Tips for Planning a Vegan Wedding Buffet – Part 1
This is the first of a 2-part article on planning a DIY vegan wedding buffet. It includes some of the challenges that you might encounter and how to get round them. It should give you a better idea what it entails.
This first part covers menu planning ideas and menu suggestions, a timetable for making the food and some flavour hacks. In the second part, coming next week, there are some last minute food ideas, venue tips and food hygiene info plus some troubleshooting.
You can use these tips for most vegan buffets: birthday, Xmas, picnic etc. Ideally you’ll already have some experience of organising buffets. If you haven’t, try and get some practice in before the wedding, as wedding buffets can be challenging and expectations are usually high. Good luck and feel free to contact us if you’ve got any questions that aren’t covered here.
Work out the menu
Ideally plan this at least a couple of months in advance. Things that could influence your menu:
- Play to your strengths – what are the show-stopping dishes you make that everyone will enjoy at a wedding? Pick some of these that go together and build a menu around them.
- Is there a theme or style – Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese, pizza, picnic, salad bar, tapas, burgers, kebabs, finger food.
- Does anyone have allergies? We are requested to make gluten free options at almost every wedding we cater. Nut free is less common, soya-free requests not common at all for us. The law around labelling gluten free food is complicated: read about it on the Food Standards Agency’s website.
- Finger or fork? – if people aren’t eating at a table, try and have food that can picked up or eaten with a fork, because food that needs to be cut can be tricky if guests are balancing a plate on their knee or standing up and eating.
- How much time do you want to spend cooking – do you want a quick and easy menu or more complex? How much time can you allocate to preparing your food and how much time do you want to spend serving it? Try and roughly work out how long each dish will take to make and if you can make it in advance.
- Hot dishes and how many? People love hot food, but it makes things more complicated, so may be best left to a pro. You’ll have to time everything to be ready at the same time which can be stressful, especially as weddings often run late. You’ll need to work out if everything will fit into the oven and on the hobs too. You can make this easier by just having one or two hot dishes. Food that is time-consuming to cook is anything fried – burgers, pancakes, vegan fish and chips or falafel. Bakes such as lasagne or shep’s pie are more flexible, as are curries and chillis. If you don’t want to cook rice, consider flatbreads with curry, and nachos if you are making chilli.
These are some of the most popular foods that we serve at weddings:
Pastries and bread-based – pizza, baby pasties, baby sausage rolls, fatayer, garlic bread. Sushi is a good gf option that is also popular.
Hot savouries – mac n cheese, lasagne, curries, burger, pies, chilli and croustade. Anything with seitan is popular and in general vegan meat is popular and so are wraps.
Cake – bakewell, brownies, chocolate bounties, cheesecake, scones with vegan cream and jam and other cakes
Salad – potato salad with mayo, coleslaw, tabbouleh, creamy potato salad, Indian rice salad, energy salad
Theme ideas. We’ve served:
- A Mediterranean buffet which included frittata, falafel, wraps with roast veg, tapenade mini-quiches, fatayer, potato salad, tabbouleh, focaccia bread, hummus, marinated olives and roast peppers.
- A salad bar with lots of salads, plus pastries.
- Vegan burgers, which work well in the evening as a snack.
- A sweet table with bakewell, truffles, choc covered strawberries, brownies and fruit tarts
Timetable for making food
You’ll be busy making food in the run up to the wedding, so anything you can sort out a week or more in advance will free up time and make the last couple of days less stressful. Some examples:
- Locate and order in any special ingredients
- Purchase any non-perishable ingredients
- Plan out how you’ll accommodate any allergies
- Work out what equipment you need and source it: table covers, utensils, serving dishes, baking dishes, pans, ovens, hobs, warming plates, chafing dishes, napkins, plates, cutlery etc
- Work out if you need help and then find helpers
- Get familiar with the venue
- Food labels
- Arrange transport and boxes to transport your food and equipment in
Getting back to the food..
THREE DAYS AHEAD
Make sauces, dressings, dips, some sandwich fillings (e.g. hummus).
Soak and cook beans if you aren’t using tinned.
Make seitan dishes.
ONE OR TWO DAYS AHEAD
Start pizza, foccacia and garlic bread – make the dough up to two days in advance and put in the fridge for a slow rise. A slow rise also improves the taste and texture of the bread.
Make pastry cases and bake them off ready for their filling.
Make the quiche or tart filling ready to put into the cases and bake off on the day.
Make chillis, curries, lasagne etc.
Make cheesecakes and brownies.
Make cakes, but no more than one day ahead.
Make everything else on your list that you haven’t already made and that you aren’t making on the day.
ON THE DAY
Foods that should be prepared on the day include:
Sandwiches – though fillings can sometimes be made ahead
Bake off all pastries and pizza
Fruit dipped in chocolate
For some reason baba ganoush is one of the only dips to make on the day if you can because it loses its flavour.
And because avocados don’t keep that well, guacamole dip tends to be the last thing we make before serving.
Hacks to ramp up the flavour
- Use the best quality cherry tomatoes you can get – some veg it doesn’t matter too much, with these it does. Don’t fridge tomatoes if you can avoid it, it affects their flavour.
- Salt makes a big difference, especially in dips, so get the salting right. Hot food has more flavour than cold. So for example if you are serving pastries cold, add salt so they taste right and then add a bit extra as dishes have less flavour when they are served cold.
- Use good quality tomato paste, sun dried tomato paste etc. instead of regular tomato puree. It makes a big difference to the flavour of lasagne, chilli, moussaka etc.
- In potato salad, always use new potatoes. Don’t stop cooking until they are just about to fall apart as they will harden up a bit in the fridge, especially if you leave the skins on
- Use pointed peppers in salads for their flavour. Use bell peppers for cooking as they are more fleshy which is an advantage when cooking, especially if you are charring the skin off.
- Make sure that you allow salads to come right up to room temperature for better flavour and texture.
In the second part:
- Last minute food ideas
- Venue tips
- On the day
- Trouble shooting
- Food hygiene info