Published by Katherine Sullivan.

For years, unwitting chefs have attempted to pass off animal carcasses and body parts as “fine dining.” But kind diners know that there’s nothing elegant about foie gras  (the grotesquely enlarged livers of ducks and geese who have been cruelly force-fed), escargot (cooked land snails), or osso buco (a dish made of baby cow leg). Thankfully, chefs are getting fancy with plants—really fancy.

Get inspired by these vegan fine-dining dishes:

Watermelon ‘Steak’

Ducks Eatery in New York City is carving up some … watermelon? That’s right—the East Village restaurant is wowing diners with its watermelon “steak.” The dish is made by brining the fruit for days, smoking it for eight hours, pan-roasting it, and then carving it up tableside. Seriously, how delicious does this look?

Pumpkin ‘Ribs’

But if you’re thinking it can’t get better than watermelon “steak,” think again. Shaun King, executive chef at Momofuku in Las Vegas, decided that pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween. His vegan rib dish is made from Hokkaido pumpkins and topped with carrot mole, cilantro, and dried orange.

Beet ‘Osso Bucco’

Remember the aforementioned baby-cow dish? Over at Los Angeles’ Crossroads Kitchen, season six Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio has crafted his own “osso bucco” dish … made of beets. The decadent dish is part of an exclusive menu that he created for the plant-based restaurant, the rest of which sounds equally fancy and delish!

Cantaloupe Burgers

Other gourmet burgers ain’t got nothing on this one. It’s Ducks Eatery for the win, again, thanks to its other smoked melon menu item: a cantaloupe burger. (When ordering, just be sure to specify vegan—instead of the ranch, you’ll get a delicious vegan BBQ sauce.) The process of smoking and cooking cantaloupes is similar to that used to create the watermelon “steaks” and takes two days. Ducks Chef Will Horowitz seems to be leaning more and more toward compassionate, vegan food. “I’d love to be able to go to the grocery store and see beef steaks and salmon steaks and watermelon steaks right next to each other,” he said recently.

Make your own vegan fine-dining dishes at home:

‘Bacon’-Wrapped ‘Scallops’

Eating pigs and fish is weird. Eating plants is not. Luckily, vegan blogger Erin Wysocarski has us all covered. If you’re in need of a fancy hors d’oeuvre to serve at some elegant dinner party, Wysocarski’s vegan bacon-wrapped scallops recipe is perfect. It’s simple to make (she recommends using Lightlife’s Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips) and ridiculously delicious. Check out her blog, Olives for Dinner, for the full recipe.

Portobello ‘Steaks’ With Lobster Mushrooms

Think surf and turf but kind. The “turf” is made up of sliced, pan-roasted portobello mushrooms, while the “surf” is created by combining lobster mushrooms (not real lobsters—that’s just what they’re called) with a potato purée. For the full recipe, visit vegan blog Two Happy Rabbits.

Smoked ‘Salmon’

Fish belong in the ocean, not on our plates, which is what makes this vegan smoked salmon “lox” so great. The coolest part—the main ingredient is carrots. Check out the full recipe on Joey’s Plate to learn how to marinate and bake the carrots so that they’re just right.


There’s nothing fine, fancy, or elegant about stuffing dead animal parts into your mouth. Thank goodness for vegan fine dining! Visit our recipes page to get even more inspiration, and enter your e-mail address below to receive weekly recipes and lifestyle advice straight to your inbox.

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