Don’t worry: meat free meals can be exciting! From curry to shepherd’s pie to a meatless bolognese spaghetti sauce to a vegan pulled ‘pork’ sandwich and beyond, these are the exciting Meatless Monday recipes you’ve been looking for!
Are you cutting back on meat at your house? There are a ton of people who, instead of going full vegan or vegetarian, are choosing a day or two each week to eat plant based meals.
For a lot of people, that day is Monday.
What is Meatless Monday?
Meatless Monday was started by Sid Lerner in 2003 – alongside the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future – as a way to encourage people to reduce their intake of meat.
The idea is that reducing meat consumption (even just a day less per week) can reduce stress on the planet’s resources, help combat climate change and benefit people as they reach for more vegetables, fruits and plant-based meals.
You may also see the day referred to as Meat-Free Monday.
Both Vegetarian and Vegan Meatless Monday Recipes
While all of these no meat dinner ideas are (obviously) meat free, there are a couple of classifications.
- Vegan recipes: Marked with the leaf. 100% plant based – with no ingredients derived from animals at all.
- Vegetarian recipes: No meat at all. However may contain ingredients like eggs, dairy, honey, etc. Feel free to use your favorite plant based substitutes if you follow a vegan lifestyle.
There’s no salad here. These meatless Monday recipes are all entree sized and super filling. No grumbling bellies an hour later!
So here are 18 meatless meals sure to please even the pickiest eaters in your crew.
The Best Vegan Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)
Once you try making mapo tofu at home, you’ll never order the takeout version again. Mushrooms deliver a robust umami to the dish – and stand in for the traditional ground meat. Gochujang and spicy chili crisp bring a one-two-punch of heat. And you can take the spice up another level with Sichuan peppercorns if you’re so inclined. If you’re only going to try one dish on this list, this Sichuan classic is the one!
West African Peanut Stew (Vegetarian)
I may turn to this West African influenced peanut stew more than any of my other meatless Monday recipes. And that’s because it’s packed with veggies, leafy greens and chickpeas. On the flavor side of things, you’re getting heat from garam masala, bird’s eye chilis and ginger – and a whole host of goodness from both peanut butter and crushed peanuts. The broth actually straddles the line between soup and peanut sauce texturally – and is so savory. I use collard greens in this one pot meal, but kale would be a good substitute (or spinach in a pinch).
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
Let’s hear it for the mighty lentil! Because it’s this hearty legume that delivers the meaty texture to this classic casserole while still keeping it plant-based. Traditional veggies like corn, peas and green beans are combined with the lentils in a thick, savory mushroom gravy. The whole thing is topped with pillowy mashed potatoes and then baked to perfection. If you like shepherd’s pie, this dish is a must!
Stir Fried Bean Sprouts With Tofu and Garlic Chives
Now, I love fresh bean sprouts so much I could devour them straight out of the the container from the grocery store. But this stir fry is my ultimate favorite way to eat bean sprouts in a composed dish. Garlic chives and sprouts are flash fried in a soy based sauce alongside tofu for a dish that’s as pretty as it is delicious. You can use smoked tofu, pressed tofu – or a tofu cutlet. Use what you like best. This is one of those meatless Monday recipes that doubles as the perfect takeout fakeout as well.
Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
This vegan spaghetti bolognese delivers on the deep and slow cooked flavor promise of the original. Tomatoes: check. Garlic, thyme and oregano: check. And you won’t miss the meat with mushrooms! Finely diced, they mimic the texture of meat and give your tomato sauce a little extra umami earthiness. The secret to the perfect texture is pulsing part of the sauce in a blender (full instructions in the recipe). This is the perfect hearty red-sauce recipe for pasta night.
Thai Green Curry
There’s something so magical about green curry paste and coconut milk. This Thai green curry is pungent, sweet and spicy like a good curry should be. Roasted delicata squash imparts a bit more sweetness. For heat, I’m using chopped Thai chilis. A little goes a long way – but if you like it volcanic, you know what to do 🌶
Japanese Curry Over Mashed Potatoes
When you’re craving a little comfort food, this East meets West mash up is the easy vegetarian dinner recipe you’ve been looking for your entire life. Veggie loaded Japanese curry is served on top of silky smooth mashed potatoes (instead of the traditional rice). Think of a more savory, sweeter, richer inverted shepherd’s pie and you’ve pretty much got it. When it comes to veggies, use whatever you’ve got handy. I love carrots, mushrooms and zucchini in Japanese vegetable curry – but you can use eggplant, butternut squash, corn, etc. This flavor mixture is so unexpected and perfect, you’ll be licking the bowl.
Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
There’s nothing timid about these stuffed bell peppers. These colorful beauties are loaded with a hearty filling featuring black beans, tomatoes, jalapeños, squash and brown rice. You could use quinoa instead of the rice if that’s your thing. And you’ll get a burst of flavor from fresh herbs like thyme, and spices like cumin and chili powder. I use fresh grated Parmesan cheese in mine – but vegans can simply omit that ingredient. Top with avocado, cilantro and hot sauce for the full package. Ben actually calls these vegetarian tacos, ha!
Creamy Vegan Carbonara
Step aside eggplant Parmesan. This creamy vegan ‘carbonara’ is where it’s at when I’m craving Italian. Now, I could eat pasta everyday. But when it comes to recreating the creaminess and tang of a good carbonara in vegan form, I turn to a couple of unexpected sources: silken tofu and sauerkraut brine. Sounds crazy. Tastes delicious. Instead of the traditional guanciale, I’m roasting mushrooms in smoked paprika and salt until they take on the caramelized chew of bacon. You will be shocked by this one. Seriously, try it!
Air Fryer Teriyaki Tofu
Of all of the meatless Monday recipes here, this simple teriyaki tofu is one of the easiest to whip up. These delicate, protein packed tofu cubes are light, crispy, sweet and savory. Top with chopped scallions and serve with a side of perfectly fluffy rice.
The Best Air Fryer Baked Potato
It wasn’t until I got an air fryer in my kitchen that I realized I had been doing baked potatoes all wrong. Now I lightly brush soy sauce on the outer skin of my potatoes. As they sizzle away in the air fryer, the savory flavors infuse into the crispy skin. It’s so… extra. You wanna know what else is extra? Topping a baked potato with kimchi, chopped green onion and sour cream. Oh, you’ll wanna read the label at the store, but did I mention that most commercially produced bacon flavored bits are actually vegan? The air fryer works great for sweet potatoes as well. Make these potatoes on their own – or as a hearty side to a vegetarian chili.
Miso Kimchi Ramen
If you like your ramen, umami, bright and spicy, this one is for you! The miso based soup is fortified with funky and fiery Korean favorites like kimchi and gochugaru. And there’s an optional toasted garlic and scallion oil that makes the soup and noodles so delicious, it ins’t really optional at all. Top with fresh bean sprouts and canned corn for a fresh crunch and little pops of sweetness.
Filipino Garlic Rice (Sinangag)
Garlic lovers, take note! This is the recipe you’ve been waiting for. Filipino garlic rice is infused with fragrant garlic oil and loaded with crispy garlic chips. And while it’s a breakfast staple in the Philippines, no one is saying you can’t make it for lunch or dinner. Since there’s no egg used, this is also one of the rare authentic fried rice recipes that is completely vegan. If you’ve only got 10 minutes to cook (and some leftover jasmine rice in the fridge), you’ll be sitting pretty.
Beyond Beef Hambagu (ハンバーグ)
No sad veggie burgers here! This is a meatless Monday recipe for meat eaters. Hambagu is the Japanese equivalent of a hamburger steak – or Salisbury steak. But instead of the usual ground beef called for in this Japanese classic, I used the plant-based ground from Beyond Meat. The patties are fortified with onions, garlic and panko breadcrumbs – pan fried, and topped with a super savory gravy. This hearty vegan recipe will blow your mind with the meatiness of it all!
Mexican Style Tofu Scramble
This isn’t a plate of scrambled Huevos Rancheros. But, with garden fresh salsa fresca and cilantro, this vegan tofu scramble sure does a good impression. The secret is warming spices like turmeric and cumin. Couple that with pan sautéed green bell peppers and you’ve got a breakfast scramble that is as delicious as it is hearty. Need a protein boost? This is the flavor packed scramble for you.
Vegan Barbecue “Pulled Pork” Sandwich
Looks like meat. And it tastes like BBQ pulled pork. What gives? Enter the mighty jackfruit. Canned young jackfruit to be exact (doesn’t work with fresh jackfruit). Now, I know what you’re thinking. And it is probably the exact thing I was thinking before I actually tried making a pulled jackfruit sandwich. But this stuff is magnificent! Pair with your favorite BBQ sauce, make some crunchy coleslaw – and you’ll be eating a backyard BBQ favorite that just happens to be meat free.
Easy Bibimbap Bowl (비빔밥)
Bibimbap is the perfect rice bowl. It’s got flavor elements that run the gamut from salty to spicy to nutty. Incidentally, this is also one of those meatless Monday recipes that can help you clear out your vegetable crisper – without resulting in yet another stir fry. Bibim means a mixture of various ingredients in Korean. Bap means rice. We’re using tofu, carrots, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and baby spinach as our hodgepodge of elements. And you can use short grain white rice – or brown rice – whatever your preference. Top with an egg and drizzle with this simple to make bibimbap sauce recipe. Yum!
The Best Cauliflower Casserole
This old-school casserole is cheesy and full of home cooked comfort food goodness. It’s one of those things that tastes like Mom made it, even if you didn’t grow up eating oven baked casseroles. Cauliflower and leeks form the base – while vegan bacon bits introduce an element of smokiness. But the secret to the flavor in this baked vegetable medley is miso paste. So savory. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake until just right. Mom would be proud of this one.
Have you tried any of these easy meatless Monday recipes? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below.Print
Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
100% plant-based spaghetti ‘bolognese’ that tastes better than the real thing!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 6 people 1x
- Category: Vegan
- Cuisine: Italian
- 16 ounces dried thin spaghetti or regular spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- 1 medium carrot (finely chopped)
- 1 green bell pepper (cored, seeded and finely chopped)
- 10 ounces button mushrooms (finely chopped)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 28 ounces can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- In a large pot over medium high heat, add olive oil, garlic and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent.
- Add carrots, green bell peppers and mushrooms, stir and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add thyme, oregano, tomatoes and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Put 2 1/2 cups of the vegan bolognese sauce into a blender and pulse a few times – do not over blend – until the texture looks like ground meat. Return to the pot and stir. Serve with pasta.
- For the pasta: fill a large pot with water and salt (approximately 1 tablespoon salt, or 1.5 tablespoon kosher salt, per quart). Bring to a boil.
- Cook pasta according to directions on the package (about 6-7 minutes for thin spaghetti). Drain – do not rinse – and set aside.
Save any leftover sauce – separate from the cooked noodles – in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 359
- Sugar: 5.8g
- Sodium: 119.6mg
- Fat: 6.1g
- Saturated Fat: 0.9g
- Unsaturated Fat: 1.1g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 64.5g
- Fiber: 4.1g
- Protein: 12.2g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: main, meatless, plant based, tomato sauce, vegetarian, pasta