Cooking hearty vegetarian meals that carnivores will love


In this article: 

  • There are lots of great alternatives to meat that can help you cook up delicious, hearty meals including tofu, quinoa, rice, mushrooms, and more.

  • When hosting meals for mixed eaters, it’s important to have vegetarian side dishes that can stand alone as main dishes as well.

  • Providence nutrition experts say that adding spices to your vegetarian meals not only adds amazing flavor but also offers a lot of health benefits.

Many of us love spending time planning big family meals and cookouts. And when it comes to cooking around the grill, the first foods we jump to are usually meat: hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, and chicken.

But if you’re finding more of your family and friends opting only for the veggie sides, you may want to rethink how you plan your BBQ. In fact, approximately 4% of the U.S. population identifies as vegetarian, meaning they don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry. Plus, research has shown that eating high amounts of red meat may increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, so swapping out the meat every once in a while couldn’t hurt.

Luckily, there are a lot of great ways to cook vegetarian meals that won’t have the carnivores missing the meat. Here are some tips you can try:

Roast your veggies

Roasting vegetables is one of the best ways to add robust flavor to a meatless dish. You can roast them in the oven or on the grill. Simply toss with your favorite seasoning and healthy oil (like olive oil) and roast at a high temperature (400-425°F) until the vegetables are tender.

Swap in ‘meaty’ vegetables and flavors

Mushrooms, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and miso paste can all add a savory taste to dishes. This flavor mimics the meaty taste you get in a good steak, and it’s likely to satisfy even the pickiest carnivores.  For example, add sautéed mushrooms on top of your veggie burgers or mix some miso paste into your sauces.

Serve hearty side dishes

If you’re cooking dinner for a mixed group of eaters, make sure your side dishes can substitute as main dishes. For example, make a salad with protein-filled quinoa, brown rice, or beans. Whole-wheat or brown rice pasta dishes are also healthy and filling side options.

Bring on the flavor

One of the most common complaints you hear from meat-eaters is that veggie dishes are boring or have no flavor. Well, it’s time to prove them wrong!

Tap into your spice rack when roasting vegetables — try making them spicy with different chili powders and cumin, or add more herbaceous flavors with rosemary and thyme. Some grocery stores have roasted vegetable spice blends you could add to the mix. You could also try making a flavorful sauce to add to a vegetarian dish, such as a Thai-inspired peanut sauce or a spicy mole.

Find alternative proteins

When you hear the word “protein," you probably think of a piece of meat. However, there are plenty of plant-based foods that pack a ton of protein and fill you up, including beans, nuts, and brown rice. Tofu, which is often used as a meat substitute, has 13 grams of protein in every cup.  Quinoa has 14 grams of protein per cup. For comparison, a traditional beef burger has approximately 20 grams of protein. You can also try using quinoa as a substitute for beef in tacos or chili because it has a similar texture.

When planning your veggie-friendly meals for carnivores, make sure you include plenty of these plant-based proteins, so everyone can feel satisfied. Try incorporating bean salads, brown rice pilaf, or black bean burgers into your menu.

Give veggie burgers a try

Veggie burgers have come a long way in recent years, and they’re not the flavorless discs many people think they are! Browse the frozen food aisles for several flavorful options or make some yourself — try this easy black bean burger recipe for a tasty alternative. You can also dress up a standard veggie burger with sautéed veggies or a delicious spice blend.


Find a doctor

Looking for more advice on healthy, veggie-friendly meals? Talk with your doctor or dietician about ways to incorporate healthy, plant-based foods into your daily diet. You can find a Providence doctor using our provider directory.

Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services. 

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Related resources

Plant-based foods that pack a protein punch

Hosting a Healthy Cookout Your Guests Will Love

Ask a Dietitian: Should I Eat a Plant-Based Diet?

Frozen Foods: A Cool Way to Eat Well

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

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