You don’t have to be vegan to eat vegan meals. Vegan meals lack animal products ranging from meat to milk and all the way to honey for a variety of reasons, whether they’re moral, environmental, or health decisions. No one can argue that America suffers from fairly rampant obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and there have been studies linking the over-consumption of animal products to heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, with vegan diets significantly lowering the probability of all of them.
If you’re concerned about getting enough protein, worry not! According to WebMD, women need only 46 grams of protein a day, and men need only 56 — and more is not better, they say. It does require some thinking outside of the box and conscious planning, but it’s certainly not hard. A serving of tofu offers 7 grams of protein, one cup of cooked beans has 15 grams, and one serving of quinoa has 8 grams.
Every grain and vegetable has protein that adds up (½ cup of peas and one small slice of bread both have 4 grams). Miso, a soybean paste used for flavor in Japanese cooking, has 3 grams of protein per ounce; nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast that tastes a little like cheddar, has 9 grams per serving. Both even offer vegan sources of vitamin B12. Protein exists in all sorts of sneaky, delicious places!
Whether you’re starting off the year with a vegan resolution, a decision to be healthier, or you’re open to trying new, delicious recipes that happen to be animal-free, give these 10 recipes a try.
1. Creamy Squash Curry Quinoa
If you’re in need of a big bowl of something cozy, a vitamin fix, or something to convince you quinoa is worth eating, make this Creamy Squash Curry Quinoa from Pinch of Yum. Make sure you rinse the uncooked quinoa thoroughly before cooking it, since it turns what can be a bitter seed into something nutty and delicious. The original recipe contains cheese, which is really not necessary here. For a little bit of cheesy flavor without the dairy, we’ve kicked the cheese and added some nutritional yeast. Don’t be scared, it’s super good for you.
- 1½ cups dry quinoa, rinsed
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 medium butternut or Kabocha squash, 7 to 8 cups chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 small onion
- 2 teaspoons yellow curry paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup coconut milk
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
Directions: Cook the quinoa according to package directions, using broth instead of water.
Bring the remaining broth to a boil in a large pot. Peel and roughly chop the squash, garlic, and onion. Add to the pot of boiling broth, adding more water as needed to cover the squash. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until squash is fork-tender. Set aside a few cups of squash if you want to have pieces of squash in with the quinoa.
Transfer squash, garlic, and onion pieces to a blender, reserving the broth in the pot. Purée the squash until smooth and add broth to the blender as necessary. It should be the consistency of a thick soup. Add the curry paste, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, and salt. Puree again until incorporated.
Pour the sauce over the quinoa and stir in the squash pieces. Season with additional salt, pepper, or herbs.
2. Tofu Banh Mi
Banh mi is a now-popular Vietnamese sandwich that often features a French-like baguette (but with more bread and less crust) and is often stuffed with meat and various vegetable pickles. This one from Cooking Light features marinated tofu instead of meat. If you can find banh mi rolls where you are, use them! If not, a crusty baguette will do the trick.
- 1 (14-ounce) package water-packed firm tofu, drained
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1¼ cups cut carrots in 3-inch matchsticks
- 1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 julienne-cut green onion
- 1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 (12-ounce) loaf French bread
- ½ cup fresh cilantro sprigs
- 2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
Directions: Cut tofu crosswise into eight ½-inch-thick slices. Arrange tofu on several layers of paper towels. Top with several more layers of paper towels; top with a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan. Let stand 30 minutes. Remove tofu from paper towels.
Combine soy sauce and ginger in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Arrange tofu slices in a single layer in soy mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 and up to 8 hours or overnight, turning once.
Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add carrot, shiitakes, black pepper, green onion, and cucumber; toss well. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain carrot mixture through a sieve; drain thoroughly.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove tofu from marinade; discard marinade. Pat tofu slices dry with paper towels. Add tofu slices to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden.
Preheat broiler. Cut bread in half lengthwise. Open halves, laying bread cut side up on a baking sheet. Broil 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Place tofu slices on bottom half of bread; top with carrot mixture, cilantro, and jalapeño slices. Top with top half of bread. Cut loaf crosswise into 6 equal pieces.
3. Sicilian Caponata
Caponata is a dish of stewed eggplant with capers, olives, and tomatoes. It’s naturally vegan and full of Sicilian pride. This one from Jamie Oliver uses slivered almonds in place of the sometimes harder to find and pricier pine nuts. As it’s traditionally a side dish, serve with bread or over pasta to make it a meal. Jamie warns to not cut the eggplant too small, as it will take on too much oil and become soggy. If you’re wary of spongy eggplant, cook it longer than you think you need to and it will give way to delicious creaminess.
- Olive oil
- 2 large eggplants, cut into large chunks
- 1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked, and drained
- 1 handful green olives, pits removed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons best-quality herb vinegar
- 5 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted
Directions: Add at least 3 tablespoons of oil to a large pan over high heat. Add eggplant and oregano, seasoning with some salt, and toss to coat the eggplant in the oil, adding more if necessary. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the eggplant pieces are golden on each side, add the onion, garlic, and parsley stalks. Cook for 2 minutes. Add drained capers, olives, and herb vinegar.
When the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Taste, adding salt, pepper, and vinegar to your liking, and top with parsley leaves and almonds.
4. Pesto Risotto With Roasted Zucchini
All you need for risotto is rice, water, and a wooden spoon. This risotto from Post Punk Kitchen is much better with enhancements like wine, vegetable broth, and — most important — pesto. Most pestos are made with cheese, but Post Punk Kitchen omits this in favor of nutritional yeast. Also, if you’re really into being vegan, check your wine. Believe it or not, wine isn’t always vegan. As noted by The Kitchn, some winemakers use casein (milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein), or isinglass (fish bladder protein) to “fine” their wine, making it clearer.
- ¼ cup walnut halves
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2½ cups fresh basil
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Fresh black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups or so vegetable broth
- ¾ cup pesto
- Fresh black pepper
- 1 pound zucchini, cut on on a bias into thick half moons
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Extra toasted pinenuts
- Extra pesto for drizzling
Directions: First, make the pesto. Toast the nuts in a heavy-bottomed skillet on medium-low heat until they start to take on a light golden color and toasty smell. Transfer to a food processor, add the garlic, and pulse into fine crumbs. Add the basil, cilantro, thyme, salt, nutritional yeast, and water and puree until fairly smooth, scraping down the sides at least once. Drizzle in the olive oil and blend until well combined, and then blend in the lemon juice and finish with black pepper to taste.
Next, start warming the broth in a saucepan. It’s important that the broth always stays warm (but not boiling, because of rapid evaporation) while you make risotto.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the zucchini with oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Roast for 6 minutes, flip, and roast for 6 minutes more. Remove from the oven and set aside until the risotto is done cooking.
Sauté the onion in olive oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and use a wooden spoon to stir and coat with oil. Add the white wine and stir occasionally, until wine is mostly absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add a pinch of fresh black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
One cup at a time, add the warm broth to the rice. Stir continuously until the broth is mostly absorbed and then add the next cup, continuing to stir. When the second cup of broth has been absorbed, add about ⅓ cup of pesto and continue to stir in the broth cup by cup. Risotto gets creamy by the process of beating the grains with a wooden spoon while it’s gradually cooking, releasing the starches and creating its own sauce.
With your last addition of broth, add the remainder of the pesto. Taste for salt and add another ¼ teaspoon if needed. Risotto is ready when the rice is chewy but still firm, and the sauce is very creamy. To serve, divide the risotto into bowls, top with zucchini, and drizzle with extra pesto.
5. Spicy Vegan Sloppy Joes
These sloppy joes from The Food Network trade saturated fat-laden ground beef for lean cremini mushrooms. Not all hamburger buns are vegan (many contain eggs and dairy), so check the package before you buy. If you’re not a fan of mushrooms, crumbled tempeh and pea protein crumbles like this one are great substitutes.
- 1 pound cremini mushrooms, halved
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 1¾ cups light beer
- Kosher salt
- ⅓ cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 6 whole grain hamburger buns
- Shredded red cabbage or lettuce, pickled jalapeño, and scallions, for serving
Directions: Pulse the mushrooms in batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, 1 tablespoon beer and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the walnuts and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, ¾ teaspoon black pepper, and chipotle powder and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Add the remaining beer, ketchup, tomato paste, and ⅛ teaspoon salt and cook while stirring until the sauce is the consistency that you like, about 2 minutes.
Spoon the mixture onto each bun. Serve with toppings if desired.
6. Miso Vegetables and Tofu
This meal from 101 Cookbooks has 8 ingredients and comes together in just a few simple steps. The recipe developer, Heidi, warns that the dressing will make more than you need, but it’s great as a marinade for chicken or salmon if you’re eating meat on other days. This is a great recipe to use up any veggies in your refrigerator; Heidi uses asparagus and broccoli, but the recipe she based this on used cauliflower, green beans, and broccoli.
One more note: This recipe calls for awase miso. If you can’t find it, use an equal blend of red and white miso. If you can’t find both red and white, use white, yellow, or red miso alone.
- 6 ounces awase miso
- ¼ cup sake
- ½ cup mirin
- 3 tablespoons sifted natural cane sugar
- Red pepper flakes
- 4 cups bite-size veggies
- 12 ounces baked, grilled, or lightly pan-fried firm tofu, cut into bite-size pieces
Directions: Combine miso, sake, mirin, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until it thickens a bit. Toward the end, stir in the red pepper flakes, adding to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and blanch the vegetables very briefly, no more than a minute. Drain and immediately run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well to get as much water off the vegetables as possible.
In a large serving bowl, gently toss the vegetables until thoroughly coated with ⅓ cup of the miso dressing. Add the tofu and toss again. Taste and add more dressing if desired.
7. Vegan Chili With Homemade Sour Cream
For some, replacing meat with beans is OK in some circumstances, but chili isn’t chili without sour cream. In a vegan dish, that can be tough to reconcile! Angela from Oh She Glows has a solution to that in this hearty vegan chili with vegan sour cream.
- 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 heaping cups diced sweet onion
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
Vegan sour cream
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least two hours in water, then drained and rinsed
- ½ to ¾ cup water, as needed
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt, to taste
Directions: Start the sour cream first so it can thicken as it sits. Put the rinsed cashews in a blender. Add ½ cup of water, lemon, vinegar, and salt. Blend on high until very smooth, adding more water if necessary. Put in the fridge until the chili is ready.
In a large pot, sauté the onion and the garlic in the oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and stir.
Add the jalapeños, celery, and bell pepper and sauté for another 5 to 7 minutes or so, until softened. Now add the can of diced tomatoes with the juice, broth, and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high.
Add the drained and rinsed beans, along with the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, cayenne, and hot sauce. Simmer the mixture until thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes, and adjust seasonings to taste if necessary. Serve with vegan sour cream, chopped green onion, and cilantro leaves, if desired.
8. Tofu Breakfast Scramble
Instead of starting your morning with eggs, bacon, and toast or oatmeal loaded with cream, try a lighter tofu scramble like this one from Food52 and ditch the saturated fats for some vegetable proteins. Tofu can be just like scrambled eggs, and the turmeric and nutritional yeast even make them yellow!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups diced vegetables like zucchini and red peppers
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) block of extra-firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 3 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
- Black pepper, to taste
Directions: Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the oil and sauté the onion until it’s soft and cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add your vegetables of choice and cook until they’re tender.
While the vegetables cook, crumble the tofu with your hands; it should be broken up quite thoroughly. Whisk together the tahini, tamari, mustard, and turmeric.
Add the tofu to the skillet, along with the tahini mixture. Mix together the ingredients thoroughly and cook until the tofu is warmed through, about 4 minutes or so. Add the nutritional yeast and mix it in well. Finally, add the spinach and cook until it’s just wilted. Divide the scramble onto four plates and top each with parsley.
9. Brussels Sprouts and Carrot Ragoût
The trick to making Brussels sprouts delicious is to not overcook them. In this ragoût from the Vegetarian Times, the sprouts are thoroughly browned over higher heat to crisp the outsides without overcooking the insides, and then removed from the pan so they don’t get mushy by the time the meal is ready to eat. Serve this over a bed of quinoa for some protein.
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ¾ pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
- ¾ pound carrots, cut into 2-inch by ½-inch sticks
- 4 ounces shallots, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
Directions: Combine orange juice and zest, vinegar, and ginger in small bowl, and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and season with kosher salt, if desired. Cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until sprouts are nicely browned, stirring frequently. Transfer to plate.
Add remaining oil to pan and heat over medium heat. Stir in carrots and shallots, and season with salt, if desired. Cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until carrots are browned and shallots are limp, stirring occasionally.
Return Brussels sprouts to pan, add garlic, and stir 15 to 30 seconds.
Add spinach to pan, pour orange mixture over top, and stir. Cover pan and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Uncover pan and cook 5 to 6 minutes more, or until liquid is reduced to a few tablespoons.
10. Vegan Carrot Jalapeño Soup
This soup from Joy The Baker is a quick, easy favorite. It’s full of beta carotene from the carrots, and the cashews add a little protein. The jalapeños balance the sweetness of the carrots. The cashews are soaked and blended into cashew cream here, but not so finely as with the vegan sour cream from earlier. The result is a toothsome texture amid creamy soup with just a bit of kick. Serve with a green salad or a grilled avocado sandwich (think grilled cheese, but replace the cheese with avocado), or both.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed and sliced
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup raw cashews soaked in 1 cup water for 1 hour
- ¾ cup water
Directions: In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and celery. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the carrots and jalapeño.
Add the vegetable stock and stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until carrots are completely soft, about 30 minutes.
Drain water from the raw cashews. In an upright blender, combine cashews and ¾ cup water. Blend until smooth. Place in a small bowl and set aside.
Once the carrots are soft, remove the soup from the heat and use an immersion or upright blender to blend smooth. Stir in the cashew cream. Taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste.