There are a lot of parts of eliminating dairy and soy that can be difficult, but entertaining is not one of them. In fact, I think it’s easy because you can have control over the food and can be sure that there are options that meet your needs. There are a several great options for entertaining a crowd, but here are some of my favorites:
Appetizers and Snacks
- Chips and dip are almost a must-have for any party or cook-out. Thankfully, they can be easy to find both dairy and soy free. For chips, tortilla chips tend to be the easiest to find that are safe, though not all are. There are also a few varieties of potato chips that work, too, and I find that the more basic flavors are more likely to be dairy and soy free. For dips, there are a lot more options that I first realized. Salsas are a great option and are almost always okay. There is also a lot of variety in salsas – traditional tomato salsa, green salsa, corn salsa, mango salsa, and on and on. I think multiple varieties are available at most stores, and I also love the selection at Trader Joe’s if you have one near you. If you are looking for something other than salsa, you could serve hummus, Dipping Sauce, black bean dip, Russian Dressing, or Olive Tapanade.
- Buffalo Chicken Bites can make a great heavy hors d’oeuvre and are so easy to make. You could also serve these as an entrée, if you prefer.
- For other snack options see the two lists I put together here and here.
- Burgers. There is no reason to make food more complicated than it has to be. Burgers are a great dairy and soy free meal, or at least they can be. For us, the hardest part is finding rolls. The best option that we have found is Big Sky Bakery which has a location near us. Their bread is delicious and made with basic, traditional ingredients. If there isn’t one near you, see if you can find a local bakery that makes bread the old-fashioned way. Health food stores may also have bread that meets your needs, but they can be pretty expensive and are not always very good. Another option is to offer bread to guests, but just go without for yourself and anyone else with restrictions. For toppings, there are so many options: ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, Russian Dressing, jalapeños, pickles, etc. (and yes that was my second plug for the Russian Dressing – I literally look for food to put it on, I love it so much!)
- Sausages and Hot Dogs are along the same lines as burgers – why make things unnecessarily complicated? I will say that I am picky when it comes to these things and you should be, too. First of all, there can be hidden dairy and soy in processed meats. Secondly, there can be a whole lot of other junk you don’t want to be feeding your family. I have mentioned before that we have a local salumeria that makes amazing handmade sausage and have several safe varieties. Since I know that will be hard to find in many places, my next recommendation would be Applegate brand. They carry both hotdogs and sausages that are explicitly dairy free, and don’t have soy in the ingredients. Like burgers, there are tons of options for toppings: ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut, and even chili are all great choices to offer to guests.
- Pulled Pork is a great picnic/cookout item, and is ridiculously easy. Check out my Carolina Pulled Pork, which can be used with any sauce that you love. Same as burgers, buns may be hard to find, but I enjoy it without a bun just fine.
- Veggie and Meat Skewers are a cookout classic and can be made easily without dairy or soy. We don’t have a specific recipe that we use, but have made these often for company. Search for a good meat marinade then pick some veggies and even fruit to go with it. Some of our favorites are peppers, onions, pineapple, and zucchini.
- A taco or fajita bar might not fall into a traditional cookout category, but it is great for serving a crowd. If you really want it to be a “cookout”, grilled chicken and steak would make great fajita meat. There are so many toppings that you can please just about anyone: beans, salsa, sautéed peppers and onions, avocado slices, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and more. And if you choose, you can also have dairy options available for your guests, but that depends on your own comfort level and preference.
- You can also check out my list of meal ideas that are already dairy and soy free.
- Salad is an excellent side for cookouts since it goes with almost anything. You can do a simple salad with only fruits and veggies, and some dairy and soy free dressing options. You could also set up a salad bar so that you guests can assemble a salad to their liking. This also gives you the option to have dairy and/or soy options available to your guests without it being on your food.
- Fruit Salad is another versatile side that screams summer time! I love items like this that people will expect to see at a cookout and require absolutely no modifications to be safe.
- Vegetable Skewers can be made just like the meat skewers I mentioned above. I have seen some people do meat skewers separately from vegetable skewers. I think they make a fun side to any grilled dish.
- Fruit Pizza is the perfect cookout dessert. Your guests will love how fresh and simple it is, and you will love how easy it is to make.
- Dairy Free Ice Cream is another good option, especially in the hot weather. If you aren’t sure if your guests will like ice cream substitutes, or you don’t want to spend the money on expensive alternatives, stick with fruit sorbet, or make banana ice cream. Check out some options here.
- Fruit Popsicles are another good option to please a crowd. These are commonly stocked in regular grocery stores, and I have had some at Trader Joe’s which are delicious, too. There are other popsicles that are probably dairy and soy free, but will usually have artificial flavors and colors.
What should others bring?
Usually when hosting any sort of get-together, friends will offer to bring something. You can always try to tell them they don’t need to bring anything, but I think that most people will anyway. And of course it is nice to have a little help when cooking for a crowd. So, I try to have some things in mind that others can easily bring, and here are some of my suggestions:
- Fruit Salad
- Drinks and/or ice
- Paper Products
If you are okay with serving items that you and your family might not be able to eat, you could also ask for them to bring some “generic things” like chips and dip, or desserts. Then you can also have your own options to share, too.
With so many options available, entertaining without dairy and soy can be easy and stress-free. Your guests probably won’t even miss the typical dairy and soy laden foods!