As a holistic nutritionist and an avid foodie, I naturally love to cook—especially for other people. I really put my heart and soul into my food, and it definitely comes out in the taste. When I throw a dinner party, I love to share deliciously healthy appetizers that everyone can enjoy before the main course.
The challenge becomes making meals for others to fit within their dietary guidelines. And these days there are plenty of dietary restrictions: gluten-free, peanut-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan.
Although I eat grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised, antibiotic-, hormone-, and chemical-free animal meat, my diet is largely plant-based; therefore, vegan and vegetarian appetizers or sides are a regular part of my eating plan as well. I believe making vegan recipes is very health-promoting, regardless of whether meat is also part of your diet.
5 Tasty Vegan and Vegetarian Appetizers
Friends often ask me, “What should I make for a vegan or vegetarian?” I respond with easy-to-make vegan or vegetarian appetizer recipes that they will enjoy as well. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, why make it at all? The following are five gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan appetizer recipes I’m sure everyone at your next dinner party will enjoy thoroughly.
1. Vegetable Spiral Antipasto
Antipasto is often the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal, and it will include olives, cured meats, artichoke hearts, various cheeses, and vegetables marinated in vinegar or oil. The following vegan appetizer recipe is actually inspired by an Italian friend of mine. It has similar flavors of an antipasto dish spiraled into a baking cup. You should get eight vegetable spiral cups from the recipe, and it is a good idea to make it the day before to allow for the juices of the appetizer to marinate overnight.
- 1 eggplant, sliced into strips
- 1 zucchini, sliced into strips
- 1 red pepper, sliced into strips
- 8 artichoke hearts
- 1 package of arugula
- 8 4-ounce 8×4 cm baking cups
For the marinade:
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Juice from 1 organic lemon
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh oregano
- 4 garlic cloves
- Black pepper
- Coarse grey sea salt
- 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
- Salt both sides of the eggplant, and let it sit for one hour to eliminate acidity. Rinse well afterward. Grill all vegetables and artichoke hearts on both sides on a barbecue or portable grill.
- For the marinade, combine all ingredients in the blender and use herbs to taste. Add the marinade to the grilled vegetables, and let them marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
- In the morning, take a baking cup and make a bed of arugula. Circle the cup with zucchini, eggplant, and red pepper strips. Place an artichoke in the middle, and top with capers and more of the marinade.
- Cover with parchment paper, and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve your guests.
2. Zucchini Hummus
You’ve likely tried traditional hummus with chickpeas. But unlike traditional hummus, the following contains zucchini and avocado as the base. It is perfect for those that have problems with legumes like chickpeas. Zucchini is also very nutrient-dense, full of manganese, vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin A, and fiber. The white flesh of a zucchini also makes it great for a creamy hummus appetizer. Serve this hummus with vegetables, gluten-free crackers, or corn tortilla chips. It will keep in an airtight container for up to four days.
- 1 zucchini, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/4 cup of tahini
- 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. of avocado oil
- 1/2 inch of fresh ginger
- 1/2 clove of garlic
- 1/2 tsp. of coarse sea salt
- Optional: pinch of cayenne
In a food processor or high-speed blender, process all ingredients until smooth. Stop it occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
3. Asparagus Fries
Toss out those French fries, and try asparagus fries instead. They are baked, not fried, and you’re eating a healthy vegetable in the process. How can you go wrong here? Asparagus are a natural detox food that is great for digestion. Not to mention it is high source of vitamin K and folate. This asparagus appetizer is the only one that isn’t vegan, unless you use the suggested chia egg-substitute instead of the organic eggs I would often use for this recipe. The recipe would easily feed a group of four to six people.
- 1 bunch of asparagus, half peeled, and bottoms chopped and discarded
- 1 cup of crushed raw almonds
- * 2 organic eggs or chia-egg substitute
- **1/3 vegan parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp. of dried oregano
- 2 tbsp. of dried thyme
- 2 tbsp. of dried basil
- 1 tbsp. of garlic powder
- 1 tsp. of coarse grey sea salt
- 1 tsp. of black pepper
*For the chia-egg substitute: Let the ingredients sit for 10 minutes.
- 2 tbsp. of chia seeds
- 1/2 cup of filtered water
**For the vegan parmesan cheese:
- 1/2 cup of raw cashews
- 2 tbsp. of nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp. of course sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder, or to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 F.
- Cut off about an inch of the asparagus ends.
- In a large bowl, combine the crushed almonds, vegan parmesan cheese, garlic powder, pepper, salt, basil, thyme, and oregano.
- Whisk the eggs in a shallow dish or bowl, or place the egg substitute in a shallow dish.
- Dip the asparagus in the eggs or egg substitute, and coat it evenly, and toss in the almond-crumb mixture.
- Place the asparagus on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, while flipping hallway.
- Enjoy with your choice of dip. The zucchini hummus in this article would be a good choice!
4. Sweet Potato Sliders
Who doesn’t love a good sweet potato? Sweet potatoes are great for blood pressure, blood sugar, and digestion, and are also loaded with key nutrients like fiber and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes can easily be made bite-sized to replace crackers or sliders for a healthy and enjoyable vegan appetizer/veggie side dish. You won’t even need cutlery with this appetizer! The following vegan appetizer recipe will serve about six people.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced a quarter-inch thick
- 2 tbsp. of coconut oil or organic ghee
- 1 tsp. of coarse sea salt
- 1 tsp. of ground rosemary
- 1 bunch of fresh spinach
- Pinch of cayenne
- 3 tbsp. of toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. of pure maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 400 F, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In a bowl, toss sliced sweet potatoes with one tablespoon of oil and a half teaspoon of salt, and place them on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, flip over, and bake for another 20 minutes, or until they are a little crispy.
- Meanwhile, put about an inch of water in a pot, place the spinach in a steam basket, and steam the spinach for about five minutes until it appears bright green. Run it under cold water and drain.
- Coarsely chop the spinach, and toss one tablespoon of oil and more salt, maple syrup, and cayenne.
- Once the sweet potatoes are ready, add the spinach mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.
5. Mint Guacamole Lettuce Boats
The next vegan recipe can work as an appetizer, side, or part of a main course. The refreshing mint flavor from this mint guacamole lettuce boat is exactly what your taste buds need before the main course. It also takes only minutes to create, and it is completely vegan, dairy-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free. The romaine lettuce leaves make for a perfect handheld container that serves well before a big meal. You can make six to eight lettuce boats with the following appetizer recipe.
- 4 avocados, peeled and pitted
- Juice of 3 organic limes
- 1/4 cup of packed chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
- 1 tomato, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup of shelled hemp seeds
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp. of coarse grey sea salt
- 6-8 romaine lettuce leaves
In a large bowl, combine avocados with lime juice. Add red pepper, shallot, tomato, mint, garlic, hemp seeds, and salt. Spoon the mint guacamole into the lettuce leaves. Place on a large serving plate, and enjoy with friends.
What will you make for your next dinner party? The art of cooking should be creative and fun, and you should also enjoy eating before the main course. The healthy vegan and vegetarian appetizers in this article will be perfect for any get-together, and friends (vegan or otherwise) will sure to enjoy them no matter their dietary preferences.
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