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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Entertaining During Lent: Meatless Meal Ideas for a Crowd


Meatless meals are a challenge, especially for a crowd in Lent. Patricia Purcell shares her list of go-to recipes for an easy and palate-pleasing resource!

With the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes, Christ showed the world that He understands the importance of hospitality, even under difficult circumstances.

For Catholics, Lenten Fridays can be less than ideal for entertaining, as meat is off the menu.

Even if we have ‘go-to’ recipes for feeding our own families, it can be a challenge to find meatless options that are fit for company, and won’t break the bank.

I found this out the hard way when I hosted about a dozen of my kids’ closest friends for dinner…on a Friday…during Lent. My hubby didn’t think that I should have to cook for a small army, so we ordered takeout pizza. After spending a small fortune (do you know how much pizza a bunch of 9-13 year olds can eat?)

I realized that there has to be a better option for feeding a crowd during Lent. Though I can’t work miracles, I was able to come up with several tasty meatless options that are perfect for entertaining.

1. Grilled Cheese Party

If possible, borrow a griddle or two from friends so that you can set up several grilling stations. Rather than offering only traditional grilled American on white bread, set out some trays with the following:

  • Breads. Have a variety to choose from. Pumpernickel, Rye, Wheat, Onion, and Crusty Baguettes offer a range of textures and flavors.
  • Cheeses. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with New York Extra Sharp White Cheddar, but do offer other choices too. Monterey Jack, Provolone, American, and Muenster offer a good variety of flavors.
  • Fillings. Sadly, deli meats are off limits during a Lenten Friday, but you can still offer guests some tasty add-ins for their sandwiches. Set out bowls of sautéed onions and mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, and jars of pesto and mustard.

Invite guests to build their own sandwiches, butter the bread, and then grill them to golden perfection on the griddle. Complete the meal with a few easy sides like chips and salads, and of course dessert, and you’ve got the makings of a deliciously easy meal that’s fit for company!

2. Soup Supper

Homemade soup is a natural choice for feeding a crowd. It is affordable, often healthy, and delicious. Add a salad and some homemade bread and you’ve got a meal to satisfy the pickiest of palettes.

Some delicious meatless soups are:

Whatever your choice, soup is sure to warm the hearts of your guests.

3. Pasta Night

Always a favorite way to feed a crowd, pasta-based casseroles can go meatless for Lent and still be delicious! Simply skip the meat in your favorite recipe, or try one of the following:

  • Homemade Macaroni and Cheese. Cover the top with buttered bread crumbs before baking to turn this weeknight staple into something special.
  • Baked Ziti. Even without meat, the combination of melting cheeses and bubbling marinara sauce will set mouths watering.
  • Vegetable Lasagna. Add spinach and mushrooms to your favorite recipe in lieu of meat, and enjoy a healthy meal that feels decadent.
  • Stuffed Shells. Delicate pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach, and topped with mozzarella and sauce are sure to please your guests.

4. Fiesta Time

With its heavy emphasis on beans, tortillas, and cheese, Mexican fare is a natural choice for meatless entertaining. After all, who doesn’t love tacos? With a few adjustments, it’s easy to have a crowd over for a fiesta, even on a Lenten Friday. Some easy ideas are:

  • Fish Tacos. Provide all of the tasty fillings of traditional beef or chicken tacos; just substitute shrimp or grilled fish for the meat.
  • Cheese Enchiladas. Pair these with a hearty salad, and your guests will not miss the meat.
  • Burritos. Get creative with fillings. Beans, rice, potatoes, even sweet potatoes all make a savory meal when baked in a soft tortilla shell.

5. Other Meatless Ideas

  • Baked Potato Bar. Bake a bunch of premium baking potatoes in the oven (so much tastier than in the microwave), and supply plenty of toppings such as: cheese, broccoli, spinach, vegetarian chili, and sour cream.
  • Make-Your-Own Mini Pizzas. Use English muffin halves or flat bread as the crust, and allow guests to pile on their own toppings. Cheddar, mozzarella, pizza sauce, pesto, sliced onions, olives, pineapple, broccoli, and spinach offer an array of meatless choices. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets (write names on the paper to identify each pizza).
  • Eggplant Parmesan. It’s one of those dishes that’s too delicious to be meatless…but it is!

6. Salad Bar

No matter what dinner option you choose to serve your guests, round it out with a salad bar. It will add a festive touch to the meal, and everyone will get to eat what they really want.

Think beyond basic lettuce, cucumber, and tomato. Set up a restaurant style salad bar, and let everyone build their own salad. Offer selections such as:

  • Sliced, hard boiled eggs
  • Chopped apples or pears
  • Almonds or walnuts
  • Olives
  • Croutons
  • Roasted peppers
  • Shredded cheese

Don’t forget to include a variety of salad dressings. Offer some sliced bread or rolls on the side, and your meal will satisfy even the biggest appetite.

Enjoying Meatless Food with a Crowd

As Jesus Himself showed by example, sharing a meal with friends is a wonderful thing, even during Lent. While we may not be able to perform miracles to feed a hungry crowd, with a little foresight, it is possible to serve guests an appetizing, meatless meal that will make even the most carnivorous among them glad they came.

So the next time you find yourself hosting a gathering on a Lenten Friday, don’t despair… whip up a meatless feast that all will enjoy.

Do you have a favorite meatless recipe that feeds a crowd?

About Patricia Purcell

Patricia Purcell
Patricia Purcell is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. She now lives in New York state with her very patient and handsome husband and their three active, homeschooled children. After teaching and shuttling kids to activities, she spends her time writing, reading, attempting to garden, and cooking. Not content with turning only her own children into bookworms, she manages book clubs in hopes of turning their friends into booklovers too.

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