Taking a Break From Meat? Try These 6 Plant-Based Meals

If you’re interested in going meat-free part or all of the time, you’ll need fresh recipes. Try these fast, delicious options.

Updated on October 3, 2023

a fall feast
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Have you ever thought about reducing the amount of meat you eat on a regular basis?

You may have heard about the benefits to eating less meat or going entirely meatless. Plant proteins like soy, beans, legumes, and nuts are often cheaper than animal products. Plus, eating excessive amounts of animal protein, especially red meat, is linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

If you’re like many people, though, putting a plant-based diet into practice can be difficult. For starters, you might feel that plant foods will be less satisfying than meat. You may also be accustomed to cooking meat and not have any reliable vegetarian recipes at hand.

The good news is that with a little research and practice, you can make satisfying, filling plant-based meals. Read on for simple, meatless recipes from Anne Brock, RDN, LD, a specialist in weight loss and diabetic education at West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell, Idaho.

Sweet potato patties on a plate
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Savory sweet potato patties

To make sweet potato patties, roast one medium sweet potato at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Allow it to cool and remove the skin. Mash together with one can of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), drained and rinsed. Mix in 1 tablespoon of flour, one egg, and herbs and spices of your choice. 

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and warm over medium heat. Form the potato mixture into patties and sauté for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

“This recipe is very versatile,” says Brock. Play around with different mix in combinations. For a slightly spicy option, try cumin, smoked paprika, and cayenne. You could also add in another veggie, like diced onion or sautéed and chopped spinach. You can even substitute the egg for a "flax egg": Combine 1 tablespoon of water with 3 tablespoons ground flax seed. Let it sit for 5 minutes before adding to the patty mix.

Brock suggests serving your sweet potato patty on top of a salad or with sautéed veggies. Other options? “Wrap the patty in lettuce or eat on its own, topped with tomatoes, avocado, and a little bit of low-sodium barbeque sauce,” she says.

vegetable stir fry
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Incredibly simple stir-fry

“You can add so many different vegetables to a stir-fry and create whatever concoction you want,” says Brock. This is her go-to mix:

  • Slice or chop bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and tomatoes. Open a can of baby corn and chickpeas.
  • Warm a pan to medium heat and add 4 to 6 tablespoons of water.
  • When the water starts to steam, add vegetables according to how long it takes them to cook. Start with the carrots and broccoli. When they start to soften, add the bell peppers, baby corn, and tomatoes. Add small amounts of water as needed. Cook until all veggies are tender. Add chickpeas at the end and sauté until warm.

Serve this stir-fry over brown rice or quinoa with a drizzle of teriyaki, low-sodium soy sauce or sriracha, if you want to add some spiciness. This recipe is extremely flexible. Use whatever veggies you have on hand and adjust the order depending on what takes the longest to cook. You can skip the chickpeas and opt for a different bean or protein, such as sautéed tofu or a scrambled egg.

Salad with greens, vegetables and quinoa
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Protein-packed salad

Salads can add variety to your diet, allowing you to experiment with new flavors, colors, and textures. Start with a mix of greens and your favorite chopped veggies. Then add ingredients from other food groups such as:

  • Grains: Try quick-cooking bulgur, farro, or millet.
  • Nuts and seeds: Consider cashews, almond flaxseeds, or sunflower seeds.
  • Protein: Edamame, cooked lentils, peas, and beans make for great toppers.

Here’s one combination to get you started: Mix baby spinach, cooked quinoa, raw broccoli florets, dried cranberries, and chopped pistachios. Make a homemade dressing using equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, chopped shallot, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Buffalo cauliflower nuggets
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Homemade “chik’n” nuggets

You can typically find meat substitutes in the frozen aisle of the supermarket in the form of patties or nuggets. While meat-free, many of these products are highly processed and may be high in sodium and fat. For a simpler meat substitute you can make at home, try these meatless “chik’n” nuggets made from cauliflower.

Steam one head of cauliflower for about 8 minutes. It should be soft but with enough consistency that it can still be chopped. After it’s cool enough to touch, place on paper towels and pat dry. Break up the florets and place in a food processor.

Add one egg, half a cup of bread crumbs, and your choice of seasonings, like garlic powder, parsley, and paprika. Combine until well-mixed.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Shape the mixture into nuggets and place them onto a cookie sheet that’s lightly coated with olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve as a healthy side dish or a satisfying snack. To spice them up, toss in hot sauce right out of the oven to make a Buffalo-style nugget.

Homemade vegetable pizza
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Tasty veggie pizza

“It’s easy to make a healthy, meat-free version of pizza at home,” says Brock. To start, make a homemade pasta sauce. Mix one can tomato sauce, two pressed garlic cloves, and one tablespoon of Italian seasoning. Heat to a simmer.

Don’t worry about making your own pizza dough, though. You can buy whole-grain varieties ready to be rolled out in the refrigerated section of your grocery store or straight from a local pizzeria. Top dough with sauce, a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and your choice of vegetables like chopped spinach, mushrooms, onion, zucchini, bell peppers, or olives. Bake according to the directions for the crust, usually for around 18 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Black bean burger with guacamole, tomatoes.
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Spicy black bean burger

These burgers can be customized with the addition of different veggies and spices, but Brock has a favorite. “I add a little onion and bell pepper for texture, plus a jalapeno and chili powder for a bit of kick,” she says.

To make your own burgers, mash one can drained black beans. Mix in one finely chopped jalapeno (remove seeds if you don’t want it to be overly spicy) and half an onion, finely chopped. Season to taste with taco seasoning or chili pepper

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and warm over medium heat. Form the bean mixture into patties and sauté for about five minutes on each side. Top with guacamole and tomato slices.

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