hands serving a DIY grain bowl for dinner with bowls of toppings on the side

Family-Friendly Meal Ideas for Mixed-Diet Families

Are you a vegan struggling to feed yourself and a non-vegan family? Finding recipes that please everyone can be a daunting task. In this blog post, I’ll share four versatile vegan meals that have become family favorites in my household. These recipes are perfect for mixed-diet families looking to enjoy dinner together without the hassle of preparing separate dishes.

For a while after going vegan, I struggled to find a variety of meals to rotate into our dinner plan. Over time, I’ve built up a robust list of “family favorites” which have also inspired variations or ideas for other meals. These are just a small sampling of our favorites. It is very manageable and achievable to thrive as a vegan with non-vegans without having to make multiple meals each night. (Look no further than Vegan Dinner Club, my weekly membership, where I publish 4 plant-based dinner recipes each week with options for non-vegans.)

Why Plant-Based Meals Work for Mixed-Diet Families

When it comes to feeding a family with diverse dietary preferences, plant-based meals offer a versatile and healthy foundation that can cater to everyone at the dinner table. The beauty of starting with a plant-based core lies in its inclusivity and adaptability, making it easier than ever to keep everyone happy and healthy. Here are some key reasons why plant-based meals are a win for families with mixed dietary needs:

1. Universal Appeal

Plant-based dishes often feature a rainbow of vegetables, grains, and legumes, all packed with essential nutrients and flavors that appeal to a wide range of palates. These ingredients are not only nutritious but also versatile enough to be enjoyed in their original form or easily modified to include non-vegan proteins or additions. This universal base ensures that everyone—regardless of their dietary choices—can enjoy the same wholesome meals.

2. Customizable Options

One of the greatest benefits of plant-based cooking is the ease with which you can customize dishes. A simple switch from a vegan protein like tofu or tempeh to a meat-based protein such as chicken or beef can be done without altering the entire meal. This flexibility allows families to dine together without the need for completely separate dishes, promoting a shared dining experience that is both inclusive and practical.

3. Health Benefits

Adding more plant-based meals into your family’s diet offers many pros. Vegan diets are known for reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Even those who aren’t fully vegan can reap these health benefits by eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in meals that might also include meat or dairy components.

4. Encourages Experimentation and Education

Using plant-based meals as the foundation for family dinners is an excellent opportunity to educate your family about nutrition, cooking, and the environmental impacts of our food choices. It encourages adventures in the kitchen, and can help expand young palates for a wider variety of foods. Overall, it fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation for what’s on our plates.

5. Reduces Kitchen Time and Stress

Planning and preparing one core meal that can be easily adjusted to suit various dietary needs can drastically reduce time spent in the kitchen. Instead of making multiple different meals, you only need to tweak one dish. This not only saves time but also reduces mealtime stress, allowing more quality time with family.

Incorporating plant-based meals into your family’s routine doesn’t mean abandoning traditional favorites or forcing a diet change on anyone. Instead, it offers a flexible, inclusive approach to mealtime that brings families together over shared meals that everyone can enjoy. 

two potato and chorizo tacos on a wood cutting board

Tacos For Every Taste

Taco Tuesday is more than just a weekly event—it’s a cherished tradition in our household. From the early days when my kids were just starting school to now, tacos remain a highlight of our week. I typically offer a dual selection of fillings—one savory vegan chorizo, for example, and one traditional meat option—to ensure everyone’s preferences are catered to. Toppings range from staples like homemade guacamole and pico de gallo to more creative options such as roasted potatoes, fajita veggies, or sweet corn.

Why This Works:

The beauty of taco night lies in its flexibility. Our DIY taco bar allows each family member to customize their meal, making it a hit among vegans and meat-eaters alike. For added convenience, you can prep the fillings in advance over the weekend, which simplifies cooking during the busy workweek. Accompanying the fillings, we serve simple plant-based sides like rice and beans that everyone can enjoy.

How to Make It Work for Your Family:

  • To embrace everyone’s tastes, begin by selecting a plant-based core, such as beans and greens, and pair it with a meat filling for those who prefer it. 
  • Offer a variety of toppings—typically 3-4 options that your family loves. You can delegate the cooking of the non-vegan filling to another family member, which allows you to focus on crafting delicious vegan fillings and toppings
  • Set up everything in a food bar style either on your kitchen counter or at the center of your dining table. This method not only encourages an engaging dining experience but also ensures leftovers, which are perfect for breakfast tacos or a taco salad for lunch the next day.

Try this recipe: Vegan Chorizo & Potato Tacos.

Fajita Salad Fiesta

Our Fajita Salad night is a testament to the power of choice in satisfying everyone at the dinner table. I prepare a universal vegan marinade that’s deliciously tasty on both vegetables and proteins such as tempeh or tofu. For those in the family who prefer meat options, we also include grilled chicken or steak, seasoned with the same marinade for consistency in flavor

Why This Works:

Main event salads are ideal for catering to mixed-diet families. The trick is to double the marinade recipe so that both the vegan and meat proteins can soak up the flavors. We serve this over a generous bed of shredded romaine lettuce, arranging the grilled veggies, corn, and sliced cherry tomatoes artistically around the platter. (Presentation goes a long way!) Proteins are served on the side, along with options of both dairy-free and regular cheese, allowing each family member to build their perfect salad.

How to Make It Work for Your Family:

  • Start with choosing your favorite salad base, whether it’s a simple shredded romaine or a pre-packaged salad mix from your local grocery store. 
  • Select a marinade that complements the salad’s profile, enhancing both the plant-based proteins and the meat. 
  • To streamline your dinner prep, marinate the proteins ahead of time. Then, focus on assembling a vibrant salad while the proteins cook.
  • Set up the toppings and proteins buffet-style, and invite everyone to assemble their own salad, catering exactly to their tastes and dietary preferences. 
bowl of tofu, bean sprouts, basil leaves, jalapeno and limes on a rattan placemat in front of another bowl

Build-Your-Own Sushi Bowls

This meal idea for mixed-diet families originally evolved from the traditional hand sushi rolls, and transformed into deconstructed sushi bowls to allow everyone to craft their ideal meal right at the dinner table.

Why This Works:

Dinner bowls are the pinnacle of customization. Choose your own dinner adventure with a grain, green, and protein. Drizzle it with a scrumptious sauce and garnish with your favorite toppings. For these sushi bowls, we start with a base of sticky sushi rice. Then, each family member can choose from two proteins: crispy tofu or marinated chicken. Shredded cabbage, and a plethora of toppings including cucumber, carrots, green onions, edamame, and ripe avocado are served on the side. Sprinkle some furikake, sesame seeds, and crispy seaweed snacks on top for that extra crunch and flavor.


The beauty of a bowl dinner lies in their simplicity and the freedom they offer. Everyone can assemble their dream bowl, starting from a vegan base and adding non-vegan items as desired.

How to Make It Work for Your Family:

  • Choose a mix of grains, proteins, greens, and various toppings to cater to all dietary preferences. 
  • Complete the bowls with a drizzle of your favorite homemade or store-bought dressing or sauce. Whether it’s a classic soy sauce and wasabi combo or a sweet and spicy mayo, there’s something to satisfy every palate.
  • For a seamless meal prep, consider complementing your sushi bowls with easy sides like vegetable potstickers from your local grocery store. (My favorite is Trader Joe’s Vegetable Gyoza.) 
salad pizza on a piece of parchment paper on a marble counter next to a ball of dough

Salad Pizza: A Creative Twist

Combining pizza and salad might sound unusual, but it’s a hit in our household. We start with a simple pizza base and top it with a lush salad, serving up a satisfying and nutritious meal that makes everyone happy. This plant-powered fusion brings together the best of both worlds: the crispy, savory goodness of pizza with the fresh, vibrant crunch of salad. My family loves this fun twist to pizza night (and I love that it gets my kids to eat salad – a winning family dinner solution).

Why This Works:

I’m sure I’m not alone among mixed-diet families in my enthusiasm for why this salad pizza is such a hit (especially to parents with picky eaters): its ability to sneak greens into a beloved dish. The excitement of pizza night combined with a healthy and hearty salad means everyone gets their veggies without a fuss. I also love that you can simplify or complicate this meal idea as much as you want. Use a pre-bagged salad from the store or make a homemade, fancy pants salad to toss on top.

How to Make It Work for Your Family:

  • Begin by choosing a theme for your pizza, such as Southwestern BBQ, Caesar, or Greek, to keep mealtime exciting. 
  • Gather input from all family members to make sure there’s something for everyone. 
  • Start with a store-bought pizza dough, which can be easily divided and shaped to suit each person’s hunger level or preference.
  • Set up a DIY pizza station on your kitchen counter with a variety of sauces and toppings. This interactive setup not only makes the meal preparation fun but also allows each family member to personalize their pizza. 
  • As the pizzas bake, toss the salad with your chosen dressing, ready to be heaped on top of the golden, bubbly pies straight out of the oven.

Try this recipe: Salad Pizza.

Balancing vegan and non-vegan dietary preferences doesn’t have to be a struggle. I hope these meal ideas inspire you to create joyful and inclusive meal times that bring your family together. Looking for more vegan meal ideas that delight the whole family? Join Vegan Dinner Club, my dinner membership, where I share new recipes weekly tailored to mixed-diet families.

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