You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: we need to eat less meat.
That doesn’t necessarily mean we all have to become completely vegans or vegetarians, but the fact remains: meat production is killing our planet. The good news is that the tides are turning and plant-based foods are more accessible, so it’s easier than ever to replace meat in everyday meals.
Overproduction of meat is rampant in the agricultural industry. Global demand for meat is driving deforestation, depriving our environment of the trees it needs to turn carbon emissions into oxygen. This, in turn, is on top of the already exasperated global warming effect of the methane produced by overfed and cheaply fed cows. Not to mention that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.
Eating less meat helps protect the planet and your health. Red meat can make your body susceptible to many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and more – the list goes on.
You might have doubts about the affordability, taste, and complexity of meat substitutes, but they can be as cost effective and delicious as real meat itself, assuming those options are open to you. Otherwise, don’t worry. These recipes are easily adjustable and can replace any meal of the week, even when you’re too tired to cook.
Here are eight easy and delicious vegetarian meals to add to your repertoire and reduce your carbon footprint.
1. Spicy peanut noodles
This recipe is easily my favorite lazy meal, and can be made with things you might already have in your pantry. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, this recipe is easily adjustable and still deliciously delicious. If you have a peanut allergy, you can use almond butter as a substitute and leave out the chopped peanuts.
While some recipes call for more traditional noodles like rice or hand-cut noodles, this recipe is also great to use with spaghetti. And if you can’t find Laoganma at your local grocery store, you can use red pepper flakes instead.
2. Unagi Don vegan eggplant (eel on rice)
the latest vegan recipe video you must watch tbh
♬ original sound – George Lee
This recipe comes from my favorite TikTok vegan chef, Chez Jorge. Unagi no Kabayaki, aka grilled eel, is something I admittedly never tried before going vegetarian. So full disclosure: I’m not sure how well the eggplant in this recipe matches the real thing. But I can assure you that this meal is tasty, delicious and addicting. You can cook it in 30 minutes or less – and it’s a great lunch the next day. Check out the full recipe here.
3. Summer salad with 4 ingredients
Image: Flickr / insatiablemunch
Finally greens! This salad, from my personal culinary arsenal, is so simple and refreshing that you can add it to any meal. You can also find a similar recipe with homemade dressing here. Just replace the feta with nuts if you want to make it vegan!
- A head of lettuce, chopped. (Or green leaves of any sort; I personally use romaine because it’s usually the cheapest option – and I love good crunchies – but if you prefer arugula or spinach, go for it. )
- Six leaves of fresh mint.
- Two cups of watermelon, cubed.
- A Mediterranean vinaigrette.
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional).
- Chop the lettuce if you are using romaine. Make sure it is well washed and dried.
- Slice or tear the mint leaves by hand.
- Cut the watermelon into cubes and cut the rind.
- Combine lettuce, watermelon and mint. Dress the salad with any type of Mediterranean, Greek or Italian dressing. A Greek dressing with some kind of umami flavor is preferable.
- Garnish with nuts, if desired. Serve and enjoy!
4. Roasted spaghetti squash
For minimal prep and cleanup, Roasted Spaghetti Squash is the ultimate after-work, one-pot, lazy meal. This recipe from Delish is simple and easy to follow. I like to add minced garlic, garlic powder, and chili flakes for more robust flavors. You can also add cheese and spinach for a quick elevation. Tip: save the seeds for a roasted snack!
5. Vegetable curry
Image: Flickr / Marco Verch
Every vegetarian can attest to the power of a good curry. Indian cuisine has long been a staple of the meatless crowd for a reason. Curry powder is cheap and accessible, and a large pot of curry can provide meal days. Whether it’s a Japanese, Indian, or Thai curry, you’ll find a fulfilling friend in this low-cost meal.
When it comes to choosing the type of curry to prepare, it can be helpful to find the most accessible or convenient powder. Personally, I prefer Ottogi Korean curry powder, which may not be available in your grocery store. But any curry powder will work in most recipes.
Another wonderful thing about curry is that any recipe is easily adjustable when it comes to the vegetables involved. Using what’s left in the fridge or pantry is a great way to cut down on food waste and prepare a nutritious and diverse meal. Check out this simple vegetable curry recipe from Tasty.
6. Vegetarian noodle soup “chicken”
A meatless version of a classic comfort food that’s good for the soul. This recipe uses seitan as a chicken substitute, but if it’s not available to you, making your own at home is surprisingly easy.
- A packet of seitan
- Dilute Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base in 10 cups of broth according to package directions
- Half a packet of egg noodles
- Five garlic cloves, minced
- Two teaspoons of grated ginger
- Two bay leaves
- A large onion, chopped
- Half a stalk (or bunch) of celery, sliced (about three cups)
- Three medium carrots, cut into half rings
- A tablespoon of thyme
- A teaspoon of rosemary
- Pinch of lemon juice
- Vegetable oil
- Prepare the vegetables.
- Oil the bottom of a large saucepan and add the garlic, ginger and onions. Set to medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until fragrant and translucent.
- Mix the chopped celery to sweat.
- Add the carrots, thyme, bay leaves and rosemary.
- Once the vegetables are soft, add the broth and bring to a boil.
- At this point, start cooking the egg noodles in a separate saucepan, according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, drain and rinse.
- Cut the seitan into strips and add it to the soup.
- Boil until some of the water is cooked and the taste is ready. Remove from fire.
- Add a pinch of lemon juice to taste, stir in the egg noodles, serve and enjoy!
Check out a similar recipe here.
7. Zucchini bread
Image: Flickr / Meal Makeover Moms
For something sweet that feels good, bake zucchini bread. While technically not a meal, zucchini bread makes a great snack that’s easy to make and carry. You certainly don’t have to be a professional baker to do this. Check out this recipe on AllRecipes.com.
Frittatas are something I could eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This savory egg dish can use any type of veg you have on hand, and is packed with vital protein and vitamins (just ask the Cleveland Clinic).
But don’t call it an omelet. Frittatas are usually made for the sake of quantity and offer a wider range of possibilities when it comes to toppings. Unlike an omelet, cooking a frittata will require a cast iron skillet or baking dish, as it will need to be baked inside an oven.
It’s the perfect dish to serve to friends at brunch or make it yourself for meal planning purposes. Try it with zucchini, broccoli, asparagus or mushrooms – the possibilities are endless. Check out this recipe from Love and Lemons which features five different variations of the vegetable frittata.