Anything I know about living vegan, I learned from somebody else. In this collection, I point you towards some people and places that I found useful when figuring out what to eat for dinner.
Dinner is the principal act of the day that can only be carried out in a worthy manner by people of wit and humor; for it is not sufficient just to eat at dinner. One has to talk with a calm and discreet gaiety. The conversation must sparkle like the rubies in the entremets wines, it must be delightfully suave with the sweetmeats of the dessert, and become very profound with the coffee.”Alexandre Dumas
Or….. you can do none of those things and eat your dinner on the couch while watching Jane the Virgin, from the seat of your car or bus on the commute home which I did for three years, or skip it entirely and just eat a ginormous bowl of popcorn–something I do more often than is maybe normal.
The only requirement for a plant-based dinner is that you leave animals (both their actual body parts and their secretions) off your plate. Conversation that sparkles like rubies is extremely optional. As the Buddha probably once said, “Silence is better than bullshit.”
Okay okay. That was a lazy way to transition into talking about Buddha Bowls, but here we are. Onwards!
When I first became vegan, grain bowls or power bowls–whatever you want to call them–gave me a foolproof formula to follow when I didn’t know where to begin. More than a year later, I still eat buddha bowls every other week and love coming up with new versions of the sorta same thing.
Buddha Bowls are a great way to:
- Meal-prep a week’s worth of dinners in advance
- Create nutritionally-balanced meals that are endlessly adaptable
- Make use of whatever you have to hand in the fridge or cupboard
So what exactly goes into a Buddha Bowl?
Buddha Bowls are more of a general blueprint than a specific recipe.
Typically, plant-based bowls include a grain, some form of protein, a variety of vegetables (cooked and/or raw), and a dressing of your choice. I like to add toasted seeds, a dollop of hummus, pickled vegetables or sauerkraut, and some micro-greens whenever I remember to sprout them in advance.
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice
- Wheat Berries
- Cous Cous
The grains, seeds and vegetables in your bowl also contain varying amounts of protein, but I also like to add a generous helping of the following:
- Marinated Tofu
- Marinated Tempeh
- A plant-based meat alternative such as Field Roast Italian Sausages or Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo crumbled on top
Since becoming vegan, my meals are more varied, vibrant, colorful and beautiful.
Plants derive their colors from various phytochemicals found in them, and certain colors indicate an abundance of specific nutrients in a fruit or vegetable. For example, yellow and orange plant foods (carrots, citrus, pumpkin) are rich in vitamins C and A, while green fruits and veggies (spinach, kale, asparagus, avocado) are high in vitamins K, B and E.
Buddha Bowls are a great way to “eat the rainbow” and get a range of vitamins and minerals into your diet simply by eating a variety of colorful produce.
- Sweet Potatoes
The list goes on an on. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started:
- Vegan Buddha Bowl 3 Ways, by The Minimalist Vegan
- 50 Vegan Bowl Recipes by The Stingy Vegan
- 11 Vegan Buddha Bowls with 15+ Grams of Protein, by Plant Proteins.Co
- 16 Vegan Salad Dressings by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
- The Complete Guide to Vegan Store-Bought Salad Dressings
Easy Does It
Buddha Bowls are just the beginning.
As you’ll soon see, I may have gone a little overboard in this jam-packed bumper-blog-post. I couldn’t help myself! Every time I thought I was done, I’d think of another dish I just had to include, and I found it so affirming to find so many delicious, nutritious plant-based dinner ideas. There truly has never been a better or easier time to embrace a vegan lifestyle.
There has never been a better or easier time to embrace a vegan lifestyle.Shakespeare
Speaking of which: many of the recipes mentioned in this post can be made in 30 minutes or less and are easy for beginner or busy cooks alike, but to make things even easier I figured I’d dedicate a section to some especially quick and simple meals.
I find cooking from scratch with ingredients I’ve bought in bulk to be tastier and less expensive than ready-made or frozen meals, but I enjoy cooking and have the time to do it. Not everyone wants to spend their precious evenings that way, or those that do may not have the luxury of wide-open evenings like I do.
Too, many people have nothing more than a microwave or a hot-plate to work with, and people with disabilities or depression may not have the physical or mental energy to always or ever prepare their own food, so I dislike when this option is framed as laziness or perceived as some sort of flaw.
Veganism isn’t about eating tasteless tofu nor is it about spending hours making elaborate meals with exotic ingredients. Veganism is an ethical response to violence and exploitation. However you express those values in the kitchen is up to you.
- Microwaveable Meals for the Busy Vegan
- Top Ten Vegan Meal Delivery Services
- Freezer Aisle Finds: the Best Vegan Frozen Foods
Baked potatoes are easily veganized and take just 5-7 minutes in the microwave. Super simple and endlessly adaptable in terms of toppings.
- How to Bake a Potato in the Microwave
- Loaded Baked Potatoes by Well Vegan
- Vegan Loaded Baked Potato by It Doesn‘t Taste Like Chicken
- Vegan Twice Baked Potatoes with Black Beans & Coconut Bacon
30 Minutes or Less
For consistently delicious recipes, Minimalist Baker is one of my go-to food bloggers. They’re no longer fully plant-based which is a bummer, but they have an incredible catalog of vegan-friendly dishes, all of which require 10 ingredients or less and/or 30 minutes or less to prepare. Here are a few of my favorites:
And if that’s not enough, here are some more quick and easy vegan dinner ideas!
- 30 Quick Vegan Dinners You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less
- Easy Vegan Recipes for Beginners by A Couple Cooks
- 50 Easy Vegan Recipes for Beginners by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
- Best Ever Vegan Recipes Ready in Under 30 Minutes
No Meat & Two Veg
Buddha Bowls are the exact opposite of the “Meat & Two Veg” dinners I grew up on. These days, I mostly make one-pot meals like curries, soups and stews but, every so often, I’ll crave something resembling those childhood dinners of yesteryear.
In Ireland, it’s not uncommon for both of the two veg to be some sort of potato! Here are a few of my favorite spud recipes, followed by some other veggies sides and a selection of plant-based meat options for when you’re hankering after a comforting run-of-the-mill weeknight meal.
- Crispy, Fluffy Perfect Roast Potatoes by BOSH
- Sweet Potato Fries by Mark Bittman
- Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Garlic Pesto by Minimalist Baker
- Crispy Vegan Cheesy Roasted Broccoli by The Roasted Root
- Green Beans with Lemon Almond Pesto by Oh My Veggies
- Best Vegan Sausage Brands by Urban Vegan
- The Plant Based Sausage Recipe that You Should Know! Beyond Sausage Copy Cat by Sauce Stache
- Best Vegan Chick’n Products
From plant-based pasta and bolognese to risotto and lasagne, there are so many vegan versions of our favorite Italian comfort foods to be found. Here are a few of my favorites.
On an average weeknight, I just heat up a store-bought jar of pasta sauce and call it quits. Make sure to read the labels though: dried pasta is generally vegan, but animal products make their way into the most seemingly unlikely foods; even a jar of tomato marinara can contain milk for reasons that are beyond my understanding.
Here are my go-to recipes for when I feel like cooking from scratch (plus a few more ideas for you carbaholics):
- 3-Color Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce by Minimalist Baker
- Vegan Stuffed Jumbo Shells by Nora Cooks
- 30-Minute Vegan Alfredo by Minimalist Baker
- 20 Delicious Vegan Pasta Recipes, compiled by Connoisseurus Veg
Risotto is another of my favorite comfort foods and, even before I became vegan, I always found the vegetable versions more interesting and flavorful. Having said that, I admit I spent a long time in comparison mode when I first eliminated cheese from my diet, and I couldn’t believe that a vegan version of risotto could taste good without Parmesan.
As I learned more and more about the realities of animal agriculture, however, my taste-buds and personal preferences became increasingly irrelevant. Veganized versions of our favorite foods can and very often do taste just as good or better than the meat, egg and dairy versions we’re used to. These days, I’m eating some of the best food of my life, but that really isn’t the point, and I wish I’d understood sooner that this really isn’t about me. It’s about them.
- Creamy Vegetable Vegan Risotto by Minimalist Baker (30 Minutes!)
- Date Night Roast Butternut Squash Risotto by Choosing Chia
- Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Peas & Roasted Cashew Cream
My go-to blog for plant-based Mexican recipes is Dora’s Table.
Born and raised in Mexico, Dora graduated culinary school in New York City and recreates traditional Mexican recipes as well as creating new vegan classics.
Check out her long list of Best Vegan Mexican Recipes, including these favorites:
Another great source for authentic recipes is Vegan Mexican Food, by the Food Empowerment Project–a vegan food justice organization that was founded by Chicanx and activist Lauren Ornelas.
More Mexican Recipe Ideas
I can’t guarantee they’re authentic, but I can promise you these plant-based Mexican meals taste damn good:
- Versatile Vegan Tacos by Loving it Vegan
- 14 Mexican-Inspired Vegan Recipes by Minimalist Baker
- 1-Pot Vegan Tortilla Soup by Minimalist Baker
- Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Chipotle Romesco by Minimalist Baker
- Next Level Vegan Enchiladas with Cilantro Lime Cashew Cream by Oh She Glows
Obviously, ‘Asian’ is too simplistic a term to encompass the diversity of cuisine in a region that is home to 48 countries. I guess what I really mean is Thai, Korean, Chinese and Japanese, but even that’s an oversimplification…
Sometimes it be that way, especially in a blog post that’s practically a novel already! In the absence of a better term, I offer you veganized versions of some classic noodle, curry, stir-fry and fried-rice recipes, plus some tips for transforming the blank canvas that is tofu into something as delicious as it is nutritious.
What To Do With Tofu
- How to Cook Tofu That Actually Tastes Good, Bon Appetit
- How to Make Tofu Look and Taste Like Chicken
- All About Tofu by The Joyful Vegan
From Pad Thai to Pho and Instant Ramen, here are a variety of delectable vegan noodle recipes!
- Vegan Hot & Sour Noodle Soup by Vegan Miam
- Hot Noodle Soup From Scratch (Vegan & Gluten Free) by The Cheap Lazy Vegan
- 5-Minute Spicy Udon Noodle Recipe by The Cheap Lazy Vegan
I mostly make Indian-style curries but increasingly I’ve been branching out and making other versions of vegan curries, like these:
- Coconut Red Curry with Chickpeas by Minimalist Baker
- Vegan Thai Curry Vegetables, NY Times
- Easy 1-Pot Massaman Curry by Minimalist Baker
Stir Fry & Fried Rice
Fried Rice and Stir Fry are quick, easy and endlessly adaptable. Here are my go-to recipes:
- 20 Minute Stir-Fry by Minimalist Baker
- Japanese Fried Rice with Edamame & Hijiki
- Red Rice Stir Fry with Spicy Tofu by Lazy Cat Kitchen
Buns & Dumplings
Last but not least, here are some great Asian-inspired bun and dumpling recipes for the more experienced home cook.
Until I stumbled across Nada at One Arab Vegan, my knowledge of Middle Eastern food was essentially limited to hummus and falafel. Nothing wrong with hummus at all, but variety is the spice of life and I’m excited to branch out and try some of these new-to-me vegan Middle Eastern meals.
Apart from the delicious recipes, Nada’s blog makes fascinating reading as she writes about leading a vegan lifestyle in the Arab world and the stigma it faces in Middle Eastern culture. Plus she also introduced me to the amazingness that is caramelized onion hummus, cause you can’t have too many hummus recipes in my humble hummus opinion.
- Brown Rice Mujaddara
- Moroccan Style Moghrabieh Couscous
- Vegan Cauliflower Musakhan
- Millet-Stuffed Egyptian Vine Leaves
- Foul Mudammas (Egyptian Fava Beans)
More Vegan Middle-Eastern Recipes!
- Mezze Mania! 33 Vegan Middle Eastern Recipes
- More Than Just Hummus: 15 Meatless Middle Eastern Recipes You Have to Try
- Vegan Recipes from the Middle East by Parvin Razavi
Before becoming vegan, I went through phases of being incidentally vegetarian–initially when I was a broke-ass student and again when I spent six months in India. Indian food is my very favorite and not a week goes by where I don’t make some sort of curry or Indian-spiced vegetable dish.
I’ve been cooking Indian food for years but it wasn’t until I became vegan and discovered the amazing Vegan Richa that I discovered some of the best Indian dishes I’ve ever eaten.
It’s hard to choose my favorites, but as I near the end of this verrrry long blog-post, I’ve narrowed it down to these five:
- Instant Pot Tikka Masala
- Turmeric Lemon Rice Recipe
- Coconut Korma Sauce with Cauliflower, Potato & Chickpeas
- Instant Pot Aloo Gobi – Curried Potato Cauliflower
- Vegan Tofu Amritsari Masala–Tofu in Smoky Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce
More Vegan Indian Dinner Ideas!
When writing this post, I stumbled across a couple of other bloggers creating amazing vegan Indian food.
Vaishali over at Holy Cow was born in Mumbai and has dozens of authentic plant-based Indian recipes that bring back great memories of my time there.
- Coconut Rice South Indian Style
- Instant Pot Butternut Squash Biryani
- Idli, a delicious fluffy gut-friendly food from South India
And Eva, over at The Curious Chickpea and who is half-Sindhi, makes a lot of Indian and Pakistani meals in addition to creations from other cultures.
That’s (Not) All Folks!
When I set out to compile a collection of plant-based dinner recipes, I had no idea it would be so long or that I would find it hard to stop!
I am excited and encouraged to realize the abundance and variety of vegan options available to us–the recipes listed here are truly the tip of the iceberg–and I hope that everyone from beginner to experienced cooks will find something to inspire and tempt them to try a plant-based diet.
Feel free to contribute your favorite plant-based recipes in the comments and continue the conversation–I’d love to hear from you!