8 Meatless Dishes for Meat-n-Taters Lovers

Photo: Noonch

I was born and raised in a meat and potatoes world. When I'm not making my own gravy or frying fritters, I enjoy looking for meatless alternatives to my signature dishes. (Buying meat for every meal is not only costly, but it is also unnecessary.) I've found these eight dishes to be delicious and full of that “stick-to-your-ribs” character that I've grown to love. (Note: I'm not a vegetarian or a vegan, so please consider the fact that these are suggestions for meatless dishes only. I've not excluded any other foods, including eggs and milk. Also, nothing listed contains soy.)

Black Bean Soup

Thick and filling, this is a favorite soup to make in the colder months. (A great recipe can be found at Care2.com) Garnish with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a few jalapeño slices. Yum!

Eggplant Parmesan

An easy dish to prepare, this definitely qualifies as a “meat-lovers” meal. Simply slice eggplant lengthwise thinly, dip in egg, and dredge in a combo of flour and Italian bread crumbs. Fry lightly in oil (I use canola or safflower) and then layer in a baking dish, separated by marinara, cheeses, and your choice of fresh Italian spices and herbs. Bake at 350 until crispy on the edges and bubbly in the middle. Serve over pasta.

Spaghetti Squash

There's not meat in this dish, and guess what? There's no pasta either! By substituting one baked spaghetti squash for your traditional noodles, you can enjoy a rich meatless sauce (like Alfredo or a creamy red) over the squash strands. (Use a fork to lightly scrape the noodles out of the squash shell.)

Peanut-butter Veggies n Rice

Made uber-filling by the use of chunky peanut butter, this stir-fry dish is a hit for kids and adults. Just cook your best veggies (baby corn, water chestnut, carrots, broccoli, snow peas, or whatever), your favorite rice (I like a nice basmati), and toss in your choice of peanut sauce. For some great recipes, check out Andrea's article, my peanut suggestions, or a great rendition from Myscha!

Veggie Pizza

This is as simple as it sounds. Make your own pizza from scratch (or use a few hacks I came up with) to get the most out of your meatless pizza. Black and green olives, artichokes, avocados, and green onions are my favorite toppings. What are yours?

Broccoli Cheese Soup in a Bread Bowl

Soup can be a hearty dish — just pair it with a thick and comforting bread bowl! Make your own using or grab one from your local bakery. Then fill with your own homemade crock-pot broccoli-cheese soup. Perfect for a snow day!

Meatless Quesadillas

I just had these for lunch (again.) A quick and crunchy snack or meal, these take few ingredients and taste heavenly. Layer refried beans, black beans, shredded cheese, and green onions (you can add fresh diced tomato, too) on a flour tortilla. Place another on top, spray with light cooking spray and flip it over so the sprayed side is down. Let it get all brown and toasty on one side over medium heat in a frying pan. Then flip. Put it on a plate, slice into triangles with a pizza cutter and service with salsa and sour cream. I always talk about this recipe because it is just so slick. Try it!

Thick Grilled Cheese with Creamy Tomato Soup

This is not your typical grilled cheese recipe. Using thick slices of french bread, create your biggest and best grilled cheese. I like using 3 kinds of cheese: provalone, mozzarella, and American. (You can use what you like.) For extra kick, sprinkle the cheese with a little basil, parsley, or oregano. Grill until gooey, and serve with your typical canned tomato soup (but omit the water and use half and half or whole milk instead.) For those who want to try homemade soup, here's a great link. (Note: As a reader pointed out, the linked-to crockpot recipe calls for one chicken bouillon cube. I already use a bouillon substitute for health reasons, so feel free to keep things 100% veggie by using a meatfree or vegan boullion cube. They are available anywhere natural foods are sold.)  You can also play around with a variety of vegan sandwiches to dip in your soup!

So there you have it. Not the most elegant ways to go meatless, but definitely tasty ones. The next time you find yourself staring down a frozen block of mystery meat and nothing to make for lunch, consider leaving it out. You might be pleasantly surprised how little meat you really need!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

I'm a huge fan of the tomato soup and grilled cheese combo. It's been one of my favorite comfort meals since childhood.

Another fun way I've done eggplant parm a time or two (although most of the time, I do it exactly the way you mentioned) is to do it in round slices and use it in a great sandwich roll with sauce and cheese. Sort of an eggplant parm burger.

Portabellas also have a really meaty flavor, but they can be pricier than the eggplant version, which is opposite of the point you were trying to make with the article, I think.

Cool post. We can all use fresh suggestions for frugality with the economy the way it is. Thanks, Linsey!

Linsey Knerl's picture

I have to try that Parm burger idea before the last of my eggplants this year.  I think that sounds delish!

Guest's picture

Thanks for all those meatless ideas! I'm going to have to try those eggplant rounds Myscha was suggesting, too.

One of our favorite go-to vegetarian recipes is the humble rice and beans. Cook brown rice with some chopped onions and celery, a little garlic, and a bit of olive oil. In a separate pot, cook black beans with cumin and hot sauce. Top rice with beans, add a dollop of sour cream. No deprivation there!

Guest's picture

Thank you, Linsey, for linking to my soups! We really liked both of those, and the tomato was so good my eyes rolled backwards. :-)


Linsey Knerl's picture

No problem!  I have been a secret admirer of yours for some time.  I'm always checking your site for last-minute crockpot ideas.  (I hate doing dishes...)  Thanks for all your insight on the best crockpot recipes!


Guest's picture

Although, not vegetarians, my husband and I eat very little meat, for a variety of reasons. I love regular beans, but sometimes I forget to soak them. So some evenings I turn to lentils. I think lentils have gotten a bad rap, they're wonderful! I especially love the red kind, they cook up quicker and are very creamy. I can make a nice spicy dahl in less time then it takes for the brown rice to cook.

Thanks for reminding me how much I love homemade soup! It's getting to be that time of year again. Oh, and I'm definitely going to have to try the eggplant burger idea.

Guest's picture

OMFG. Every single dish sounded delicious.

Guest's picture

These are definitely mouthwatering ideas! Eggplant parmesan has been a favorite of mine for many years and tomato soup + grilled cheese never ceases to satisfy.

Guest's picture

These are great ideas. I think I'm going to have peanut butter veggies and rice tonight! Thanks!

Guest's picture

Hi -- these are terrific. I've made eggplant parmesan very similarly to your recipe and it is great! I'd love some ideas on no-milk/cheese type meals for a kid who is very lactose intolerant and a very unwilling veggie eater! Soy milk and soy cheeses just don't taste the same.

Guest's picture

Good topic. Good recipes. Other than the soups, squash, and veggies & rice, these aren't exactly the most healthy dishes. Although I am a HUGE fan of cheese and pasta, in large quantities they aren't exactly great for your waistline.

Great topic. I'd like more info on meatless, healthier dishes, though.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I agree.  They aren't the most healthy (although modifications can be made.)  If you're concerned about excess, I always find that by pairing the soups or the pasta with a nice side of steamed veggies or a garden salad, you can eat more for less fat and calories.  Everything in moderation.


Guest's picture

One of my personal favorite meatless dishes:

Cold Black Bean Salad over rice
other ingredients in salad: tomato, onion, celery, cumin, cilantro, lime juice, garlic

It takes juice from a couple of limes and is great b/c it can be thrown together in minutes

Also extreemly healthy

Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks for sharing that recipe, Paul!  I love fresh tomatoes this time of year, so I'll have to give it a try!

Myscha Theriault's picture

That sounds "ta die for". And super healthy and affordable as well.

Guest's picture

Lots of great, great ideas. And all familiar enough dishes that it makes it easy for a non-vegetarian to have at least one vegetarian meal. Or, even better, start down the vegetarian path.


Guest's picture

Only thing missing was meat

Guest's picture
Chef John

Diet for a small planet has some great recipes one that is particularly yummy is Nut Seed Taco's - has peanuts sunflower seeds & sesame tastes really good an has a great "mouth feel" that makes the absence of meat negligible.

Guest's picture

The original quesadilla is just a folded tortilla (soft corn made) with melted cheese inside. That's it! And they are also delicious and fast to make.

Guest's picture

Just like beef stew without the fat. Mmmmm, I know what I'm having this week....

Guest's picture

Those are great ideas. I can personally vouch for eggplant being a great meat replacement, but I'd love to try that peanut butter and rice dish.

My tip would be cashew nuts, walnuts and almonds - adding these to any kind of vegetable dish - particularly stir fries - can really press those meaty satisfaction buttons!

Guest's picture

Your tomato soup recipe wasn't vegetarian.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks for pointing out that the tomato soup recipe I linked to isn't 100% vegetarian -- (it contains one chicken bouillon cube.)  I would suggest substituting for a vegetarian alternative.  They do have some taste vegan/meat-free alternatives on the market that would work nicely.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

I love Grilled Cheese with a slice of swiss and a slice of cheddar, they blend together into amazing yumminess. Thanks for reminding me to have it with the tomato soup!

Guest's picture

I've been looking for a recipe for this for a while now, I'll have to try the crockpot version you mentioned- goodness knows I can't continue to afford buying it from Panera Bread!


Guest's picture
Michelle Michann

haha of course mick will have this . i dont know this sort of looks like a nice juicy burger to me :)

Guest's picture

Great suggestions, Linsay, and also good for the environment to have a meatless meal once or twice a week.

I agree w/ you that while these suggestions are not necessarily "diet" or low-fat, moderation is key to enjoying a variety of our favorite foods.

Glad I found you through All You!

All the best,

Guest's picture

*sighs* Aside from grilled cheese, my family won't eat any of these. But I'll keep searching

Guest's picture

Great list of filling cheap meals - thanks!

I also love Black bean soup! I really like this vegan version: http://veggiemealmaker.com/vegan-black-bean-zucchini-soup