Vegetarians can be a little bit threatening for non-vegetarians. Most people who eat meat aren’t some kind of weirdo real life Ron Swansons, but they’re also probably more than a little suspicious of a meal without meat. It just feels… weird. Not bad, just weird. But there are lots of great vegetarian meals that either don’t feel like you’re eating vegetarian or are so close to simulating the tastes of meat that even hardcore carnivores will enjoy them. Here are a couple of great vegetarian meals that even non-vegetarians can get on board with.
Tandoori Masala Curry
What at first sounds like a strange blend of oatmeal, almond milk, and zucchini turns out to be a fantastically tasty Indian-style dish in a little less than a half an hour. Pro tip: this is one of those recipes that requires a lot of ingredients and a lot of different cooking techniques, so plan accordingly and tackle responsibly.
Pasta is one of the easiest dishes to get non-vegetarians (like me) on board with a veggie dinner. It’s easy, it’s familiar, and it doesn’t have any of the scary words like “tofu” or “imitation meat” that tend to put off meat eaters. In that regard, this Lentil Bolognese is a completely innocuous way to fool your friends into thinking they’re eating pasta with meat sauce, when in reality there’s no meat to be found. Vegetarians sometimes have to pull out some tricks to get others to eat with them, and this recipe can be served on top of any kind of pasta to great effect.
Black Bean Chili
Another contender in the “tricking meat lovers into eating a meatless dinner” bag of tricks, this black bean chili has everything that you’d want on a cold day watching football with a bag of chips next to you. Chili has such a unique flavor that, when executed correctly, it won’t even register that there’s no meat in the recipe. The beans, tomatoes, and chicken stock do most of the work, but don’t skimp out on the spice: the jalapenos are the crucial final ingredient to make this chili a success.
Eggs in a Cloud
Eggs: okay for vegetarians, but not for vegans. I never got that. Aren’t eggs technically dead animals too? If you’re a vegetarian for compassion reasons, doesn’t eating eggs still make you complicit in animal murder? Of course there are lots of vegetarians who are vegetarians for health reasons, or other reasons unrelated to eating carcasses, but eggs are a little off putting to even meat eaters if you think about them for too long. Anyway, breakfast options are vast for vegetarians, and this recipe is fast, easy, and even gluten free. And it’s delicious. That’s important too.
Naan Bread Pizza
As a duty-bound journalist, I took it upon myself to try most of these recipes (laziness, and lack of financial incentive to buy excessive amounts of ingredients, rained on my parade to try and make them all. Sometimes we have to be realistic). There wasn’t a single recipe that was bad, but none of the recipes surprised me like this one. Pizza is another relatively easy olive branch for non-vegetarians, but this is more than just your typical sauce-and-cheese pizza. Made Indian style, because that kind of food just has a plethora of great vegetarian options, with roasted cauliflower and chilis topping the final product, this Naan Bread Pizza was definitely the best meal I tried for this article.
For some reason a ton of these vegetarian meals absolutely love spinach. Once upon a time quinoa and kale were known as super foods, but in my research I have determined that spinach is, in fact, the vegetarian superfood, accenting and taking center stage on countless recipes across the internet. Whereas I had come across dozens of vegetarian Indian meals, cuisine from other countries and cultures were a little more reliant on meat. Which is why I was happy to find an mexican meal that was a little more sophisticated than just a quesadilla (no hate on the quesadilla, though. We’re still cool). I wouldn’t normally spring for spinach, but I was surprised to find how easily it slotted it with all the other flavors of this delicious meal.
It was only a matter of time before we got to the Prince of vegetarian meals: salad (you know, because Prince was a major crossover multi genre artist in the 80s and salad is a crossover meal that’s eaten by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike? Also giving food a royal title is kinda funny? Ok maybe it’s not as clever or funny as I thought, and maybe it’s not a perfect metaphor, but I did learn that Prince was vegan from it, so there’s a fun fact for you). Anyway this salad is delicious. Try it some time. Or don’t. Whatever. I’m gonna go try and find a more appropriate and modern comparison for salad.
Vegan Peanut Butter Cookie Bars
Every good meal should end with dessert, and every list of great vegetarian meals should include at least one explicitly vegan option, so let’s kill two meatless birds with one compassionate and well-intentioned stone. Back in the day when I was living in a dorm (remember dorms?) I had a friend (remember hanging out with friends? I hate COVID with a burning passion) that had an assortment of dietary restrictions. Pretty much any combination of food could give her stomach problems (at best) or could kill her (at worst), but she was still intent on making some super delicious treats and meals. I was surprised that you could make gluten free and dairy free dessert bars that were still delicious, but sometimes you just have to believe the impossible. I never got that recipe, probably because she dated one of my best friends and they broke up a while ago so now we don’t talk, but I found a close approximation online. God bless the nutritionally challenged: they’re nothing if not creative.