There are currently 1.5 million people in the UK following a vegan diet, according to research by Finder and it’s a rapidly increasing customer base that cannot be ignored.
In addition, research by the Vegan Society found one in five people have reduced the amount of meat they are eating since the start of the pandemic, while 12% say they’ve minimised their egg and dairy intake – so there is a growing number of flexitarians choosing vegan products too.
Here, four vegans who are experts in their field, share their tips for nailing festive eats . . .
Danielle Maupertuis is a Belgian vegan pastry chef based in Hertfordshire and author of the ‘Vegans deserve better than a fruit salad’ cookbook. She runs online vegan bakery courses and in-person courses in conjunction with the Vegetarian Society.
Vegan desserts are easy to make, taste yummy and look fantastic. The variety of vegan desserts available in bakeries has improved significantly but we still have a long way to go. The problem is that bakers and pastry chefs work long hours and don’t have time to experiment. Professional training is the key for progress, and so is imagination and creativity. Look at an existing product or dessert and try to give it a personal twist.
For me, the number one Christmas vegan dessert remains the chocolate yule log, but others that will be trending this year are red berries cheesecake or pavlova, Christmas tree cupcakes and Christmas trifle. Perhaps surprisingly, many traditional, non-vegan desserts can be adapted very easily to vegan versions. For example, mince pies. The mincemeat is vegan so it’s just a case of making or buying in sweet pastry cases.
Vegan bakery and desserts
Christmas fruit cake
Replace the eggs with flaxseeds or chia seeds, use dairy-free spread to replace the butter and add oil to ensure the moisture of the cake. There’s no issue for the decoration either. The icing is made with icing sugar and aquafaba (reduced water of a chickpea can), and marzipan is our best vegan decoration choice!
As opposite. Accompany with a rich vegan custard.
Christmas pavlova with red berries
The egg white substitute aquafaba has proven a vegan meringue doesn’t have anything to envy the classical one!
Vegan cream cheese alternatives will guarantee you a perfect frosting. Make Christmas tree cupcakes with a red velvet base and fill Christmas tree moulds with pannacotta for the top. Decorate with desiccated coconut and marzipan stars.
Layers of vegan custard, a spicy fruit compote and a soft Victoria sponge absorbing the moisture of the fruits. You got it!
Day Radley, founder of the Vegan Chef School in Forest Row, East Sussex
Sensational savoury dishes
Your vegan main courses need to be showstoppers. They need to look as good as they taste and sit on the table and look special. Offering a choice of vegan dishes is really important. If you show you have made an effort, vegans will love it.
Vegan mushroom Wellington has appeal because you can make it look pretty by decorating the pastry with festive shapes. Or try making something in the shape of a Christmas wreath. It’s nice to have something in solid form so that you have the ceremonial aspect of cutting into it to serve it at the table.
Don’t be afraid to use ready made meat replacement products and re-purpose them for your Wellington.
Mushrooms are great because of their umami flavour, but not everyone likes mushrooms.
Nut roasts don’t have to be boring. Use them as a base recipe and play about with it. It’s a challenge I regularly set my students and they have created so many inventive recipes from including sundried tomatoes and pine nuts, to adding Indian spices.
You could also place some finely sliced red onions in oil in the bottom of your mould so that, when you take it out, it has lots of lovely colour. You can also put things in the middle of your mould such as roasted radishes and mini roasted carrots to add colour.
For starters, a nice seasonal soup such as celeriac is good if you don’t want something too heavy. Blend it with cashew nuts to make it really creamy. A savoury mince pie made with king oyster mushrooms also works well as a festive starter.
Sarah Maier is a trained pastry chef and certified vegan nutritionist, who runs the all-vegan Seaside Cake Parlour & Patisserie in Margate with her husband Roman. She has been a vegan for 18 years.
We make our own vegan soft serve ice cream and use it a lot in our desserts and freakshakes.
Veganism has exploded over the last three years and it has changed the expectations of customers immensely. They want Christmas vegan options to be as magical as non-vegan options, so things have to be extra special. We always have a range of Christmas specials and we try to make our shakes and desserts look like a sparkly winter wonderland, like an edible version of a Christmas gift.
Vegan milk has a longer shelf life and can be kept in your store cupboard, which therefore creates more room in your fridge.
I personally prefer soya milk in ice cream as it has more protein but some customers are allergic to soya so we offer oat and almond milk versions too.
Always use the barista versions of plant-based milk to make your soft serve as they have a higher fat content.
Sarah’s festive soft serve suggestions
Christmas gingerbread sundaes - with crème brulee soft serve, honeycomb pieces, a cookie crumble base, Mona Lisa dark chocolate blossom curls and chocolate sticks with golden stripes.
Make Christmas versions of bubble waffles with gingerbread and cinnamon cookies and vegan soft serve ice cream.
Festive freakshake - cinnamon and raspberry ice cream topped with a mulled wine brownie and decorated with Sosa crispy raspberry pieces and Sosa cinnamon flavoured sugar.
Claire Burnet is the co-founder of Chococo, a multi award-winning independent chocolate company with a nationwide mail order service and four chocolate houses across the South.
Vegan friendly chocolate
Chocolate is of course naturally vegan until you add dairy products to it. As we also work with single origin milk and white chocolate, we prefer to label our non-dairy products ‘vegan-friendly’ as all our creations are made in our chocolate kitchen in Dorset.
At Christmas, many of our gifts are naturally vegan-friendly but we also make sure we offer a vegan version of key gift items, such as our chocolate baubles, to ensure that we are offering consumer choice.
However, as an artisan producer crafting all our chocolates by hand, we have to make decisions about what we can make otherwise the range just gets more and more complicated. For example, we make a wide range of flavoured chocolates for our festive selection boxes and now offer vegan-friendly versions of these boxes, but they do have less choice inside as we cannot offer a vegan version of every chocolate we make!
To keep younger customers happy, we’ll also offer some fun items like chocolate penguins, with the option of one being made with a creamy vegan milk alternative chocolate as well as dark chocolate, plus hand-poured and hand-decorated chocolate lollies.
Quite often our customers are buying vegan gifts for other people and they don’t know a lot about it. Others see vegan as a negative or weird thing and there is a lack of understanding amongst many consumers, so you have to be very careful with the terminology so as not to alienate anyone.
We are living in strange times indeed and so this year, whilst we have some new vegan-friendly flavours in our selection boxes, and are offering vegan-friendly versions of key gifts, we are not launching anything radically different. We think that consumers will be looking for comfort this Christmas, with flavours they recognise, as they are hopefully able to celebrate with family and friends. My advice would be don’t go too off piste. Make what you know works.
Chococo’s vegan Christmas flavour trends
Classic treats, such as candied orange segments, crystallised ginger or Turkish delight, dipped in dark chocolate are always popular.
Boozy and fruity fillings, such as prunes steeped in sherry.
Honeycomb but made with vegan-friendly agave syrup.
Caramels, our award-winning Dorset sea salt and gingerbread caramels are always popular but are not vegan friendly, so we’re also working on a vegan speculoos caramel.
In 2020, Waitrose had a 700% increase in pre-orders for their vegan Christmas offerings.
In 2020, research by Applewood Cheese found that 20% of Brits said they would be cooking an all-vegan Christmas dinner.
The global vegan chocolate market size is expected to reach $1.41billion by 2028, registering a compound annual growth rate of 14.8% over the forecast period (ResearchandMarkets.com).
As a vegan with an interest in nutrition, I’m looking for balanced Christmas meals, including sources of good quality plant protein. For example, you could make a pastry filling using silken tofu, create a lentil bake including festive flavours or include cashew nuts in a classic nut roast.
You can use the information available at vegansociety.com/nutrition to help you develop meals that are both nutritious and delicious.