Vegetarian Comfort Foods

Vegetarians don’t have to miss out on the fun of eating comfort foods they grew up with. If you’re not a vegetarian, but just want to reduce your meat, fish or fowl consumption, you can still eat many of your favorites by making a few substitutions.

veggie chili

Mac and Cheese Meal Squares

Kick up your mac and cheese with some tarragon, sliced cherry tomatoes and red and green peppers and onions. The tarragon takes mac and cheese to a grown-up flavor level, with the tomatoes adding acid and the baked onions and peppers adding sweetness. Add unique cheeses to make your mac stand out from the crowd and make sure to top it with toasted breadcrumbs. Let the mac and cheese cool and cut it into squares, like a lasagna. Serve it as a main dish after a cup of soup and a side salad.

Cheatin’ Chili with Corn Bread

OK, technically, chili doesn’t have beans, but vegetarians need protein sources and adding kidney or pinto or black beans to chili is a no-brainer. Make your chili as spicy, mild or sweet as you like, but be sure to dice your veggies in large pieces so you don’t lose the flavor of each. Add some corn bread with whole corn kernels to serve with your chili, or use old standbys like saltines or oyster crackers.

Hello Portobello Burger

Thick, meaty Portobello mushrooms, sautéed and served with your favorite bun and toppings will make you forget to ask, “Where’s the beef.” Experiment with different marinades or sauces for your mushroom “patty,” and moist lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions, along with a slice of gourmet cheese. Serve with sweet potato fries and your favorite beverage and you’ll have your meat-eating friends asking for the recipe.

Grilled PBJ & B

With one or two substitutions, you can turn a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into a healthier main dish vegetarians will love. Peanut butter is high in calories, but that means you don’t need a lot to create a satisfying sandwich. It’s also a good source of protein and healthy fats.

If you want a healthier alternative, try almond butter. OK, so jelly isn’t health food, but we’re talking comfort food here! Find the most natural brand you can to lower the sugar content.

To take this sandwich to the next level, slice some bananas and add them to the nut butter and jelly, then grill an interesting bread choice or a Flatout flatbread. Serve with a cup of veggie soup and some sliced carrots or celery and you’ll feel like mom just made your lunch.

Lasagna Primavera

There’s so much going on in lasagna you’ll never miss the hamburger in a vegetarian version. To make a lasagna primavera, dice bell peppers, mushroom, broccoli, onions, carrots, celery or any of your other favorite veggies into large pieces. These should be the stars of your lasagna. Look for a vegan or whole grain pasta and choose a healthy, natural cheese.

Ragin’ Cajun Rice and Beans

You should be able to find plenty of red rice and beans (a complete protein) kits in your grocery store, which are usually sold as a side dish. To make this your main dish, add your favorite veggies – try whole baby carrots as a substitute for chicken or sausage. They add some crunch and sweetness as well as extra vitamins and minerals. Take some instant corn bread mix and add some canned corn kernels, along with chili powder, for a great accompaniment.

Personal Pizza

Using a flatbread, English muffin, hard roll or bagel, you can have pizza anytime. Keep some healthy tomato sauce in the fridge, some of your favorite cheese, and a few veggies, and you’re only minutes away from a pizza party. No tomato sauce? No problem.

Try a white pizza with some olive oil drizzled on your crust, then topped with shredded or crumbled cheese, olives, spinach, mushrooms or your other favorites.