How to Create a GORGEOUS Vegetable Platter
Have you ever seen the most outrageously gorgeous vegetable platter, and wondered in awe how the creator achieved this pinnacle of culinary aesthetics? If you’re nodding your head yes, then I want to let you know that I’m right there with you. I have seen such artistic creations at restaurants, brunch bars, party tables, weddings, and outdoor picnics. These abundant platters of beautiful vegetables—miniature carrots, candy-colored beets, unusual colored squash, exotic produce—displayed in a variety of settings, including marble slabs, rustic barnwood, and earthen pottery, seem to haven fallen off a Dutch master’s painting easel. They are not only lovely to look at, but these vegetable platters celebrate seasonal produce, and healthy, plant-based eating.
That’s why I asked some of my favorite food and nutrition experts to weigh in on their best advice on how you can create a vegetable platter to remember. Check out these tips, and plan on serving a veggie platter at your next event.
How to Create a GORGEOUS Vegetable Platter
1. Create Color Combinations. “When I make veggie platters, I like to lean in to a diversity of color and variety. My guests are always delighted when they see a unique array of veggies such as purple carrots, heirloom tomato slices, artichoke hearts, and rainbow radishes. Couple these colorful veggies with a simple house-made dukkah-spiced olive oil, and it will be the highlight of the party,” says Chris Vogliano, MS, RD of Forward Eating.
“I put together 3 different colorful vegetables on mini skewers (4-inch). I’ll either assemble them on a platter or throw into shooter cups. It’s so easy and the crowd is always wowed!” Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN of Food 4 Health RD.
2. Lean in to Kid-Friendly Creations. “When I’m teaching kids’ cooking classes, I often start off with a healthy snack. The kids love my colorful edible rainbow made out of vegetables. Cauliflower florets become the clouds, and I serve a dip (usually hummus or a Greek yogurt dip) in the middle,” says Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, of Liz’s Healthy Table.
3. Showcase Dips. “For me it’s all about the dips! Hummus, guac, ranch, salsa, yogurt dips – I want them all!” says Kelli Shallal, RDN of Hungry Hobby.
4. Pile on the Veggies. “When I want to create a beautiful veggie platter I turn on my inner creativity to do so. I select vegetables that are bright in color such as purple radishes, red grape tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow bell peppers, and green snow peas and layer them side-by-side. I also PILE on the veggies so that they are plentiful, which provides even more eye appeal to my guests. I serve the veggies with a variety of dips, like hummus, black bean dip and artichoke dip — which both children and adults love,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook.
5. Add Some Fruits, Too. “Upgrade your basic veggie platter by thinking outside the V and adding some F! Yep, fruits make a beautiful accompaniment to your basic veggie tray and provide an assortment of delicious nutrients. Intermingle fruits with veggies and create space with little bowls filled with nuts and other textures of produce, like dried, roasted. You can even add a finishing touch by having a variety of flavored oils to dip in! The possibilities are endless with the timeless veggie tray!” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT of Shaw’s Simple Swaps.
6. Try Grilled Veggies. “Vegetable platters can be really exciting and unique when paired with unexpected tastes, which is why I love to grill vegetables and drizzle them with an easy topping, like salsa verde. With fresh ingredients and a unique flavor profile, this is a great way to encourage people to eat more vegetables and showcase different ways to enjoy seasonal produce,” says Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN. “With a few exceptions, I don’t really enjoy raw vegetables. Carrot sticks and celery with ranch just feels like filler food to me – not something I’m excited to eat! When I make a veggie platter, I love to grill my vegetables first. My recipe for a grilled vegetable platter with two homemade dipping sauces always gets devoured when I make it for parties or holidays. When you put a little effort into making vegetables taste good, people actually want to eat them!”, says Rachael Hartley, RD, owner of Rachael Hartley Nutrition.
7. Think Beyond the Basics. “I think it’s always important to build a veggie platter with the basics as a base. But then have fun from there. Go to the grocery store and pick up bright-colored, interesting veggies that you’ve never tried and add them to the arrangement. Also, think outside-of-the-box when it comes to how you present the veggies. They don’t all need to be served raw. For example, marinate and grill planks of bell peppers, zucchini and summer squash. Or quick pickle some mushrooms or cucumbers. Or add some marinated onions. And be sure to have plenty of fun dips – not just hummus and ranch! Think bean dips or dips made with nut butters or seed butters. Really, the options are endless!” says Sara Haas, RDN, consultant culinary dietitian and author based in Chicago, IL.
8. Assemble Your Veggies Thoughtfully. “Putting together a gorgeous veggie platter is an important hosting skill. If they look irresistible, then guests are more likely to enjoy them. They’re a much lighter, more nutritious appetizer or snack than so many other options and they’re fun to grab and snack as people are socializing – the perfect party food. One thing that’s critical for a good vegetable platter is making sure that you have a large variety of different veggies that are cut to appropriate sizes. Make sure that cauliflower or broccoli pieces aren’t too large for one bite which can be difficult for guests to navigate while they’re mingling. A unique veggie like jicama or endive can actually serve as a topic of conversation and help people discover new favorite varieties. And finally, make sure that you have a flavorful dip. Use fresh herbs and spices to increase flavor that complements a variety of fresh veggies. You don’t need to buy dip; they’re so easy to make on your own and can be whipped up in minutes before a party,” says Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic, owner of Champagne Nutrition.
“I like to create fun shapes and designs with veggies. For Thanksgiving each year, I put together a “turkey-shaped” veggie platter, for instance, and you can create similar fun food art for other holidays and occasions. You can make a sun with veggies for Memorial Day, an American flag for July Fourth, and a heart for Valentine’s Day,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area.
For some of my favorite veggie platter dips, check out the following: