In the eight years that I was a vegetarian, I often found that my veggie-centric preferences were the afterthought of the party. More often than not, menus offered one item either heavy in carbs or lacking in sustenance, and rarely anything wildly exciting. As a catering chef, I’ve guiltily and silently watched and assisted as my chef would arrange random side dishes and vegetables on a plate for the couple who RSVP’d vegetarian. Although I now refer to myself as a “reformed vegan” (I’ll eat anything), I’ve learned that a meal can be plant-based, balanced, flavorful, and filling. Here are 10 meatless recipes that are worthy of entrée status and taste great.
Aloo Gobi recipe and photo from Chowhound
This simple vegetable stew with vibrant Mexican flavors takes inspiration from pipíans, Mexico’s mole-like sauces, thickened with seeds. Here, a combination of almonds and sesame seeds gives the sauce body and richness. Get our Mexican Vegetable Stew recipe.
2. Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pies with Gouda Biscuit Topping
Pot pie reminds me of my mom and my childhood. This variation on the classic comfort dish pairs sautéed mushrooms with sage, thyme, and clove to create an earthy, meaty flavor. Lentils provide protein, and the warm Gouda buttermilk biscuit topping completes this hearty meal that’s perfect for a cool night.
Photo and recipe from Bon Appétit
3. Smoky Leek and Hazelnut Tart
This rich tart features creamy cooked leeks baked in a flaky crust with milk and cheese, then topped with hazelnuts.
Photo and recipe from Vegetarian Society
3. Cauliflower Purée and Spinach Lasagna
The cauliflower purée, similar to a creamy béchamel sauce, is layered between no-boil noodles and topped with wilted spinach and cheese. With just a handful of ingredients, this recipe is both easy and filling.
Photo and recipe from Huffington Post
4. Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
This meat-free, dairy-free hot dish still has all of the flavor that makes a traditional shepherd’s pie so irresistible and indulgent. Onions, carrots, celery, and cloves are sautéed with chickpeas and lentils for an ample base. Then, the casserole is topped with a mash of rich root vegetables and seasoned breadcrumbs for a crisp finish.
Photo and recipe from Jamie Oliver
5. Quinoa Veggie Burger with Roasted Red Pepper Relish
Quinoa is a grain high in protein, and when cooked, it has a nutty crunch and flavor. This “burger” mashes cannellini beans with baby arugula and quinoa, and is seasoned with the traditional binders of egg and breadcrumbs. Last but not least, it’s topped with a bright red pepper and cumin relish.
Photo and recipe from Saveur
6. Green Risotto
This recipe takes Italian risotto and lacquers it with a creamy spinach and basil pesto. After topping the risotto with Parmesan cheese and pine nuts, you’ll find it is quite easy to be green.
Photo and recipe from EatingWell
Peanut butter is a great source of protein, and when blended with soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, it makes for a rich Asian-inspired sauce to go over noodles. English cucumbers add a cool, refreshing layer to this easy sweet-and-spicy dish.
Photo and recipe from Chowhound
8. Spicy Seitan Lettuce Wraps
Made from gluten flour, seitan has a chewy texture similar to meat; it’s supereasy to cook with, and is incredibly versatile to season for any dish. These lettuce wraps make for a filling lunch or a light dinner, and the avocado radish salad and ginger-pickled cucumbers make the meal memorable.
Photo and recipe from Ripe Cuisine
9. Tofu “Chorizo”
This technique for cooking tofu gives it the texture of ground meat. Seasoned with chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and garlic, it is a whole new way to view tofu.
Photo and recipe from the New York Times
Nyanyika Banda has worked as a chef for over 15 years in restaurants in Massachusetts, San Francisco, and New York, and as a recipe tester for a national publication. She currently runs a ramen popup and catering business in Minnesota while pursuing a degree in Food Studies.