If you had to guess, how much meat do you think the average person consumes? Maybe 20 percent of their daily calories? Or 30 percent if they’re really into bacon?
In fact, the global average is just 9 percent.
That means most people already get 91 percent of their daily calories from foods other than meat. When you put that into context, a vegetarian diet doesn’t seem so restrictive—especially when there are options beyond just bland garden salads and dry veggie burgers.
It can be quite easy to cook healthy, tasty meals without chicken, beef, fish, or pork. Let these 36 recipes be your guide to discovering just how tasty a vegetarian breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert can really be.
Healthy Breakfast Recipes for Vegetarians
Most granola recipes are already vegetarian, but this one adds in quinoa for an extra dose of meat-free protein (and some crunch). Whether you douse the grain in almond milk, sprinkle it over a smoothie bowl, or eat it by the handful, you’ll be hooked.
If you crossed banana bread with French toast, you’d get this recipe. A mashed banana replaces eggs in the batter, resulting in a completely vegan dish with the same custardy softness of the original. Tip: use day-old bread—the slight staleness helps it hold up better on the griddle.
It’s every kid’s dream come true: cookies for breakfast. But these aren’t just any cookies—almonds, pecans, and oats provide plenty of fiber and protein, and sweet honey and salty tahini bind them all together without the need for oil. Grab one on your way out the door for breakfast on the go.
This bowl gets its gorgeous golden hue from turmeric, an earthy spice with some serious anti-inflammatory power. Plus, a tropical blend of mango, orange, ginger, and coconut milk gives the dish its fair share of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, too. It’s the perfect recovery meal after an early morning workout.
No need to choose between blueberry and poppyseed muffins anymore, now that you have this tasty hybrid. Each bite of these ultra-moist, gluten-free pastries bursts with flavor from the fresh fruit—and since they’re only sweetened with honey, you can feel better about eating baked goods in the morning.
You’ve never tasted oatmeal quite like this before. Baking the oat mixture in a casserole dish turns boring breakfast cereal into a lusciously thick pudding cake. The combination of warm spices, grated carrots, raisins, and pecans is reminiscent of the classic dessert—just without any of the refined sugar or flour.
Baking eggs makes it easy to get those runny, golden yolks with firm whites every time, and takes far less effort than poaching or soft boiling. A skillet full of dairy-free creamed spinach makes the ideal base—just crack in some eggs, bake for a few minutes, then serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up all the delicious sauce.
Allow us to introduce you to something life-changing: the savory waffle. When a sweet variety just won’t do, try spicy sweet potato made by using a hash brown–based batter that becomes pillowy soft in the waffle maker. Top it off with a fried egg and sliced avocado for a satisfying dish that’s sure to become a brunch classic.
Overflowing with spring vegetables, this quiche is about as close as some will get to eating a salad for breakfast. Broccolini, zucchini, asparagus, and peas make an appearance in the dairy-free filling, finished with a gluten-free almond-thyme crust that brings it all together.
Hollowed-out tomatoes as egg cups? Mind. Blown. The recipe couldn’t be simpler: all you need are some tomatoes, eggs, olive oil, a few fresh herbs, and salt and pepper. On their own, the eggs make a quick, low-carb breakfast—but serve them with green salad, and you have yourself a fast brunch.
Healthy Vegetarian Lunches
Melty mozzarella, hearty mushrooms, fresh herbs, and tangy sourdough—what’s not to like about this dish? It’s essentially an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich, and only takes a few minutes to toast in the oven. On a chilly fall day, there’s nothing more satisfying.
Your coworkers will have major food envy when they see you chowing down on this portable version of Thai tom yum soup. Prep several jars ahead of time, then take one to work and pour in hot water when you’re ready to eat. It’s that simple. Just omit the fish sauce to keep the recipe strictly vegetarian.
Traditional egg salad isn’t much of a “salad.” It doesn’t even have any veggies! Our version, however, calls for avocados, tomatoes, and radishes, and omits the mayonnaise altogether. Instead, drizzle sesame tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice over the top for a dressing, and allow the flavors of the ingredients to really shine.
Tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern salad typically made with bulgur wheat, bursts with brightness from the addition of plant-based ingredients like fresh parsley, mint, and lemon juice. Using nutty quinoa as the grain balances the flavor beautifully, and keeps the dish gluten-free, too.
Smoky harissa—a Moroccan hot chile paste—gives this carrot slaw just enough of a kick to make things interesting. Earthy chickpeas and feta cheese help balance out the heat, so even those with sensitive palates can enjoy this salad.
Celebrate spring veggies in this light, refreshing lunch. Peppery watercress, gorgeous watermelon radishes, creamy avocado, and tangy sauerkraut all have a starring role, and the mild olive oil and lemon dressing keeps the flavor of the vegetables front and center.
For something heartier, try a sprouted brown rice and lentil salad studded with herbs and dried fruit. It’s a lovely medley of flavors and colors like tart cranberries, tangy apricots, salty pistachios, sharp red onion, and invigorating mint.
Got leftover rice? Then you have no excuse not to make this warming, nourishing bowl for lunch. Though kimchi’s intense sourness can be a little much on its own, it’s just right when scrambled into rice. The runny yolk from the poached egg on top forms a kind of sauce, drenching every bite with rich goodness.
It’s a lunch that seems fancy, but comes together in a half-hour. The shredded carrot fritters feel hearty and indulgent, but really couldn’t be healthier. They become a solid base for lots of lemony pesto and a sunny-side-up egg.
Instead of the traditional ham and cheese, fill these Brittany-style crepes with greens, avocado, and goat cheese for an elegant vegetarian lunch. Bonus points for being gluten-free!
Dinner Recipes for Health-Minded Vegetarians
Creamy, rich, and cheesy—this parmesan polenta is the stuff of dreams. Seriously, it even gives homemade pasta a run for its money! Combine with olive oil–stewed cherry tomatoes and crispy kale for a complete meal.
Instead of ordering delivery, try a carb-free, veggie-based alternative on pizza night. Roasted zucchinis are actually a great substitute for crust. Here, we’ve gone for classic margherita toppings—fresh mozzarella, sweet tomatoes, and sliced basil—but other combinations would taste just as good.
You’d be more likely to find socca—Provençal chickpea flatbread—in the Nice, France market square than anywhere in the States, but we think this dish deserves more attention. It’s naturally gluten-free and chewy in the middle, with delightfully crispy edges. Round it out with a filling of fresh veggies and feta cheese, and you’ve got a winning combination for dinner.
Sometimes, you just need a big bowl of pasta. When a craving strikes, go for it—just make sure you’re getting plenty of nutrients, too. We like to douse linguine in this kale-hemp pesto sauce packed with omega-3s and antioxidants. It’s a little richer than the traditional basil kind, too.
Burgers and hot dogs aren’t the only foods you can toss on the barbecue. It’s surprisingly easy to cook vegetarian pizza on a grill, too, allowing the crust to get a wonderful char. For a light, fresh pie, top it off with olive oil, tapenade, and fresh vegetables. The recipe is vegan, but you can easily add cheese, if you’re into that.
A just-spicy-enough coconut curry envelops bok choy, broccoli, string beans, and shirataki noodles like a warm hug. And you’ll start to feel a little more content and a little more nourished with every spoonful, too. Without a single carb in sight, it’s a delicious, guilt-free dinner.
Beans and pasta might seem like an odd combination—but cannellini beans and zucchini noodles are a match made in heaven. What the veggie noodles don’t have in starch, the beans make up for, and the mild, vegetal flavors line up perfectly. Garlic and fresh herbs finish the dish.
You’ll be so captivated by the depth of flavor in the lentil, carrot, and onion filling that you won’t even miss the meat. Creamy mashed parsnips take the place of regular spuds for a little more sweetness.
Roasting the eggplant before incorporating it into this Indian-style curry brings a new smoky flavor component to the spicy entree. A small bowl of plain Greek yogurt on the side helps cut the heat, and basmati rice is also a welcome addition.
Enlist the help of the blender for purées—it’s quick, easy, and yields velvety smooth soup every time. The combination of carrots and red lentils in this recipe not only creates a vibrant amber color, but also a slightly sweet, slightly earthy flavor.
Healthy Vegetarian Dessert Options
This fluffy chocolate cake seems almost magical—it manages to rise in the oven without any eggs. The secret is the apple cider vinegar, which reacts with baking soda, bubbling up inside and forcing a rise out of the batter. It’s just like the classic science fair volcano experiment, but with dessert in the end.
In the pan, this could pass for any spice cake. Once it’s flipped over, though, the visually stunning caramelized banana topping is revealed. It’s a real showstopper that will have you drooling just thinking about it.
Something of a hybrid between cookies and cakes, seashell-shaped madeleines have a fluffy texture that make them so delectable. While there’s nothing wrong with the original vanilla flavor, they’re even better laced with cardamom and orange zest.
Soft and slightly doughy, these peanut butter cookies are everything a dessert should be. The recipe only calls for seven ingredients, so they come together quickly, and the salty-sweet flavor really can’t be beat.
“Wow” is the only word to accurately describe this thick, luxurious, dairy-free ice cream. The key is whisking the coconut custard constantly, then churning away in an ice cream maker. Real vanilla beans and swirls of tart raspberry jam don’t hurt, either.
It doesn’t get any more low maintenance than freeform tarts. If the galettes come out a little wonky on your first try, don’t worry; they’re supposed to look slightly imperfect and rustic. One bite of the fresh strawberry filling will certainly convince any doubters.
Photo credits: Paul Delmont