10 Budget Friendly Vegetarian Meals for Any Craving

A great way to put filling meals on the table and save money during coronavirus is to dive into delicious no meat recipes. These vegetarian recipes for meat eaters and herbivores alike are about to revolutionize your time in quarantine!

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • April 27, 2020

With many meat processing plants closing around the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may already have noticed a shortage of meat in your grocery store aisles. That’s why we pulled together 10 of our favorite meatless recipes that have between 16 – 26 grams of protein per serving and utilize long shelf life pantry items!

And, since financial stress is at an all time high for so many people around the world right now, falling in love with meatless meals is a smart way to save money during coronavirus and beyond. In fact, vegetarians spend at least $750 less on food per year than meat eaters, so now is the perfect time to try some new quick and easy meals without meat.

We’re excited to bring you delicious no meat recipes to satisfy your cravings and bring excitement back into your time around the dinner table, but before we get into the recipes let’s have a little chat about pantry staples for these meals . . .

Ingredient Notes

Since we’re all limiting our grocery runs right now, we’re going to share recipes that use ingredients with a good shelf and freezer life. For each of our 10 meatless recipes below, we provide shelf life and substitution tips so you can feel confident about taking on new recipes during this uncertain time.

The main proteins we use in the recipes below are beans, lentils, tofu, and eggs, and are all great if you are cooking on a budget during coronavirus. And remember – vegetables contain protein, too, which you can learn more about and find out how much daily protein is right for you with our Guide to High Protein Vegetables. Although these recipes don’t call for meat alternatives like vegan sausage or Beyond Meat products, you can always add some if you’re having an all-encompassing craving or can swing the extra cost right now.

Okay, so now that our ingredient notes are out of the way, let’s dive into 10 easy meatless meals and start satisfying your dinner cravings! (Click on the recipe title to get the full recipe.)

Enjoy Some Feel-Good Comfort Foods

During times of uncertainty and transitions, it’s always nice to have some great feel-good dishes that wrap you up in a bundle of yum. So try your hand at these four no meat recipes that will make you feel happy inside.

1. Caprese Naan Pizza with Grilled Zucchini and Peaches

Inspired by Italian summer salads with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil, these 35-minute pizzas have received stellar reviews from our cooking community. With a simple garlic oil topping and grilled or roasted zucchini and peaches on the side, this quick and easy meal is way healthier than delivery and will effortlessly satisfy your pizza cravings.

Quarantine Smarts
If you can’t find soft naan at your grocery store, you can easily replace it with any flatbread or pizza crust and still have a delightful end result. And if fresh basil is unavailable, brush your pizza base with a spoonful of jarred pesto sauce instead.

2. Curried Red Lentil Soup with Roasted Cauliflower

Everyone and their kids will love this freezer-friendly dinner that is ready in just 40 minutes. Whether pureed or left chunky, this aromatic soup smells just as delicious as it tastes. With curry-roasted cauliflower on the side, get ready to fall in love with this impressively healthy dish that ranked in our Top 10 Recipes of 2019 by our cooking community!

Quarantine Smarts
This recipe makes use of several long shelf life items like lentils, coconut milk, butter, curry powder, canned tomatoes, and any kind of stock. Cauliflower is also a longer-lasting veggie that can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.

3. Chimichurri Black Bean Burgers

Chimichurri mayo adds a creamy topping to these flavorful veggie burgers that have won the hearts of our cooking community. This is the first recipe we made that features a black bean burger patty and so many homecooks have exclaimed that these are the best veggie burgers they have ever had! Pair it with a side of crispy green bean “fries” and you’ll forget why you ever craved fast food cheeseburgers.

Quarantine Smarts
These burgers use many ingredients that have a long shelf life and can be used in a wide variety of meals, including black beans, soy sauce, breadcrumbs, all-purpose flour, mayonnaise, and a jar of roasted bell peppers. You can also use whatever condiments you have in your fridge, like ketchup or barbecue sauce!

4. Creamy Chard and Mushroom Stroganoff

This comforting vegetarian variation on a classic stroganoff has consistently received stellar reviews over the past few years every time we feature it in a weekly menu. With earthy mushrooms and sweet chard, you won’t even miss the meat. Plus, it’s ready in only 30 minutes, which is a great bonus!

Quarantine Smarts
Egg noodles are a classic base for stroganoff, but this dish would be equally delicious served over rice, spaghetti, or any grain, so you can pick whatever base you have in your pantry. This dish also uses ingredients with a long shelf life like all-purpose flour, stock, lemon juice, and white wine (which also serves as a great excuse to enjoy a glass with dinner!).

Satisfy Your Asian Food Cravings

Since it’s no longer easy to make it to your favorite Asian restaurants or takeout joints right now, we know those cravings are probably going strong. These three Asian-inspired meals without meat are especially kid-friendly and transport you back to those fun, dine-in family meals.

5. Sesame Ginger Tofu Lo Mein

Between vegetables, noodles, cashews, and tofu, this satisfying one-bowl meal is packed full of colors and textures that make this dish dynamic and fun. Cook it all up with our rich and savory Sesame Ginger Stir-Fry Sauce, and you’ll have yourself a new family favorite.

Quarantine Smarts
It’s always a great idea to support your local family markets at times like these, so you can stock up on all of your Asian ingredients like soy sauce and lo mein noodles in one trip. You can also substitute lo mein with udon or soba as well.

6. Tofu and Udon Noodles in Green Curry Soup

The use of aromatic green curry paste, springy udon noodles, and baby spinach make this dish a great choice for when you want a comforting soup that also hits those delicious Asian flavors. Not only is the whole meal ready in 30 minutes when you use canned straw mushrooms and pre-washed spinach, it is also a low-calorie recipe even though it gives big portions with 25 grams of protein per serving.

Quarantine Smarts
This udon recipe uses many long shelf life items like coconut milk, vegetable stock, fish sauce, and green curry paste (which you can substitute with red or yellow). If you can’t find straw mushrooms, you can always swap them for other mushrooms. Once you open a can or jar of curry paste and don’t plan on using it soon, freeze the leftovers in tablespoon-sized portions, so you can easily add curry flavor to future meals.

7. Pineapple Fried Coconut Rice

Sweet coconut rice contributes an extra layer of flavor that perfectly compliments this recipe’s crunchy cashews, healthy kale, and sweet pineapples. This quick, weeknight-friendly meal is also freezer-friendly so you can make a double batch and be ready with a delicious meal on the fly.

Quarantine Smarts
This dish utilizes 8 different long shelf life ingredients, including rice, curry paste, coconut milk, toasted sesame oil, and frozen / canned pineapple. And, if the extra step of making coconut rice is too much during this stressful time, that’s not a problem at all – any leftover cooked rice will work great in this recipe!

Try Something New and Adventurous

As cabin fever runs higher in millions of households around the world, it’s a great time to spice up your days with new and exciting meatless meals that are still healthy. Let these three recipes bring wonder back to your home and get you out of a dinner rut that feels even ruttier than usual.

8. Two Bean Chili over Baked Sweet Potatoes

With two types of beans and a blend of spices, this classic vegetarian chili recipe takes on a whole new reality when served over sweet potatoes. The extra special flare of sweetness is the perfect way to get you out of a dinner rut and make dinnertime fun again.

Quarantine Smarts
This recipe makes use of several pantry staples like chili powder, cumin, canned beans and tomatoes, and any type of stock. It is also a great meal for uncertain times because it’s Instant-Pot friendly and freezer-friendly, too!

9. Mexican Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish of eggs cooked in a veggie-packed tomato sauce, and has long been a favorite in the Cook Smarts community. This quick 30-minute version gets the addition of a Mexican-inspired spice blend, giving this classic dish a totally new flavor. Tortillas are served alongside for scooping up the delicious sauce!

Quarantine Smarts
This recipe is super friendly on your wallet and uses long shelf life ingredients like canned tomatoes, adobo sauce, cumin, and tortillas (great to keep some in the freezer!). And, even though this dish uses queso fresco cheese to add a salty and savory flavor, you can feel free to skip the cheese if it isn’t available.

10. Indian Frittata and Green Salad with Curried Chickpeas

This fun fusion recipe takes the warming spices and vegetables of Indian cuisine and recreates it in frittata form. This 40-minute, low-calorie meal is served with a mouthwatering side salad with curried chickpeas and a creamy lemon yogurt dressing. Once you try this recipe, you’ll be eager to be swept away on a new culinary adventure every week!

Quarantine Smarts
This recipe uses stable shelf life ingredients like curry powder, white wine vinegar, canned chickpeas, and even frozen cauliflower and peas that hold their shape while cooking. You can also easily substitute ghee with butter if it isn’t readily available when you are on your shopping run.

Now that you have 10 quick and easy meals without meat to try at home, we hope they will help you satisfy those cravings, experience more daily joy, and save money during coronavirus and for years to come! And, as you jump into more meatless meals, check out our Guide to Vegetarian Protein Sources and Guide to High Protein Vegetables to help you on your journey.

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10 Best Meatless Meals on a Budget | Cook Smarts10 Best Meatless Meals on a Budget | Cook Smarts10 Best Meatless Meals on a Budget | Cook Smarts


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