Our Best Show-Stopping Vegetarian Recipes
Our Best Show-Stopping Vegetarian Recipes
There are a thousand different ways to make cauliflower, but one of the most satisfying is, thankfully, also the simplest. Pair this hearty side with your favorite protein, or go the other way and add a simple side salad for a veggie-forward—if not entirely meatless—meal.
Winter Greens Pesto Pizza
Hearty collard greens pack this pesto with vitamin K, an essential nutrient for bone health. Buttery Castelvetrano olives make any extra pesto perfect for adding big flavor to pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches; substitute any green olive if you can’t find them.
Jumbo stuffed shells are your weeknight answer to homemade lasagna: Instead of endless layers, spoon a single vegetable mixture into each shell, and bake 12 minutes or until the cheese melts. Shells are also easy and fun to serve—you’ll know exactly how many equal a serving. This vegetarian version turns a French summer stew into a hearty filling, a great way to double up on vegetables in a pasta dish. Use leftover chickpeas to bulk up any summer vegetable or grain salad.
Sesame-Ginger-Chickpea-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Sesame, especially toasted sesame oil, is a key flavor in many Asian cuisines. It makes sense that tahini would fit here too, especially as a finishing touch for roasted sweet potatoes with Sriracha.
Cauliflower Gnocchi With Lemon-Caper Sauce
On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 8 equal pieces; cover with a clean kitchen towel until ready to use. Roll each piece of dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut ropes into 1-inch pieces, and transfer to 2 large rimmed baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Brush tops of gnocchi lightly with oil. Bake in preheated oven until browned on the bottom and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to 4 serving bowls.
Stuffed Carnival Squash with Butternut Lattice
Each serving of this vegetarian main dish is an entire carnival squash, making for an easy and beautifully presented meal. If you'll be pressed for time when cooking, you can easily make a batch ahead and bake just before serving.
Spaghetti Squash Lasagna with Spinach
Swirl up a forkful of this rich, creamy play on lasagna. Packed with the same great flavors of the traditional dish, our veggie-packed version packs in nutrition while slashing carbs.
Braised Butternut Squash "Short Rib"
Braised short ribs are an iconic comfort food, but that doesn’t mean vegetarians have to miss out! In this recipe, butternut squash (our vitamin A-packed, cold-weather favorite) stands in for beef, getting a long, slow braise in a savory, herb-heavy vegetable broth, yielding fork-tender “steaks” that get smothered in the quick-simmer sauce. It’s a showstopper that will convert the most fervent carnivores at your dinner table.
Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna
Silky roasted butternut squash stands in for noodles in this more nutritious take on the starchy pasta casserole.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Pine Nuts
For a bit of showmanship, bring the whole cauliflower to the table, and then "carve" and dress with the vinaigrette, pomegranate arils, pine nuts, and parsley.
Lentil Cakes With Mint Yogurt
Precooked lentils are a convenience item we love, saving nearly 30 minutes of simmering. Look for plain, steamed lentils (such as Melissa's), in the grain aisle. The food processor not only combines the patty ingredients; it coarsely chops the lentils so the finished cakes will hold their shape in the pan. While we love fat-free and reduced-fat Greek yogurt, go ahead and use full-fat here for a richer mouth feel and less tang in the sauce.
Acorn Squash With Wild Rice Stuffing
This two-for-one dish of wild rice stuffing and roasted acorn squash is a sure crowd-pleaser. You can cut the stuffed halves into quarters so they don’t take up as much room on the plate. Wild rice takes about as much time to cook as long-grain brown rice, which you can use as a substitute. You can also make the rice ahead and refrigerate. Reheat with a splash of water before adding to the sausage mixture.
Curry-Ginger-Mint Tofu Steaks With Cabbage Slaw
Not a tofu-eater yet? This recipe will win you over. Protein-packed tofu steaks get a quick dusting in curry powder and cornstarch and sear up perfectly crisp—no frying required. We used madras curry powder in this recipe, which is a little spicier than regular curry powder; for a homemade hack, stir together regular curry with 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper.
Vegan Lentil Chili
Reminiscent of your classic chili, this vegan lentil chili is rounded out with sugar, vinegar, and spices. The lentils shine, but aren’t overwhelmingly earthy. The beans and tomatoes give the chili hearty texture, plenty of protein, and nearly half of your daily fiber requirement. Serve with cornbread and play with your toppings—add red onion, or avocado, even Fritos to the mix.
Hasselback Butternut Squash
Sharp mustard, sweet maple, and aromatic brown butter gussy up fall-favorite butternut squash in this easy recipe. Sage may be an obvious choice for butternut, but the pairing is a classic for a reason. In this dish, brown butter crisps the sage up just a bit, the product of a happy test kitchen accident.
Spaghetti Squash With Spinach Pesto and Roasted Lemons
This pesto packs a flavorful punch—it’s perfect for adding bold flavor to low carb spaghetti squash. Instead of roasting squash halves, we opted to slice the squash in rings; this yields longer, twirlable strands that mimic your favorite traditional pasta. Because the greens and herbs in the pesto are blanched first, you can make it a couple of days in advance and store it in the refrigerator. This dairy- and gluten- free vegan recipe is perfectly delicious as-is, but if you want to take it to the next level, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese takes it over the top.
Spicy Tofu Curry
Look for lemongrass—a long, slender, woody herb with an herbal lemon flavor that’s common in Thai curries—near other herbs in well-stocked markets or at an Asian market. Leftover lemongrass will keep the the refrigerator for at least a month or in an airtight container in the freezer for up to six months.
Vegetarian Cherry-and-Tomato Tartare
Traditional tartare is an indulgent delight of varying raw textures, which we replicate here using cherries, walnuts, and a surprising mixture of orange and cream. Try it on baguettes with a grassy olive oil for contrast, or plate it among a bed of bitter greens (such as arugula) for a salad.
Aglio E Olio with Roasted Tomatoes
This vegetarian pasta dish looks special, but it’s doable for a weeknight dinner if you roast and refrigerate the tomatoes in advance. You can store them in an airtight container up to two days.
Chickpea and Winter Vegetable Stew
This hearty, winter-worthy stew packs tender root vegetables, nutty chickpeas, and fluffy couscous into one comfort-filled bowl of goodness. Harissa is a spicy and aromatic chile paste used in Moroccan cooking; it packs a lot of heat and is extremely versatile, great with roasted vegetables, grilled meats, and anything served over brown rice or other neutral whole grains. Several of the reviewers commented that the stew is delicious without the harissa, but if heat is your beat then we highly recommend the addition. Use any variety of hearty root vegetables—parsnips and sweet potatoes make a lovely addition to this stew if you prefer a sweeter profile.
Cauliflower Salad with Tahini Dressing
Make this recipe even easier by picking up riced cauliflower from the store; you’ll usually find it in the freezer section and sometimes with the prepped produce. This is a great dish to make ahead of time; add the fresh herbs just before serving.
Orange, Tofu, and Bell Pepper Stir-Fry
Fresh orange juice perks up this speedy stir-fry, becoming a sticky, glossy sauce for the colorful vegetables. A quick coat in cornstarch helps the tofu develop a supercrisp crust without needing to fry in lots of oil. It's a good idea to have every element at the ready by the stove before you start to cook, as the stir-fry will come together very quickly. You can use bell peppers or any vegetable you have on hand, such as broccoli florets, thinly sliced carrots, or sliced snap peas.
Falafel, Feta, and Tomato Salad
Think of chopped falafel as a tasty, protein-packed crouton—it adds texture to the salad and instantly turns a simple side into a substantial main dish. We chose a Mediterranean theme here, but you could use any nuts, cheeses, or vegetables you like.
Chili-Glazed Tofu over Asparagus and Rice
Rarely is tofu described as irresistible, but this quick weeknight recipe is just that. The key is a concentrated sweet and savory sauce with pungent fresh ginger, spicy chili sauce, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. A touch of sugar balances the sauce and helps it caramelize on the tofu. No protein could be quicker or easier to cook: three minutes on each side is all you need. To press the tofu, line a plate with paper towels, arrange the planks of tofu in a single layer on top, then top with more paper towels and a second plate. Let stand 10 to 20 minutes.
Fall Vegetable Curry
This one-dish vegetarian main hits all the right notes: warm, hearty, and (perhaps best of all) ready in under 30 minutes. If Indian curries seem out of reach, start here. Earthy and fragrant, Madras curry powder is the only spice you need. While you could incorporate several vegetables into the curry, we find that the sweet potato, cauliflower, and tomato combo creates the perfect balance. For a richer, creamier curry, stir in about 1/4 cup light coconut milk just as the curry finishes cooking. If you’d like a little heat, stir in 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper with the curry powder.
Baked Eggplant with Mushroom-and-Tomato Sauce
This cheesy mushroom and eggplant dish mimics classic eggplant Parmesan, but it's baked in the tomato sauce until the vegetables are incredibly tender. Serve over pasta for a main dish, or try it as a filling side, with crusty bread for dipping, to accompany a light main course. Broiling the eggplant slices first will soften the flesh and remove the bitterness that can come from the seeds. Sautéing the onion and mushroom mixture first before baking removes moisture so the final product is rich, not watery. For a bit of extra texture, sprinkle coarse breadcrumbs over the dish before the final five minutes of baking.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Poblano Pizza
This Mexican-inspired twist on flatbread is packed with oven-roasted veggies, delivering almost a third of your daily fiber goal. Buy precubed butternut squash to trim down your prep time; swap goat cheese for the queso fresco, if you prefer.
Lasagna Rolls with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Microwaved lasagna? Oh, yes! You'll love everything about this nontraditional take on the classic Italian dish, packaged into tasty pockets of portion-savvy pasta rolls. The sauce gets a sweet-and-tangy spin from bottled roasted red peppers, a snappy convenience item that makes this homemade sauce ready in a flash. Make a double batch and use the extra for pizzas, pastas, and sandwiches. For a thicker sauce, drain a bit of the liquid from the bottled peppers. Stuffed with fresh spinach, mushrooms, onion, basil, and cheese, you won’t want to miss out on making this fun take on a classic Italian dish.
Gemelli Salad with Green Beans, Pistachios, and Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
Less is more when it comes to quality ingredients. The simple combination of tender haricots verts, savory Parmesan cheese, nutty pistachios, bright lemon, and fresh thyme truly make this 30-minute pasta great for weeknights—but elegant enough for a weekend dinner party. Haricots verts are thinner and more tender than classic green beans; if you can't find them, use the regular variety, but add them to the pasta a few minutes earlier, as they take longer to cook. Use a good quality extra-virgin olive oil; try something bold and fruity to enhance the fresh, simple flavors.
Poblano, Mango, and Black Bean Quesadillas
Think of quesadillas like two slices of bread: blank canvases for any combination of flavors. Here, juicy mango complements the Poblano heat. You won’t know how hot your chile is until you take a bite; cool it down with a dollop of sour cream if you like. These quesadillas are made in the broiler—not in the skillet—for fast, easy cooking. You can also make multiple quesadillas at once. For flavors beyond Mexican, try shredded mozzarella, basil, and thinly sliced tomato for an Italian spin, or slices of fresh apple and Muenster cheese.
Phyllo Pizza with Feta, Basil, and Tomatoes
This crisp summer tart is a perfect light summer entrée. You could also cut the pizza into smaller squares for an easy appetizer guests will love. Frozen phyllo can be finicky; let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes to thaw before you start to layer the sheets. The advantage here is that you don’t need to cut or roll the sheets; simply stack and top as you would any pizza. A trio of cheese—mozzarella, feta, and Parmesan—makes this tart extra special. We recommend shredded part-skim mozzarella rather than fresh here, as the latter would weigh down the delicate crust.
Grilled Portobello, Bell Pepper, and Goat Cheese Sandwiches
Portobello mushrooms have long been the de facto burger patties of the vegetarian world, but they can be rather tasteless on their own. A balsamic and garlic marinade, plus a good sear on the grill, makes these mushrooms outstanding—the perfect centerpiece for a summer sandwich. Multicolored bell peppers share the same marinade and get a dose of fresh basil after hitting the grill. A pungent, creamy goat cheese spread complements the balsamic beautifully. The sandwiches take a final trip to the grill so the rolls can get golden and crisp before serving. Serve with simply grilled fresh tomato wedges.
Fontal Polenta with Mushroom Sauté
Earthy, rich, and flavorful—this dish is packed full of savory goodness. Umami notes from the exotic mushroom blend (plus more creminis) and the savory fontal cheese quench hearty cravings without a speck of meat. This dish is rich, which makes it a great show-off recipe for a festive brunch or easy dinner party. It's also easy, ready in just 20 minutes, and perfect for a cozy, comforting dinner on a cool night. Fontal cheese is assertive, but the mushroom sauce tempers those strong flavors. Instant polenta makes this gourmet treat come together quickly. If you have the time to invest, you can use slower-cooking yellow corn grits in the place of the polenta.
Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad with Goat Cheese
This is no ordinary pasta salad. It’s an elegant, entertaining-worthy dish that expertly builds flavor through simple techniques and well-chosen ingredients. Cherry tomatoes and asparagus roast until toasty and slightly caramelized; herbes de Provence lend sophisticated flavor notes; briny kalamata olives and pungent goat cheese add tangy, salty layers. You can easily swap in whole-wheat penne or rotini to boost the nutrition; the bold flavors of the salad will stand up to the earthy pasta. Leftovers are great refrigerator-cold, so this makes a great brown-bag dish. Arugula’s slightly peppery bite is fantastic, but you can also use kale, spinach, or spring mix instead.
Veggie Bowl with Tofu Scramble
Korean-Inspired Sautéed Tofu
The beauty of tofu is its versatility, with a neutral, but slightly nutty, flavor that lends it the ability to soak up all the sweet-salty-tangy flavors of this simple, saucy dish. Draining and pressing the tofu yields a crisp crust when panfried; be sure to build in a bit of extra time for this step. For the best sear and crispiest crust, make sure both pan and oil are good and hot before you add the tofu, otherwise it will soak up the oil without getting that delicious and beautiful golden crust. Fresh ginger and garlic add bright, peppery notes to the sauce, creating a perfect complement to wilted greens and nutty brown rice.
Eggplant, Tomato, and Smoked Mozzarella Tart
With only 260 calories per serving, this tart is perfect for anytime of the day and easily made ahead. The olive oil–based crust is crisp and crackerlike, with a hit of wheat germ for subtle nuttiness, making a great contrast in texture for tender roasted vegetables. Smoky cheeses can sometimes overwhelm dishes, but not so here: The smoked mozzarella has a delicate, clean flavor that perfectly complements the fresh eggplant, tomatoes, and trio of herbs. Leftovers work beautifully as tomorrow's lunch or breakfast; enjoy either hot or cold.
Tuscan White Bean Soup with Escarole
Hearty but not heavy, this brothy, chock-full–of–veggies soup is sure to satisfy. It features escarole, a mildly bitter green with heads that look like fluffy, ruffly-edged romaine lettuce. If you can’t find escarole, substitute an equal amount of coarsely chopped lacinato or red kale, Swiss chard, or spinach. We add a half-teaspoon of crushed red pepper to complement the greens and creamy Great Northern beans with a fair amount of heat; decrease the amount if you’re sensitive to spice. A chunk of Parmesan cheese rind simmers in the soup, contributing lots of richness and depth; you can substitute a tablespoon of white miso if you don’t have a cheese rind stashed in your fridge or freezer.
Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach and Pine Nuts
Gnocchi are small dumplings made most often from potato, flour, and egg. You might first experience it swimming in a rich tomato sauce, as is customary for this Italian pasta alternative. In this dish, however, we're keeping the sauce light but still fairly decadent. Browned butter is luxurious whenever it's used. In this lighter gnocchi recipe, it delivers earthy tasting notes, as do the pine nuts. Fresh spinach gently wilts under the heat of the freshly cooked gnocchi, which makes it perfectly tender. Look for whole-wheat gnocchi, like Gia Russa, in the pasta section of your grocery store.
Curried Couscous with Broccoli and Feta
This dish comes together beautifully and quickly—the perfect weeknight dinner on the fly. Fluffy couscous is ready in just 10 minutes and makes a lovely bed for carrots, broccoli, and nutty chickpeas, with a hit of salty-sweet goodness from tangy feta cheese and plump raisins. Ginger and curry powder season this entire dish with ease; you'll love the way this zesty, bright combination of flavors livens up the dinner table. Buy the bagged florets to shave minutes off prep time, and use a box grater to shred the carrots.
Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili
Keep the thermostat down and lose the parka. This vegetarian chili is all you need to keep warm if it's chilly outside. This healthy, nutritious, and hearty vegetarian staple is packed with plant protein thanks to pinto beans, cannellini beans, and red kidney beans. Butternut squash lends a creamy luscious texture, as well as a delicate hint of sweetness against the heat from the red pepper and paprika. Top with thinly sliced green onions and a dollop of sour cream if the heat is too much. We also recommend a hearty portion of cornbread to sop up every last drop. It's really just that good.
Black-eyed Pea-Stuffed Acorn Squash
Use up a big batch of savory, Smoky Black-Eyed peas on another weeknight with by binding the peas with tangy goat cheese, chopped bell pepper, and herbs and spooning into roasted butternut squash halves. The stuffed halves make for a beautiful presentation, especially when sprinkled with toasted breadcrumbs. The stuffed squash won’t be vegetarian because of the ham hock in the cooked peas, but you can leave this out if you like.
Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce
Homemade enchilada sauce adds authentic flavor that makes this dish truly memorable. Making it is an easy process that starts with dried ancho chiles, which provide medium heat, slightly smoky flavor, and a pleasing mix of fruity and bitter notes. Look for bags of dried ancho chiles on the Latin foods aisle of your supermarket; sometimes, you’ll also find them in the produce section. If you want a spicier sauce, toss a raw (whole) jalapeño or serrano pepper in the blender. Be sure to warm the tortillas according to package instructions; they’ll be more pliable when warm and less likely to tear.
Rösti Casserole with Baked Eggs
You'll love this Rösti Casserole with Baked Eggs. Why? Because rösti (pronounced RAW-stee or ROOSH-tee) is basically an irresistible form of hash browns, consisting of shredded potatoes that are cooked until browned and crisp along the edges. We have whittled down the calories in this traditional Swiss dish and added our own spin with a little grated turnip thrown in the mix for earthy-sweet flavor, plus a good dose of Greek yogurt for tang and extra protein. And we’ve turned the whole thing into a casserole that includes runny-yolked eggs. Serve with a colorful tossed salad for an easy brunch or breakfast-for-dinner option.
Lentil-Barley Burgers with Fiery Fruit
These bunless burgers are wonderfully hearty, with a crisp exterior and chewy-creamy interior. Though they do admittedly require a good bit of prep, the results are well worth it (just read the reviews!). For whole-grain bonus points, use cooked whole-grain (also labeled “hulled”) barley instead of pearled barley, and swap in whole-wheat panko for traditional. You may just love these burgers so much that you’ll make a double batch next time; reviewers have noted that they freeze well. The fruit salsa is, as the recipe title states, fiery—the heat comes from the minced serrano chile. For a milder version, seed the chile, leave it out, or opt for a milder jalapeño or Fresno chile.
Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing
This dish is bright, creamy, and packed with fresh veggies. The more veggies you add, the further this easy pasta dish will stretch. It's great as a make-ahead lunch or dinner, too. Just keep in mind the spice grows stronger the longer it sits. If you have a sensitive palate, you might want to scale back on the ground red pepper. Just add a dash and stir well before you eat. If you prefer to make this dish a whole-grain option, skip the orzo (or look for whole-wheat orzo) and use farro instead. It will hold up especially well with the buttermilk dressing.
Potato, Turnip, and Spinach Baeckeoffe
Translated from the French Alsatian dialect, baeckeoffe means "baker's oven," as it was traditionally a dish that was brought to the local baker to cook in his oven. Classic versions are loaded with meat, but our vegetarian riff is equally hearty and rich. Mushroom caps deliver all the umami goodness you want from meat but without the saturated fat and calories. Onions, potato, spinach, and turnips load this dish full of hearty vegetables. Gruyère cheese is assertive, and since it goes on top to make a cheesy crust, you'll want to substitute with something equally firm, like fontina or Havarti. Serve with a oaky white wine.
Vegetable "Meat" Loaf
Vegetarians and carnivores alike will love this ingenious twist on meat loaf. The meaty-flavored, umami-rich recipe received our Test Kitchen's highest rating. Though it does involve a few steps, they all add up to incredible flavor: Roasted bell peppers are slightly smoky, sweet, and silky; sautéed creminis have a concentrated mushroom flavor; and toasted walnuts offer hearty texture. Since you’ll already have your food processor out for finely chopping the mushrooms, you can also use it to chop the onion and walnuts. Do what you can to steal away a portion of leftovers into the fridge; it will make for a great “meat” loaf sandwich the next day.
Acorn Squash with Pomegranate and Kale Tabbouleh
This is a fun dish to "carve" at the table, as each person gets one wedge to enjoy as a side dish. For an entrée take, give each person half a squash.
Wednesday: Butternut-Cauliflower Coconut Curry
A range of textures—crunchy peas, tender vegetables, and silky coconut broth—makes this cool-weather main incredibly satisfying. The chickpea mixture can also be a delicious gluten-free snack: After baking, toss with a little kosher salt, ground cumin, and ground red pepper.
Perfect for Meatless Mondays, this eggplant parmesan recipes is not only delicious, but it's also lighter than traditional chicken and veal options. Make eggplant Parmesan instead of lasagna, and you'll skip many unnecessary carbs and grams of fat, but you still get to enjoy all the ooey-gooey cheesy goodness. When breading the eggplant, use whole-wheat panko instead of regular panko. The whole-wheat version holds up better during cooking, and it won't become soggy as quickly. Don't skimp on the fresh basil, and be sure to save enough cheese for the final crispy, cheesy layer.