Potlucks are probably one of my favourite things. I really can’t think of anything better than gathering with my friends, sharing food, and watching some Arrested Development. I have also been participating a little more in the monthly vegan potlucks in my city that happen through CVS.
Over the weekend, some friends and I gathered for a little vegan gluten free potluck goodness, combined with karaoke (on a machine that hadn’t been updated since 2004 which always makes for some hilarious song selections)!
Our little potluck got me thinking about vegan potluck etiquette, and the unspoken rules of potlucks that make everything run smoothly. So, here is my potluck manifesto, along with a couple ideas for what to bring to a vegan potluck. As I work on a cookbook, I am considering having potluck dishes as a whole section.
The Cozy Vegan’s Potluck Manifesto
1. If you are hosting a vegan potluck, make sure everyone is clear on what “vegan” actually means.
I know this sounds kind of obvious, but whenever I invite people to a vegan gathering (especially if they might not subscribe to a vegan lifestyle themselves, or are new to veganism), I always make sure they understand what ingredients aside from meat need to be omitted. Be clear that veganism means not eating dairy, eggs, honey or other products either. Clarify that most margarine DOES contain animal products (whether dairy or vitamin D3), unless it is Earth Balance or specified as “vegan” on the label. That is a big one. Also, suggest your friends avoid most storebought bread products unless the ingredients are clearly labelled or it is from a bake shop that doesn’t use L-cystiene and other animal products.
2. If your group is small enough, always determine whether anyone has any food allergies. If it is a large group, make sure to label your dish with every ingredient it contains.
Getting the definition of “vegan” out of the way is the first step. Now, figure out if there are any additional concerns you need to be aware of. Last weekend, our potluck was “gluten free” to meet the needs of our host, so there were discussions on what qualifies as gluten free. I have a lot of friends who are allergic to nuts, so I am usually pretty conscious of this as well. If you are attending a potluck with more people than you can count on your hands, or with strangers, I’d recommend just making whatever vegan dish you’d like, and labelling it with ingredients. By then, there is probably enough selection to go around.
3. Don’t be the jerk that brings meat to a vegan party.
This seems even more painfully obvious than my first point, but this has actually happened to me. In real life. On my birthday. With a (non-vegan) roommate as the culprit! Whenever I have thrown a vegan potluck, even my omnivorous friends have stepped up to the plate to bring something everyone can eat. Even if it is just fresh fruit. However, this culprit made the assumption that since not ALL of my friends were vegetarian, some of them might enjoy pasta with actual meat sauce at the potluck…Perhaps she thought she was being thoughtful, but this was really uncomfortable for everybody. She didn’t label it as such, and I ended up removing it from the table before anyone ate accidental meat.
4. If you are a vegan attending an omnivorous potluck, be prepared to eat only your dish, or eat beforehand.
While I have attended many vegan potlucks, I have also attended a few omnivorous potlucks in my day…namely school/work functions or in other environments where not everyone subscribed to the same diet. While sometimes I end up eating only my own dish, I like to use this opportunity to win over people with my vegan food. Often, I will try and bring one healthy thing (maybe a chickpea salad, or something), and a dessert as well, as those tend to surprise everyone and they are kind of my potluck specialty. This is also to avoid myself hiding in a corner eating all dozen of my cupcakes. Don’t be upset if the only other things you can eat at the potluck are rippled potato chips and some weird cantalope or something. Some people just aren’t as awesome as us, let’s be real.
5. Always bring your item fully prepared (or as prepared as it can be, with garnishes separately).
Nobody likes the potluck attendee who shows up right when the potluck is about to start, and basically takes over the host’s kitchen to put their entire dish together. If you are tight for time, consider picking something up instead, offer to bring the drinks, or preparing your dish the night before.
Potluck Food Ideas
Cold food: Guacamole (keep an avocado pit in here so it doesn’t brown), salsa, and tortilla chips, tabouleh salad, kale salad, chickpea salad, hummus and pita, sushi, veggie wraps!
Warm dishes: Veggie chilli, chana masala, rice dishes, falafel, pasta dishes, pizza buns, samosas, vegan mac n cheese, coconut curries.
Sweets: Cupcakes, cake balls, cookies, muffins, tarts, anything with a single serving. It can be messy and awkward to cut up an entire cake for a large group!
For the potluck I attended last week, I took a shot at vegan cake balls (which are really just lazy cake pops). These turned out pretty cute. All I did was bake a chocolate vegan gluten free cake, and waited for it to chill. I then smashed it up and combined it with about 3/4 cup of vegan buttercream frosting. Roll these into balls, and set on a tray and freeze. When frozen, dip in melting chocolate, and put them back in the freezer to set!