5 Secrets for Cooking Vegetarian Food

By: Marge Perry

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.

Read More: 7-Day Vegetarian Meal Plan

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

1. Build a Balanced Meal

Turmeric Rice Bowl with Garam Masala Root Vegetables and Chickpeas

Pictured recipe: Turmeric Rice Bowl with Garam Masala Root Vegetables and Chickpeas

Combining protein and fiber at meals will help you feel fuller longer. This rice bowl, for example, gets protein from the chickpeas and fiber from the brown rice and root vegetables.

2. Slow Roast

Roasted Kabocha Squash and Grapes

Pictured Recipe: Roasted Kabocha Squash and Grapes

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. In this recipe, grapes and squash are roasted for a bright, flavorful and satisfying side.

3. Add Chewy Foods

Tofu Cucumber Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Pictured Recipe: Tofu Cucumber Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

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.

4. Include Umami Ingredients

Tofu & Vegetable Stew

Pictured Recipe: Tofu & Vegetable Stew

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 tofu, corn, miso, eggs, and soy sauce.

5. Combine Flavors and Textures

Ricotta Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables

Pictured Recipe: Ricotta Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables

Excite your palate by mixing textures and flavors. Here, creamy ricotta gnocchi is complimented by crisp spring vegetables. The decadent sauce brings a feeling of sustenance to the dish. No single component is as satisfying as the combination.

Watch: How to Make Vegetarian Black Bean & Quinoa Burrito Bowls

Related Content:
9 Vegetarian and Vegan Protein Substitutes
7-Day Vegetarian Meal Plan: 2,000 Calories
The Vegetarian Kitchen: Must-Have Pantry Basics
How to Cook Tofu So You'll Actually Like It
30-Day Meatless Challenge
Healthy Vegetarian Recipes