I wrote a blog post recently about the main reasons why I decided to add more plant-based meals to my diet, and if you’re considering doing the same I highly suggest giving it a read! In addition to health, ethical and financial factors, avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact! If want to see how your current eating habits impact the environment, try taking this simple quiz that the NY Times put together.
If you’ve already made the decision to eat plant-based more often, you've come to the right place! I’ve put together 5 easy weeknight plant-based meal ideas for you to try if you’re feeling stuck on how to create filling, nutritional meals sans meat. This post includes ideas you can add your own flavors/ ingredients to, and will hopefully help you start realizing how easy it is to make delicious and healthy plant-based meals that aren’t just salads. I love cooking and have had so much fun experimenting with these meals, and hope you will too!
Side note: All of these recipes are also gluten free since my boyfriend is intolerant, so an added bonus if you are too!
This is probably the easiest of all the plant-based meals I make, and usually only takes 15-20 minutes to throw together!
- Non-GMO, Organic Corn Tortillas (If avoiding corn, Siete makes delicious grain-free tortillas with alternatives like cassava flour.)
- Veggies of your choice (I love any combo of bell peppers, broccolini, brussel sprouts, beets, onions and pineapple, but the possibilities are endless. We’ve also tried fajita style tacos with sliced portobello mushrooms that turned out great!)
- Avocado Oil (This is my favorite oil to cook with because it's not refined or overly processed and has a higher smoking point compared to other oils.)
- Taco Seasonings (My favorite combo is garlic, sea salt, cumin and chili powder.)
- Salsa, avocado, black beans or other toppings
To make these, I put my favorite veggies on a baking sheet (lined with reusable baking mats like this), drizzle with some avocado oil and seasonings, then bake at 375 for around 10 minutes. Then add to heated or toasted tortillas and top with salsa, avocado and black beans and they’re ready to enjoy! You can also switch this up a bit and make enchiladas using the same veggies rolled up in the tortillas and baked with enchilada sauce.
Spring rolls are a Vietnamese dish made with rice paper, a variety of veggies and often shrimp or meat (which we are omitting here). These are one of my favorite healthy weeknight recipes! They are so fresh tasting and I love the crunch that all the veggies provide. Plus, there's very little prep work and no actual cooking required!
- Rice paper (Found at any Asian grocery store, I’ve also seen them at traditional grocery stores in the Asian foods section.)
- Lots of fresh veggies (I use lettuce, bell peppers, carrots, green onion, cucumber, pickled ginger and fresh mint if we have it.)
- Tofu (If you can get fresh tofu from an Asian grocery store I highly recommend it over the packaged/processed kind.)
- Rice noodles
- Dipping Sauce (My favorite is a peanut sauce, which I make with peanut butter, coconut aminos - as a substitute for soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, lime, water and garlic chilli paste.)
To prepare the tofu, I drain it for 1-2 hours by wrapping it in a towel and putting a pot on top to weigh it down. Then cut the tofu in strips, toss it with corn starch (for added crisp) avocado oil, salt, garlic powder and chilli powder, and cook on a lined baking sheet at 475 for 15 minutes. The rice paper comes in dried sheets, and when you're ready to use it just dip in warm water and set aside for 10 seconds or so to let it soak in. Chop up the ingredients and roll them up in the rice paper, similar to how you would a burrito!
I’ve been obsessed with plantains recently and have tried so many recipes with them! This is the easiest and one of my favorites.
- Plantains (Try to pick ripe ones - more yellow and brown than green.)
- Quinoa or rice and black beans
- Salad mix and/or veggies
- Guacamole or avocado and salsa (I've also done homemade hummus for a more Mediterranean taste!)
- Avocado oil or coconut oil
- Coconut sugar
- Seasonings (I usually use salt, lime and garlic.)
Peel and slice the plantains and cook them in a cast iron skillet with oil, coconut sugar and salt until they are caramelized, flipping so both sides brown. Then create the bowl by adding in the grains and veggies, and top with guacamole and salsa, and maybe a little fresh lime juice!
You’ve probably seen at least a few recipe ideas for spaghetti squash. It’s become a very popular healthy pasta alternative, for good reason! While it requires a little prep work, once the squash is cooked it’s so easy to create a plant-based meal and offers a base for so many different recipes!
- Spaghetti squash
- Sauce (I've tried homemade vegan pesto, vegan alfredo using nutritional yeast, marinara, and enchilada sauce. All are yummy!)
- Veggie add ins (For the sauces that are more pasta-like, I usually do some combination of garlic, onion, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. For the enchilada sauce I’ll add in some black beans and corn.)
- Garlic bread, roasted veggies, or other side dish
There are several different methods for cooking spaghetti squash, but I find this one the easiest:
- Preheat the oven to 425
- Place the spaghetti squash on a baking tray and poke with a fork a few times
- Cook for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of the squash) flipping it over halfway through
- Once cooked, let it cool, cut it in half, remove the seeds and then use a fork to remove the strands of the squash. From there it’s really simple to add the veggies/ sauce you’d like!
- Rice or rice noodles
- Stir fry veggies (I use some combination of carrots, green beans, onions, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and water chestnuts.)
- Sesame oil
- Cashews or peanuts and sesame seeds
- Seasonings (I use garlic, fresh ginger, coconut aminos, chili garlic sauce and salt.)
So easy! Just stir fry the veggies with the oil and seasonings, add in rice and top with nuts and sesame seeds! I occasionally will add a fried egg on top, but omit this if you want to make it vegan!
I hope this makes adding plant-based meals to your diet seem a little less daunting! I’ve found that I don’t even miss the meat in these dishes. If you try out any of them, please let me know what you think and how you add your own twist and flavors!