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Vegan Restaurant Menu Ideas: Adding Vegan Items To A Menu

vegan menu ideas

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It can sometimes seem impossible to keep up with the latest food trends and dietary restrictions. In addition to food allergies and sensitivities, many Americans also make an affirmative choice to not eat certain types of food – particularly those that come from animals. Vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, and vegans make up a greater percentage of the population than ever before – which means that it makes good sense to offer some plant-based menu items.

Veganism is one of the most restrictive forms of plant-based eating, with followers of this diet avoiding all animal products. It has become increasingly popular in the U.S. for health, environmental, and ethical reasons. Even if you aren’t ready to commit to a fully vegan menu, adding vegan offerings to your rotation is a smart business decision – and it isn’t hard to do. 

Budget Branders works with independently-owned restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and breweries to help them expand their marketing efforts in a cost-effective way. We offer high-quality custom-printed disposable products, such as plastic cups, coffee cups, coffee sleeves, paper bags, and bowls, in quantities that work for smaller businesses. Reach out today to learn more about our process or to get a quote on items for your restaurant.

Why Should You Consider Adding Vegan Items to Your Menu?

Veganism is a type of diet or lifestyle where a person avoids all animal products. It is a more strict form of vegetarianism, where a person does not eat meat or fish, but typically consumes other animal products, such as eggs, milk, and cheese. By contrast, a vegan diet typically eschews ALL products of animal origin, including:

  • Meat and fish
  • Eggs, including foods that contain eggs (such as baked goods)
  • Dairy, including milk, cheese, butter, cream, and any foods that contain these ingredients
  • Other foods that come from animals in one way or another, such as honey, gelatin, and even many kinds of sugar (which may be refined using bone char).

People may choose to eat vegan for ethical, health, or environmental reasons. Whatever their reason may be, there are more options than ever before for vegans – such as oat milk at your local coffee shop instead of milk or cream.

Too many people who eat a standard diet – or even a vegetarian diet – veganism may seem extreme. Yet veganism has gone mainstream in a way that may be surprising to some people. One study found that the number of vegans in the U.S. has increased by 30-fold, from 290,000 in 2004 to almost 10 million in 2019. 

Even if you have no interest in cutting out animal products in your own life, there are good business reasons to offer vegan menu items as a restaurant owner. GrubHub’s 2021 “State of the Plate” report showed that overall vegan food delivery orders increased by 17% from 2020.  Just like offering gluten-free items on your menu, it makes good sense to add some vegan options even if you don’t want to commit to a fully vegan restaurant.

Of course, if you aren’t familiar with vegan cooking, the idea of adding vegan menu items may be daunting. After all, most restaurants rely on plenty of butter and other animal products to make their food delicious. But with a bit of ingenuity, you can come up with tasty vegan meals that go beyond a black bean burger or a crumbly, dry dessert. 

Menu Ideas for Vegan Restaurants or Vegan Menu Options

The first step in coming up with vegan menu options is to stop focusing on what vegans don’t eat. Instead, think about all of the great ingredients that they do eat, such as:

  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Soy products (such as tofu or tempeh)
  • Whole grains
  • Starchy vegetables, like potatoes and corn
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Other plant-based ingredients, such as nutritional yeast, maple syrup, fortified plant milk, and agave

Depending on your current menu, you may even be able to convert existing dishes into vegan meals with just a few swaps – such as using scrambled tofu or JUST Eggs instead of scrambled eggs in a breakfast dish. Other easy swaps include:

  • Replacing honey with agave, maple syrup, or coconut nectar
  • Replacing eggs in baked goods with an egg replacer, ground flaxseed, bananas or applesauce
  • Swapping out sherbet, or soy or coconut milk-based frozen treats for ice cream
  • Choosing plant-based milk instead of cow’s milk
  • Using nutritional yeast, soy, or nut-based cheese alternatives
  • Subbing in tofu, seitan, tempeh, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), quinoa, beans, lentils, jackfruit, or a meat replacement like Impossible Burger for meat

Keep in mind that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not certify vegan ingredients. However, the nonprofit Vegan Action does offer “Certified Vegan” options for manufacturers. If you have any doubts about a particular product, look for the Certified Vegan logo.

In addition to making tweaks to your existing dishes, you can offer plant-based menu items that do more than swap a vegan ingredient for an animal product. Some types of dishes are easy to make vegan, like salads, grain bowls, and many soups. Many vegans appreciate being able to choose between both traditional fare that is adapted to their lifestyle and more original dishes that don’t rely on meat substitutes.

Foods from other cultures can be a great source of inspiration. Plant-based eating is common in certain cultures, such as Jamaican Ital food, Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, Indian food, and many Israeli foods (Israel has the highest percentage of vegans of any country!). Many of these cultures rely on a much wider range of spices than what is used in typical American cooking, plus beans, lentils, and other healthy forms of protein and fiber.

Examples of vegan menu items include:

  • West-African style peanut soup 
  • Red cabbage salad with spicy miso-ginger dressing
  • Spanish chickpea and spinach stew
  • Roasted garlic and cauliflower chowder
  • Carrot gnocchi
  • Cuban-style black beans and rice
  • Sticky, spicy baked cauliflower
  • Spicy Swiss chard soba noodle stir fry
  • Spicy Kung Pao Brussels sprouts
  • Coconut-ginger chickpea soup
  • Kisir (spicy bulgar salad, served in lettuce cups)
  • Pasta with vegan cream sauce
  • Creamy sesame noodles with Yuba
  • Tacos with walnut “meat” and non-dairy cheese and sour cream
  • Tofu and vegetable curry
  • Cauliflower “steaks” 
  • Caramelized cabbage
  • (Cashew) cream of broccoli soup
  • Vegan chocolate pudding
  • Kuih lapis (Malaysian steamed rose layer cake)
  • Vegan pecan pie
  • Sticky rice with mango
  • Housemade “Dole Whip”
  • Salted miso brownies
  • Fruit tarts with cashew cream

Once you and your chef start experimenting with vegan food options, you might find it fun to figure out different flavor and taste combinations to offer on your menu. It will also become a lot easier as you get familiar with commonly-used vegan ingredients, such as almond milk or ground flaxseeds to replace eggs. Your guests will be happy to have some great options – and you may find your business booming with a more inclusive menu!

How Budget Branders Can Boost Your Marketing Efforts

Veganism is more common than ever before in the United States. If you plan to offer vegan menu items, it’s important to let people know about it through both traditional and digital forms of advertising. Once you get customers in the door, you can continue your marketing efforts by using branded disposable products.

At Budget Branders, we know that it can be hard for small businesses to get high-quality, affordable products, particularly in smaller quantities than national chains use. We work with restaurants of all sizes throughout the U.S. to help them get great custom products at a fair price. You can choose a quantity that works for you – and we’ll even store your extra if you don’t have room for the full delivery.

Custom-branded products are a relatively easy way to expand your restaurant marketing plan. If you want to learn more, fill out a contact form or send us a quote request for one or more of our products. Have questions? Simply press the live chat button to get started.

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