6 Recipes Transforming Your Favorite Meals Into Meatless Superstars

Ask most Americans what’s for dinner and their responses will likely include chicken, pork, or beef. While animal consumption may have declined a bit in the past few years, we’re definitely a country of meat eaters. According to The Wall Street Journal, the average American ate more than 70 pounds of red meat and nearly 55 pounds of poultry in 2012. These eats might contain plenty of hunger-squashing protein, but the new dietary guidelines offer a different perspective.

Released in February, the government report encourages people to focus on produce and whole grains while reducing the consumption of red and processed meats. The Washington Post examined the arguments for and against eating meat. While it’s unclear whether the animal protein is bad for us, the report acknowledged that replacing meat with more plant foods can help us reduce the total amount of calories we consume.

Even if you don’t believe the health hype, eating fewer animal products might be a good idea anyway. NBC News reported the already high price of meat, especially beef, is only going to increase. But there’s no need to mourn the loss of a juicy burger when there are so many delicious vegetarian options. We found some great recipes for vegetarian meals that taste so good, you won’t find yourself longing for anything meat-related.

Source: iStock

1. Smokey Vegetarian Beet Reubens

Turning a classic corned beef sandwich into a palatable veggie version might sound crazy, but beets work their magic to make it possible. These Smokey Vegetarian Beet Reubens from chef Todd Ginsberg, featured in Food & Wine, get hearty texture from the root veggie and deep flavor from smoked salt. With all the usual toppings, it’s every bit as crave-able as the original version.

Since the beets need more than an hour to roast, you may want to start this one a day ahead. Once the veggies are good, though, it comes together in just a few minutes. Making the Russian dressing is no more complicated than stirring together some ketchup, mayo, lemon juice, and pickle relish. Go ahead and make extra, because it’s also great on salads.


  • 1 (14-ounce) beet
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, finely crushed
  • Smoked salt, for sprinkling
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 8 slices rye bread
  • Softened unsalted butter, for brushing
  • ½ cup sauerkraut, drained and warmed
  • 6 slices of Swiss cheese

Directions: Preaheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the beet with olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper. Wrap the beet in foil and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until tender; let cool slightly. Peel beet while still warm and slice crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices. Transfer the slices to a plate and drizzle with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkle with the coriander and smoked salt.

In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with ketchup, relish, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Preheat broiler.

Arrange bread on a large baking sheet and brush with butter. Broil 6 inches away from the heat until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer 4 slices of the bread to a work surface. Flip remaining 4 slices on the baking sheet and top with beets, sauerkraut, and cheese. Broil 6 inches away from heat, until cheese melts. Close sandwiches, cut, and serve.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Simple Vegan Meatballs

A plate of noodles with tomato sauce just isn’t the same without meatballs. Thankfully, Minimalist Baker has figured out how to get the same texture and taste with these Simple Vegan Meatballs, adapted from a recipe on One Green Planet. They’re made with tempeh, vegan Parmesan, breadcrumbs, some seasonings, and a few spoonfuls of pasta sauce for an extra burst of flavor.



  • ½ cup white onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 flax egg made from 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal mixed with 2½ tablespoons water
  • 8 ounces tempeh
  • ⅓ cup vegan Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup vegan breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons marinara or tomato sauce
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • ⅓ cup breadcrumbs
  • ⅓ cup vegan Parmesan cheese

To serve

  • Marinara or tomato sauce
  • Cooked pasta
  • Additional vegan Parmesan cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large, deep skillet, sauté onion and garlic in ½ tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Add tempeh to food processor and pulse to break down. Add garlic and onion, reserving skillet, and remaining meatball ingredients, except for olive oil. Blend to combine, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Scoop out tablespoon portions of dough and roll into balls. Mix together coating ingredients in a shallow dish. Add tempeh balls, a few at a time, and roll to coat. Heat skillet over medium heat with a thin layer of oilve oil. Add coated tempeh balls in 2 batches. Cook for about 5 minutes, browning on all sides.

Add browned meatballs to a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until hot and firm to the touch. Top cooked pasta with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with additional vegan cheese, if desired. Serve.

Source: iStock

3. Pulled “Pork” Barbecue Sandwiches

Going to a cookout hoping to find some meat-free offerings usually means a plate full of potato salad and coleslaw. Try making these Pulled “Pork” Barbecue Sandwiches from Vegetarian Times at your next get together, and you’ll be the talk of the party. The secret to making this meatless meal sing is getting a flavorful sauce with the help of molasses, horseradish, and vinegar.



  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 12 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages seitan, shredded
  • 6 sandwich rolls

To serve

  • Coleslaw
  • Hot sauce, to taste

Directions: Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 7 minutes, until soft. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Stir in tomato sauce and cook 3 minutes. Add horseradish, molasses, vinegar, lemon zest, and ½ cup water. Simmer over low heat 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fold in seitan.

Fill rolls with barbecue mixture, and top with coleslaw and hot sauce, if desired.

Source: iStock

4. Vegetarian Chili

Adding beans to chili is something that makes Texans seethe, but we think they’ll relax when they get a load of this tasty version. This Vegetarian Chili from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food packs plenty of spicy and smoky flavors into an easy, one-pot method. Start by sweating the onions and garlic, then let the seasonings bloom. Add the zucchini and tomato paste, and mix in the beans and tomatoes. This hearty stew is already wonderful, but corn, green onions, a sprinkle of cheese, or a dollop of sour cream make delicious additions.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice
  • ¾ cup tomato paste
  • 1 (15½-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15½-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes

Directions: In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes. Add cumin and chile powder, season with salt and pepper, and cook until spices are fragrant, 1 minutes. Add zucchini and tomato paste.

Cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste darkens to a brick red, 3 minutes. Stir in beans and tomatoes. Add 2 cups water and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer, and cook until zucchini is tender and liquid reduces slightly, 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Source: iStock

5. Seared Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches

Vietnamese sandwiches taste so fresh and vibrant that it seems a shame to cover up those flavors with rich paté and pork. Love & Lemons’ Seared Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches are the perfect solution for vegetarians or those just hoping to cut back on the meat. A bold ginger and tamari marinade ensures the tofu has tons of flavor while the vegetables deliver some serious crunch.


 Pickled veggies

  • 1 small daikon, sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 small carrots, sliced into matchsticks
  • ½ small cucumber, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
  • ½ jalapeño, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • A few pinches of sugar
  • A few pinches of salt


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamari, or soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ lime, plus a little bit of zest
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger
  • Freshly cracked pepper


  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
  • Olive oil, for pan
  • Baguette, sliced into portions
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Sriracha, to taste

Directions: Place thinly sliced vegetables in a medium jar with vinegars, sugar, and salt. If needed, add about 2 tablespoons of water and a bit more vinegar to cover. Let chill for at least an hour. Store in fridge.

Drain tofu and slice into ½-inch thick slices. Place on a towel and pat dry to remove excess moisture. In a small bowl, whisk marinade ingredients together. Place tofu in shallow pan and pour marinade on top. Flip tofu to coat. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes, flipping occasionally.

Heat a nonstick skillet to medium-high heat. Add a little bit of oil to the pan and sear tofu, working in batches, as needed. Cook tofu for a few minutes per side, until deeply brown and caramelized around edges. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary. Assemble sandwiches with mayo, cooked tofu, pickled veggies, cilantro, and sriracha. Serve.

Source: iStock

6. Vegetable Paella With Chickpeas

Usually loaded with seafood, chicken, and sausage, paella is the ultimate all-in-one meal. And thanks to this Vegetable Paella with Chickpeas from The Kitchn, making it meatless is a cinch. Filled with protein- and fiber-rich chickpeas, it’s also every bit as satisfying. This rice dish usually takes forever to make, but the recipe speeds things up by heating the vegetable broth before stirring it into the skillet. While this combination of flavors is great, feel free to sub any of your favorite veggies. You don’t need a glass of sangria to enjoy this Spanish classic, but it won’t hurt.


  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice
  • Large pinch saffron
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • ¾ cup crushed tomatoes, fresh or canned
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 3 artichoke hearts, canned, fresh or thawed frozen, sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • ¼ cup peas, fresh or thawed frozen
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Bring 3 cups of water and large pinch of salt to a boil, add the rice, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the rice begins to soften. Drain and set aside.

Combine saffron threads and 3 tablespoons of warm water in a small bowl; set aside. Bring the broth to a simmer, then reduce heat and keep at a low simmer until needed.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet and sauté the onions until soft. Add the garlic and peppers. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Mix in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, hot paprika, saffron water, and season with salt and pepper. Let cook for a few minutes.

Fold in the green beans, artichoke slices, and chickpeas. Then stir in par-cooked, drained rice. Ladle the simmering vegetable broth over the rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has evaporated. A few minutes before the rice is fully cooked, scatter the peas over top. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve.

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