Vegan for a crowd
December 30, 2019 4:23 PM   Subscribe

Looking for hearty winter fare for 8, vegan style.

We're going "up to the snow", as we say around here, with two other families for a long weekend in a house in the mountains. Everyone but us is vegan (we'll eat what they eat), but I'm the big cook and I've got time to pre-make or prep several meals.

I already have a vegan chili recipe I like, but will check out any favorites you can recommend. I'd like to put together at least one more if not two casserole/slow cooker/instant pot/sheet pan type meals (or same with a starch side made on its own) that will feed that many people, including something breakfasty or brunchy. We're just trying to avoid anybody having to short-order-cook for this big a group or do DIY stuff that's going to need multiple cooking shifts (like pizzas or quesadillas, though we might do a taco night).

I'm still waiting to hear back on my query if anyone is gluten free but it's at least a possibility, so adaptable recipes or bread-on-the-side stuff is likely a good idea. I've got access to just about any commercially-available GF product like pastas and baking mixes, so I'm comfortable swapping a traditional recipe for substitutes if I need to.

There's no hugely picky eaters and nobody's opposed to helper foods like veggie meatballs or crumbles. I am super grossed out by tofu scrambles, though I otherwise love tofu. We're going up by car so I have ample space for coolers or equipment/supplies we might need to bring with us.

It looks like it's going to be legitimately cold and snowy for a bunch of thin-blooded folks, so the more rib-sticking and cozy the foods, the better.
posted by Lyn Never to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve adapted this smitten kitchen recipe into a jacket potato version and it’s one of my favorite winter meals: rub some olive oil and salt on large potatoes (1 per person), poke with a fork, and cook in the oven for your desired length of time for baked potatoes. When they come out, slice each in half and pull the insides out and into a big bowl. Mash them with lots of olive oil, lemon juice (and zest if you like), a ton of thinly sliced and chopped shallots, parsley, and salt and pepper. (I use the same proportions as the smitten kitchen recipe, but double the lemon juice). You could also add red pepper flakes or any other spice you like. I like it a bit clumpy rather than fully mashed up. Refill the jackets with the mashed mixture and pop back into the oven for 15-30 minutes.

If anyone there is not vegan, I enjoy adding some Greek yogurt or a fried egg on the top right before eating.
posted by sallybrown at 4:37 PM on December 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love this creamy vegetable coconut curry. It freezes well and is on regular rotation for meal prep. I add an extra sweet potato and an extra zucchini. I also add frozen peas.
posted by nathaole at 4:53 PM on December 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I like this Thai Curry Red Lentil Soup.
I sub in Thai Red Curry Paste for the tomato paste, and I add in a ton of veggies for a more substantial meal. You can also add chopped roasted peanuts on top to serve for more protein and flavor.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 4:55 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

This winter Lentil Soup is one of my favorites and is so delicious!
posted by jillithd at 4:56 PM on December 30, 2019

Thai and Indian style curries for sure. Lentils, garbanzo, spinach, tofu, coconut fat or milk, assorted veg, etc.

For base grains I’m partial to brown rice with wild rice, also white rice with millet.y These mixes work well in wide ratios in a rice maker or stovetop pot.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:01 PM on December 30, 2019

How about chana masala with rice? I've been itching to try this recipe.
posted by serelliya at 5:01 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Assuming will have assorted sandwichy makings like lettuce and pickles. And assuming you have access to gluten free buns if needed. Sloppy joes made with crumbled tempeh, bbq sauce, and some variation of: minced garlic, onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, tomato. Cook the garlic/onion/veggies in some sort of neutral oil before you add in the tempeh. Finish with a bit of lemon juice if you like.

If you want to get more labor intensive, pair it with sweet potato oven fries that can be dipped in the remaining bbq sauce.

One slab of tempeh from trader joes will yield 2-3 adult-sized sandwiches, depending on how much you extend with the veggies.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:09 PM on December 30, 2019

The link to the original recipe (on appears to be broken, but we make this soup frequently and while we are far from vegans, it is so good we made sure we always have the ingredients on hand so we can make it whenever the mood strikes us.

Vegan Red Lentil Coconut Soup (serves 8)

2 cups red lentils, uncooked
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice (I leave this out)
1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chili, finely chopped, including seeds
1 T fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 T curry powder or 1 T thai curry paste
1/2 t cinnamon
2 t salt
1/3 c tomato paste
7 cups water
1 can unsweetened light coconut milk
1 15-oz can chickpeas
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice

Heat 1 T olive oil in a dutch oven or large soup pan and add the onions, bell pepper, and jalapeno and cook for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened and take on some color. Add the garlic, ginger, spices, and tomato paste and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes until the mixture is toasty and fragrant. Add the water, coconut milk, lentils, and chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, adding the lime juice at the end. Taste and adjust with more salt or lime juice if desired. (I hit it with an immersion blender at the end to give it a creamier texture, but that's hardly necessary.)
posted by DrGail at 5:14 PM on December 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

Vegan risotto - very good! - (also gluten free)

I'd serve with oven-roasted mushrooms and squash.
posted by RoadScholar at 5:18 PM on December 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

This pumpkin hotpot (the second recipe in that comment) is what you need.
posted by lollusc at 5:25 PM on December 30, 2019

Budget Bytes' Vegan West African Peanut Stew is a real wintertime favorite. You can add rice if you want it to be even heartier, or serve it with bread.
posted by rogerroger at 5:29 PM on December 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

I had a vegan cassoulet once that was maybe something like this and was surprisingly good. ("Surprising" only because cassoulet is generally a pretty meat-heavy dish.)
posted by wintersweet at 5:34 PM on December 30, 2019

I make the 15 Bean Soup below, leaving out the meat. I like to add baby spinach or baby kale in the last 15 minutes of cooking. You can also make this in a slow cooker. It's perfect for feeding a crowd in winter! I believe I read that the "ham flavoring packet" is actually vegetarian, but I leave it out and use seasoned salt and a little liquid smoke instead. You could probably use smoked paprika in place of liquid smoke, or don't bother trying to make it smoky, it's delicious either way. I might double the recipe if you are not using meat, especially if you have big eaters in your group. It's amazing as leftovers.

Hurst’s HamBeens® Original 15 Bean Soup®

You Will Need:
1 lb. of ham, ham hocks, or smoked sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
1 15 oz. can stewed or diced tomatoes
1 tsp. chili powder
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Traditional Cooking Method:
Soaking: Place beans in a large pot, cover with 2 quarts of water. Allow beans to soak overnight, or at least 8 hours.

After soaking, drain water, add 2 quarts of water and meat. Bring beans to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 ½ hours. After simmering, add onion, tomatoes, chili powder, lemon and garlic. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Add contents of ham packet 1 to 2 minutes before cooking is completed. Salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: approximately 3 quarts. Serves 14-16

Quickcook Method:
Place rinsed beans in a pot with 3 quarts of water. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat, cover and continue boiling 60-70 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. After 60 minutes, add ingredients. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add contents of flavor packet 1 to 2 minutes before cooking is completed. Salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Dry beans are a raw agricultural product. Although we carefully clean these beans, stones and debris may be present. Sort and rinse beans prior to cooking. Depending on water hardness, cooking time may need to be increased.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:44 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

This dal is vegan if you sub out the butter at the end for a vegan margarine, and it is *great.* Freezes well and only gets better by the day in the fridge; I’d be very tempted to make it in advance and throw some rice in the Insta Pot, heat up a frozen vegetable for a side and bam, done.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:46 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe some red beans and rice?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:03 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

This lentil picadillo is fantastic, and I've made this black bean tamal pie countless times with many different variations on the filling (these days I add some Beyond Beef ground) and it always gets rave reviews.
posted by jesourie at 6:29 PM on December 30, 2019

To go with your chili, perhaps some cornbread? We made this last week and it was quite good - we left out the jalapeño.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:40 PM on December 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

How about spaghetti with a tomato + lentil sauce? Here's an example but you can play around with spices or just add the lentils to your favourite sauce recipe. Just remember that red lentils cook faster than other varieties.
posted by noxperpetua at 6:42 PM on December 30, 2019

This pressure-cooker black-eyed peas and collards recipe is a family favorite. It claims to be vegan, but Worcestershire is not -- but you can sub in soy sauce for that (we do when feeding non anchovy eaters).
posted by eirias at 6:52 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sorry no recipes, as it's been a while since I worked at the vegan/veggie restaurant at uni, but here are some ideas.

How about a shepherd's pie with lentils and mashed spud?

Dahl and brown rice is always lovely and filling.

Roasted veggies are always delicious - pumpkin, sweet potato, potato, beets, etc.

There are some nice vegan chocolate self saucing puddings out there.
posted by freethefeet at 6:55 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

This Samosa Shepherds Pie is amazing, and is vegan, gluten free, and easily made-ahead. It's one of my go-to recipes for feeding a crowd with those dietary needs in the winter! Always gets rave reviews.
posted by Empidonax at 7:07 PM on December 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I made this vegan mac and cheese for the holidays and it reheated well. We used flax milk; I don't know how well the called for coconut milk would actually do.

This is a side dish, but this vegan green bean casserole is fantastic and also reheats really well. Aldi should still have GF fried onions (though I can't remember if they're vegan); we skipped the fried onions and sautéed some leeks for the topping instead (my wife is allergic to onions) and it was fantastic.

Also a side dish, but hearty: the vegan scalloped potatoes vanished at Christmas.

Not a casserole, but makes up in big batches nicely and eats well hot or cold (if you go cold use the skinny rice noodles. Also works a treat with yam noodles or shirataki): satay greens and noodles.
posted by joycehealy at 7:08 PM on December 30, 2019

Smitten Kitchen's one-pan farro with tomatoes has NO RIGHT to be as good as it is for how simple and easy it is to make, and is perfect hearty fare that's vegan if you don't add cheese. You'd need more than one pan to feed 8, but we regularly double the recipe with no discernible effect on the cooking time, and I suspect you could simply use a larger pot and make much more. I also sometimes slice up and pan-fry some Field Roast to go on top of it (the Italian flavor).
posted by babelfish at 8:08 PM on December 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

So there's some great recipes here, but speaking as a vegan who's often cooked for by kind omnivors, I feel I gotta give you a heads up re. seasoning. Vegan food, especially if it's adapted from recipes that have meat or dairy in them, really seriously needs more seasoning. Especially at the umami end. You'll probably need to add things like miso, mushrooms, deeply cooked onion, nutritional yeasts, salt and whatnot in quantities that may seem overwhelming. Recipes that have "salt to taste" really go for it. It's easy to underestimate how much of an impact meat and dairy have on that part of the flavour profile.

I mean this is even true for other parts of the flavour spectrum. Add more herbs and spices than you otherwise would, and taste often as you go.

Also non dairy milks all have different properties (I find for example that soy milks caramelize at lower temperatures than nut milks, and that while coconut milk makes everything taste less like coconut than you'd think it's still part of the profile) so if you have to switch em out for allergy reasons ask your vegans first what they'd reccommend.

Also once your gluten situation resolves you can contemplate using fako cheeses and meats, which can really open your world up. Seitan is the easiest of the fake meats to work with and a very satisfying addition to winter meals, but it's wheat gluten so you gotta be sure everyone can handle it.
posted by Jilder at 10:03 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

BBQ soy curls. Here is a slow cooker recipe, but really all you have to do is hydrate them in water for about 15 min and then throw into a skillet with BBQ sauce (sweet baby ray's is vegan) and heat it up (let the sauce reduce a little).

Dead easy, super hearty and filling and will go great with so many things: cornbread, coleslaw, potato salad, mac and cheese, serve it on buns (or not for the GF folks), etc . . .

(vegan versions of the sides, of course - Vegenaise is an easy sub for mayo)
posted by augustinetill at 12:34 AM on December 31, 2019

really seriously needs more seasoning

This does NOT NOT NOT mean you need to make it "spicy" or hot-spiced. Do not attempt to compensate for lack of meat by adding hot pepper, horseradish, or anything to just make it more "exciting" or "interesting".

What Jilder is talking about is a richness/saltiness/umami, which is completely different from spiciness. You can accomplish this by mixing in a combination of herbs, by considering rich flavors from things like miso and dehydrated yeast flakes, by using mushrooms (mushrooms!), and, importantly, by making sure you have an appropriate balance of the four main flavors: salty, sweet, bitter, sour.

So, I'll sometimes add more oil to a vegetarian soup, and maybe a tiny bit of vinegar or a squeeze of lime. For sweetness I'll use carrots or browned onion (browning onion well takes more time than you'd think, though), or straight up sugar or fruit juice.

For bitter? That browned onion -- it doesn't TASTE bitter, but it's got a slight "toasty" taste that does something good. Parsley or Swiss chard covers "bitter" too -- again, this is as a subtle component, not a dominant or even detectable taste.
posted by amtho at 1:04 AM on December 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Vegan sloppy joes are great, originally known through ppk as "snobby joes." You could make this ahead of time and it freezes well, or keeps cold well. The mixture could go on gf buns or be eaten plain if necessary. The embedded linked recipe has an option to scale the recipe for a bigger crowd.
posted by LKWorking at 7:15 AM on December 31, 2019

Best answer: The pumpkin baked ziti from Veganomicon would be phenomenal as a winter at the cabin meal. Serve with something green for contrast or garlic bread for all the starch and alliums in one meal!
posted by snaw at 10:40 AM on December 31, 2019

I really like all of the suggestions here, so I'm mainly looking in to add some logistical advice: cook rice as a side, and cook a huge portion. That way you'll be ready to make fried rice for breakfast or brunch the next day, which is delicious.

And my 2c about the seasoning thing: there are many different takes on this, but my experience as someone who eats vegetables 90 % of the time is that the best approach is to use recipes that were always meant to be vegan, rather than adapting meaty concepts. There are so many options out there. What about a sheet of roasted veg drizzled with oil as an antipasto, followed by a hearty minestrone soup? Now isn't the time for basil, but you can make pesto-like condiments with parsley or sun-dried tomatoes. Or what about an Indian inspired spread of rice, dal, wilted greens, sesame potatoes? Italian food isn't necessarily spicy, Indian food can be, both depend on the taste of the produce for their qualities.

Well, OK, it seems I do have some suggestions after all. Here's one you could make from home: Imam bayildi. Maybe served with a rice pilaf.
posted by mumimor at 10:52 AM on December 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots of recipes for these online - (I just wing it with simple versions of each, so don't have a specific recipe to give)
-Massaged kale salads
-Cashew-based "taco meat" substitute - can be used in tacos or spring rolls with whatever other fillings
-Big batch of tofu sticks - marinated, pressed, cut into sticks (around 1cm x 1cm x 10cm) and then lightly fried or baked - they can be a refrigerator snack
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:42 PM on December 31, 2019

My fave vegan blog almost always has advice on how to make the recipes ahead (or they’re straight up labeled “make ahead”), link goes to the winter recipes with some good inspiration!

More specifically there is one recipe — I share it all the time because it has been a huge hit whenever I make it — from that site that came to mind that can easily scale to feed a crowd. I’ve made it at several vacation rentals for friends because the ingredients are super easy to pack, though it does need to be made and served hot because the sauce doesn’t reheat well. But it is so good, tastes luxurious and is very filling. It works with all sorts of pastas (I like red lentil pasta) if you do need GF: 15 minute creamy avocado pasta. I usually make it in a small food processor that’s easy to pack but you can definitely make it by mashing the ingredients together with a fork (as long as you’re handy with mincing garlic or use prepared minced garlic from a jar), I’ve done both ways. And I’ve used a blender too, that method works best with a bit of pasta water to thin it out enough for the blender to handle the fairly thick sauce. Goes great with garlic bread made with vegan butter and nutritional yeast!
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:02 PM on December 31, 2019

I'm spending this evening with travel videos, and was reminded of the Egyptian breakfast, which is actually popular all over the Levant. Ful medames, a fresh salad of cucumber, tomato and onion, maybe falafels and pita bread for those who can eat them. In the linked recipe, there are eggs, but they aren't strictly necessary. It is really filling and a very good start for a day on the slopes.
I've made the ful from scratch, and I truly believe that for most people, the tins are better. It's like tinned sardines, sometimes tins are a good thing. Also, I just use the water from the tin.
Tomatoes are not in season, but here they are very much there for the color and acidity. So chop them, and the cucumber and onion into small cubes, and marinate them in a mixture of salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil for 30 minutes before serving. If you have the energy, a good handful of finely chopped parsley can only improve the salad.
posted by mumimor at 2:58 PM on December 31, 2019

Response by poster: Reporting back: I marked a few answers as best because I used their linked recipes or they inspired me, but I appreciate the inspiration from everyone. I got late-breaking news that one person was on a medication that made capsaicin taste bitter and intense, and a warning that the poor lone teenager was nervous of curry and similar, so I stuck to pretty conservative fare.

Absolutely the best thing I did was make, cook, and freeze ahead a pair of huge disposable-cake-pan lasagnas, or more accurately pasta bakes. Both had minced mushrooms, zucchini, tomato sauce, and vegan bechamel (that I'm unable to link because of "incomplete URL" errors that don't make sense, but it's from the blog The Edgy Veg). One additionally had roasted eggplant and fennel with a layer of (coin-sliced) Field Roast Italian Sausage with rotini, the other was butternut squash and Gardein beefy crumbles with penne. We left home late and it took an hour longer than expected to drive up the mountain, with those thawing in the cooler on the way up, so I flung them in the oven and dinner was ready in two hours. Most people ate some more for lunch the next day, and there was a couple servings left for dinner our last night. It probably took me 3 hours to get it all made, but having done it in advance was such a time-saver on the day.

First morning's breakfast was steel-cut oats in the Instant Pot, and we'd all brought all kinds of vegan milks, granolas, jams, and syrups so that went absolutely great. It was especially chilly that morning and oatmeal really hit the spot, and took me all of 4 minutes to prep and 30 minutes total to cook.

I pretty much had every component prepped to just throw together chili the second night, except I didn't pre-chop my sweet potatoes because they weep and get weird, and I just took a bag of onions to dice a la minute. Unfortunately, I cut the holy shit out of a finger doing that with an unfamiliar knife, so I had to call in assistance to get the rest done. Still, it was great chili and we had all kinds of cheezes and sour not-cream and tortilla chips and Fritos.

Breakfast the second morning was two pans of baked pancakes (one strawberry, one blueberry) and hash browns (the frozen patty kind). I mixed up a double-batch of the dry ingredients in advance, so I just had to do wet ingredients and bake. (That recipe could use some actual egg replacer, it was pretty crumbly.) This was a HUGE hit, would do again 100%, so easy to bring in mixed in a deli container and mix in a bowl.

The only meal we ate out was brunch/linner at Plant Food Supper Club. Absolutely recommended if you happen to be in Idyllwild, California - which you should do, if you get the chance.

I brought so much stuff that our car was ridiculously full and the vacation house turned out to be made entirely of stairs, but I have a helpful partner and no regrets that I brought the Instant Pot. The rice cooker was maybe overkill, and if I was doing it again I would make and freeze rice in 1C blocks. I'd also pre-cook my chili base.

Do getaways with your friends, if you can. It's really nice.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:44 PM on January 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

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