6 Dishes that are Friendly to All Types of Dietary Restrictions
- Priya Krishna
- 3 Min Read
A growing number of people in this country follow specialized diets. This creates a real challenge for both caterers and consumers. How do you navigate a buffet where the options are pre-set and customization is limited? Of course, there are plenty of caterers that specialize in meeting different types of dietary restrictions, but if you’re looking to serve food with more generalized appeal — take a look at these six dietary restriction-friendly dishes that won’t make anyone feel deprived.
Here are some of the major types of dietary restrictions to take into consideration:
Gluten-free: No products containing gluten and its derivatives, including those with wheat and other grains like spelt, rye, and oats. This also includes many condiments, like soy sauce and miso, and canned sauces or soups.
Dairy-free: No products containing dairy, including milk, yogurt, and butter.
Vegetarian: No meat products (dairy and eggs are usually okay, but always ask before assuming fish are allowed).
Vegan: No animal-based products at all, including meat, dairy, and eggs.
Great for: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegetarian, Vegan
Mediterranean food, with all its clean, light flavors, is the perfect cuisine for all types of dietary restrictions. U.S. News recently ranked it as one of the best overall diets in the world. Falafel — essentially a chickpea fritter — appeals to vegetarians and vegans because it’s meatless, but is still hearty and very flavorful. It works for the gluten-free and dairy-free sets because the ingredients are so basic: chickpeas, herbs, and spices. With plenty of room for experimenting within those bounds, you’ll find that falafel is a universal crowd-pleaser for your next event.
Great for: Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy-free
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like a taco party. When serving tacos, start with some high-quality tortillas (flour and corn, to satisfy any gluten allergies), lay out a spread of toppings, and people can build their own meal. Include grilled vegetables and chicken, ground beef, black beans, pico de gallo, avocado, cheese, or get more creative with different combos, and the guests will create their tacos to their preferences. With the variety of items, you’ll satisfy the meat eaters just as much as the vegetarians and vegans.
Great for: Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy-free
Italian food is a safe bet no matter what kind of event is on the docket. Eggplant parmesan is a dish that’s simple to put together, meaty, and satisfying. For the vegan and dairy-free customers, you can make them cheese-less (or there are plenty of vegan mozzarella cheeses on the market that melt nicely). Serve alongside pasta and salad to create a full, rich meal.
Great for: Dairy-free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Asian food is particularly great for a vegan or dairy-free meal, thanks to the lack of cheese (but be careful, since many recipes also include egg), and Asian-style noodles are a pretty universally beloved dish that can easily be the star of the event. You can make a simple seasoning of sesame, soy sauce, and garlic, add loads of vegetables, and you’re all set. You can even serve with sides of grilled chicken, shrimp, and tofu, so people can top as they please. If you also want to make your meal gluten-free, be sure to make a separate sauce with no soy and try rice noodles instead.
Great for: Gluten-free, Vegetarian
Stuffed vegetables are a perfect meal for a catered event. They are so satisfying when filled with the right seasoning, some rice, and maybe some cheese or meat. They are easy to cater in lots of varieties (like one without cheese for the vegan and dairy-free folk) and can function as a complete meal in portable form. Portabellas and bell peppers are just the right size for making each vegetable a perfect portion for one, but you can also experiment with tomatoes or squash.
Great for: Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy-free, Gluten-free
Lentils in any form are a good option for all types of dietary restrictions. Try lentils in a salad, in a stew, or in a dip. In Indian cuisine, lentil soups are a main course staple, usually served with sautéed vegetables, rice, and some kind of bread. It’s the kind of dish that can be easily made in large batches and keeps for a long time, making it perfect for catering.
What’s your go-to crowd-pleaser for appealing to dietary restrictions?