Vegan cooking: Appetizers for dinner

Cauliflower Fondue, Roasted Shishito Peppers and Peanut Tofu in Cabbage Leaves offer vegan twist on popular appetizers.

Cauliflower florets coated in brown sauce
Cauliflower Wings.
Contributed / Susan Alexander
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I love appetizers so much that I sometimes prepare a few and call it dinner.

Peanut Butter and Horseradish

Three crackers topped with peanut butter and horseradish
Peanut Butter and Horseradish.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

This appetizer is an Alexander tradition. I’ve always wondered if other families eat this.

When we were kids, my brother and I would challenge each other to see who could ingest the most horseradish on a cracker.

  • Vegan crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Horseradish

Spread about two teaspoons of peanut butter on each cracker. Top the peanut butter with about a half teaspoon of horseradish. The amount of horseradish used can depend on the strength and freshness of the horseradish and the heat tolerance of those eating this appetizer.

Cream Cheese and Jam

Here’s something fun and easy for the younger vegans.


five crackers topped with cream cheese and purple jam
Cream Cheese and Jam.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Vegan cream cheese comes in strawberry flavor, too. Doesn’t strawberry cream cheese with strawberry jam sound yummy?

  • Vegan cream cheese (plain)
  • Vegan crackers
  • Vegan jam

Put about a tablespoon of cream cheese on a cracker. Top with a tablespoon of jam. Serve.
Variation: Top each cracker with vegan cream cheese and a strawberry slice or a halved grape.

Creamed Kale or Collard Greens

bowl of green dip and food processor bowl containing green dip
Creamed Kale or Collard Greens.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Sometimes I cream kale; sometimes I cream collard greens. Either way, this is delicious and nutritious. When people ask me for the recipe, they’re always surprised to learn that they’ve been eating collard greens (or kale).

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large bunches of kale or collard greens
  • ¼ cup chunky almond butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
frying pan with chopped greens and onions
Creamed Kale or Collard Greens.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Wash greens and remove woody stems. Dry and chop the greens.

In a large pot over medium heat, saute onion in oil for about eight minutes. Add greens and cook until wilted, turning frequently, for about five minutes.

Place cooked greens and onions into a food processor with the almond butter, water and soy sauce. Blend until fairly smooth. (Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to blend the ingredients in batches.)

We like the creamed greens on warmed naan, but it’s also good as a sandwich filling or on its own as a side dish.

Cauliflower Wings

  • 1 head cauliflower



  • ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 bottle of teriyaki sauce
  • Garnish: sliced scallions, sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

plate of breaded cauliflower florets and dish of brown sauce
Cauliflower Wings.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Remove florets from the cauliflower and break into wing-sized pieces.

Whisk non-dairy milk, salt, black pepper and garlic powder in a bowl to make a batter.

Place panko in a separate bowl. Dip each piece of cauliflower into the batter then roll it around in the panko, then place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the wings for 22 minutes or until lightly browned.

The cauliflower wings can be lightly basted with the teriyaki sauce, then put back into the oven for five minutes or served without basting. Sprinkle the wings and the sauce with chopped scallions or sesame seeds before serving, if desired.

Artichoke in Phyllo Cups

plate of pie-like pastries filled with cheese and sprinkled with herbs
Artichoke in Phyllo Cups.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

  • 3 packages (1.9 ounces each) frozen miniature phyllo tart shells
  • (1) 14-ounce can water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Garnish: black pepper, minced parsley

Place tart shells on baking sheet. In a small bowl, combining the remaining ingredients and spoon into tart shells. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Cauliflower Fondue

plate of bread cubes, roasted Brussels sprouts, broccoli florets and white dip
Cauliflower Fondue.
Contributed / Susan Alexander


  • 1 head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1½ cups water
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 round loaf of bread

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Rub cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with two tablespoons of oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Set sprouts aside.

Blend cauliflower with water, nutritional yeast, garlic salt, pepper and lemon juice. Thin with more water or non-dairy milk or soy cream if the fondue is too thick.

Cut the center out of loaf of bread to make a bread bowl. Cube the bread removed from the bread bowl. Toast the bread bowl in the oven for about seven minutes.

Pour the cauliflower mixture into the bread bowl and serve with the sprouts and bread.

Roasted Shishito Peppers

plate of orange dip with whole green pepper on top and plate of roasted green peppers
Roasted Shishito Peppers.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

This is a family favorite because it’s simple to prepare. Allegedly, nine out of 10 of shishito peppers are mild. Sometimes, most of the peppers are spicy hot and sometimes it seems that all the peppers are mild. It’s Russian roulette in a pepper!

To eat a roasted pepper, grab it by the stem and bite off the pepper, seeds and all. The pepper will be tender and sweet and may, or may not!, have a bit of heat.

  • 1 bag of shishito peppers
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon seasoning blend: try garlic and onion salt, salt and pepper, seasoned salt, steak seasoning or your favorite blend
  • 1 bottle peanut, ranch, teriyaki or other sauce

Wash and dry peppers. Place peppers on a baking sheet and rub with oil then season with your choice of seasoning. Broil until blistered on one side, remove from oven, turn, and place back under the broiler until the second side of the pepper is blistered. Serve hot with sauce on the side.

Peanut Tofu in Cabbage Leaves

Plate of purple cabbage cups filled with cubed tofu and chopped vegetables
Peanut Tofu in Cabbage Leaves.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

This is as beautiful as it is tasty.

  • (1) 15-ounce block of extra-firm tofu
  • Canola oil spray
  • Fresh mango salsa, store-bought or made fresh
  • Peanut sauce, store-bought or made fresh
  • Head of purple cabbage
  • Chopped peanuts for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut tofu into bite-size squares. Place the tofu on lightly sprayed baking sheet. Spray the tofu and place in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once midway through baking.

Slice this stem from bottom of the cabbage. Place the cabbage in a bowl and cover with boiling water for one minute. Rinse under cold water to prevent burning your hands. Working from the stem end of the cabbage, gently slide your thumb under each leaf to separate each leaf from the head. Place the cabbage back into the water when the leaves become too stiff to remove without ripping. After the outer leaves have again softened, pull the cabbage out, rinse with cold water, and again proceed in removing leaves.

To assemble the cabbage wraps, toss tofu with peanut sauce and place on one side of each cabbage leaf. Place the salsa on the other side of the cabbage wraps. Top with peanuts and serve.

Beet Hummus

plate with cucumber slices topped with pink sauce and chopped walnuts, grapes and scallions
Beet Hummus.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Beet hummus tastes great and the pink color is festive.

  • (1) 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can beets
  • 3 tablespoons tahini sauce
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Crackers, cucumber slices, and/or daikon radish slices
  • Garnish: avocado chunks, walnuts, parsley, olives

Place chickpeas, beets, tahini, lemon, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth. if it's too thick, add some of the chickpea liquid or some water until the desired consistency is reached.
Taste and adjust the seasoning according to your own taste. Add more salt, lemon juice or olive oil if desired.

Spread the hummus on crackers or cucumber slices and garnish as desired.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Susan Alexander is food columnist for the Duluth News Tribune. She loves gardening, farmers markets and creating delicious meals consisting of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits.

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
Susan Alexander is food columnist for the Duluth News Tribune.
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