17 Easy Vegetarian Appetizers, Side Dishes and Drinks

December 22, 2018 (Updated: February 4, 2019) By Aneesha |

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In our home, the holiday season starts early in October.  We start by celebrating the Indian festival of lights, Diwali, which is typically in October.  Then comes Halloween followed by Thanksgiving in November, a host of holiday dinner parties in December, and finally Christmas dinner.

More than the main dish, my family, especially the kids, are big fans of all the appetizers, side dishes, and desserts.  So, we end up making a variety of dishes throughout November and December to eat at home, or for sharing at dinner parties.  This way we get to enjoy all our favorite recipes throughout the holiday season.

In this post, I highlight 17 of my favorite, easy and best Vegetarian Appetizers, Sides, and Drinks.  Good for any holiday dinner, whether its Christmas dinner or Thanksgiving, or, to share at office holiday parties, these holiday dishes are quick to make and real easy to double.  Most of these can me made ahead and re-heated for your holiday meal.

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Appetizers and Starters

Baked Brie in Puff Pastry

Brie cheese melting out of the puff pastry dome- baked brie recipe

Whenever I am hosting a party, especially during the holidays, I look for easy recipes that take a little time to make, yet have the wow factor.  This baked brie in puff pastry recipe is one of those aces up my sleeve.  It takes me 5 minutes to put it together, the oven does the rest of the work.  And when I serve it, it draws everyone to it and is a great conversation starter too!

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cheese Straws

2 cups of Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup served with cheese straws

This roasted red pepper tomato soup is a great starter that wakes up the palate and is not too filling or heavy.    Coupled with these simple-to-make homemade cheese straws, it’s always a crowd favorite.    This tomato soup recipe is vegetarian and you can make it vegan by skipping the cheese topping.

Homemade Cheese Straws

Cheese straws seasoned with Italian seasoning and cayenne

These homemade cheese straws are simple, customizable, and a great finger food.   I make them by using store-bought puff pastry and seasoning with herbs, cheese, and finally bake them in the oven.

The cheese straws come out crisp and flaky.  They are perfect with soup, like the roasted red pepper tomato soup above.  Or they are great as finger food.

Make sure you make a lot of these, because the kids love them and they will all gone within minutes 🙂

Peach-Ginger Chutney to go with a Cheese Platter

Peach ginger chutney instant pot pressure cooker

I always serve a cheese platter at every dinner party we host.   The guests end up hanging around the cheese board, while we sip on our drinks.  I set it up with a variety of cheese, crackers, dried fruits, nuts, fresh fruits, and, a flavorful fruit spread like this sweet peach ginger chutney.  It’s a perfect blend of sweet and spicy and makes for a great accompaniment to cheese.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

A plate of sliced Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Muffin

A combination of sweet and savory, this cheesy Jalapeños Cheddar Cornbread is the perfect balance of moist and crumbly.  I use pickled jalapenos that are mild.  Along with the cheese, they are a great savory match to the sweetness of the cornbread.   You can have this cornbread as finger food by cutting into smaller pieces or have it as a side to a soup or main dinner dish.

Oven Roasted Chickpeas

Mediterranean Spiced Oven Roasted Chickpeas

These Mediterranean-flavored Oven Roasted Chickpeas are crispy, crunchy, tiny-little flavor bombs.  As you pop them in your mouth, you get an amazing balance of the crunchy exterior with a slightly chewy core, making them really irresistible.   I can eat them non-stop.  Seriously!

Drinks / Cocktails

Spiced Apple Cider | Mulled Apple Cider

Instant Pot Spiced Apple Cider Recipe

My kids think that this Spiced Apple Cider is like apple pie in a mug!   This homemade cider recipe is simple to make with apples, warm spices, ginger, and sugar.   We usually also concoct one jar of spiked apple cider or hard apple cider, by adding 1 part of rum (or bourbon) to 4 parts of apple cider.   A delicious cup of cider can warm up your soul on a cold winter night.

Mulled Wine or Gluhewin

Mulled wine recipe Instant Pot, gluhwein recipe

We learnt the pleasure of enjoying a cup of Gluhwein or Mulled Wine from my husband’s German friends, when he was in graduate school.   This mulled wine recipe is simple to make by simmering wine with warm spices, sugar, and with an orange.   We usually spike the mulled wine with rum before serving to give it a bit more of a punch.

Low Carb Gin and Tonic

Gin Tonic Cocktail, Party Drinks

My husband and my all time favorite cocktail is a gin and tonic.    But when a few years ago, we started being conscious about our carbohydrate intake, my husband developed this low-carb gin and tonic recipe.   Its a really simple hack of halving the tonic and replacing it with club soda.    Gin and tonic is a simple, easy to make cocktail for any holiday dinner party.

Dinner Side Dishes

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Crispy Parmesan roasted potatoes cooked in instant pot, then roasted in the oven, garnished with chopped chives

I add parmesan cheese to this classic dish that forms a delicious crust on these parmesan roasted potatoes.  They are crispy on the outside, light and creamy on the inside.  Herbs like basil and oregano add a nice earthy flavor to the potatoes.  This recipe is Vegetarian + Gluten-Free.

Green Beans Almondine

Instant Pot green beans almondine served on a white tray

This green bean almondine recipe is a great lighter alternative to the green bean casserole.  You simply sauté fresh crisp string beans with olive oil, butter, seasoning, garlic and balsamic vinegar.  Finish by topping with toasted almond chips.  This recipe is Vegetarian + Gluten-Free. To make it Vegan, substitute the butter with olive oil.

Honey-Glazed Carrots

Honey glazed carrots served on a decorative silver platter

These crisp, tender and citrusy-sweet Honey Glazed Carrots are a delicious and colorful side, fit for any occasion.  Steamed carrots are sautéed in ginger infused orange juice, till they form a sweet floral glaze all over.  Orange juice and zest add a subtle citrus flavor, which contrasts so beautifully with the ginger.  This is one of my favorite ways to eat carrots!  This recipe is Vegetarian and Gluten-Free.  To make it Vegan, substitute the honey with maple syrup.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Top shot on cranberry sauce made in Instant Pot

Sweet, tart and extremely delicious, this cranberry sauce is a jam-like sauce or relish made by cooking down cranberries with sugar.   Making cranberry sauce at home takes just 15-20 minutes, but completely elevates your turkey.    I make this sauce in the summer and freeze it.  We then use it on cheese plates throughout the year.  This recipe is Vegan + Gluten-Free. 

Garlic Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Smooth garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes served in a grey bowl

This creamy garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes is simply magical.  It’s like mashed potatoes met cheese fondue!   I add some goat cheese, which adds a tanginess that cuts through the richness, and balances this sauce perfectly.  Parmesan cheese compliments the goat cheese and makes this sauce absolutely delicious.  This recipe is Vegetarian and Gluten-Free. 

Cranberry Orange Cornbread

Instant pot Cornbread, Cranberry Orange Cornbread by Spice Cravings. Instant Pot Cornbread comes out more moist, almost like a sponge cake. This recipe spices it up to make Cranberry Orange Cornbread in an instant pot or oven. #food #foodie #foodblogger #delicious #recipe #instantpot #recipes #easyrecipe #cuisine #30minutemeal #instagood #foodphotography #tasty

The flavor combination of cranberries, orange, and cornbread was just meant to be.  The orange compliments the subtle sweetness in the cornmeal and the cranberries’ tartness provides a nice contrast and balance to the cornbread.  This result in a well balanced, moist and flavorful Cranberry Orange Cornbread, which smells of orange and cornmeal.

Kale, Mango, & Chickpeas Slaw (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

Kale mango slaw with chickpeas, made by sauteing kale slaw mix (from Trader Joe’s), with chickpeas, juicy mango, and topped with crunchy slivered almonds. by Spice Cravings. #cooking #food #recipe #recipes #foodphotography #foodblogger #yummy #delicious #foodie

Lightly sautéed kale slaw mix (from Trader Joe’s), with cooked chickpeas, juicy mango or butternut squash, and topped with crunchy slivered almonds.  This bright and healthy Kale, Mango & Chickpeas Slaw is a great addition to any holiday spread.  This recipe is Vegan and Gluten-Free. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

Quinoa-Tabbouleh-Salad-Gluten Free Tabbouleh Salad by Spice Cravings

Not a traditional side for Thanksgiving, but this light and refreshing Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad provides such a light and delightful contrast to the holiday table.  It’s a great side for your guests who prefer to eat gluten-free.  This recipe is Vegan and Gluten-Free. 

Two Bonus Recipes:  Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole & A Terrific, Simple Dessert

French Toast Casserole

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast casserole served with coffee and fruit on the side

This Cinnamon Raisin French toast casserole is everything you love about a French toast, just more delicious and way more convenient!   It is an ideal make-ahead breakfast casserole that you can make at night for the morning.   Sweet cinnamon raisin bread soaked in custard, baked till it’s soft and gooey on the inside and crispy and caramelized on the outside!  A slice of this feels like a treat!

Hot Cocoa Cheesecake Cups

A chocolate cheesecake cup with edible chocolate handle, topped with whipped cream and dusted with cocoa powder

Imagine all the delicious flavors of hot cocoa, combined with a slice of creamy and smooth cheesecake!  That’s what this Hot Cocoa Cheesecake recipe is all about.  Mini cheesecakes, with a cute little chocolate handle, and topped it with whipped cream to capture the flavors of our winter drink- a cup of hot cocoa.

I hope you enjoy these recipes.   If you make any of them, please do post a picture on your favorite social media and tag #SpiceCravings.   Enjoy!  Spice Cravings wishes you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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