Meat Free Options

Updated on January 05, 2013
J. asks from Saint Louis, MO
9 answers

Hi all. My husband and I are thinking about giving up meat for Lent. I'm trying to get some new meat free dishes going before then. We are typically meat eaters, so I don't have much experience with tofu and other meatless food options. Can you give us some good products to start with? What will beginners like us most likely enjoy? I'm willing to try anything, but want a good place to start. Thanks for your help!

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Legumes (red beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, black beans, pinto beans, lentils, black-eyed peas)

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answers from Washington DC on

We kept Morning Star products for the sks' friends. They can stay in the freezer til you need it. A lot of meals can also done without meat - stir fry, vindaloo, pasta...make sure you get enough protein. That may be your biggest thing. I like adding things to salads, like chick peas and nuts, even if I don't have meat with the meal. If you are eating dairy, cheese can be a great filler. When I make cheese manacotti, nobody misses the meat in the meal.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Beginners usually enjoy "filling" options.... And NOT "fake meat" & potatoes. ;). You'll probably be surprised how many non meat things you already make/eat/enjoy.

- Lasagna / Canneloni / Manicotti/ Eggplant Parmesean

- Chili (red, white, green) & Cornbread

- Enchiladas/ Tamales/ Burritos

- Stuffed Peppers / Stuffed mushrooms / stuffed squash

- Monster Sammies (slices of monster don't count;) okay... An example is actually like toscono or ciabatta, thick slices of fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, purple onion, basil, & tomato... Toasted into melty/ crunchy/ chewy awesomeness. Add some steak fries and pop the button on your jeans.

- Quiche / Omelettes / Frittatas

- Curries over rice & veg, Saag Paneer, garlic naan

- Pizza / Calzones

These things are filling, in no small part, because most have complete proteins. Complete proteins are needed, period. Or one can eat all day and die of starvation. Sources for complete proteins

- meat (which is why most non-vegetarians don't need to think twice)
- eggs
- dairy
- nuts
- grain + legume (ever wonder why rice&beans, or hummus&pita, or chilli&cornbread is SO gut busting filling? Any grain+legume= the same complete proteins you'll find in steak)

The examples above tend to be swimming in cheese or grain+legume or both.

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answers from San Francisco on

My favorite, most satisfying meat free meals are bean, egg and fish based. Vegetarian chilis and soups, bean/cheese burritos and enchiladas, quiches and fritattas, etc. It's also easy to do almost any kind of pasta dish without meat, especially with rich tomato or cream sauce and garlic bread. Pizza, stir frys and baked potatoes are easy and good without meat too.

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answers from Kansas City on

My husband and I give up meat and dairy products during Lent and it's hard! But it can be done! Unlike the others, I will say we do sometimes eat the non-meat meat. It can be filling and can make you feel like you're sort of eating meat, but don't' worry, it's not so much the same that you will forget your sacrifice! ;) Besides, it's kind of expensive, so you won't eat it every day.

Lentils and other beans are good options. We eat a lot of hummus and pasta. I know pasta isn't that great for you, but it is filling so we do it for dinner at least once a week during lent. Plus you can find pasta made from different stuff that is a little healthier.

I did a lot of searches on and did some googling for good meatless dishes. I somehow manage to find stuff to keep us full, but off hand I can't seem to think of any!

A good one is to do baked potatoes and top it with a vegetarian chili. You can just buy a canned one, I think Annie's Organic makes one and maybe even Campbell's. Soup is also good...veggie, lentil, etc. Also eating a lot of spinach is good. We make a very yummy dish that is just spinach, rice and tomatoes and it tastes so good! You could also do stuffed green peppers or tomatoes with lentils, etc. Chinese type dishes are easy, quick and filling. I just stir fry different veggies and put it over brown rice. Plus my kids love edamame so I always have that too! Trader Joe's has a super yummy teriyaki sauce that tastes good even with just veggies (and tofu if you want). Black bean burgers are good and taste great with avocado. I make my own but I think you can buy them.

Tofu still kind of scares me honestly, but I do manage to cook it! You can slice it thin right off the block and marinate it in salad dressing or other marinade and then grill it. It is super good and easy! You really just grill it until it's warm. I also add it to Chinese food. I've done some reading on how to prepare it and like I said, it's tricky, but you just have to start doing it and you'll figure it out.

Whole Foods is also a good resource. I know it's expensive but I will sometimes go through their prepared deli and salad bar and pick out some stuff for dinner. They have really yummy stuff that is vegan and vegetarian and since I'm not relying on it every night, I'm okay with the price!

Good luck! It's hard but honestly, you'll be amazed at how much better you feel, if you don't eat too much cheese that is! ;) It's so hard to not rely on dairy when you're not eating meat! Cottage cheese is a good protein source though!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If you're going meatless for 6 weeks, it's probably worth it to pick up a vegetarian cookbook. It'll help you eat a variety of foods and not end up with any deficiencies.

I've given up meat for let in past years, and I'll say from experience (and taste), it really is better to cook vegetarian meals than to go with the "fake" meats in your usual food. Part of Lentin sacrifice is NOTICING the thing you're giving up. If you simply switch from real sausage to morning star it's a bit like giving up Coke and replacing it with Rootbeer... not the thing you love and are used to, but perhaps missing the point.

Meatless meals that work for my family:

Vegie lasagna (use large cut zucchini, eggplant, etc along with tomato sauce and ricotta in the layers)

Lentil Soup

Pumpkin Soup (can pumpkin, broth, onion, garlic, nutmeg, cloves, whatever other spices... cook on low in crock pot, add about a cup or two of heavy cream toward the end, puree in the blender, pour over croutons) Great with grilled cheese.

Fancy mac and cheese (a homemade mac cheese recipe you like, plus chopped veggies cooked in like broccoli or squash).

Vegetarian chili

Vegie fajitas

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

We eat very few meatless dishes around this house, but one that I just love is spaghetti sauce on top of thinly sliced yellow squash, steamed fresh spinach on the side.

Spaghetti sauce: open a jar, put on stove to heat.

Squash: use a mandolin to thinly slice 3 squash into a pan. Cook with olive oil, a pat of butter, salt and pepper.

Spinach: Sautee olive oil and garlic in your largest pan/skillet. Add a huge tub of spinach, tossing it in the warm pan, sprinkling in salt and pepper, and basil if you have it (I buy the miniature basil ice cubes i found for sale in the veggie section of my grocery store).

You can do noodles if you want, but I have found that the spinach and squash are way more satisfying. Plus I make bread dipped in butter with chunks of olives. So I use the bread as my carb.

Bread: Buy Rhodes brand white bread loaves (they sell in the frozen section in a 3-loaf pack). Thaw one loaf in fridge overnight. Around 2:00pm, take bread out of fridge, snip into 1-inch triangles/cubes and dip in butter. Toss the dipped raw bites into a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for an hour or two. Then follow instructions on package to cook in oven (350 degrees I belive for 20-25 minutes).
I also like tortellini, cooked, tossed in an italian dressing with fresh garlic and a little green onion.

BTW - I don't think my dishes above have complete proteins. But they sure are tasty! Maybe a meatless "splurge" on a high-protein lunch day?


answers from Dallas on

Not too much help here be wise we eat a lot of meat.

That said... I do serve a lot of pasta dishes with homemade marinara. I keep stuffed shells ( handmade filling into pasta shells) in my freezer. I also make lasagna Rollups caprese style ( no meat).

I serve a dish of sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes for a main dish that is quite tasty.

We love good salads and fresh veggies.

Good luck on your plan


answers from Columbia on

Hi! My family and I went vegetarian over the summer and we've found a lot of meatless options that are both satisfying and tasty (not to mention healthy.) I would recommend you stay away from tofu, unless you just really like it. We eat it from time to time, but we try to keep our protein up in our dishes with things like beans, quinoa and cheese so we don't have to eat processed meat substitutes. Plus, a lot of people who aren't vegetarians and don't plan to become vegetarians just can't handle the texture of tofu anyway.

That said, here are some of our favorite vegetarian recipes:

All of these recipes (and many more) are on my pinterest pin boards. If you want to follow me, send me a PM and I'll give you my name. :)

Good luck! We've felt so much better since we've gone meatless!

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