Going meatless and turning full vegetarian is a responsible decision for your health and the environment, but eating too many greens gets the better of even the best of us after a spell. Who doesn’t miss bacon, burger patties, and buffalo wings every once in a while? Fortunately, there’s a wealth of creative ways to recreate your favorite meat-based meals with vegetarian substitutes. Here are ten vegetarian recipes that are so hearty and flavorful, they won’t make you miss meat!
- 1 Tofu
- 2 Sweet Potato
- 3 Eggplant
- 4 Mushrooms
- 5 Beans
Tofu is one of the first substitutes that comes to mind when you think of going meatless. With its subtle flavor, tofu can take on a variety of personalities depending on how you prepare it. Here are two distinct tofu dishes you can try!
Buffalo Tofu Wings with Creamy Ranch Dip
This recipe serves up all the flavor of buffalo wings, but with a healthy vegan twist! To make the “wings” crispy, freeze then coat tofu strips in cornstarch before pan-frying. The buffalo wings sauce is made with coconut oil instead of butter to make it full vegan. Glaze the tofu strips with the sauce, then bake until crunchy. Don’t deep-fry the tofu strips though, as this defeats the purpose of eating healthy! Make the ranch dip yourself using the recipe indicated here, or go store-bought to save time. Get the recipe here.
Pan-fried Tofu with Ginger, Spinach, and Mushrooms
The secret in frying tofu is in blotting out the tofu – absorb as much water as possible so it turns out crispy once cooked. Again, don’t deep-fry, as this cancels out the whole healthy eating attempt! For this recipe, fry your tofu with only a smidgen of oil until it forms a golden crust. Turn it so it browns evenly on all sides. Prepare the shallots, cumin seeds, ginger, spinach, and mushrooms separately. Combine with the tofu once cooked, and serve hot and piping! Get the recipe here.
Sweet potatoes are another meat substitute with a flavor that goes well with different seasonings and marinades typically applied to meat. Here are two ways to enjoy sweet potatoes to keep you from missing meat!
Sweet Potato Burrito with Avocado Salsa Verde
Sweet potatoes star in this meatless Mexican burrito swimming in avocado sauce! Toss chunks of sweet potatoes with olive oil, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and cumin. Bake until golden (don’t forget to flip them!). While baking, blend the avocado, salsa verde, garlic, and lime juice to make the sauce. Add jalapeños, cilantro, and lime juice to taste. Assemble the tortillas with black beans, red pepper, and the baked sweet potato chunks. Bake again until crispy. You can make burritos in batches, then store them in the fridge and serve with the avocado sauce when ready to eat. Get the recipe here.
Sweet Potato Asparagus Cakes
You’ll barely miss meaty hamburger patties with this original recipe for sweet potato asparagus cakes! Boil sweet potatoes until tender, blend with chickpeas, flaxseed, herbs and seasonings. Add black beans and roasted asparagus into the mix. Form the mixture into balls on a skillet and flatten. Cook until crispy and golden-brown on both sides. The meaty flavor of the end result balances perfectly with the included recipe for lemon basil cream. Get the recipe here.
It is surprisingly easy to mistake eggplant for meat, what with eggplant’s similar consistency, and rich meaty flavor. With these recipes, you might just be able to trick your taste buds into thinking you’re eating meat again!
Mozzarella-stuffed Eggplant Meatballs
These cheesy and crispy eggplant meatballs are quick and easy to make, and are perfect served as “meatballs” in spaghetti or eaten on their own! To make the eggplant meatballs, mash the eggplant, along with the shallot, cheese, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Add breadcrumbs slowly until the mixture is able to firm up and hold its shape. Pop in the fridge for about half an hour, then mold into balls. Fry until evenly brown, and serve with marinara sauce. Get the recipe here.
Grilled Smoky Eggplant Salad
Rediscover smoky, grilled flavors via this Spanish salad with a grilled eggplant base. Slice and salt the eggplants, and blot to remove water. Grill the eggplants with a little olive oil until soft and evenly brown on both sides. In a food processor, mix garlic, smoked paprika, tomato, vinegar, oil and salt to make the vinaigrette. Toss the salad vegetables with the vinaigrette, and add the smoky grilled eggplant. Top with Manchego cheese for full Spanish flair (or leave it off to go wholly vegan!) Get the recipe here.
The best thing about mushrooms is that there’s no need to woo anyone into incorporating them into their diet, because they’re probably already there to begin with! Mushrooms are an all-around favorite for their chewy texture and earthy, umami flavor. Recreate some classic meat-based meals with mushrooms to keep you from missing meat!
Shiitake Mushroom Bacon
Bacon is, hands down, one of the hardest things to give up when going meatless. Put an end to pining for it with this bacon alternative, baked shiitake mushroom slices!
Slice shiitake mushrooms to at least 7mm thick to avoid disintegrating in the heat of the oven. The fresher the mushrooms, the thicker your slices should be as they have more moisture to lose. Dab a spot of olive oil on both sides (don’t smother!), season with sea salt, and bake for ten minutes. Flip the bacon strips midway to ensure even cooking.
Continue to flip and bake until crunchy. This might take some work, but if you get to eat bacon again, it will be worth it! You can make a bunch of shiitake mushroom bacon strips and store them a Ziploc in the fridge. Simply heat up in a skillet to make the bacon crispy again. Get the recipe here.
Portobello “Philly Cheese Steak” Sandwich
Traditional Philadelphia cheesesteak is made from beef, but this meatless version can be made with portobello mushrooms. In a skillet, cook onion, portobello mushrooms (stems removed, gills optional), bell pepper, seasonings, and herbs. Coat with flour and stir. Pour in soy sauce and vegetable broth for a savory flavor. Add slices of provolone cheese and allow to melt on top. Scoop out the mixture into individual servings and place on a bun. Get the recipe here.
Legumes are some of the most popular non-meat sources of protein for vegetarians. So many different varieties of beans lend an assortment of flavors and textures to your vegetarian meals; there’s a bean – and a meatless bean recipe – for everybody! Here are a couple to get you started.
Cajun-Style Vegan Red Beans Rice
Renowned Mardi Gras fare is rarely healthy or vegan – New Orleans cuisine features lots of fried meat and greasy vegetables. This recipe is traditionally eaten with sausages, but here you can cop a famous Cajun-style meal without making your blood pressure shoot up! To make, cook onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in a pot until tender. Season with hot sauce, herbs, paprika, salt and pepper. Add in the red kidney beans and vegetable broth and cook until it boils. Serve with whole grain rice to complete the healthy picture. Get the recipe here.
Spicy Black Bean Vegan Nachos
Rounding off the list is another meatless Mexican dish! Make the nacho filling with roasted sweet potatoes and spicy black beans. Layer nacho chips with the beans, sweet potatoes, cheese sauce and fresh nacho toppings (bring on the onions, jalapeños, cabbage, cilantro, and roasted red pepper!). Drizzle all over with the all-purpose vegan cheese sauce included in the recipe, which is made from cashews, carrots, and potatoes. These nachos are deliciously customizable with your choice of homemade or store-bought guacamole or salsa! Get the recipe here.