Alternative Catering Menu Ideas

/ Foodservice Tips, Restaurant Tips / November 9

Buffet Table - Alternative Catering Menu Ideas

Whether you’re a catering business that offers buffet service or plated meals, you need to keep in mind alternative diets with your catering menus. There are a ton of different diets to consider with alternative catering menus. This includes diets like gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, kosher, halal, and especially nut free. So what menu items can you offer to people with these dietary restrictions? 

Gluten Free Options

Gluten-free diets are really important to accommodate. Going gluten-free isn’t usually just a lifestyle choice: it’s often done due to a medical need. So what can you include on a catering menu to accommodate someone who is gluten free?

Side Dish

A great gluten-free side dish could be roasted Brussel sprouts. This is a nice simple option to offer as a side dish. Roasted brussel sprouts are extremely easy to make and can be very delicious with the right seasonings.

Main Course

There are a variety of options to serve for the main course. Two such choices include something as simple as baked fish or something a little more complex like a no-noodle zucchini lasagna. For that you would simply replace standard noodles with noodles made from zucchini so it becomes a gluten-free pasta dish.


Desserts are where it can often get quite tricky to find gluten-free options. Whether you go the substitution route and offer things like black bean brownies, or work with something that is gluten-free all on its own like macarons. Whichever route you decide to take, gluten-free desserts are almost always either expensive or difficult to make, if not both. Even though providing gluten-free desserts can be challenging, you’re sure to please the gluten-free crowd by keeping them in mind even at dessert time. 

Vegan or Vegetarian Options

This lifestyle choice diet is definitely a very common one. There are a lot of people who have chosen to be vegan or vegetarian. There are also dairy-free people due to dietary restrictions as well. So what can you serve to people avoiding meat and dairy at your catering event?


For your vegan crowd you can go with a classic like bruschetta. While some bruschetta does offer adding cheese or meats like prosciutto, you can skip those and be left with a vegan-safe appetizer. If you’re looking for something that just fits the vegetarian crowd, you could try something simple like caprese skewers

Main Course

There are a variety of options for your entrees to appease those who are avoiding meat and / or dairy. For your fancier events you can offer dishes like ratatouille, and for something a little more casual, you can offer tofu and vegetable stir fry. Or, if you want to try making substitutions, you could turn beef wellington into mushroom wellington. The possibilities are endless.


Don’t leave out vegans and vegetarians from dessert time. It’s very simple to accommodate even those who are dairy-free. You can offer something as simple as fruit sorbets made with coconut milk or make it fancier with beignets. 

Beignets - Alternative Catering Menu Ideas

Kosher Options

Kosher is another alternative diet to keep in mind but is usually practiced due to religious reasons. Kosher is a diet that complies with the rules of Judaism. The Kosher diet requires a few things. You cannot have meat and dairy together, certain seafoods, certain poultries or pork and rabbit. So what could you serve for a Kosher catering menu?

Side Dish

An easy side dish that meets the requirements of a Kosher diet is something simple like frizzled artichokes. These are as simple as parboiling with olive oil and salt and then criping them up in an oven. Vegetable dishes without dairy can often work well to pair with a meat based entree to avoid serving meat and dairy together. Or another side you could try for a grain option is a rice pilaf. 

Main Course

A safe meat based entrée you could serve is seared rib steaks. Beef is a meat that is acceptable in the Kosher diet. However, you cannot serve it with dairy to remain Kosher. You could also offer maple glazed salmon as well. 


A simple dessert you can serve that fits with the Kosher diet can be carrot cake. Carrot cake is a popular dessert option and is quite simple to make and serve. Thus making it a great catering menu idea that fits the Kosher diet. Or another easy classic that your Kosher crowd is sure to love can be apple pies. 

Halal Options

This is another alternative diet that is adopted by a person due to religious reasons. Halal is a diet typically practiced by those of the Islamic religion. Halal prohibits the consumption of pork and pork by-products, animals not properly slaughtered, blood and blood by-products, alcohol, carnivorous animals or birds of prey, land animals without external ears and animals that were dead prior to slaughtering. So what can you serve to people following this diet?

Main Courses 

There are quite a few things you can serve for a catering menu’s main dish. You could serve something like falafel or grilled lamb. However, you will need to ensure the lamb is Halal due to restrictions in regards to slaughtering practices. It’s vital to purchase meat where you can be guaranteed it was prepared properly for Halal diets. 


A safe dessert option could be baklava. Since it is made from filo, nuts, honey, cinnamon, and butter, it’s typically safe to serve for a Halal menu. It is also very delicious. Another delicious halal dessert can include rice pudding.  

Nut-Free Options

This is a very important diet to accommodate as it could mean life or death for some people. Nut allergies are no joke and can be deadly. It’s important to arrange everything to avoid cross contamination and have nut free menu options available.

Side Dishes

There are plenty of options for nut-free side dishes. You can have a bread option and serve focaccia bread or a vegetable option and serve roasted carrots. There are definitely plenty of choices for sides. Plus, focaccia will work great even on a buffet line. Just ensure it’s kept away from dishes with nuts and has its own set of tongs to avoid cross-contamination.

Main Courses 

If you’re catering for a wintertime event with a nut-free allergy to accommodate, you can’t go wrong with a sausage stew. It’s a nut-free stew and can be quite easy to keep separate from other nut dishes being served. Just ensure it has its own ladle, otherwise, the well pots to hold stew for buffets can help keep it contained and separate from other foods.


A simple nut-free dessert is ice cream. You’ll have to keep in mind though that flavors like rocky road or pistachio are a no-go and you’ll need to be careful with topping choices. Things like peanut butter sauces and chopped nuts shouldn’t be present to remain nut free.

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