Football Food: 6 Vegetarian Dishes Even Carnivores Will Crave

Football season is all about the first downs, fantasy leagues, and family get-togethers; however, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit it’s also largely about the food. Bring on the buffalo wings, potato skins, and guacamole — it’s time to eat. Ever since the first kickoff, it’s felt like football season was made for meat eaters (think beef chili, buffalo chicken dip, and pulled pork), but vegetarians should be able to enjoy the game, too. Fortunately, unbeknownst to many, there are a host of football-friendly vegetarian recipes currently running plays around the web, and today, we’re going to highlight a few of them.

Next time you’re organizing a party for a group of various eaters, consider making some of these vegetarian dishes that can be enjoyed by carnivores and herbivores alike. There’s a major misconception that meat-free dinners are bland and tasteless by their nature, but with these 6 highlighted dishes, you’ll see that they can actually be as hearty and indulgent as you like. Cheers to foodie touchdowns for all.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

1. Black Bean Burgers

First up: Black Bean Burgers from Cooking Light. This recipe will convince any carnivore that meat-free dinners can be good, too. Beef and turkey burgers are usually the first to go at parties, but black bean burgers are just as hearty (and fibrous), and will keep you satiated for the entirety of the game. These burgers can be perfected by anyone and don’t require any contact with raw meat. Impress your guests with how much they and you can enjoy healthy burgers made out of black beans, and who knows — maybe no one will go back to beef.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (2-ounce) hamburger bun, torn into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • ¾ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Directions: Place bun in a food processor; process 4 times or until crumbs measure about 1 cup. Transfer to a bowl. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and beans in processor; pulse 8 times or until beans make a thick paste. Scrape bean mixture into bowl with breadcrumbs. Stir in rind and remaining ingredients. With moistened hands, divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions (about ⅓ cup mixture per portion), shaping each into a 3-inch patty.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; reduce heat to medium, and cook 4 minutes or until bottom edges are browned. Carefully turn patties over; cook 3 minutes or until bottom edges are done.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

2. Spicy Vegetarian Chili

Next: chili, the perfect fall and winter dish. This dinner usually requires some browning of ground meat or chicken, but with this vegetarian recipe from Whole Foods, no raw meat is required. The chili is instead bulked up with fiber-rich vegetables, beans, and seasoning. Here’s one football-friendly dish you can feel good about eating, and it even has a kick to appease those meat eaters that like their food with a bite.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotles in adobo
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
  • 3 cups cooked red kidney beans, drained
  • 1½ cups cooked black beans, drained

Directions: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, peppers, and garlic and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until vegetables are softened but not browned. Add chipotles, oregano, cumin, chili powder and salt. Stir to blend. Add tomatoes and 4 cups water. Gently simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Add beans and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Garnish individual bowls with green onions or sour cream, if desired.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

3. Sweet Potato Skins

This next recipe from Pinch of Yum is a vegetarian twist on the tried-and-true potato skins, and don’t tell anyone, but it’s both delicious and nutritious. Everyone knows by now that sweet potatoes are considered a “superfood,” but few understand just how versatile the taters can be. This recipe turns the potatoes into a vehicle for butter, cheese, spinach, and even chickpeas, and they’ll prove that football snacks can be both indulgent and hearty.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium or large sweet potatoes
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 bag fresh baby spinach
  • ¼ cup light sour cream
  • 2 ounces light cream cheese
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Bake sweet potatoes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-60 minutes, or until tender. Cut sweet potatoes in half and let cool for 5-10 minutes. While sweet potatoes are cooling, sauté the shallots with the butter over medium heat until translucent. Add fresh spinach and heat for 2-3 minutes, until spinach has cooked down. Set aside.

Scrape the sweet potato out of the peel, leaving a thin layer inside with the peel so that it can stand up on its own. Mash the sweet potato with the cream cheese and sour cream. Stir in chickpeas, spinach, and salt and pepper. Coat potato skins with a drizzle of oil and bake for about 5 minutes to get a crispier outside. Remove from oven and fill each skin with the sweet potato mixture and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake again for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and filling is heated through.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

4. Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters are another option — especially if you have the summer squash left over from the last season. These fritters from Bon Appétit prove that vegetarian food really can be delicious, and that’s especially the case when it’s fried in a skillet. Mix things up at your next get-together and fry up veggies rather than meat and seafood. Your Sunday night dinner won’t be the most healthy, but hey, it could be much worse.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1½ pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), grated
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil

Directions: For the soy dipping sauce, mix vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

For the fritters, place zucchini in a colander set in the sink and toss with ½ teaspoons salt. Let stand 10 minutes, then wring zucchini dry in a clean kitchen towel. Place zucchini in a large bowl and gently mix in egg, flour, chives, and cornstarch; season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, drop ¼-cupfuls zucchini mixture into skillet, flattening slightly; cook until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fritters to a paper towel-lined plate; season with salt. Serve with soy dipping sauce.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

5. Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Here’s a meat-free dinner everyone can agree on: Baked Macaroni and Cheese from Alton Brown via Food Network. Vegetarian food never tasted so good. Preheat your oven and get out your butter and cheese. This sophisticated take on mac and cheese will feed everyone at your party, and won’t ostracize anyone.

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • ½ cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf. Temper in the egg. Stir in ¾ of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

6. BBQ Tofu Sliders

We know we’re pushing it with the meatheads with this last recipe, but we figured it’s worth a shot. Many meat eaters may be suspicious of these Barbecue Tofu Sliders from Tasty Kitchen, but we promise they’re delicious, and actually make the perfect (healthy) football food. So if you want to make sliders that really everyone can enjoy, challenge yourself with tofu next time a big game rolls around. You’ll be surprised how much you enjoy this meat substitute, especially when it’s doused in barbecue, and you’ll benefit from your palate expanding even more.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 10 ounces, extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed
  • 12 slider buns
  • ½ head Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: For the sliders, preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a shallow baking dish, pour barbecue sauce in dish. Cut tofu into square slices (about ½-by-2½ inches). Place tofu pieces in barbecue dish and marinate for 10 to 15 minutes. While tofu is marinating, line 2 baking sheets with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place barbecue tofu pieces on baking sheets and bake for about 30 minutes. Once cooked, pull from oven, remove from sheet and let cook for a couple of minutes.

For the coleslaw, put cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Toss with rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil until combined. For the chipotle mayo, combine all ingredients in a bowl.

To serve, spread a teaspoon of the chipotle mayo on the top and bottom of a whole wheat slider bun. Put one slice of the barbecue tofu on the bottom bun and top with about ¼ cup of coleslaw. Enjoy.

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