FOOD

Your Meatless Month: The Best Whole30® Vegetarian Recipes and Tips

January 11th, 2021

Can a vegetarian do Whole30®? Yes, but there’s a catch. Since the program was designed to include animal protein, omitting ingredients like grass-fed beef, salmon, and tuna means it’s technically not a true Whole30® month. But that doesn’t mean vegetarians can’t reevaluate their relationship with food—and reap positive benefits along the way. Let our Whole30® survival tips and recipes for plant-based eaters be your guide.

Understanding the Whole30® Basics

From pro tips and guidance to tasty recipes and shopping tips, we’ve covered the Whole30® program in detail—check out our resources to get inspired. In the meantime, here’s a handy cheat sheet.

What is Whole30®?

Whole30® is a 30-day program eliminating processed foods, sugars, grains, legumes, and dairy while upping your intake of healthy fats, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and high-quality proteins. After 30 days, you spend several weeks re-introducing banned ingredients back into your diet and making note of how your body responds.

Rules to Live By (for 30 Days)

There are some nuances within the Whole30® program (like staying away from the scale and making your own condiments when possible), but here are the five ingredient categories to avoid:

  • Alcohol
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Added sugar or artificial sweeteners

Vegetarian Whole30® Tips

Speaking to Women’s Health magazine, nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix shares that avoiding legumes, grains, and dairy is the most challenging part of trying Whole30® as a vegetarian. With many vegetarian staples off-limits, you’re looking at eating a lot of eggs, which might become boring week after week. To approach the month a bit differently, here are a few suggestions from the Whole30® book “It Starts With Food.”

  1. Whole30® Tip 1: If you follow a pescetarian diet (or are open to including fish for the month) Whole30® recommends you rely on seafood—like wild-caught salmon, sardines, and cod—for your protein needs rather than plant-based options that aren’t part of the program. This approach will let you reintroduce plant and dairy-based protein sources after the 30 days end to truly evaluate how they work for you.
  2. Whole30® Tip 2: If fish is a no-go, focus on dairy. Yes, that means you’re only following four of the five guidelines above, but as a vegetarian it’s all about tailoring the program to suit your needs.
  3. Whole30® Tip 3: Another suggestion is to pick legumes as your protein of choice for the month and incorporate some beans and tofu in your meals. Just rotate them so you’re not eating both every day.

Bottom line: make the modifications that will work for you. If you’re eager to give the full program a go (and are open to eating fish), do that. If you’re sticking to plant-based protein sources, keep either the dairy or legumes category in your diet with the understanding that it’s not a complete Whole30® experience.

Must-Have Vegetarian Whole30® Ingredients

When swapping meat for plant-based protein sources, these ingredients are your best bet:

  • Limited dairy from pastured, organic, fermented sources (like yogurt and kefir)
  • Minimally processed, fermented soy products like tempeh or natto
  • Edamame
  • Non-fermented soy (extra-firm tofu) eaten in rotation
  • Legumes (soaked for 12-24 hours, rinsed, then boiled for at least 15 minutes to reduce potential anti-nutrient and inflammatory compounds)
  • Hemp or pea protein powders

Eat Your Whole30-Compatible Vegetables

Good news, vegetarians! The list of vegetables that are welcome on the Whole30® program is lengthy. Load up on these:

  • Acorn squash
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Butternut squash
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Delicata squash
  • Garlic
  • Greens (beet, mustard, turnip, collard)
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce (bibb, butter, red)
  • Onion
  • Rutabaga
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Sweet Potato
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato
  • Turnip
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

Get Prepped: Whole30® Vegetarian Shopping List

These protein picks from ThriveMarket.com are both Whole30®-compatible and vegetarian. Head here for an even more expansive shopping list.

Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein

Nutiva’s powder offers 15g of protein per serving (and is an easy way to keep hunger at bay). Thrive Market member Susie from Texas says “this is a nice addition to smoothies” and appreciates that the flavor doesn’t overwhelm other ingredients.

Now Foods Organic Pea Protein

Here’s another powder that gives you 15g of protein per serving—all sourced from nutritious non-GMO peas.

Mori-Nu Extra Firm Silken Tofu

This extra-firm tofu is made with non-GMO soybeans that are tracked from seed to shelf. The box is shelf-stable and doesn’t need to be refrigerated until after opening.

Cultures for Health Tempeh Starter Culture

Make your own tempeh from scratch with this convenient kit that kickstarts the fermentation process to make a tasty soybean cake that delivers both protein and vitamin B12.


9 Easy Whole30® Vegetarian Recipes

Obviously there are eggs, but we also have recipes for a modern green bean casserole, breakfast sweet potatoes, and a fancy-yet-easy mushroom dish for a Whole30®-inspired date night in.

Berry Breakfast Sweet Potato

Rev up your morning with a wholesome Whole30® recipe you can make in the microwave. The spud is topped with almond butter, berries, and organic hemp hearts.

Breakfast Casserole With All the Veggies

Simply nix the bacon and you’ll have a make-ahead, veggie-forward breakfast, brunch, or lunch dish that’s filling for the whole family.

Creamy Tahini Dressing

It’s always easier to control Whole30® ingredients when you make condiments yourself. Dress up your greens with a zippy blender sauce made using lots of fresh herbs (like basil, parsley, and dill), garlic, lemon, and tahini for rich, nutty flavor and creamy texture.

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole isn’t just a holiday side. Cashews and coconut milk create a creamy-without-the-cream texture, while shallots and mushrooms add more heft to the dish.

Keto Mashed Cauliflower

Say goodbye to mashed potatoes (for now) and hello to silky mashed cauliflower. This side works for everyone, and you can make it a meal by adding sautéed tempeh or tofu on top as part of a modified vegetarian Whole30® plan.

Walnut Milk

Try something new with your nut milk. Just give your walnuts an overnight soak for a rich and dairy-free drink to enjoy in coffee and smoothies.

Date Night In: Portobello au Poivre

This Whole 30® vegetarian dinner will impress carnivores too. Our meatless version of steak au poivre uses portobello mushrooms as the main event. A thick coconut milk sauce feels pretty indulgent while still being vegan, vegetarian, and Whole30®-compatible.

Sous Vide Egg Bites

If you’re working out while doing Whole 30® (or just need some compatible snacks on hand), sous vide egg bites deliver quick protein and can be made ahead and refrigerated for the week.

Whole 30® Shakshuka

One of the best things about shakshuka (a Moroccan dish of eggs simmered in tomato sauce) is it’s completely appropriate to serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s also quick to throw together—just 15 minutes from start to finish.

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Nicole GulottaNicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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