You Just Started the Flexitarian Diet—Here Are the Recipes to Make First
The flexitarian diet has become increasingly popular over the last few years—and for all the right reasons. This "diet" is actually not a diet at all, but rather a conscious effort to reduce your intake of animal products—meat, fish, poultry and dairy, in particular—in order to achieve a healthier body and planet. We've compiled some of our favorite hearty, meatless mains to help you ease into this new lifestyle while still enjoying the flavors you love.
Slow-Cooker Mediterranean Stew
This Mediterranean stew is a healthy dinner chock-full of vegetables and hearty chickpeas. A drizzle of olive oil to finish carries the flavors of this easy vegan crock-pot stew. Swap out the chickpeas for white beans for a different twist, or try collards or spinach in place of the kale. Any way you vary it, this stew is sure to go into heavy rotation when you are looking for healthy crock-pot recipes.
Beefless Vegan Tacos
Take taco night in a new direction with these healthy vegan tacos. We've swapped crumbled tofu for the ground beef, without sacrificing any of the savory seasonings you expect in a taco. You can also use the filling in burritos, bowls, taco salads and to top nachos.
Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
Make a double batch of this quick vegetarian chili, full of black beans and sweet potatoes, and eat it for lunch the next day or freeze the extras for another night. We love the smoky heat from the ground chipotle, but omit it if you prefer a mild chili. Serve with tortilla chips or cornbread and coleslaw.
Crispy Gnocchi Pasta with Tomatoes & Leeks
These gnocchi are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside because you sauté them in hot oil. Plus, they leave a little fond (crispy brown bits) in the pan that adds toasty flavor to the tomato and leek sauce, which is cooked in the same pan. Since this easy gnocchi recipe calls for store-bought shelf-stable gnocchi, it's quick to prepare--just 20 minutes, start to finish. Opt for whole-wheat gnocchi to get 2 extra grams of fiber per serving compared to white. This easy and healthy dinner is easy to customize too: see Tips for variations with shrimp, pesto instead of butter, and pork chops instead of gnocchi.
Vegan Shepherd's Pie
Lentils take the place of ground meat and vegan butter adds creaminess to the mashed potatoes in this easy vegan shepherd's pie recipe. If you want to cut down on the cooking time, use precooked lentils and omit most of the vegetable broth, adding some in only if the mixture seems dry.
Jackfruit Barbacoa Burrito Bowls
Jackfruit, a tropical fruit with a dense, chewy texture, is a blank canvas that takes on flavors well. In these vegan burrito bowls, the jackfruit is simmered in a warm and spicy chile sauce that's so good you'll never know you're eating a plant-based protein instead of pork or beef.
Creamy Fettuccine with Brussels Sprouts & Mushrooms
Sliced Brussels sprouts and mushrooms cook quickly and cling to the pasta in our fall version of pasta primavera. Look for presliced mushrooms to cut prep time. Serve with a tossed salad.
Falafel Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Deep-fried falafel can be a total grease bomb. But these pan-seared falafel still get crispy in just a few tablespoons of oil with equally satisfying results. Be sure to use dried, instead of canned, chickpeas in this healthy recipe--canned chickpeas add too much moisture.
Thai Spaghetti Squash with Peanut Sauce
This gluten-free, vegan version of peanut noodles has a high protein content thanks to edamame and peanut butter. Spaghetti squash turns delicately sweet when roasted, which pairs wonderfully with the Thai-inspired peanut sauce.
Tempeh "Chicken" Salad
Eating probiotics--live bacteria in raw fermented food, such as tempeh and miso--can rev up the good bacteria in your body, which may help you with weight loss. Look for tempeh near the tofu in the produce section. Try vegan mayo for a completely plant-based lunch.
Shakshuka, or eggs poached in an aromatic tomato sauce, is a fast, one-pan breakfast staple in Northern Africa and Israel. This healthy recipe features spinach, herbs and tomatillos. Garnish with a touch of harissa--a fiery chile paste--and dip some toasted whole-grain country bread into the jammy yolks.
Vegan BLATs (BLTs with Avocado)
Roasted shiitake mushrooms doused in soy sauce with a dash of smoked paprika become a natural, vegan alternative to bacon. Try them in this vegan version of a classic BLT with creamy avocado and eggless mayonnaise or on top of a salad as a substitute for bacon bits.
This fast vegan version of poke (the traditional Hawaiian salad of diced raw fish tossed in a soy-sesame sauce) swaps in extra-firm tofu for fish while loading your bowl with vegetables and crunchy toppers like pea shoots and peanuts. Serve over brown rice instead of the zucchini noodles to add a hearty boost of fiber.
Silken tofu seasoned with cheesy-tasting nutritional yeast makes a flavorful vegan substitute for ricotta and Parmesan. Whole-wheat noodles and lots of veggies make this version healthier than a typical lasagna.
Easy Cauliflower Fried Rice
This vegetarian faux fried rice uses riced cauliflower in place of white or brown rice to pack in extra veggies and cut down on carbs. Chile-garlic sauce pumps up the heat, and fresh ginger adds a bright, warm bite. If you don't like the heat of the chile-garlic sauce, leave it out and add a bit more tamari or soy sauce for a rich, fermented tang.
Slow-Cooker Tofu Lo Mein
Crisp-tender veggies cooked in a sweet Asian sauce and served with noodles and tofu is a refreshingly different slow cooker dinner. Removing the excess moisture from the tofu helps it soak up the sauce, giving the unassuming ingredient full flavor.
Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole
Think of this vegetarian enchilada casserole as a veggie-packed Mexican lasagna with corn tortillas standing in for the noodles! If your peppers are mild and you like heat, opt for spicy pico de gallo. This easy vegetarian dinner recipe is sure to become a new family favorite.
Vegan Coconut Chickpea Curry
To make this 20-minute vegan curry even faster, buy precut veggies from the salad bar at the grocery store. To make it a full, satisfying dinner, serve over cooked brown rice. When shopping for simmer sauce, look for one with 400 mg of sodium or less and check the ingredient list for cream or fish sauce if you want to keep this vegan. If you like a spicy kick, add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce at the end.
Sweet Potato-Black Bean Burgers
These vegan sweet potato-black bean burgers spiced with curry powder are easy to make. Blending the mixture with your hands gives you a soft, uniform texture then the outside gets crispy by cooking in a cast-iron pan. To make this recipe gluten-free too, use gluten-free oats and serve the patty in a lettuce wrap, omitting the bun.
Vegetarian Mushroom Stroganoff
This mushroom stroganoff recipe has all of the comforting flavors you love from beef stroganoff, but without any of the meat! This vegetarian dish has incredible depth; the combination of dried and fresh mushrooms makes this main feel unctuous and meaty. The sour cream and mustard add richness, while the herbs add a hit of brightness.
Chickpea Curry (Chhole)
Made with convenient canned beans, this quick and healthy Indian recipe is an authentic chickpea curry that you can make in minutes. If you want an additional vegetable, stir in some roasted cauliflower florets. Serve with brown basmati rice or warm naan.
Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
This low-carb riff on classic lasagna layers mushrooms and tomato sauce with spaghetti squash noodles instead of lasagna pasta. Make the layers right in the shell of the spaghetti squash and top with mozzarella cheese for a melty top and fun presentation. Serve with a green salad and a glass of Chianti for an easy, healthy dinner.
Kale & White Bean Potpie with Chive Biscuits
In this vegetarian white bean potpie recipe, kale and hearty white beans are topped with easy, homemade chive biscuits. If desired, add a little shredded Gruyère or Cheddar cheese to the biscuit dough.
Black Bean-Quinoa Buddha Bowl
Treat your Buddha bowl to a vacation south of the border! This black bean and quinoa Buddha bowl has the usual hallmarks of a taco salad, minus the greasy fried bowl. We've loaded it up with pico de gallo, fresh cilantro and avocado plus an easy hummus dressing to drizzle on top.
Buttermilk Fried Tofu with Smoky Collard Greens
Dipping tofu in buttermilk makes the coating stick for a crispy pan-fried tofu, reminiscent of fried chicken. Spicing up the collards with paprika coats them with smoky flavor while keeping this dish vegetarian. And this quick, easy and healthy dinner comes together in just 25 minutes, so it's great for busy weeknights.