The best football party food fits the following criteria: It must be easy to eat mindlessly, it must be dippable, and it must go with cheap beer.
For millions of American households, that means that their parties stand upon the two salty pillars of animal grease and cheese, their coffee tables piled high with buffalo wings, barbecue, pizza, burgers, and pork pork pork. For many vegans, vegetarians, and people with lactose intolerance or other allergies, that means having to get real comfortable with the chips and salsa for three hours.
Accommodating a vegan diet may be intimidating or even befuddling to many people. It not only excludes the obvious meat, dairy, and egg products, but also trickier ingredients like honey and gelatin. Vegans and those with allergies typically have to be on high alert when they encounter food that they haven’t made themselves. Mo Peterson, an employee at the Linden Hills Co-op and a former vegan, says she had to develop coping mechanisms for family gatherings and parties. “Usually, I’d just eat beforehand and bring a snack. I would never assume that there’d be food that I could eat there.”
Can football maniacs and vegans ever reconcile? Emily Iwuc, a veteran vegan Super Bowl party host, thinks that they can, despite the fact that football is basically a bunch of burly men throwing around a dead cow for sport. She says, “To me, the Super Bowl is about eating a lot of food that is pretty bad but delicious. And you can make a lot of pretty bad vegan analogues!” To wit, many vegans want to eat junk food just as much as omnivores do, so why not let everyone join in the fun? Cutting down on the grease might even save you the cost of the morning-after antacids, which seem to be as much a part of the ritual as the food itself.
According to Iwuc, the greatest challenge in holding an exclusively vegan party is figuring out what foods translate well enough to satisfy the meat eaters. “When I’m figuring out what to make, I’m thinking, ‘How do I prevent people from getting fed up and just ordering KFC or pizza?’ The key is filling that junk food niche and not leaving people disappointed, hoping for the real thing.” Consequently, many vegans’ suggestions for snacks are simply riffs on the classics, such as chili dogs and pizza.
Meagan Holtgrewe, of the blog Rhymes with Vegan, says her repertoire of football party food includes: smoked “sausage”-style jambalaya, a tostada bar, spicy mock duck lettuce wraps, and barbecue pulled “pork” sandwiches with creamy potato salad. Iwuc plans to offer pierogi, buffalo seitan nuggets, and sweet potato fries at her party this weekend.
All you need to pull off a really great vegan-friendly party is a little nutritional yeast and an eye on ingredient lists. You might even discover some weird surprises, such as the fact that Oreos don’t contain milk or eggs. (Maybe that’s not totally surprising.) Certain substitutions are easier than others: Dallas Rising of the Twin Cities-based Animal Rights Coalition endorses Tings, an unexpectedly delicious vegan take on Cheetos.
If you’re concerned with the dangers of genetically modified food or soy protein isolate, stay away from soy meat and cheese. If you must go there, be aware that many vegans can only recommend vegan cheeses with reservations. Peterson calls vegan cheese “an illusion of cheese,” while Iwuc says, “Unless you’re used to [it], it’s just gross.” Nutritional yeast, however, makes for a great cheese-like condiment and could go on pretty much anything.
Instead of the traditional potato skin toppings of bacon and cheddar cheese, use slivers of sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and nutritional yeast. Serve them with a side of dill and horseradish Tofutti sour cream (which, by God, actually tastes like its dairy-based counterpart). If you want to get all fancy and Miami-themed, make black bean and plantain fritters with a side of mango-habanero salsa for dipping. Though, yes, Oreos are technically vegan, do your friends one better and get some ginger or chocolate Newman-Os. And of course, you shouldn’t neglect to crack out the chips and salsa.
Black Bean and Plantain Fritters
Serves 6 as an hors d’oeuvre
4 ripe plantains, unpeeled with ends chopped off
1½ c all-purpose flour (more as needed)
salt to taste
1 15-oz can of black beans, rinsed
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
1 dash cayenne pepper
¼ of a medium red onion, minced finely
½ c panko bread crumbs, or enough to coat fritters
- Boil the plantains until the flesh becomes soft enough to mash. Let cool.
- Peel plantains and combine with flour and salt to make a soft dough. Dough should still be a little sticky.
- Combine beans, lime juice, spices, and onion in a bowl and season to taste.
- Grab a golf ball-sized chunk of dough and flatten in the palm of one hand. Spoon a little of the bean mixture onto the center of the dough (not too much) and mold into an oval-shaped fritter. Continue with the rest of the dough until you run out.
- Coat the fritters with bread crumbs and set aside.
- Fill a frying pan with enough oil to cover the bottom, and bring it to a nice frying temperature. Fry fritters until golden brown and serve immediately.
Serves 6, can be doubled, tripled, etc. very easily
3 ripe mangoes, skinned and pitted
lime juice to taste
salt to taste
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 habanero pepper, minced
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process and add water until salsa reaches desired consistency.