Vegetarians just like everyone else, can have problems coming up with a variety of meals to eat. Whether you’re meat-free or just looking to eat less meat, these vegetarian recipes are healthy, quick, and easy to fit into your rotation. They’re so good you’ll definitely want to make them again. And if you’re considering the switch to full-on meatless living, these vegetarian recipes just might put you over the edge!
If you eat eggs, omelets are a great way to get a meal on the table any time of day. Start with this basic recipe from Alton Brown, but add in cheese, pre-cooked vegetables, greens, yesterday’s leftover beans and rice, whatever you like.
2. A really good pot of beans
Sure, canned beans are fine most of the time, but there’s something entirely different about cooking beans from scratch. It takes time but almost no effort on your part, and you can change the flavor based on what vegetables and spices you use (just remember, no salt until the end, because salt slows the cooking process). Try this tutorial from The Kitchn, which is full of great tips for how to cook and use beans.
Now that you know how to cook great beans, it’s time to use them in some awesome veggie chili. The aptly named Best Vegetarian Bean Chili from Serious Eats is a great place to start (and even though it calls for canned beans, you can do better). This one is full of chile flavor and there’s no fake meat in sight.
4. Grilled Cheese
The grilled cheese sandwich is a staple of many people’s diets, but they’re great for vegetarians because they’re quick, easy, warm and you can add just about anything to them you like. One of my favorites is pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes. The Grilled Cheese Academy has a ton of great recipe ideas (filter for vegetarian options) but I’d start with the Birchwood, which includes cheddar, mushrooms and an egg.
5. Quinoa Salad
Quinoa is a beloved food item (considered a grain but technically a seed) among vegetarians and other health-conscious people, and with good reason. It’s rich in nutrients, high in protein and full of healthy fats. It’s also easy to cook. Try this Greek Quinoa Salad from With Style and Grace, and you’re sure to come up with your own vegetable and flavor variations.
Hummus and other bean dips aren’t just for snacking. They’re great as spreads added to sandwiches and quesadillas or just spread on a tortilla or pita with some vegetables for a quick lunch. Mark Bittman’s version is quick, easy and delicious, and ripe for the addition of other flavors like roasted garlic, roasted red peppers or olives.
7. Vegetable Soup
My favorite go-to all-winter-long vegetable soup is pasta fagioli, an Italian soup full of veggies, beans and pasta. (Like the stuff they serve at Olive Garden, only way tastier.) This version from Little Ferraro Kitchen is pretty close to what I do (though I don’t usually have Parmesan rind to put in mine) and it’s a great base for a lot of different kinds of soups. Or don’t make it so thin and just eat it like pasta. Either way.
8. Bean Salad
Here come the beans again. There’s a reason they’re such a staple of vegetarian diets, because you can do so many things with them and they’re super healthy. While the term “bean salad” might make you think of picnic potluck productions made with tons of canned beans, why not go beyond the basics with something like the Black Bean Salad from Once Upon a Chef, which includes fresh corn, bell peppers, cilantro and avocado. Add brown rice for an even heartier salad that can double as a burrito filling.
9. Baked Tofu
Baked tofu is a simple addition to a lot of meals, and you can flavor it up a million different ways depending on the style of food you feel like. I’m partial to Asian-style marinades like this one from Fresh Takes, because adding a lot of flavor can make tofu into something even meat lovers will eat.
10. Tofu Stir Fry
And once you have baked tofu you can use it in other recipes, like a stir fry. You don’t really need a recipe for stir fry; just cook together vegetables you like with some tofu and serve on rice or noodles. But the Veggie Tofu Stir Fry recipe from the Minimalist Baker will give you some idea of how to get started if you need more to go on.
There are so many variations on curry that it’s hard to pick just one to start with. But Delicious magazine has a great overview of 10 curries you might want to try. Or find one that you like at a restaurant and learn how to make it at home. Curries are impressive and even non-vegetarians will enjoy a spicy curry filled with vegetables. Start with a basic curry sauce and you’ll be on your way quickly.
Ramen is another great dish for vegetarians because these soupy noodles are perfect for introducing lots of flavor in a little package. The Vegetarian Homemade Ramen from A Side of Sweet is a great recipe that’s pretty involved but gives a delicious result. And though there are a lot of ingredients and steps, none of it should take too long, especially if you do all your chopping in advance.
13. Soba Noodle Salad
And while we’re on the subject of Asian noodle dishes, a cold soba noodle salad is a great simple meal for summer. Just cook the noodles, chop some veggies and mix up a quick dressing full of peanut butter and soy, and you’ll have a great dinner or cook-ahead lunch in half an hour or less. This recipe from Vegetarian Times is a must-make.
14. Stuffed Peppers or Tomatoes
Using a pepper or tomato as a cooking vessel and serving dish is kind of retro, but you can stuff all sorts of tasty stuff into these beauties and then eat the bowl. Taste of Home has a nice basic vegetarian stuffed pepper recipe, or you could easily use some leftover bean and rice salad or quinoa salad for a really quick leftover dish.
15. Roasted Vegetables
Knowing how to roast vegetables well is an essential skill of being a vegetarian. Roasted veg is great as a side dish but can also be the basis for a great pasta sauce or even a soup or vegetable stock. Pioneer Woman has a wonderful primer on how to roast vegetables and includes some vegetables you might not have thought of. This picture makes me want to jump through the screen.
16. Macaroni and Cheese
It might seem silly to have good old mac and cheese on this list, but a lot of times people lose their favorite comfort foods when they become vegetarian. The good news is this is one guilty pleasure you can keep even if you don’t eat meat. The Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese from Southern Living is a great go-to, and way better than the stuff out of the box.
17. Fried Rice
My family is not vegetarian, but we do try to eat less meat than a lot of families do, and one of our go-to meals is vegetable fried rice. This is a super easy meal to put together if you happen to have leftover rice and/or vegetables on hand, and it doesn’t take that much longer even if you have to cook the rice for it. Start with this super fresh and simple recipe from Real Simple, then branch out and use whatever vegetables you have on hand. (You certainly don’t have to use as many eggs as this recipe calls for, either, if you don’t eat a lot of eggs.)
I am a huge fan of chickpeas and would probably eat falafel once a week if the rest of my family would put up with it. But even if you only eat it occasionally, these little fried bean fritters are a great protein-packed meal with the spices of the Mediterranean. They’re super simple to jazz up with tomatoes, lettuce, olives and feta. Or take a little longer and make a simple yogurt sauce to go with them. Delicious! This recipe from Tori Avery is both classic and delicious.
19. Veggie Burgers
The vegetarian burger is kind of a cliche of vegetarian cooking. But there are times when you’re just going to want to eat a burger, so you might as well have a good one. This roundup of best veggie burger recipes from Cooking Light includes burgers made out of lentils, beans, hominy, even a falafel burger. Pictured is the Homemade Quick Black Bean Burger, which interestingly uses hamburger bun as part of the recipe.
20. Tomato Sauce
There’s no reason to use jarred tomato sauce when beautiful tomatoes are available, and this basic sauce can be fortified with vegetables, used alone on pasta, or even as pizza sauce. Why not go straight to an Italian when learning how to make good tomato sauce and consult Mario Batali’s recipe, which only has seven ingredients and takes less than an hour from start to finish?
21. Vegetable Stock
Once you start cooking with a lot of vegetables, you will soon amass some vegetable bits you don’t necessarily want to use in your regular cooking, like the inside of the celery stalk or veg that’s a little past its prime. This is the perfect time to make vegetable stock, which is perfect to use in soups or when making risotto or polenta (we’re getting to those). I have made Mark Bittman’s One Hour Vegetable Stock before, as well as some slightly more involved versions and they’re all good and require little in-front-of-thes-tove time for a great reward.
Risotto is a great recipe to have in your back pocket because it looks really impressive even though it’s not really all that hard, it just requires regular attention. And it is certainly worth the effort. Put some of your good homemade vegetable broth into this Tomato and Basil Risotto from the New York Times and it will be even better.
Polenta is really a fancy word for grits, but no matter what you call it, savory (usually cheesy if you ask me) polenta is a great comfort food, perfect by itself for breakfast or with some of that yummy tomato sauce or roasted vegetables (or both!) on top for dinner. This recipe from Giada de Laurentiis shows you just how easy it is: four ingredients and 30 minutes to a kitchen staple you’ll use a ton of different ways.
24. A Really Good Salad
Even vegetarians don’t always get the amounts of fruit and vegetables in their diets that they ought to each day, and one easy way to boost your intake of the good stuff is to serve a salad with dinner or have one for lunch. Making your own is much healthier and probably cheaper than buying one out somewhere, and you can fancy it up with special ingredients you love. You don’t really need a recipe for a great salad, but this slideshow on how to build the healthiest salad from Prevention magazine hits a lot of good points (dark, leafy greens, shredded carrots, tomatoes and beans, for example, though we’ll skip the fish).
I am one of those semi-vegetarians who uses my limited meat eating as an excuse for eating more cheese. This is not an every-day indulgence, but lasagna is another great comfort food, and when you pile it high with both vegetables and cheese, it has to balance out a little, right? This Fresh Vegetable Lasagna from Inspired Taste is perfection, with roasted red peppers in the sauce and zucchini and yellow squash taking the place of meat.
Another staple of vegetarian cooking is the lentil. These little legumes are full of fiber and don’t pack a lot of calories. They also don’t have a lot of flavor on their own, so they’re perfect for using in flavorful soups (and stand up in broth better than noodles). They can be eaten in a rice salad-like side dish, as part of a soup, made into a burger or “meat” loaf, and on and on. Try the Canal House Lentils recipe from Epicurious to get you started.
27. Burrito Bowl
There’s nothing better than a healthy meal you can dump in a bowl and eat in front of the TV on a lazy night. The Burrito Bowl from Damn Delicious is one of those things, combining rice, lettuce, beans, tomatoes, avocados, salsa and cilantro in a throw-it-all-together meal that doesn’t taste all that healthy but really is.
Pizza is not one of those things that vegetarians have to make at home in order to get something that suits their needs, but it’s a really wonderful thing to make great pizza at home. Even if you do something as simple as use a tortilla for a base, your homemade tomato sauce from above and some of your favorite toppings baked in your own oven, you’ll get the appeal of DIY pizza. When you’re ready to explore a little more, check out the roundup of 50 Vegetarian Pizza Recipes at Oh My Veggies; the Leek, Potato and Rosemary Pizza from London Bakes is pictured.
29. Pot Pie
I love a good pot pie. Brimming with vegetables and warm dough, it’s the perfect thing for a cold winter day and definitely one of those dishes that ensures you get all your vegetables for one day. You can use store-bought dough, a simple cheese sauce and whatever vegetables you have on hand for a basic pie, or try this vegan version from Vegetarian Times for a super healthy but still totally satisfying option.
Most of these recipes have focused on lunch and dinner, but what about breakfast or snack time? Homemade granola is a great thing to have around to mix into yogurt at breakfast or to snack on through the day. Making granola is a pretty personal thing, depending on the ingredients you like (confession: I hate raisins) so I love this Basic Granola Recipe from CHOW, to which you can add whatever dried fruits and nuts you like.
Featured photo credit: Damn Delicious, Minimalis Baker, Pioneer Woman, Mario Batali via damndelicious.net