a fraction of that. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to gauge how much vegetarian and/or vegan food options to provide. In June 2005, Aramark released research showing that nearly a quarter of more than 100,000 college students surveyed said finding vegan meals on campus was important to them.

Many of the contractor’s clients have responded in kind. For example, the University of Pennsylvania now offers many vegan entrees and side dishes, including the popular Vegan Carrot Cake with Tofutti Cream Cheese Icing. At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Rams Head Center, one finds a station dubbed Lean & Green, hosting a full salad and fruit bar, soups, and made-to-order vegan selections.

And, Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, is home to the First Harvest Vegan Cafe, a “green” food bar that provides a wide selection of vegan offerings and incorporates local sustainable foods.

Vegan variations: Vegans refrain from eating meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, honey or refined sugar—in other words, no animals or animal byproducts. There are many variations of vegan living. Some vegans will eat honey and sugar, others won’t. Some avoid fermented products, such as vinegar or wines. All vegans generally include nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, grains, soy, beans and legumes, spices and herbs, and other plant-based foods in their diets.

Talk with your vegan customers to establish their preferences and needs. Vegan menu planning and preparation fits easily with many different types of cuisines, including Mediterranean and Asian. Vegan meals can be prepared from scratch or from dry, canned or frozen convenience foods.

If you have the time, “creamy” sauces can be prepared from soy products, such as silken tofu or soy milk, or from ground nuts, such as cashews or almonds. Grains, rice and soy foods can stand in for animal proteins, in the form of seitan (also known as gluten), tofu or tempeh.

The vegan patient: At MeritCare Health System in Fargo, ND, vegan fare is readily available on the room service menu, according to Lisa Zolondek, foodservice manager and department head. The facility, which serves more than 22,000 meals per month via room service and more than 1,500 daily in retail operations, offers a branded Hearty Vegetable and Triple-Bean Chili; orders of the chili tally 35 per week, she adds.

There’s also a Southwestern Salad that uses the chili as a topper and generates 30 orders weekly. Staff strain the chili slightly when using it to top salads.

Both items are identified on the menu as vegetarian selections, as is a “lacto-vegetarian” pasta dish topped with creamy tomato basil bisque from the same manufacturer.

More vegan ideas: Here are some methods for offering vegan menu items with lots of flavor and texture.

  • Tempeh—Marinate in Italian dressing or barbecue sauce and grill or dice and mix into soups or chilies; slice and grill and serve as a “tempeh” dip sandwich.
  • Soy milk—Use in place of regular milk in puddings, custards and sauces; make hot chocolate or coffee beverages; use in soups.
  • Soy crumbles—Sauté, bake or grill with fresh or dry herbs and use as pizza toppings, in chili, in “beef” and mac casseroles or “meat” sauces, in tacos, or with tofu as a “morning scramble.”
  • Soft tofu—Use instead of ricotta cheese in stuffed shells and lasagna, or to make fruit smoothies; use in salad dressings; scramble in place of eggs (remember to season with pepper, hot sauce sautéed veggies, etc.).
  • Silken tofu—Use instead of mayo or sour cream in recipes; use to make pudding, pie fillings or custard, or smooth out sauces (tofu Alfredo or primavera) or soups; make a frosting by blending a small amount of tofu with instant pudding mix.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The menu served at Ottawa General Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, is headed for an overhaul after its CEO and management team ate a strict hospital food diet for a week and were unhappy with their options. The foodservice department has been fielding patient complaints for years, but decided to take action after facing the issue head on.

“Getting food managers to eat three meals of hospital food a day for a week brought the point home that much of the food being served was bland, institutional and not what people would normally eat,” Director of Food Services Kevin Peters told Ottawa...

Industry News & Opinion

With overtime pay likely to become a reality for some salaried foodservice employees after Dec. 1, operators are rethinking what they expect managers to do off-site as part of their responsibilities. Answering email or scheduling shifts at home didn’t matter when the employees were exempted from overtime if they earned more than $23,660 per year. But with that threshold more than doubling on Dec. 1 to $47,476, a half hour spent here and there on administrative tasks could push a salaried manager over the 40-hours-per-week threshold and entitle him or her to overtime. And how does the...

Menu Development
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

FSD Resources