A vegetarian diet is a far cry from noshing on carrot sticks all day. In fact, there are more vegetarian-friendly recipes than ever before as plant-based eating continues to soar in popularity. From a go-to list of meat-free protein sources to our favorite vegetarian recipes, we’ve got everything you need to start a vegetarian meal plan with confidence.
What Is a Vegetarian?
The short definition of “vegetarian” is someone who doesn’t eat meat. But does that mean eggs are off the list, too? What about dairy? The truth is, vegetarianism isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet. In fact, there are many forms, including those who eat eggs but avoid dairy, those who eat dairy but avoid eggs, and those who eat both dairy and eggs (not to be confused with a vegan diet, which avoids both dairy and eggs).
Vegetarian Protein Sources
Perhaps the biggest question you’ll get time and time again when you’re eating a vegetarian diet is, “What about protein?” Thankfully, there are many forms of meat-free protein, which we’ve compiled into a handy list (feel free to share the next time you get questioned).
- Beans: From soybeans to black beans, legumes can deliver a hearty dose of protein (boiled soybeans boast 28.5g of protein in one cup). However, beans aren’t a complete protein (meaning they lack one or more essential amino acids), but can easily be completed when paired with brown rice or whole wheat.
- Chia Seeds: Don’t underestimate this small but mighty superfood seed. Two tablespoons of chia seeds deliver 4g of protein.
- Eggs: Eggs are an eggcellent choice when eating a vegetarian diet—one large egg has about 6g of protein.
- Lentils: Just like beans, lentils are an affordable but reliable protein source and should make your list of pantry staples. One cup of cooked lentils has about 18g of protein!
- Nuts: We’re just nuts about this vegetarian meal plan must-have. Whether you snack on them between meals, prefer them in butter form, or add them to your favorite salads, nuts add protein, ¼ cup can add 5g of protein on average.
- Quinoa: Contrary to popular belief, quinoa is actually a seed and not a grain, but that shouldn’t stop you from incorporating this trending food into your weekly menu. One cup has about 8g of quality protein.
- Spinach: Vegetables have protein, too! In fact, this leafy green delivers about 3g of protein per half cup.
- Tofu: If you’re eating vegetarian, you’re probably well-familiar with this bean curd favorite. But there’s something to be said for tradition: A half cup of tofu has about 10g of protein.
- Yogurt: Probiotics, calcium, a luxurious creamy texture… there are so many reasons to love yogurt, but the fact that one container of nonfat Greek-style yogurt has about 17g of protein definitely tops the list.
15 Easy Vegetarian Recipes
Before you worry that eating vegetarian might be limiting, remember that many global cuisines don’t even include meat! Here are 15 more reasons to love your veggies.
Start your meal with these easy apps.
Pizza bread meets avocado toast for this crave-worthy combo that pairs earthy mushrooms with creamy mozzarella and savory herbs.
Say “goodbye” to basic edamame. This version dresses up the snackable favorite with a sweet and spicy marinade of red pepper flakes, coconut aminos, garlic, and ginger.
Move over, chicken fingers! There’s a new dippable snack in town. Dunk crispy tofu baked in sesame oil in a sweet and pungent tahini dipping sauce.
Just when we thought there was nothing better than baked brie, this recipe takes the warm, creamy cheese a step further with dried figs, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, minced rosemary, and a generous drizzle of honey.
Tired of the same old crudité? Turn up the volume with a dip that’s sure to wow your guests. This traditional Syrian dip combines zesty red bell peppers with hearty roasted walnuts.
Vegetarian Lunch Recipes
Fill your plate with these delicious veggie recipes for a satisfying lunch.
We’re big fans of salads with layered texture, and this recipe hits all the high notes with sprouted brown rice, savory lentils, chewy dried cranberries and apricots, bright, flavorful herbs like mint and cilantro, and a light citrus dressing.
If you like latkes or are fond of fritters, sweet and savory carrot pancakes are a total win, especially when topped with sorrel pesto, a rich fried egg, and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.
A heartier take on traditional crêpes, these buckwheat flour pancakes are satisfying and versatile, but we especially like them with tangy goat cheese and crisp greens.
Yes, you cayenne enjoy tofu in many forms. This recipe calls for a sweet and spicy marinade of chili powder, cayenne pepper, orange juice, and maple syrup, and brings the whole dish together with comforting soba noodles and bok choy.
Did you know that you can still dive into a bowl of delicious cream of tomato soup without the cream? This genius, dairy-free recipe adds richness with blended chickpeas.
Vegetarian Dinner Recipes
Even omnivores will ask for seconds when you serve one of these dishes.
Not all pestos require basil. You can still whip up a lean, mean, green sauce using kale, hemp seeds, garlic, and parmesan (or nutritional yeast if you want to keep things dairy-free).
Wake up your taste buds! Fettuccini Wonder Noodles soak up a fiery red Thai curry, made with red curry paste, coconut milk, and raw honey.
Craving a light-but-filling bite? Try sautéing carrots and lentils with onions, garlic, and a handful of spices and then whizzing in the blender.
This gluten-free recipe has a pizza our heart! A gluten-free pizza crust serves as the perfect foundation for buffalo mozzarella, artichoke hearts, and green olives.
Consider our minds blown: We just discovered you can use thinly sliced eggplant as a tortilla substitute. Fill with a savory vegan filling of walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and taco seasoning, and you’ve got yourself a vegetarian fiesta.