What are the differences between vegetarian and vegan cooking?

Are vegetarian and vegan the same thing? What do vegetarians eat? If I have a vegan dinner guest, what can I cook? Read the article for the answer to all your questions.

In recent years, a growing number of people have decided to make changes to their eating habits, eliminating meat or all foods of animal origin from their diet. For this reason, it’s quite easy to find alternative vegetarian restaurants, and – especially in the big cities – places that prepare exclusively vegan dishes.

However, there’s often a tendency to think of vegetarian and vegan cooking as the same thing, and the terms are often confused or used more or less interchangeably, when in fact there’s a very important difference between the two.

Vegetarians and vegans: the substantial difference

Those who choose to follow a vegetarian diet have decided to give up all types of meat and fish, including crustaceans, molluscs and birds.

Those who choose to go vegan have not only decided to eliminate all types of meat and fish from their diet, but have also given up eating all products of animal origin, such as eggs, milk and cheese, as well as honey and food colorants derived from animals.

The differences between vegetarians and vegans is not, however, limited merely to diet, and the term vegan substantially refers to a kind of lifestyle: those who describe themselves as vegan generally do not use any products derived from the exploitation of animals. As a rule, they do not wear wool, silk and fur, nor do they purchase leather goods or use cosmetics that have been tested on animals...

Whether their choice is due to ethical, health, spiritual or environmental reasons, the percentage of vegetarians and vegans is continually on the rise. According to some research, in January 2020, 6.7% of Italians said they were vegetarian, and 2.2% described themselves as vegan.

What vegetarians cook and eat

There are numerous variants of the vegetarian diet:

  • lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who do not eat meat and fish,
  • semi-vegetarians, whose diet includes poultry,
  • ovo-vegetarians, who do not eat meat and dairy,
  • lacto-vegetarians, whose diet excludes meat and eggs.


The first group is the best known and most common. They have a varied diet that comprises:

  • cereals and the like: soft and durum wheat, rice, farro and barley, as well as buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, amaranth, cous-cous, bulgur and rye;
  • pulses, a source of plant protein: from the most common such as beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas, to broad beans, grass peas and lupini beans, as well as others we are perhaps less familiar with, such as soy beans and adzuki beans;
  • fresh vegetables;
  • fresh and dry fruit, nuts and oilseeds;
  • meat replacements of plant origin, such as tofu, tempeh and seitan;
  • and also foods of animal origin, such as milk, butter, cheese, eggs and honey.
Algae, which are typical of Japanese cuisine, are also part of the vegetarian diet: spirulina, kombu, nori, wakame and arame are the most common.

A few vegetarian recipes to try at home

Vegetarian recipes are easy to make: because eggs and dairy products can be used, it’s not difficult to prepare dishes similar to traditional recipes. If you fancy trying something new, here are a few ideas:

  • for a family lunch, you might like to serve Soup with pulses and cereals accompanied by polenta mounds,
  • or you might like to try a recipe to use up leftovers, such as frittata with Ligurian minestrone,
  • If you fancy surprising your friends with a finger food aperitif, you can add Vegetarian balls with peas to your usual recipe repertoire.
There are bound to be vegetarian dishes among those you normally make at home, including a Sunday lunch classic enjoyed all over Italy: cannelloni filled with ricotta and spinach.

What vegans cook and eat

As we’ve seen, the substantial difference between vegans and vegetarians is that the former do not eat any foods of animal origin, including honey, lard, egg pasta or meat stock…so what do vegans eat?

The vegan diet is varied, and comprises: cereals, pulses (which are a must), vegetables of all kinds, shoots, algae, fresh and dried fruit, nuts and oilseeds, tofu, tempeh and seitan.

In the vegan diet, it’s essential to replace foods of animal origin, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and cold meats, and the market offers numerous products created to meet vegan dietary requirements, which have spread rapidly and are now consumed by most peopled. Plant-based drinks to replace milk are among the best-known and most popular, with all kinds available, made with soy, almonds, coconut, hazelnuts, oats, spelt and many other cereals.

Today it’s increasingly easy to find plant-based yogurts, cheeses and salamis, such as coconut yogurt, cheese made from fermented almond milk and sliced deli products made with lupini beans.

A few vegan recipes to try at home

Vegan dishes might seem more difficult to make at home, but you can start by trying a recipe with ingredients that aren’t hard to find.

For a quick lunch break, you can prepare a rich, Flavorful salad with broccoli, green beans, arugula, cannellini beans and our Artichoke Hearts.

Millet balls with green beans flavored with mint, meanwhile, are perfect for a family dinner: kids will love them too, because the vegetables are hidden!

Looking for another interesting idea to serve up an easy vegan recipe everyone will love? You might like to take some inspiration from the traditional cuisine of the Liguria region, and prepare a Chickpea farinata.
To make a delicious farinata chickpea pancake, all you need are a few ingredients: water, EVO oil, baby onions, salt, pepper and chickpea flour. To make it even easier, you can use the Fratelli Carli Farinata preparation you can find in our stores.