Mix Up Your Daily Diet With These Meatless Meals

May 18, 2020, 15:04 PM by Sara Trautman

Meat shortages and price increases during the coronavirus pandemic might have you feeling like an unwitting participant in a reality cooking show these days.

First challenge: Cook every meal at home. Next round: Bake for your family when no yeast is available. And the current round: Go vegetarian.

Not to worry. There are plenty of easy, tasty and simple meals you can prepare without meat that will keep your belly full and your protein intake on track.


Alternate Plant-Based Proteins

All four of these plant-based meat alternatives are high in protein and easily substituted for the meat in the recipes you already make. Look for them near the produce in the refrigerated section and frozen versions in the vegan/vegetarian freezer aisle.


This soybean-based food is high in calcium and comes in a variety of textures — firm or extra-firm textures are the best substitutions for meat. Marinades and seasonings work well to adapt the naturally bland tofu to a multitude of recipes. Try this one for an easy stir fry.


Made from fermented and cooked soybeans, tempeh is slightly firmer and has a hearty, nutty flavor. Bacon-flavored tempeh has recently gained popularity in sandwiches, even among hardcore meat-eaters.


The meatiest substitute when it comes to texture, seitan is hearty enough for grilling, frying, braising and pretty much any other method you would use to cook meat. It’s a great option for those with soy allergies, although those with gluten sensitivity should avoid seitan since its main ingredient is wheat gluten. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry pre-made seitan, try making your own using vital wheat gluten (another name for seitan) found in the baking or health food aisle.


Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

TVP is an inexpensive dried soy product. It comes in a variety of forms, but is most often used as a ground beef substitute because of its similar texture, which is perfect for veggie tacos and pasta sauce.


Jackfruit gets its own category because, while its texture is a dead ringer for shredded meat — like in this yummy BBQ jackfruit sandwiches with avocado slaw recipe — it is a fruit and has relatively low protein. Fresh jackfruit is green, spiky, very large and oblong-shaped. If your grocery store carries seasoned and vacuum-sealed jackfruit, it will likely be in the refrigerated section near the veggie meats and tofu. Almost all major grocers carry canned jackfruit, and sometimes you can find it frozen too. 

Vegan Meat

Also known as meatless meat, this category includes the wildly popular Impossible Burger. These products are made from a wide range of protein sources — peas, beans, soy and wheat, to name a few — and come in a myriad of forms and flavors. While convenient (and often really tasty), they can be pricey and, word has it, difficult to find in stock right now.

Meatless Recipes

In addition to using meat substitutes, don’t forget about all of the main dishes that are already meat free.

Hearty and High Protein

If you are concerned about walking away from the dinner table hungry, these recipes are for you. Lentils, beans and falafel, made from chickpeas or fava beans, ensure plenty of protein.

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili Over Wild Rice

This recipe is both filling and protein-packed, thanks to the beans and wild rice. At 6.5 grams of protein per one-cup serving, wild rice contains more protein than both brown and white rice.

High Protein Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

This easy-to-make dish uses potatoes and lentils to create stick-to-the-ribs deliciousness. Feel free to substitute regular butter for the vegan butter called for in the recipe.

Falafel Pita Sandwich

Store-bought falafel and tahini sauce make this recipe a snap. In addition to protein, falafel is a good source of fiber and micronutrients.

Comfort Foods (Kid Friendly, too)

We all need a little extra comforting these days. You’ll never miss the meat in these feel-good recipes.

Sandwich Favs

Loaded Caprese Grilled Cheese and Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Grilled Cheese Sandwich on Sourdough are personal favorites to up my grilled cheese game, but recipe sites are packed with loads of gourmet grilled cheese sandwich options.

Southwest Sweet Potato Tater Tot Hotdish

This Tex-Mex dish is baked in a cast-iron skillet and topped with a crispy layer of sweet potato tater tots. Need I say more?

Date Night Meal

And here’s one last recipe for date night at home.

Sage Brown Butter Sauce Butternut Squash Ravioli

Add a salad, french bread and a glass of wine for some fine Italian dining. 

Note that this recipe calls for chicken broth and parmesan cheese. For a vegetarian version, substitute vegetable broth and mozzarella with no rennet or enzymes listed in the ingredients.

Let this latest culinary adventure inspire new flavors and new twists on old ones. This may be the perfect opportunity to update your meal plan routine. You may just discover a new love for vegetarian cooking — and eating.