here are many reasons why a person chooses to eat vegetarian, whether for life or once a week--health, the environment, animal wellbeing, or simply personal preference. Whatever your reason, check out these no meat meal ideas for inspiration in the kitchen.  

It’s important to find alternative sources of protein when eating vegetarian, but good news--that’s easy to do! In this post, we’ll look at some excellent recipes that utilize these awesome alternative protein sources:

  • Quinoa - A cooked cup of quinoa provides 8-9 grams of complete protein, meaning it contains the nine essential amino acids your body cannot make itself. You’ll also get complex carbs, fiber, iron, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium from this grain. 
  • Tofu - 3.5 ounces of tofu contains 10-19 grams of protein as well as iron and calcium.
  • Beans - Most varieties of beans, including black beans and garbanzo beans (or chickpeas) contain about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup and provide you with complex carbs, fiber, iron, folate, phosphorus, potassium, manganese. 
  • Lentils - With one cooked cup of lentils you’ll get 18 grams of protein and about 50% of your daily protein. 
A no meat meal full of veggies and grains sits on a table surrounded by vegetables.
Whether you’ve been vegetarian for years or are starting meatless Mondays, try these recipes for delicious no meat meals full of alternative protein sources.

1. Quinoa Chilli 

A pot of chili filled with quinoa, black beans, and sweet potatoes.
This one pot vegetarian chili is packed with alternative protein and ready in under 35 minutes. Image courtesy of chelseasmessyapron.com.

Time: 35 minutes 

Servings: 6-8


  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetarian stock/broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chili beans in mild sauce
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
  • Optional toppings: fresh lime juice, chopped cilantro, sour cream, cheddar cheese


1. In a large cast iron pot over medium high heat add in olive oil. Once shimmering, add in the (peeled and chopped) sweet potatoes.

2. Stir until quite tender, around 7-9 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir for 1 minute or until fragrant.

3. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the quinoa to the hot skillet stirring constantly for 30 seconds.

4. Return to the heat and add in the stock/broth, the frozen corn, undrained chili beans, black beans, and undrained petite diced tomatoes.

5. Stir everything well and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot.

6. Allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. This time will vary depending on the heat of your stove-top. For best results, check it every 3-5 minutes and give it a good stir at each check to avoid burning or sticking to the bottom.

7. Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, remove from the heat. Season to taste with any additional salt/pepper as needed. I like to add a few tablespoons of lime juice here.

8. Top individual bowls with favorite toppings. We top ours with a good handful of freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, another squeeze of lime, a good spoonful of sour cream, and some chopped cilantro. Don't forget the toppings; they add a lot!

Recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron.

2. Tofu Pad Thai

A bowl of tofu pad thai topped with peanuts and lime slices.
Try this homemade pad thai for your next no meat meal.  Image courtesy of goodhousekeeping.com.

Time: 35 minutes

Servings: 4


  • 14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 8 ounces rice noodles
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts


1. Slice tofu 1/2- inch thick. Place on a rimmed baking sheet between layers of paper towels; sandwich with a second sheet and place a cast iron skillet on top to weigh down 10 minutes. Cut into cubes, transfer to a bowl and toss with cornstarch.

2. Meanwhile, cook noodles per package directions and rinse with cold water; drain.

3. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sugar, chili sauce, lime juice and garlic; set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add pepper and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet. Add tofu and cook, tossing, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add noodles and sauce and toss to combine. Fold in pepper, sprouts and scallions and cook for 2 minutes.

Recipe from Good Housekeeping

3. Black Bean Burgers

A homemade black bean burger topped with cheese, lettuce, and ketchup.
A great no meat alternative you can throw on the grill at your next cookout. Image courtesy of allrecipes.com

Time: 35 minutes

Servings: 4


  • 1 (16 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs


1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.

3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.

4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.

5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.

6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on the baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

Recipe from allrecipes.

4. Indian Red Lentil Dal

A bowl of Indian red lentil dal with plenty of protein from lentils.
Red lentil dal is quick to make, delicious, and full of plant based protein. Image courtesy of thewanderlustkitchen.com

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4


  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 green chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced (serrano for spicy, jalapeno for more mild)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • Juice of one half a lemon
  • Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish


1. Place the rinsed lentils in a medium saucepan along with 3 cups of room temperature water. Turn the heat to medium and allow the lentils to cook for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick; cook for 60 to 90 seconds, until fragrant.

3. Add the onion, green chili pepper, garlic, and ginger; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are turning translucent.

4. Add the turmeric, cardamom, paprika, salt, and tomato to the pan. Cook until the tomato begins to fall apart, about 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

5. Once the lentils are cooked, drain off any excess water. Stir the spiced onion mixture into the pot of lentils. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Taste and add salt as needed.

6. Garnish with cilantro; serve with basmati rice and naan.

Recipe from The Wanderlust Kitchen

5. Chickpea Tacos

A plate of fresh tacos with corn, tomato, avocado, and protein from chickpeas.
These tacos are perfect for a meat free and gluten free meal with plenty of flavor and protein. Image courtesy of mayihavethatrecipe.com.  

Time: 20 minutes

Servings: 6


  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 cup fresh chopped cilantro (set aside 2 teaspoons for the yogurt sauce)
  • 24 grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 2 avocados, diced  (squeeze some lemon or lime on it to keep it from turning brown)
  • 1 1/4 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • Sriracha sauce to taste (optional)
  • Green Dragon Hot Sauce (optional)


  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cultured coconut milk
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice


1. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add chickpeas, smoked and sweet paprika, cumin and salt. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring often so the chickpeas are well coated with the spices. Add cilantro, toss well and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Set aside.

2. To prepare the sauce, whisk all the ingredients together until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. To assemble the tacos, fill each tortilla with chickpeas and the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle with yogurt sauce and sriracha or green dragon sauce if using.

Recipe from May I Have That Recipe

Two people chop fresh vegetables in preparation for a delicious no meat meal.
Add quinoa, tofu, lentils, or beans to any meat free meal for some extra protein. 

Hopefully these no meat meal ideas will inspire you to get creative with alternative protein sources in your kitchen. These recipes are quick, easy, flavorful and will be excellent additions to your recipe repertoire. 

Jun 5, 2020