Imagine if you could make healthy vegetarian recipes that even the most die-hard meat and potatoes fan would go wild for; maybe it would even make them ask for seconds.
It might seem like quite a challenge, but truthfully, there are a variety of foods and seasonings we can work with to create similar flavors and textures to what meat lovers crave.
With so many vegan and vegetarian recipes on the interwebs, you definitely won’t have a shortage of ideas; however, it can be tough to weed through all the kale salads to find the recipes that will truly satisfy an omnivore’s taste buds.
In this article, you’ll find 17 of the best recipes, curated from some of the best vegan food bloggers. But first, here are a few important tips that will help you understand how to successfully cook vegan food for meat lovers.
How To Cook Vegan Food Everyone Will Love
Tips for a Mixed Household
- If you’re cooking for your family, they may not be ready to shift to an entirely plant-based diet. Taking it one step at a time is still progress. A meatless meal one (or more!) night a week is a great way to start and still has a huge impact.
- Rather than struggling to fill the void of the animal-based food they’re used to having as the central focus of their plate, it’s more fun – and more effective – to start fresh by shifting the focus on building a flavorful and fun plate full of plant foods.
- Invite your meat eater to cook something for him or herself that can go along with your healthy vegetarian recipes. Then they can also try the delicious dish you’ve made, and you’re not forcing them to give anything up.
- It can take some time for our taste buds to adjust and fully appreciate plant-based foods. Give them time and your family might find that, after a while, they actually like vegetarian night and can enjoy it more often.
Flavors to Focus On
Savory or umami is a fantastic aspect of the flavor spectrum to focus on to ensure a meat lover’s palate is satisfied.
We often cover the salty or sweet tastes, but we don’t always consider savory in the same way. Think of things like roasted garlic, roasted eggplant, nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and miso.
Including ingredients with a savory flavor like these in your dishes will tickle the taste buds that aren’t necessarily fulfilled by cucumbers and kale alone.
When cooking vegan or vegetarian recipes for meat eaters, be generous with the fat or oil. It will help to make a naturally low-fat plant-based meal more of a fair comparison with meat and give an omnivore’s body the satiety cues it’s accustomed to.
Once your meat-lover gets a taste for plant foods, you can slowly cut back the oil.
Don’t be afraid of salt either; it makes a huge difference in bringing out the flavor of vegetables and in seasoning grains and beans that would otherwise be fairly bland.
Getting more vegetables (which are rich in potassium) is more important than eliminating salt intake entirely, and when we shift from processed foods to whole foods, we reduce a significant amount of daily salt consumption.
17 Healthy Vegetarian Recipes to Satisfy Meat-Lovers
1. Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Garlic Sauce
Hearty and juicy grilled portobellos make for a super simple swap onto a meat-centric plate. They can be paired with mashed potatoes and green beans for a comforting balance that the meat lover in your life will appreciate.
Top them with the creamy, smoky garlic sauce to satisfy that savory palate. These are so tasty, you’ll definitely want to make enough for seconds.
2. Roasted Poblano Jackfruit Tacos with Adobo Cream Sauce
These tacos are out of this world, with tons of spice and umami from the seasoning infused into the jackfruit, topped with roasted poblano peppers and drizzled with a rich adobo cream sauce. This is a feast everyone will appreciate. Get messy – in a good way.
Ingredient note: Jackfruit makes a great replacement for pulled pork, and you’ll find it used often in vegetarian recipes like tacos. But if you’ve never used it before, it can be daunting to know which brand to buy and how to prepare it.
Luckily, Lauren has written a comprehensive review of various jackfruit options, and her recipe directions give all the preparation notes you’ll need.
3. Sticky Sesame Cauliflower
This will give you a fix for Chinese take out cravings, in a healthy vegan way. This sauce is bursting with flavor and ready to coat some battered and baked crispy cauliflower.
Full of cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting nutrients, cauliflower is a definite nutritional win.
Add this to a bowl with some rice, and it will disappear in no time.
4. Vegan Seitan Steak
For another easy swap onto a meat-centric plate, try this full-flavored seitan steak. The seitan is paired with lentils for a balanced texture. Enjoy this however you would want to have steak: grilled with fries and coleslaw, chopped on top of a salad, on a baguette with BBQ sauce, or whatever suits.
Ingredient note: Seitan (pronounced say-tan) has a meat-like texture, and is made of wheat gluten. So it’s not good for celiacs or anyone with a wheat or gluten allergy, but it’s an easy-to-make meat substitute. Sam gives a great seitan-newbie guide with this recipe, showing how to prepare it with a full photo tutorial.
5. Seitan Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Infuse some meaty seitan with smoky, savory flavors, grill it on skewers, and pair with a luxurious spicy peanut sauce. Take these to a summer BBQ and you should have all the meat lovers crowding around for more!
6. Spicy Vegan Chorizo Queso
This is a creamy, smoky, savory dip for chips, nachos, veggie quesadillas or any other dishes you want to use queso sauce with for a decadent meal. It’s so creamy and flavorful, no one will realize it’s dairy-free.
This is soy-free, unlike a lot of vegan queso dips, and has a few surprising ingredients to bring the right texture and flavor – particularly the nutrient-dense cauliflower as the base!
7. Chickpea Tacos and Avocado Cream
Chickpeas have such a great texture for giving a slightly meaty mouthfeel, and are ready and waiting to soak up whatever flavors you want to infuse them with.
Spiced up to make a vegan taco meat, they pair perfectly with a smooth and tangy avocado cream.
8. Hearty Vegan Chili
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a hearty chili on a cold winter evening. Make this vegan version, and enjoy all the flavor without the cruelty or environmental impacts. With 10 cloves of garlic, you’ll be set for cardio-protective benefits.
9. Beef-less Tempeh Bourguignon
Get all the flavor of a rich Bourguignon sauce, with tempeh instead of beef. While Julia Child would probably not approve, this beef-less bourguignon is much better for our environment, the animals, and your body.
Ingredient note: Tempeh is an Indonesian cultured soy cake, with a lot more texture than tofu.
10. Eggplant Pulled Pork Burger
For another take on pulled pork, fill your bun with this delicious BBQ-slathered roasted eggplant, giving you a slightly soft but meaty texture. As Rhian says, “it’s not the meat that makes certain dishes taste good, but the sauce.”
Try out her homemade BBQ sauce, or simply use your favorite store-bought sauce. She topped her sandwich with a creamy coleslaw, and served with homemade fries for the ultimate meal. However you make it, it’s sure to be a hit.
11. Two-Ingredient Sweet Potato Gnocchi
As little packets of soft, chewy goodness, gnocchi is always satisfying in a comfort food kind of way. These are surprisingly simple to make, too, with just two ingredients.
Try these dressed with just a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt, toss with basil pesto, or try Julia’s spicy red chipotle sauce for a flavor explosion. Pair with roasted cherry tomatoes, red pepper and whole garlic cloves to up the savory ante.
12. Smoky Red Pepper & Cheese Bean Burgers
This veggie burger is super satisfying, with so much smoky savory flavor you may not even need condiments. But then again, what is life without fun burger condiments?
With a base of beans and roasted peppers, and seasoned with spices and vegan smoked cheese, these delicious burgers would pair perfectly with a variety of toppings. You’ll just have to keep trying them until you find your favorite.
13. Stuffed Jumbo Shells with Spinach
Stuffed pasta is so delicious and satisfying that many meat lovers will happily order a meatless dish at an Italian restaurant – so why not make one at home? This dish looks so gorgeous you would never guess how simple it is to make.
Simply cook the pasta, process the filling in your food processor, drizzle with tomato sauce, and bake.
14. Mushroom and lentil vegan spaghetti bolognese
Spaghetti bolognese is always a hit with kids and families, and makes a great weeknight go-to meal.
Here, mushrooms and lentils join forces to create a meaty texture and savory flavor that will please even the pickiest tastebuds and nourish growing bodies with plenty of protein, calcium, iron and other nutrients.
15. Moroccan Lentil Meatballs
These savory meatballs include fragrant Moroccan spices to infuse flavor right through from the perfectly textured lentil-walnut base to the rich sauce. Served along with quinoa or couscous, this makes a wonderfully satisfying meal for both vegans and meat lovers to enjoy.
16. Smoky Southern-Style Meatless Meatloaf
Meatloaf is a perennial comfort food craving, reminding most of us of childhood meals.
This one is made with a base of chickpeas, black beans and oats for the perfect texture, and a beautiful mix of spices and seasonings for the perfect flavor. It’s topped with a homemade BBQ sauce, though you can always use a store-bought sauce or simply ketchup if you prefer.
17. Sneaky BBQ Mushroom Steamed Buns
Get your fix of dumplings and sneak some vegetables in for the meat lovers in your life.
With a smoky-sweet mushroom filling, these little pockets of goodness are wrapped in a fluffy dumpling dough. The dough itself is easy to make, and although it does take a bit of time, it’s well worth the effort!
Try getting the family in the kitchen to help, to enjoy some quality time creating these delicious little steamed buns.
What’s the bottom line?
These dishes show you exactly how you can satisfy a meat lover’s tastebuds with healthy vegetarian recipes, and there are lots more out there to explore.
Everyone has different tastes, so the best strategy is to think about the dishes your meat lover enjoys; then try to make a dish that hits a similar flavor, texture, and look.
Remember to focus on the savory flavors, and use oil and salt to wean your meat lover over to the plant side. All that’s left to do is start cooking!
Featured photo credit: Pexels via healthy vegetarian recipes