Carla Hall Has Tips to Help You Cook for Your Dairy Free, Vegetarian, or Vegan Holiday Guests

A few easy swaps make your traditional dishes perfect for all of your guests!

Carla Hall in Brown Sweater
Photo: Paul Archuleta / Contributor/Getty Images

Ready or not, the holidays are just around the corner. This year, more and more of us will be getting back to gathering with friends and family to celebrate. As you plan your menus, chef and TV personality Carla Hall has some great tips if you are expecting some folks who are dairy free, vegetarian, or vegan to help you create a great meal that will ensure no one leaves the table still hungry.

Hall has been eating a more vegan-friendly diet for a while now in an effort to just keep things a little healthier for herself. The Nashville native recently spoke to Southern Living about how she's partnered with Califia Farms to help demystify the world of plant-based milk and vegan cooking.

"I think that as Southerners, we are afraid of something that has never entered our cuisine. Even if they have never had meat, like ever, by saying that they're vegan, it turns people off," she said. But Hall assures us, there is nothing to fear, and should you have guests arriving this holiday season who, for whatever reason, require a dairy free meal, she's got you covered. And your feast will not be lacking in flavor.

"That was the other thing in talking to people from the South. It's hard to find vegetables without a bunch of pork in it. Because I find it is a pork dish with little bit of vegetables and they're calling it a vegetable." Hall said you can recreate that hearty flavor profile with just a little creativity. "My greens have been naturally vegan for years… I use a lot of smoked paprika. I use a lot of other things that can make it flavorful. That you don't miss the meat."

She further explained, "whether you do green beans or the collards, I think using a smoked paprika, onions, garlic, little bit of vinegar, and chili flakes as the base in your stock. And then you add in the greens or beans. I happen to love cooked to death green beans with potatoes. And it is friggin' delicious and my grandmother always made it that way. But I no longer feel like I need the pork because I'm going to use the smoked paprika."

"If you make your potlikker first, and make sure that is delicious, anything you put into it will be delicious. Versus the way that my mother and my grandmother used to make it. They put everything in the pot and what was left was the potlikker. So, I reverse engineer that and say hey, if I make my potlikker first and it's delicious and then I put the greens in or I put the green beans in and potatoes. And you can make that today. It's delicious, it's frozen. And you are done. You pull it out."

Hall also points out that with some easy swaps with Califia Farms line of products, or the dairy substitute of your choice, your traditional recipes can become accessible for your dairy-free guests without lacking the scrumptious flavor you expect. "Green bean casserole or you're going to do some kind of mushroom gravy, you can use your one for one, instead of cream, you can use the creamer. Barista blend or you can use the oat creamer, and even instead of stock, using the toasted coconut or the almond milk. The almond milk is really good, and it takes on flavor really, really well."

Cornbread too can get the one for one swap treatment. "I do cornbread dressing and my cornbread is a lot like a spoon bread. I do sour cream and I do eggs and oil. So instead of the sour cream, I could use the coconut milk or the almond milk. Which still has that fatty, just the consistency is really great. The other thing that I put in there is creamed corn. So, I just want my cornbread to be really soft. And then for the eggs I can use silken tofu. So you still have this really nice consistency and when you bake it, it doesn't get all hard and crumbly."

Hall suggests that the Califia Farms coconut milk, almond milk, or creamer are easy swaps in for the dairy in your sweet potato casserole or your sweet potato pie. While she concedes that if your family is a mac and cheese family, well you may need to go ahead and make two versions for that, but it's worth it. "I did make a cheesy-mac. I think it is delicious but for a Southerner is it going to take the place of macaroni and cheese? It's not. But can you do it side by side if you have somebody vegan or vegetarian coming to your dinner that can't have dairy. Like my sister and my mom, they don't do dairy because of high cholesterol. I would absolutely serve this to them, and they would love it."

WATCH: Carla Hall on the Meaning of Soul Food—Plus, Her Favorite Cookbooks in the Genre

With these ideas, we are sure that every guest at your table will have a clean plate and a happy belly at the end of the meal.

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