Feed my Family: Complicated Vegan/Keto Meal
November 5, 2017 6:23 PM   Subscribe

Please help me be a good host to my awesome in-laws and give me some main dish recipe ideas that are both vegan and keto!

I need to cook several dinners for four people. Two are mostly vegan (health concerns, not ethical so there's a tiny bit of wiggle room), one is very low carb/keto (absolutely no wiggle room, max 10g carbs per serving), and one omnivore. Cooking vegan is no problem for me, cooking low carb is no problem for me. Thinking of something to cook that is vegan, low carb, and that seems satisfying for the omnivore? PROBLEM!

Extra complication: this cannot be a taco bar/salad bar solution. One of the vegans does not want to be following the diet, and as host, I cannot make meat and cheese easily available or they will go for it and then feel guilty. I do not wish to send my guest on a food enabled roller coaster ride. I also don't want make guests uncomfortable by eating something different than what I serve them, hence it needing to be suitable for all diets.

It needs to be a main dish that is actually both low carb (<10g per serving) and vegan, and has a reasonable amount of protein. Nothing spicy, and not curry flavored. No tofu or meat substitutes, as the "omnivore" doesn't enjoy meat substitutes or beans (the latter of which the keto-er can't eat either.)

I have easy access to pretty much any ingredient, am an intermediate-high skilled cook, and have a well stocked kitchen. I'm just at a loss for ideas.
posted by AliceBlue to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe some sort of lentil and vegetable dish. I can't think of something specific but that seems like a jumping off point. Normally I would go with mujadara for this but low carb is a hard nut to crack here.
posted by Ferreous at 6:26 PM on November 5, 2017

If I were doing this I would ask the near-vegans if they were willing to eat cheese for the evening and (if they were) would make Eggplant Marinara from Lucky Peach. Of course I haven't calculated the carbs but ...
Otherwise all the constraints seem practically impossible in one filling dish. Other alternative is to make a huge huge chopped salad and hope for the best.
posted by sheldman at 6:32 PM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

And I guess if you really wanted, you could substitute nutritional yeast for the parmesan. Then rice on the side for those who will eat it, and a chopped salad with nuts and some feta to sprinkle for those who will ...
posted by sheldman at 6:39 PM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow, I feel for you. Thank goodness nobody's allergic to nuts.

You could do a Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai (e.g. this one).
posted by metaseeker at 6:40 PM on November 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

When we eat low carb I really like doing burrito bowls with cauliflower rice - add avocado or guac, maybe some daiya or other fake cheese to keep it vegan, grill or saute some veggies to replace the meat (zucchini, peppers, mushrooms), salsa, etc. It's easy, especially if you're somewhere you can buy premade cauliflower rice (trader joe's and target both sell it near me).
posted by primalux at 6:42 PM on November 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

(if cauliflower rice has too many carbs, there is also shirataki rice the keto person could use. I'm not a huge fan of the texture but I'm sure they're used to things like that.)
posted by primalux at 6:45 PM on November 5, 2017

Lentils have rather more than 10g carb per serving. So do peanuts. So does seitan. Adding any veggies or veggie products just adds more carbs. Tofu and a few other meat analogues could work, but you've ruled those out.

So you're left with taking a low carb, protein rich plant matter like lentils or peanuts, and then adding fat but not veggies (or at least adding a lot of fat per veggie added).

Few if any of the recipes linked above so far will be under 10g carb per serving, unless a "serving" is a few bites. (On preview, juniperesque's do seem to fit, but some of those "servings" seem small to me.)

I imagine you could do boiled peanuts or garbanzo beans with coconut oil and spices, or a dal with lots of fat and few vegetables, but it would be pretty cutting your restrictions pretty close and not be that fun or particularly healthy.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:48 PM on November 5, 2017

You are set up to fail.
One meal for everyone just doesn’t exist.

Make one large vegan dish (pasta with lots of veg sides?) for everyone to share, and cook ONE pork chop/ piece of chicken etc.

Tell the Keto person “I’m so sorry our main meal can’t accomodate you but I fried you a chop” - so the unwilling vegan cannot claim any of the Keto’s single-serve protein. The Keto might choose some of the side veg as well as the single serve meat.

This is more of a social problem than a cooking problem. Good luck.
posted by littlewater at 6:58 PM on November 5, 2017 [30 favorites]

Eh, you might be able to cobble together some things from this page on vegan ketogenic meals. Half of the recipe options are right out due to an inability to use tofu, but the lists might help you.
posted by xyzzy at 7:05 PM on November 5, 2017

Thank you all! You have made me feel less incompetent by confirming that it's not really possible and I wasn't just missing something obvious. Well, at least my in-laws are really good, kind people so if I have to kluge separate dishes, they'll be gracious about it because they'll appreciate me trying.
posted by AliceBlue at 7:05 PM on November 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm a vegetarian, and one of my sisters at one point was on the keto diet. When I asked her and her partner over for dinner, we compromised by sharing a simple salad (red cabbage, carrot and flat-leaf parsley dressed with lemon juice and salt), I had a veggie burger type thing, and they had some chicken I bought.

You sound like a very kind and compassionate host, but I can't help but think that this is going to be a lot of effort for you, and not much satisfaction for anyone. If you cook a tasty vegan dish and a tasty ultra-low-carb dish, that should satisfy everyone - respectfully, I would encourage you to push back at the expectation that you can save the unwilling vegan from themselves. Perhaps have a conversation with them ahead of time about how they can manage (if you feel you must)?
posted by Cheese Monster at 7:08 PM on November 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

yeah really, it's not your job not to temp a lax vegan. If they can't uphold their vows that's on them not you.
posted by Ferreous at 7:15 PM on November 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

I’m a relatively new vegan who sometimes craves meat, so I’m similar to your vegan, and it’s totally not your job to keep that person on the wagon. However, the omnivore can just eat more to be satisfied. Some really great bread might help there.

But really I think a taco bar is the solution. It’s great that you’re trying to be so accommodating, but you’re not running a restaurant.
posted by FencingGal at 7:27 PM on November 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

These vegan Quorn cutlets have 6g carbohydrate per cutlet. Room for a tomato-based sauce; you can make vegan chicken piccata, or a vegetable/miso/sliced roasted cutlet soup (I recommend celery greens added after cooking to the hot soup), or serve them with an herb vinaigrette or mustard sauce with a side salad. Add pine nuts to whatever.
posted by amtho at 7:38 PM on November 5, 2017

Please don't ask the vegans if they can just eat cheese for an evening. Cheese is a HUGE ask, being usually a significant dairy source wrt both fat and lactose. And it is tasty, so it will be hard for them to say no. I would interpret "a tiny bit of wiggle room" as meaning, like, you can use honey to sweeten things, or you can use a small amount of butter. Even though you should ask to be sure. Being a "health" vegan could be for serious reasons; I know people who eat a vegan diet as (successful, multi-year) treatment for prostate cancer, for example.

As a compromise between one-meal and taco-bar, you could ask the reluctant vegan in advance what kinds of low-carb food they *wouldn't* be tempted by. For example, I'm an omnivore who won't touch anything containing lamb or goat meat; it would never be tempting to me even if I was forced to be 100% vegan. (I have dietary restrictions and vegan sympathies, so I know what the cravings are like.)
posted by serelliya at 7:49 PM on November 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you accept not entirely taking responsibility for the vegans' choices, a stir-fry with a lot of vegetables and tofu or seitan for them and some kind of meat or chicken for the keto person and omnivore. And if you serve people bowls of stir-fry that you assemble and mix yourself in the kitchen then the vegans won't really have the option to cheat anyway.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:02 PM on November 5, 2017

Roast cauliflower at a high temp in olive oil until it is soft and crispy brown on the side against the pan. Serve with homemade tahini sauce with lots of lemon juice and some roasted slivered almonds. I find that tahini gives me that rich umami like feel that a meaty main dish would. Frankly, I would go with a mezze style meal with mostly vegan dishes and a few dishes specifically for the meaty and keto-y people in the group. When I have had to accommodate a similar group of people, that was what I had the most luck with. You are not going to be able to plunk one pan of something down on the table and please everybody. Do a mezze consisting of several simple things, some good store bought bread and maybe cheese and spreads/ful mademas for the vegans, maybe a kebab for the non vegan. If you can find a middle eastern grocery, they often have ground, seasoned meat for shawarma at the butcher counter.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:44 PM on November 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree in a general sense that this is a pretty impossible set of conditions, especially with the 'no meat substitutes', especially since that apparently includes tofu which I would not consider a 'meat substitute' - it is not similar to meat in any way other than being relatively high in protein. I say this as a vegan who LOVES tofu. It's its own delicious thing.

That said, I do think you could make a single meal involving tempeh, which I have got even the most stubborn omnis to admit is not a meat substitute, and which is substantially higher in protein than tofu is. I would stir fry it with low carb vegetables (look up which ones are actually low in carbs!) and coconut oil and plenty of ginger and garlic and soy sauce. Maybe even some coconut milk to make it wetter. Add some fresh coriander at the end. Have some sort of chili sauce hanging around for those who want to add it.

If it were me, however, I would probably have some boiled rice as a side for those not doing keto - if you're not already used to running without carbs, it can make you feel somewhat unwell to skip them for a meal. It would quite possibly give me a migraine, for example.
posted by Acheman at 12:27 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I make a vegan sushi bowl with cucumber, avocado and shredded carrot on a bed of rice. You could provide real rice for the non-ketos and cauli rice for the carb-averse. Ponzu sauce, soy sauce, sesame seeds and dried seaweed snacks crumbled over give it that sushi taste. Along with pickled ginger and wasabi for those who want it. Chunks of roasted sweet potato could be added to make it more filling. A nice miso soup would be good as a secondary dish.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:06 AM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I cooked this vegan keto meal recently for seven people, with the additional restriction of gluten intolerance.

- Eggplant bacon: 1/4-inch thick rashers of eggplant, oiled and seasoned (with smoked paprika or Old Bay), baked around 425F until crispy.
- Roasted broccoli and bell beppers, tossed with prepared tahini and pumpkin seeds.
- Crispy-fried tofu fingers (long sticks about 3/4" square, fried on 4 sides until golden). I saw about the carnivore, so ymmv, but tofu fried to crispness is not what most tofu-averse people are averse to. I served this with an Old Bay Mayo dipping sauce (vegan mayo).
- Roasted cauliflower with a "cheese sauce" made of nutritional yeast pureed with garlic and silken tofu.
- Tomato/cucumber/garlic/mayo "greek salad" with vegan mayo (in honor of our grandmother, who always made this with mayo)
- Dessert was watermelon

Guacamole could be nice with crispy eggplant, too.
posted by xueexueg at 5:53 AM on November 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Also keep in mind that keto folks are usually concerned about NET carbs (total carbs minus fiber), so the carbs in veggies are usually mostly offset by the fiber content. I think you'd be ok with cauliflower rice, etc.
posted by somanyamys at 7:06 AM on November 6, 2017

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