5 Secrets for Cooking Vegetarian Food

Easy tips to make delicious and satisfying vegetarian recipes.

Every cook should know the tricks to making meatless meals that really satisfy. That way even when you’re cooking for a mixed crowd of vegetarians and meat lovers you can keep everyone happy. And for those carnivores at the table, you may be doing their health a favor: people who reduce meat in their diet consume less saturated fat and cholesterol, more dietary fiber and higher levels of folate, vitamins C and E, potassium and magnesium.

Here are our five secrets to cooking vegetarian recipes that everyone will love:

—By Marge Perry, May/June 2012 EatingWell Magazine

Rice Noodle & Edamame Salad

Pictured Recipe: Rice Noodle & Edamame Salad

1. Build A Balanced Meal

Combining protein and fiber at meals will help you feel fuller longer. This noodle salad, for example, gets protein from edamame and fiber from carrots, seaweed and peppers.

2. Slow Roast

When you slow-roast food, you remove the amount of water it contains, thereby intensifying the flavor and making the texture chewier. (Think about the difference between a fresh tomato and a sun-dried tomato.) Cooked meat is about 55-65 percent water; while that sounds like a lot, compare it to veggies, which are 80-95 percent water. Roasting tomatoes for the lasagna sauce makes the sauce taste more deep and savory.

3. Add Chewy Foods

Chewy foods like seared firm tofu, grilled mushrooms and nuts feel more filling because they take more time and effort to eat than, say, a spoonful of broth. They also better mimic the way you chew meat—which makes them a more satisfying substitution.

Tofu & Vegetable Stew

Pictured Recipe: Tofu & Vegetable Stew

4. Include Umami Ingredients

The word umami, roughly translated as “delicious,” was coined by a Japanese scientist who discovered this fifth taste. He found that the glutamate in foods can be detected by humans, giving food an appeal that is neither sweet, salty, sour nor bitter (the other four tastes). Most people know glutamate from MSG (monosodium glutamate), the flavor enhancer associated with Chinese-restaurant food. But it is also a naturally occurring and safe compound found in meat—as well as many other foods. The process of fermentation enhances umami, which explains why soy sauce and aged cheeses like Parmesan are so “savory.” Vegetables high in umami include asparagus, tomatoes, seaweed, peas, corn and onions. Soyfoods, including tofu and edamame, and seaweed like dulse or arame are also good places to find umami. This stew layers on umami with corn, tofu and miso.

Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

Pictured Recipe: Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

5. Combine Flavors and Textures

Excite your palate by mixing textures and flavors. For example, in the risotto, above, creamy rice is offset with chewy shiitake mushrooms and crisp asparagus. This burger balances the mushroom flavor against sweet onions and the punch of blue cheese. No single component is as satisfying as the combination.