The Washington Post

What do you want from a vegetable pâté?

Mushroom and Lentil Pate. (Deb Lindsey/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

There are certain things we expect from pâté, no matter its constituents. We expect it to be rich, the flavor deep. We don’t expect to eat very much of it, but we expect it to linger.

Those same qualities are what a vegetable pâté is after, and it is, perhaps surprisingly so, adept in achieving them. Vegetables are by turns, and by treatment, sweet, nutty, earthy, smoky, spicy. They can take on textures dense and smooth or ethereally creamy. The best in vegetable pâté, then, takes philosophical cues from traditional pâté — the depths of flavor and luxuries of texture — without aspiring to mimic them.

“There are two things you want in a vegetable pâté,” says Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of the New York vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy. “One is a very strong flavor; the other is an intense depth of creaminess. . . .What you should expect is a very interesting taste sensation in a small bite.”

Almost any vegetable can be worked into a pâté, but the ones that perform most successfully carry flavor profiles that lean on the side of sweet, with earthy undertones, and flesh fine-grained and dense. Think root vegetables, winter squash, or those not-exactly-vegetables, mushrooms. Nuts and seeds, pounded into a paste, contribute to a creamier, more substantial texture, as do legumes such as lentils and white beans, and fat.

A vegetable pâté (not to be confused with vegetarian), then, is not about making amends for something it is not, nor is it a substitute for a pâté made with meat. A vegetable pâté should instead be a celebration of the vegetable itself, an exploration of what that vegetable is capable of expressing. And you don’t need to be a vegetarian to appreciate it.

Horton is a Washington food writer.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.