Food With No Meat Learn how to get the most out of your non-meat meals and enjoy tasty, healthy options without sacrificing flavor. A vegan diet may incorporate plant-based alternatives to traditional animal products, such as plant-based milk and dairy products, plant-based egg substitutes, and plant-based meat replacements like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and jackfruit.
Food With No Meat
Whether you’re a lifelong vegetarian and want to mix up your usual rotation of vegetarian dinner recipes, or are an omnivore wondering “what can I make for dinner if I have no meat?”, we’re betting that you’ll find what you’re looking for here! We’ve rounded up 60—count ‘em! 60!—of the very best vegetarian meals. From a 15-minute mac and cheese to a super-healthy, vegan hummus bowl and just about everything in between, we just know that you’ll find more than a few meatless recipes to love.
- Walnut-Lentil Bolognese (cover photo). Boldly flavored, super hearty and incredibly easy, this vegan walnut and lentil bolognese recipe takes your plant-based eating goals to new heights.
- Vegetable Soup. Just pair this vegetarian vegetable soup with some good bread or toast and you’re good to go.
- Vegan Roasted Sweet Potato Salad. Roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, black beans and raw kale are tossed in a creamy, lime dressing in this brightly flavorful, vegan sweet potato salad recipe.
- Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Creamy Maple Dressing. Loaded with nuts, as well as dried and fresh fruit, this hearty vegetarian salad makes a great light, healthy lunch.
- Vegetarian Burrito Bowl with Avocado Crema. Roasted veggies, savory beans and a lime-garlic avocado crema top a bed of cilantro-lime rice in this hearty, healthy vegetarian burrito bowl recipe.
- Green Curry Buddha Bowl. Finished with a creamy green curry sauce, this veggie-loaded vegan bowl is the healthiest thing you’ll ever love.
- Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta With Ratatouille. Ratatouille—a classic combination of late summer vegetables, cooked to tender perfection—is an ideal partner for creamy goat cheese polenta. Together, they’re the vegetarian dinner of your dreams!
- Curried Cauliflower Quinoa Salad. This loaded salad is hearty and filling, and topped with an irresistible yogurt-tahini dressing.
- Curried Pumpkin Soup. Velvety smooth and brilliantly hued, this creamy vegan pumpkin curry soup recipe is deeply beloved in our homes.
- Spring Salad With Barley and Lemon Chive Vinaigrette. Dressed with a chive vinaigrette, crunchy sunflower seeds and tart cranberries, this recipe is an edible celebration of the cusp of spring.
- Roasted Cauliflower and Hummus Bowl. Za’atar roasted cauliflower, roasted chickpeas and creamy hummus make this low-carb vegan bowl recipe delicious, filling and loaded with protein.
- Butternut Squash Soup. Creamy butternut squash soup made with sweet apples, garlic, and thyme is the perfect cozy, light dinner.
Super Quick Vegetarian Meals
- Instant Pot Mac & Cheese. Mac & cheese is pure vegetarian comfort food, and this one is ready in just 15 minutes.
- Sesame-Garlic Ramen Noodles. Use a pack of instant ramen noodles to whip up sesame garlic ramen noodles that taste restaurant-worthy but come together in about ten minutes.
- Perfect Grilled Cheese. It always comes back to grilled cheese. Lunch, dinner, snack-time—this one is a no-fail crowd-pleaser.
- Tofu Lettuce Wraps. Soy sauce, lime juice and a little chili paste make a simple, delectable sauce for these easy low-carb vegetarian tofu lettuce wraps.
- Braised Chickpeas with Chard. Smoked paprika and jarred marinara sauce punch up a simple vegan dinner of tomato-y braised chickpeas with chard. Healthy, fast and high in protein, it ticks every box.
- Tofu Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce. Cooked quickly at high heat and drizzled with lots of homemade peanut sauce, this stir-fry is a wildly flavorful celebration of how delicious a plant-based dinner can be.
- Vegetarian Meatballs. Savory and sooo satisfying, these delicious, lentil-based vegetarian meatballs are a fast favorite. Plus, they freeze well!
- Kung Pao Tofu. With crunchy cashews and lots of veggies doused in a healthy dose of spicy Kung Pao sauce, this quick vegetarian recipe really hits the spot.
- Lentil Soup with Quinoa and Mushrooms. French green lentils—the “caviar” of lentils—lend a toothsome bite to this protein-rich, vegan lentil soup with quinoa and mushrooms.
- Falafel. Ever notice that the best vegan recipes are the ones that are accidentally vegan? As in, no ingredients posing as a faux version of something meaty or cheesy? Falafel is just exactly that kind of meal.
- Vegetarian Chili. Whether you’re just dipping a toe into the world of plant-based eating, are a long-time vegan, this sweet potato-studded, smoky chili recipe is guaranteed to more than satisfy.
7 THINGS TO SERVE AT DINNER THAT DON’T INVOLVE MEAT …
Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or an omnivore, there are plenty of things to serve at dinner that don’t include meat. These filling foods are also incredibly nutritious, and surely not a waste of your calories or time to fix them. Many meat-free dishes are actually very satisfying, despite them lacking a dense source of protein. I actually prefer feeling full, yet still light and energized after a meal that has no meat, which is what the dishes below can do for you. Try some of my favorite things to serve at dinner. Perhaps include a few of them to round out the meal and make it more filling. These can be stand-in dishes for meat, or can be combined into one meal if you like too. Enjoy!
Let’s start with one of the most popular vegan things to serve at dinner besides meat- quinoa! Quinoa is one of the most well known vegan sources of protein that is also grain-free. Though it cooks like a grain, it’s actually the seed of a plant, not a grain. Quinoa is a wonderful food, and so versatile! You can make it savory or sweet, and with 10 grams of protein per ½ cup, it makes such an easy stand-in for meat at dinner. It’s also full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and has a very low glycemic index. 29
I just love sweet potatoes, and they’re so filling! Sure, they don’t have protein, but they do have plenty of calories, are low-glycemic and actually keep you fuller longer than other vegetables. They can even lower your blood sugar, despite being higher in carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes make the perfect “bed”, if you will, for any toppings of your choice, such as veggies, salsa, yogurt or eggs if you’re vegetarian, and even nut butter for a really nice, sweet treat! Sweet potatoes are also full of Vitamin A, fiber, potassium, Vitamin B6, magnesium, and Vitamin C. 73
I’m not a huge fan of soy, but some organic brands of tofu are very popular today, and do make a great meat substitution. With a high protein content, tofu is actually a very lean food. It’s also easier to digest than soybeans for many people. If you buy tofu, do buy organic and non-GMO, since soy is one of the most processed foods in the food industry today and is often genetically modified. Tofu contains a wide array of nutrients as well, starting with phytoestrogens that can improve hormones, though this is a controversial issue for many people. Tofu is also pretty mild, so it can be flavored however you like. Many people like to chop it into a stir-fry and cook it with tamari or liquid aminos for a soy-sauce like flavor. 20
Have you ever made savory oatmeal? It’s actually really good! I had it for the first time a few weeks ago when I wanted something filling for dinner, high in protein, yet also meat-free of course. Oatmeal can be made savory or sweet for dinner, as many people enjoy having breakfast for dinner, so if you want to go that route, feel free! If you cook it savory, I suggest using a little black pepper, turmeric, and some basil, parsley, and tossing in a few onions slices or a garlic clove. It sounds strange, but is really good! Pair savory oatmeal with any veggies you like, or if you serve it sweet as in traditional recipes for dinner, add in some fresh berries, nuts, and seeds to round out the dinner. 76
If you’re vegetarian, most likely you eat eggs. Eggs can be a great way for traditional meat eaters to lean into plant-based eating more easily at first. Eggs are full of vitamins and minerals, have a decent protein content, and some varieties contain omega 3 fatty acids. Be sure to buy organic and/or certified humane for the most nutritious, and best raised variety of eggs on the market. If you can afford pastured eggs, they are even better. The more humanely raised the egg, the better it will taste, and the more nutritious it will be. 23
When all else fails, just throw in all the veggies you’ve got into a large pot, add in some seasonings and make soup! Who needs the meat with filling veggies like sweet and red potatoes, kale, red peppers, onions, garlic, carrots, peas, squash, green beans, and tomatoes? Add in some olive or coconut oil to add flavor, some sea salt and some black pepper, and even toss in a bit of oregano to add some heartiness. You’ll cozy up to a delicious meal that’s meat-free, yet so filling and satisfying. 64
Another veggie-filled meal idea is to make a stir-fry using only veggies and possibly some seeds like quinoa or amaranth. You could also sub in brown or wild rice. This is a great idea to make a dish that fills you up, is hearty in flavor, and by using either seeds, or whole grain rice, it would be the perfect replacement to a meat-based dish. I do suggest adding some healthy fats like olive or coconut oil, or even some sesame or sunflower seeds into the dish too.
Remember, just because it’s meat-free doesn’t mean you have to opt for a bowl of cold cereal for dinner. There are plenty of healthy options out there too! If you eat meat-free dinners on occasion, what’s your top picks for a healthy meal?
What Is a Vegan Diet?
If you invite a dinner guest who’s a vegan, you’ll want to check your menu carefully to make sure it follows two basic rules. Foods from plants are OK, but foods from animals are off limits, including common ingredients like eggs, cheese, milk, and honey.
About 3% of Americans follow a vegan diet. Their reasons for eating this way vary. Some vegans do it to improve their health. A plant-based diet could lower the risk for certain diseases. Others stay away from meat because they don’t want to harm animals or because they want to protect the environment.
If you’ve thought about trying a vegan diet, you might wonder if this way of eating is right for you. Although you can get some real benefits from going meatless, there are a few challenges, too.
What You Can Eat
On a vegan diet, you can eat foods made from plants, including:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
- Breads, rice, and pasta
- Dairy alternatives such as soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk
- Vegetable oils
What You Can’t Eat
Vegans can’t eat any foods made from animals, including:
- Beef, pork, lamb, and other red meat
- Chicken, duck, and other poultry
- Fish or shellfish such as crabs, clams, and mussels
- Cheese, butter
- Milk, cream, ice cream, and other dairy products
- Mayonnaise (because it includes egg yolks)
Studies show that vegans have better heart health and lower odds of having certain diseases. Those who skip meat have less of a chance of becoming obese or getting heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Vegans are also less likely to get diabetes and some kinds of cancer, especially cancers of the GI tract and the breast, ovaries, and uterus in women.
Going vegan might even help you live longer, especially if you also cut down on your daily calories.
Better weight control may be one reason for all of these health benefits. Vegans have a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who eat animal-based products.
Good nutrition is another perk. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are staples of the vegan diet. These foods are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and compounds that help protect against diseases like diabetes and cancer.
A vegan diet is healthy overall, but avoiding animal protein can shortchange you on a few nutrients, like protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. You need protein to power all the chemical reactions in your body. Calcium strengthens your bones and teeth. Omega-3 fatty acids keep your cells healthy and protect your heart by shielding against heart disease and stroke. These nutrients are especially important for children’s growing bodies and for pregnant women.
You can find substitutes for most of these essential nutrients in plant-based foods like:
- Protein: nuts, soy, beans, quinoa
- Calcium: soy milk, fortified orange juice, tofu with calcium, broccoli, kale, almonds
- Omega-3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, vegetable oils, plant-based supplements
- Iron: tofu, soy nuts, spinach, peanut butter, fortified cereals
One nutrient that’s impossible to get from plant sources alone is vitamin B12, which your body uses to make red blood cells and DNA. You’ll only find B12 in animal products. If you go vegan, you may need a supplement to make up for what you don’t get from your diet.
Keep in mind that a vegan diet is only as healthy as you make it. Products like “vegan” ice cream, cookies, and candy are tempting, but you don’t want to overdo. If you eat high-fat and processed foods and supersize your portions, you’ll gain weight and might end up with many of the same health problems you’d have on a meat-based diet.
How to Go Vegan
Does the idea of a vegan diet interest you, but you’re not sure how to start? If you want, you could plunge right in and cut out all poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy at once. Or, take a more gradual approach and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat at each meal.
If removing all animal products from your diet feels overwhelming, try a less strict approach. Some diets focus on plants, but still leave wiggle room for other types of foods:
- Pescatarian: no meat and poultry, but you can still eat fish
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: plant-based diet, plus dairy and eggs
- Flexitarian: plant-based diet that on occasion includes animal products.
Your doctor or a dietitian can help you choose the right foods as you start a vegan diet. It’s very important to get help from an expert if you have a long-term condition or you’re pregnant, to make sure you get the right mix of nutrients in your new eating plan.