Dating a Vegetarian – Dinner Know-How

woman wearing black sweater holding hand with man wearing gray suit jacket

How to Choose a Restaurant or Cook a Meatless Menu at Home

Immediately after starting to date a vegetarian, it becomes quickly obvious that the food world looks very different to someone who doesn’t eat meat. It can be difficult to navigate (what can they eat, what can’t they?) without some help

Catering to vegans may be even harder (Does this chocolate have milk ingredients? Do breakfast restaurants serve anything without eggs?). The worst-case for someone dating a vegetarian or vegan is to offer them a meal they can’t eat.

For a Meat-Eater trying to Please their Vegetarian Date

Here are some tips for finding a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, how to cook for a romantic evening at home, and some menu ideas.

Finding Vegetarian Meals at a Restaurant

Before making dinner reservations be sure to check out the restaurant’s menu. Vegetarians may often bite their tongues when dining out with friends; agreeing to whatever restaurant the group enjoys most. But any dinner that is to be special – like a first date, birthday or Valentine’s Day – should be hosted at a place that offers your guest of honour more than one or two choices.

Most restaurants offer a small variety of dishes for ovo-lacto vegetarians (those who eat dairy and eggs). Check menus online beforehand to make sure, or give the restaurant a call during non-peak hours to ask.

Don’t expect your date to be satisfied with a plate of vegetables and rice. Search for restaurants that offer unique and balanced vegetarian offerings: beans, tofu and creative sauces can make the meal.

Above all, be sure to specify what type of vegetarian your date is – vegans have very different needs than vegetarians or pescatarians.

Tips for Choosing a Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant

  • Take into account how veggie-friendly your city is. Some cities and towns cater more to vegetarians than others.
  • Select one of your sweetheart’s favourite restaurants – you know there will be something there he/she can eat and enjoy.
  • Seek out a purely vegetarian restaurant. There is nothing more liberating for a vegetarian than to be able to choose anything on the menu. Even if you’d prefer a steak, nothing says you care like forfeiting your preference for hers/his.
  • Try ethnic food – Indian and Thai restaurants generally have a wide selection of vegetarian dishes. Be sure to verify that animal-based ingredients (such as shrimp paste or oyster sauce) are not used as the base for vegetarian dishes.
  • Avoid traditional family-style restaurants, unless they will explain explicitly what is in their dishes. Some “down-home” cooks will use traditional ingredients – like meat sauce on eggplant parmesan and salt pork fat in their pierogies – even in “vegetarian” dishes.
  • Cook at home and go out for dessert.

Cooking a Vegetarian or Vegan Meal at Home

Cooking a meal for your date is always a romantic gesture. But it means even more when an omnivorous cook makes special arrangements for a meatless meal.

First, do some research. What types of food does your date enjoy – spicy, saucy, healthy or indulgent? Invest in a vegetarian cookbook or do some browsing on the Internet for ideas. The Moosewood series of books are tried-and-true and offer impressive, attractive dishes.

Know that vegetarian dishes don’t always follow a meat-potatoes-vegetable pattern. Soups, one-dish meals and a collection of vegetable dishes are common ways to stage a meatless meal. Beans, grains (bread or cooked grains like quinoa or bulgur wheat), and vegetables can make up a satisfying meal, too.

Tofu, tempeh, wheat gluten or fake meats can stand in for meat as a main dish, but not all vegetarians want their food to look and taste like meat. Preparing these types of foods can be challenging.

Tips for Choosing the Menu for a Home-Cooked Meal

  • Don’t cook separate dinners (one meat and one vegetarian).
  • If you’re not a practiced vegetarian chef, start out with simple ideas. Prepare a few dishes in case something goes wrong.
  • Don’t overlook details like dressings, sauces and dips. They can be filling, tasty, and a testament to the thought and effort put into preparing the dinner.
  • Read the ingredient labels on all purchased foods. There are anchovies lurking in Caesar salad dressing and gelatin in many desserts.
  • Prepare ahead of time. Make the dish for yourself prior to cooking it for your date.
  • Add a special touch: garnish the meal with fresh herbs. Serve warm bread with olive oil under candlelight. The smell of food cooking can be as alluring as the food itself.
  • Cook dessert. Even if the main dish turns out terribly, at least you’ll have chocolate.

Romantic Meal Ideas to Cook at Home

  • French Onion Soup
  • Healthy Baked Eggplant served with pasta
  • Mesclun mix salad or cold rolls
  • Tofu Chocolate Pudding with fresh fruit slices