12 Vegetarian Alternatives to Traditionally Meaty Dishes

Whether you’re trying out vegetarian dishes for Meatless Mondays, cutting back the amount of meat in your diet or you’ve been vegetarian for years, these 12 recipes will satisfy your craving for hearty, filling fare. Meals like burgers, chili, stroganoff and even meat loaf are reproduced with healthy and flavorful vegetarian ingredients, without using processed fake meat products.

Black Bean Burgers

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Packed with flavor thanks to cilantro, cumin, peppers, scallions and a chipotle mayo, this black bean burger recipe from Skinny Taste is leagues ahead of the frozen pucks at the grocery store. Black bean burgers are hardly any more difficult to make than regular burgers, so don’t let the ingredient list intimidate you – it’s all about whirling it through a food processor.

Quick Lentil Veggie Chili

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There are enough varieties of vegetarian chili to keep you warm and satisfied for weeks. Just search for ‘vegetarian chili recipe’ online, and you’ll find dozens. While most use kidney beans or a three-bean mix, this one from Whole Foods gets the bulk of its protein and fiber from lentils. Unlike meaty chili, lentil chili doesn’t take long at all to make, and can be eaten after just 30 minutes of simmering.

Mushroom Stroganoff

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Beef is typically the star of stroganoff, but mushrooms are what give it most of its flavor. For an all-vegetarian dish, simply use a variety of flavorful mushrooms like crimini, shitake and portabello. This recipe from Skinny Taste preserves the full flavor of the original dish, but if you’re totally meat-free, be sure to substitute the Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies) with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or something similar.

Hungarian Rich Bean Goulash</>

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Goulash is the perfect meal for a cold day, and this version of the vegetarian classic may not be terribly authentic, but it’s certainly delicious. Instead of chunks of beef, this goulash contains three varieties of beans.

Meat-Free Shepherd’s Pie

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This rich main course consists of vegetables like pearl onions, cremini mushrooms, carrots and parsnips topped with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes. Epicurious goes all-out with homemade vegetable stock, but it would be easy enough to substitute pre-made stock if you’re in a hurry.

Vegetarian Bolognese Pasta

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Bolognese is a rich, very meaty Italian sauce, typically made with ground beef, pork, veal and tomato. Giada de Laurentiis proves that vegetarian sauces can be just as flavorful as their carnivorous counterparts with a mushroom-based bolognese that also incorporates mascarpone cheese.


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Mashed chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste) form the basis of falafel, a Middle Eastern vegetarian dish that is usually deep-fried. Vegetarian Times offers a lighter version that’s cooked in a skillet with just a little bit of oil, for lower fat.

Lebanese-Style Doner Kebabs

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Falafel also makes a great substitute for meat in traditional Lebanese-style doner kebabs. Instead of forming it into patties, this recipe from Jenna’s Kitchen breaks it up into meat-like ‘ground beef’ chunks, pouring it into a pita with chili sauce and yogurt.

Eggplant Parmesan

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Along with mushrooms, eggplant is one of the meatiest vegetables, with a satisfying bite and lots of flavor. Breading eggplant with whole-wheat bread crumbs and parmesan cheese creates a main dish that can be just as satisfying as chicken.

Stuffed Portobella Mushroom Burgers

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Does this look delicious or what? A large portabello mushroom is stuffed with blue cheese and crunchy bread crumbs, grilled and then topped with a relish of fresh tomatoes, pickles, onions and olives for a hearty meat-free sandwich.

Tempeh Reuben

(images via: peta)

Tempeh is one of the least processed meat replacement products you can get – simply a brick of fermented soybeans. Here, it’s seasoned with garlic, vegetable broth and tamari and dressed with sauerkraut, cheese and vegan Thousand Island dressing for a vegetarian reuben sandwich.  Get the recipe at PETA.

Meatless Meat Loaf

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Fewer dishes are less meaty than meat loaf, but there are vegetarian substitutions for that, too. This recipe from Cooking Light combines peppers, mushrooms, walnuts and asparagus with bread crumbs, herbs and seasonings for a moist and delicious result.

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