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Meals So Good, You Won't Miss Meat

Extraordinary vegetarian recipes to help you add some greenery to your kitchen repertoire
Through college, I taught myself to cook my favorite meals from growing up - kung pao chicken, meatballs and noodles, spaghetti bolognese. After I learned that the highest-impact thing I could personally do for the planet would be to cut out meat from my diet, I decided to
try
stopping, just to see how long I could hold out.

I rapidly realized the hardest thing for me: I had gone from maybe 20 different recipes I knew and loved, to none. Meat was the centerpiece of every single one of my favorite recipes. I was now starting from zero.

Since then, I’ve built up a new repertoire of favorites, and learned how to add, swap, and sub veg into some of my old meat-based staples. I want to share them here, for anyone who might also need some inspiration and a starting point to move more plant-based. These are my top picks, recipes that easily hold their own against any meat-based dinner - so good, you won’t miss meat.

Remember, it’s not all or nothing. You don’t have to commit to going full vegan, and if you do, you don’t have to reset the counter if you eat a quarter pounder. But if you can add one or two plant-based meals into your recipe mix at home, the planet will thank you. And
I
will be very excited to hear your reviews!

Enjoy,
Tom Quigley

Recently cooked
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🥘 Roasted Poblano & White Bean Chili
I don’t know why “corn” isn’t in the title: corn is the standout here, and the smell of roast corn filling your kitchen is a huge highlight of this meal. I roast it about 3x as long as it suggests, flipping it a lot until it was very roasted on all sides. The recipe says to do it early, but it’s more efficient to roast it later, while the chili is simmering. We served with avocado, sour cream, and tostadas. Pay attention to the chile roasting part: make sure the skin is facing up. You really want to blacken them, or else they’re a huge pain to skin, which is by far the most annoying part of this meal, so do yourself a favor and don’t skimp the broil.
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🍅 Stuffed Tomatoes w/ Couscous & Zucchini
You can’t go wrong with this much cheese. Good tomatoes really make a difference here. After baking, they’re so sweet and fresh, offset by the goat cheese and the basil, and the panko crumb topping... I upgraded this a star just writing this description. We have used either risotto or quinoa instead of couscous, only difference here is you need to cook them beforehand in water, and then use slightly less broth and just let it sit to absorb. We also always mix panko or breadcrumbs with the parmesan crust.
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🍝 Baked Ziti with Eggplant
Hearty, filling, and made enough to feed an army. We used zucchini instead of eggplant, roast for 15 minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through. We also doubled the ricotta and used penne instead of rigatoni. We’ll be enjoying this one for a week.

Last updated: April 20, 2021

⭐ Star ratings

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - exceptional, one of my top meals. These meals are in frequent repeat rotation at Chez Quigley.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ - great, delicious and satisfying. I revisit these once every 3-6 months.
⭐⭐⭐ - good, would happily make again, but haven’t revisited since first cooking.
⭐⭐ - fine, would make again if I had the ingredients, but might not go out of my way to make them special.
⭐ - would not make again. (You won’t see any of these on the list, because I don’t share them!)

🖥️ Recipes from the interwebs

There are so many recipes out in the wilds of the blogosphere, it’s impossible to know which are high-quality and which are just kitchen bloggers. I’ve tried many so you don’t have to. Here are some of my top recipes from around the web, including family recipes that I’ve adapted to delicious (dare I risk saying,
more
delicious?) vegetarian versions. More being added all the time!
Web recipes
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🌶️ Kung Pao Tofu
Kung pao chicken was one of my favorite meals growing up, and I’ve adapted it with fried tofu and plenty of veg. Now, I actually prefer this version to the original! This household favorite gets made at least once a month. Usually I make with broccoli and carrots, but really once you have the sauce ingredients in pantry, you can whip this up with any veg you have on hand. Hands down one of my favorite dishes.
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🥬 Green Lentil & Crispy Kale Stew
We make this every month, if not twice a month. I love how this meal uses the kale stems, which I usually throw out. We keep the lemony yogurt handy to re-add it as we eat, and about a quarter of the kale chips never make it to the table. Out of all the blog recipes I’ve cooked, this one is a real winner. This blog goes on and on about how black lentils are the KEY to this recipe. I’ve cooked it with red, green, and black lentils, and honestly, black is the bottom of the list. Green lentils are where it’s at. Note that it’ll take a little longer to cook - defer to package instructions.
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🍛 Malai Kofta
This is my “I’m trying to impress you” meal. One of my favorite meals when I order Indian food, I decided to give it a shot during quarantine, and it, was, amazing. Serve with naan and/or rice.

A few notes:
the written recipe here is not great, watch the video to get the idea.
If you don’t have solid spices (cardamom, cinnamon, etc) for the sauce, look up the conversion (it’s less than you think). If you think you’ll want
When I strained through the colander, it did... basically nothing. Mine was too thick still to get any beautiful smooth cream. If that’s your case too, don’t worry - the meal still turns out just fine.
I never deep fry in that much oil, just because I don’t like pouring it all out afterwards. I use maybe a centimeter of oil and fry different sides until it’s mostly even.
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🥧 Salted Caramel Apple Pie
What can I say other than, this is just the best. It takes a while, but it’s a show stopper. I made this for quarantine Thanksgiving, and it blew everything else away. Bask in the awe dawning on the faces of your dinner guests as they take their first bites. When cooking, watch the caramel like a hawk. It’s always just a few moments away from scorching - control your heat, stir constantly, and remove from heat immediately when finished.
but originally the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Cookbook
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🥣 Overnight Oats
Man, I was really sleeping on overnight oats my whole life. It’s such an upgrade from oatmeal, so easy, and makes lots of quick, powerful breakfast fast. Easy to add whatever toppings you want - fresh fruit, nuts, honey, whatever you want. I’m bad at breakfasts, so having something quick, low-prep, low-cleanup, and filling is key for me.
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🌮 Impossible Crunch Wrap Supreme
Swap in Impossible Meat for ground beef here and you’ve got yourself a veggie crunchwrap. Impossible Meat cooks almost identically to ground beef and IMO tastes almost identical too. If you don’t have tostadas, you can cut tortillas to shape and toast them in the oven. Gordita-size tortillas for the outside are really key here, otherwise you won’t have enough to wrap around. This pairs well with the
@ 🌽 Mexican-Style Street Corn
from the Test Kitchen Cookbook.
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🥗 Crispy Feta w/ Lemon Basil Orzo
I had a lot of trouble with this the first time through. Prepped correctly, it’s really great, plates nicely, and is very filling and balanced. Prepped badly, it’s a mess. I would highly suggest watching the video to supplement reading the recipe, as she takes different steps in each.

Your feta has to be
in and out
quick or else it starts melting and you are stuck in burnt cheesy pan hell. Place in a very
hot pan, and start flipping almost as soon as they’re arranged. Once you get a small fry on both sides, they hold together slightly better.
Wash your pan out between cheese & chickpeas.
She doesn’t say this in the recipe, but you do
remove
the chickpeas from the pan before cooking the zucchini. You want your chickpeas to crisp, and the zuccs make it too watery.
I found that using drier chickpeas helped crisp them a lot better - in my case, it was extra canned chickpeas that had been in the fridge for a day. YMMV
We add arugula to the final dish to give it a bit more green-power.
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🥘 Satay Soba Noodles w/ Fried Tofu
This Is delicious, but the ribboned carrots are weird - matchstick the carrots instead. I think we weren’t expecting much from this one, but were surprised by the tasty flavors, particularly in the tofu. This is apparently also a good meal-prep food (though we just cooked it as a meal). Careful not to burn the tofu (as I appear to have in this photo!) I would also halve the amount of ginger or vinegar, otherwise it’s very overpowering and sharp. To adapt the recipe for matchsticked carrots, once you remove the fried tofu from the hot pan, stir fry the carrots (and whatever other veg you want to add). Have you noodles prepped before frying tofu. Once the veg is blackened, take off heat and add noodles and sauce. Turn to coat, add green scallions, and plate with fried tofu on top.
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🥞 Brioche French Toast
Not an everyday thing (or why not, who am I to judge) but this makes for a very nice impressive breakfast. Made this for the first time on Valentine’s Day and knocked her socks off.
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🍲 Simple Vegetable Soup
It’s quick, it’s easy, it uses usually on-hand ingredients. This is definitely a cold-weather, sicky-feeling, don’t-want-to-cook meal that leaves us satisfied every time. The basil and the lemon add brightness to an otherwise basic soup. Stock matters here - I like Better Than Bouillon. We use ditalini noodles.
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🍪 Snickerdoodles
Sometimes you just need cookies. They bill these as the “best snickerdoodle recipe ever” and honestly, maybe. Makes a lot of chewy, soft, delicious snickerdoodles perfect for a winter day.
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🍪 Chocolate Chip Cookies (Doubletree version)
I grew up a Nestle Tollhouse recipe loyalist, but these cookies have changed my mind. I thought the oats would make them too oatmeal-y but they didn’t, they were barely present and added good texture. I thought the lemon might be weird, but nope, it slapped. Crumble Maldon salt flakes on top for an order-of-magnitude experience enhancer.
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🍋 Spaghetti Al Limoni
While we haven’t re-made this since the first time a while back, I remember it being bright, quick, filling, and tasty. Doesn’t take many ingredients, and left us totally satisfied. Would need to make again to see if it ratchets up to 3 stars.

📖 America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

This is my #1 recommended cookbook for the green chef. Of course not all recipes in a book can be winners, but I would say 4 out of 5 of the recipes I try from this book are delicious, 1/5 become new favorites that we return to over and over, and there have only been a small handful of duds. This book is absolutely worth it.

To avoid transcribing out full recipes, I’ve listed the name, page number, and my notes. I’d say that out of all the recipes on this page, most of my favorites are from this book.
America's Test Kitchen recipes
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🥬 Super Greens Soup with Lemon-Tarragon Cream
I think this might be my favorite soup of all time. The arborio rice makes it perfectly silky and smooth, and we were re-garnishing the lemon cream for the whole meal. Don’t skip the tarragon; it’s fine without it, but the tarragon really does take it up a notch. Be aware, this one can take kind of a long time unless you prep while cooking. I prep everything I need for steps 2 & 3 before starting on step 2 (skipping 1 for now) and then prep everything else (incl the cream) while the onion is caramelizing.
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🌯 Baked Burritos with Pinto Beans and Swiss Chard
This is tied for my favorite book recipe. One thing I love about it is, I tend to stay stocked up on most of the ingredients, so I usually only need to get fresh greens and tortillas to be fully prepped. I sub kale instead of swiss chard because I usually don’t use the whole bunch, and I find kale easier to repurpose than chard. I’ve also used black beans, both fine. On the last step, WATCH them in the broiler! The line between “delicious, browned, melted cheese” and “blackened burrito wasteland” is quite thin, and it’s very frustrating to have the whole meal burnt at literally the last minute. Serve this with sour cream, salsa, guacamole on the side... better than Chipotle.
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🥘 Butternut Squash Chili with Quinoa
This is the other tie for my favorite book recipe. I make this maybe once a month. It’s hearty and warming, great for cold days, and I find the peanut / butternut / cilantro flavors really unique. Saves well and might even be better the second day, after it thickens a bit. Note, this recipe says you can garnish with either parsley or cilantro. This is a lie. Use cilantro only. I’m still working on my timing for this one, but if you start step 3 with about 30 minutes left on the oven timer, you should pull the squash out with a few minutes left on the stovetop, just enough to blend up the puree. I usually prep while cooking, as opposed to pre-prep.
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🌽 Mexican-Style Street Corn
We made these as a side and they showed up the main meal. Doing these again, I would probably roast on a grill, halve through the middle, put on a skewer, roll in the sauce, and then roll in cotija after. The sauce is so good, you could make it on its own as a Mexican dip or dressing. We saved half the corn, shaved it off the cob, and had it in a salad the next day with avocado, black beans, tostada chips, lettuce, and the extra sauce. For the main in this photo, see “Impossible Crunch Wrap Supreme” in the next section.
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🍛 Braised Winter Greens and Squash w/ Coconut Curry
I’m always amazed this recipe only uses a teaspoon of curry. The pepitas add a great crunch. I add a few dried chiles in here to make it a bit spicier. Great with naan or white rice. One of my favorite curries, if not my favorite.
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🥘 Roasted Poblano & White Bean Chili
I don’t know why “corn” isn’t in the title: corn is the standout here, and the smell of roast corn filling your kitchen is a huge highlight of this meal. I roast it about 3x as long as it suggests, flipping it a lot until it was very roasted on all sides. The recipe says to do it early, but it’s more efficient to roast it later, while the chili is simmering. We served with avocado, sour cream, and tostadas. Pay attention to the chile roasting part: make sure the skin is facing up. You really want to blacken them, or else they’re a huge pain to skin, which is by far the most annoying part of this meal, so do yourself a favor and don’t skimp the broil.
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🍝 Mushroom Bolognese
Don’t expect a perfect bolognese adaptation, but this comes pretty darn close for not using any meat. I was surprised how similar the mushrooms are to ground beef when cooking in the pan. This takes a little bit longer, but it satisfies a craving for one of my old favorite meat meals, with a twist. Note, omit the sugar from this recipe! No added sugar to Italian sauces. None. Quit it.
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🍅 Stuffed Tomatoes w/ Couscous & Zucchini
You can’t go wrong with this much cheese. Good tomatoes really make a difference here. After baking, they’re so sweet and fresh, offset by the goat cheese and the basil, and the panko crumb topping... I upgraded this a star just writing this description. We have used either risotto or quinoa instead of couscous, only difference here is you need to cook them beforehand in water, and then use slightly less broth and just let it sit to absorb. We also always mix panko or breadcrumbs with the parmesan crust.
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🥙 Arepas w/ Black Bean Filling
I only discovered arepas a few years back and couldn’t believe I’d been sleeping on them for so long. The cornflour arepas themselves were delicious, the filling was pretty basic, and I’d recommend having some additional toppings - guac, cheese, sour cream, whatever you like. The only downside of these is that I had to buy a big thing of masa blanca which I then didn’t really use for anything else but arepas, and sat on the shelf for months. If you’ve got the pantry storage, no worries!
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🥣 Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Another stellar creamy soup with no cream whatsoever. The soup is good, but the soup + garnishes is great. Be patient with the browned butter and don’t burn the cauliflower florets. And don’t pour the browned butter into anything plastic - it boiled a hole straight through my measuring cup.
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🎃 Stuffed Acorn Squash w/ Barley
This meal is autumn AF. One acorn squash is enough for two people; you can half the filling recipe, or just heap it up, which we did. A good balsamic really enhances it. One recommendation: after you halve the squash, slide a little divot out of the “bottom” of the each half, so it can sit flat when you’re eating. Just one word of warning: while this is definitely delicious, it’s worth having some GasX on hand. Just in case.
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🍝 Baked Ziti with Eggplant
Hearty, filling, and made enough to feed an army. We used zucchini instead of eggplant, roast for 15 minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through. We also doubled the ricotta and used penne instead of rigatoni. We’ll be enjoying this one for a week.
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🥒 Skillet-baked Orzo w/ Feta & Zucchini
Fresh, Mediterranean flavors heaped with veg. We doubled up on the zucchini here - the mint, feta, and lemon gave it that Greek-isle brightness. Makes a lot of food, so great for leftovers.
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🥧 Quiche w/ Leek & Goat Cheese
There are a few quiche variations in here, this was the one we tried and loved. It saves in the fridge only
okay,
so if you can eat it all in one go, all the better!
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🌮 Tempeh Tacos
One of my old favorite meat dishes was Mexican-style beef - make a bunch in a pan, whack it in the fridge, you’re laughing. That’s what this is: a tasty standard that you can throw together quickly and that will keep you in lunch burritos for a week. Great for meal prep.
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🍆 Eggplant Involtini
Don’t make my mistake: peel your eggplants! This meal is beautiful in the pan and on the plate. I would pair with something light, a salad or maybe an orzo - it’s delicious but slightly filling, two or three and you’re full!
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🍄 Stir-Fried Portobellos, Carrots, and Snow Peas w/ Soy-Maple Sauce
The maple mirin glaze on this is phenomenal (even if the mirin does just sit in my fridge for months afterwards). Braising the portobellos makes them hearty and steaky, they don’t collapse into mush (I hate that). This meal is close as I’ve come to that “local Chinese takeout” taste at home, but (slightly) healthier and with fresher veg. You can repurpose the glaze for other stirfry meals to mix up the veg assortment.
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🥔 Sweet Potato & Swiss Chard Gratin
This is a perfect autumn side dish; the thyme makes it very Thanksgiving-y. Perfect to bring to a Friendsgiving potluck. Makes your house smell homey and hygge!
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🌾 Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup
Okay, here’s the thing. This soup is delicious. It takes a while to make, but it’s really, really good. The cornstarch thickens it to a chowder and every bite is rich, flavorful, and filling. I really want to give this more than three stars. But it loses some points for... flatulent consequences. Give it a try at least once, but make sure you’ve got some GasX handy.
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🌶️ Cheesy Stuffed Poblanos
I forgot to buy corn when we cooked this. And even then, it was good! I haven’t tried them again with corn, but I still recommend these. Once I do, I’ll revisit the star rating, but as of now, these were good - can’t go wrong with that much cheese.
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🥗 Edamame Salad
As you might be able to tell from this list - I’m not a huge salad guy. I love a Sweetgreen as much as the next guy, but I’m bad at assembling them myself, so I rarely prepare them at home. This salad is an exception. The protein-filled edamame leaves you full, the salad is fresh and bright, and the seeds pack a crunch. It’s tasty, but I still say it’s more a side than a main.

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