Whether it’s due to health reasons, environmental factors, or ethical concerns, many of us are trying to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating – or even cut it out altogether.
While in the past, vegetarian food was sometimes viewed as rather bland, these days, more people than ever are waking up to how delicious vegetarian (and vegan) food can be. And the good news is that you don’t need to spend hours cooking to knock up a delicious veggie feast.
So whether you’re already vegetarian and are looking for quick meal ideas, or you’re trying to eat less meat and want to know what dishes you can make in under half an hour; here are 14 healthy and easy vegetarian recipes that are perfect for when you want to eat good food, fast.
1. Crispy gnocchi with tomatoes and leeks
If you love the soft, succulent texture of gnocchi, there’s a very good chance that you’ll love this crispy gnocchi with tomato and leek recipe from Eating Well Magazine.
This recipe uses shop-bought gnocchi, so it only takes 20 minutes to prepare. But the trick to getting restaurant-quality gnocchi is to sauté them in hot oil so they’re crispy on the outside and wonderfully tender on the inside.
If you cook the tomato and leek sauce in the same pan you cook the gnocchi in, you’ll get a lovely toasted taste, which gives further depth to these flavours. You can customise this dish however you like by adding extra veg, a dollop of pesto, a grating of cheese, or even a splash of cream. For a fibre boost, why not use wholewheat gnocchi instead of white?
2. Peanut butter and sprouting broccoli pad Thai
If you’re a fan of Thai food and want to make a healthy version of a classic pad Thai, look no further than Meera Sodha’s peanut butter and purple sprouting broccoli pad Thai.
Pad Thai was created in the 1930s when the Thai leader held a competition to find a new national dish, and while traditional pad Thai contains shrimp and egg, this version is entirely vegan. While it adds an innovative new twist to the famous dish, it doesn’t compromise on flavour or detract from what makes it so great.
This recipe is perfect for when you get those midweek takeaway cravings, and the purple sprouting broccoli gives you a welcome dose of vitamin C.
Thick, soft rice noodles are smothered in a crunchy peanut butter, chilli, and lime sauce – while mint and Thai basil leaves provide freshness. This is a creative dish that celebrates the brilliance of traditional pad Thai, and each bite will wake up your tastebuds!
3. Ricotta fritters, tomato sauce, and courgette salad
If you love Mediterranean food, why not try making Jamie Oliver’s ricotta fritters, tomato sauce, and courgette salad recipe?
Not only is this colourful dish absolutely delicious, but it also comes together in only 15 minutes – so it’s perfect for those rushed weeknight dinners. The fritters are made with ricotta cheese, eggs, nutmeg, lemon, and parmesan, then shaped into discs and fried until crisp.
Black olives, dried porcini mushrooms, garlic, basil, and chilli ensure the tomato sauce is packed with flavour, and once it’s thick, it’s poured all over the crispy fritters. For pescatarians, there’s also the option to add anchovies for a rich, umami taste – though the sauce is still just as inviting without!
The courgette salad adds freshness to this rich dish – as well as an extra dose of vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Simply grate baby courgettes (ideally green and yellow) and dress with olive oil, mint, lemon, and chilli.
4. Cannellini bean salad with basil and tomatoes
If you’re in the mood for a refreshingly light dish that doesn’t require any cooking, this cannellini bean salad with basil and sun-dried tomatoes by Food Pleasure & Health is ideal.
Cannellini beans have a lovely silky texture, a mildly nutty flavour, and they’re an excellent source of protein, fibre, and iron. Plus, they’re perfect when paired with chewy sun-dried tomatoes, crisp onions, and aromatic basil.
Naturally vegan and gluten-free, this salad comes together in just five minutes – and while it makes a lovely light lunch, it’s also a delicious side. You can even give it a mash and use it as a wholesome sandwich filling!
Because it lasts for up to four days, you might want to make a big batch and enjoy it throughout the week. That way, you’ll always have something healthy to snack on.
5. One-pot pasta primavera
Spring isn’t far away and if you love pasta, the perfect dish to celebrate the upcoming season is this one-pot pasta primavera from Flavour the Moments.
Pasta primavera is one of the most versatile pasta dishes around. You can use spaghetti, penne, shells, or any other pasta shape, and though this dish traditionally showcases the best of spring veg, you can add any vegetable you have lying around.
This particular recipe is packed with peas, asparagus, mushrooms, and leeks, though courgette and spinach work really well too. Lemon juice, zest, and basil add a fresh twist, and a splash of cream gives everything an indulgent, velvety texture (just use oat cream or soya cream to make this dish vegan).
Aside from being ready in 30 minutes, this recipe only requires one pan – which saves on the washing up!
6. Spiced paneer, spinach, and pea grain bowl
For a healthy, flavoursome and satisfying dish that’s also a real crowd-pleaser, why not make this spiced paneer, spinach, and pea grain bowl from Elly Pear’s Green?
Perfect for a quick weekend dinner with friends, this Indian-inspired dish is a symphony of flavours and texture: with chewy cubes of crisp paneer, wholesome brown rice and mixed grains, nutritious veggies, and a restaurant-quality yoghurt dipping sauce.
Paneer cheese has a very mild taste, but this recipe ups the ante by frying it in garlic, chilli, and cumin until it forms a deliciously spicy crust. You can save time by using shop-bought pouches of mixed grains and rice, and then the paneer and veggies are cooked in tandoori curry paste while you make the yoghurt sauce.
This veggie recipe can be easily made vegan, too; just swap the paneer for tofu, and use coconut yoghurt instead of dairy.
7. Kimchi noodles with fried sesame eggs
If you’re in the mood for a quick veggie dinner that packs a fiery punch, then why not try these kimchi noodles with fried sesame eggs by Olive Magazine?
Kimchi is a popular Korean food that’s made from salted and fermented veg like napa cabbage and Korean radish. It’s low in calories but has a whole variety of health benefits. It’s high in iron, folate, and vitamins B6 and K, and because it’s fermented, it’s also good for your gut.
This dish only takes 20 minutes to prepare, but it’s absolutely full of flavour. Fresh ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and chilli make every mouthful spicy and savoury, and the green beans and fried egg provide protein.
Because they’re so thick and chewy, udon noodles are the perfect base, and they’ll easily soak up any egg yolk.
8. Charred tofu, corn, and asparagus salad
Another light and delicious dish that’s easy to whip together is this charred tofu, corn, and asparagus salad from Taste.
Though this recipe uses plain tofu that’s then marinated, you might want to buy some of the flavoured varieties available from most supermarkets to save even more time: marinated tofu, basil tofu, smoked tofu, and wild garlic tofu will work really well in this salad.
The trick to making the most of the subtle flavours of this dish is to cook the corn, tofu, and asparagus on a griddle pan so you can enjoy those gorgeous charred flavours.
Then, just arrange everything on a plate along with the rocket and baby tomatoes, whizz up a quick and tasty dressing using pesto, lemon juice, and olive oil – and drizzle all over. You can even grate over some parmesan cheese if you like.
9. Veggie fajitas
Packed with veggies and plant-based protein, fajitas are an incredibly easy vegetarian meal to make – and part of the fun is being able to customise them as you like and add whichever fillings you enjoy most.
There are hundreds of quick veggie fajita recipes around, but the best ones tend to contain colourful vegetables, protein-packed beans, and creamy guacamole. Then, wrapping the fillings in a soft flour tortilla just makes each mouthful even more pleasurable.
BBC Good Food has a great range of veggie fajita recipes – and depending on your taste preferences, there’s something for everyone. If you’re pushed for time, try these black bean, avocado, and pepper fajitas, which are ready in just 15 minutes. Alternatively, these smoky tofu fajitas are quick and easy too.
Or why not mix things up and use your tortillas to make crunchy tostadas rather than fajitas? These black bean and avocado salsa tostadas are ready in just 25 minutes.
10. Quick lentil bolognese
Spaghetti bolognese is a deliciously comforting Italian dish. Though it’s traditionally made with beef mince, these days there are all kinds of vegetarian alternatives. You can make it with veggie mince, lentils, blitzed mushrooms, nuts… But for an easy, healthy, and delicious veggie bolognese, you can make in under half an hour, try this lentil bolognese by Cooking With Elo.
Chopping your veg in a food processor rather than by hand saves lots of time, and ensures your onions, carrots, and courgettes are all the same size. Just sautee the veg with olive oil, add tomato puree, and cook for 10 minutes. Then, while the pasta is cooking, add the spices and lentils and cook until you have a thick, rich sauce.
Top with grated cheese, or keep it fully plant-based by adding nutritional yeast or vegan cheese.
11. Mushroom and leek quinoa risotto
Risotto is another Italian staple, but it usually involves lots of stirring and waiting. So why not make a quick version and knock up this mushroom and leek quinoa risotto by Delicious Magazine?
Because it uses quinoa instead of rice, it’s also much healthier than classic risotto. Packed with minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and essential amino acids, quinoa is one of the most nutrient-dense foods around.
Simply fry leeks, mushrooms, and garlic until soft, then add the quinoa and wine, and let it bubble away. Then, add the stock in stages until it’s all absorbed. This should only take around 15 minutes, and when it’s ready, the quinoa should still have some bite to it.
Once cooked, stir in lemon zest and parmesan, then top with some shop-bought crispy fried onions for a satisfying crunch!
12. Spinach and feta filo pie
If you have guests coming around for lunch and want to impress them – but don’t have much time to cook – then Jamie Oliver’s spinach and feta filo pie is ideal.
Though it’s based on the Greek spanakopita pie, this version is much quicker and simpler, taking only 30 minutes to make. The Greek version uses only feta cheese, while Jamie’s recipe uses cheddar as well as feta for a super cheesy taste (you can always leave out the cheddar for a lower-calorie alternative).
Just toast the pine nuts, mix the cheese, eggs, and herbs together, and grate some lemon zest. Then cook some spinach until it’s wilted and add it to the mix along with the pine nuts. Spoon the mixture onto layers of shop-bought filo pastry and cook until crisp. Serve with a big side salad!
13. Lo mein with shiitakes, carrots, and bean sprouts
Lo mein is a Chinese noodle dish, and while chow mein is more popular in the UK, lo mein is definitely the healthier alternative. In a chow mein, the noodles are fried, whereas, in a lo mein, the noodles are tossed or stirred.
This vegetarian lo mein recipe from Eating Well Magazine is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough veggies in. It’s packed with shiitakes, carrots, and bean sprouts.
You can buy fresh lo mein noodles from Asian supermarkets, but dried egg noodles or rice noodles work too – as does linguine pasta! Bean sprouts are high in protein and nutrients and low in calories and carbs, and you can always add extra protein by adding some chopped tofu.
A sauce made from sesame oil, soy sauce, and sriracha ensures every mouthful is deliciously sweet and spicy.
14. Indian chana masala
For those days when you get home tired and find there’s nothing in the fridge, this Indian chana masala recipe from Taste is perfect – and as an added bonus, it’s incredibly cheap to make.
Tinned tomatoes and chickpeas are staples in most food cupboards, and as long as you have onions and a decent variety of spices at home, you should be able to make this dish in half an hour.
Simply cook the onions and mustard seeds in a saucepan, add the garlic and ginger, and then the spices. Then stir through the chopped tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. After, stir through the chickpeas and fresh spinach (if you have any), season, and serve.
The flavours of this dish develop with time and it tastes even better the next day – great news if you find yourself with leftovers!
As we hope these recipes prove, vegetarian food doesn’t have to be fussy or time-consuming – and it certainly isn’t bland! If you’re used to cooking with meat, trying different vegetarian recipes can be a great way to get out of your culinary comfort zone. Plus, you’ll probably discover plenty of delicious new ingredients, flavours, and recipes while you’re at it.
From aromatic noodle dishes and comforting pasta recipes to zingy, fresh salads, there’s a veggie dish out there for everyone, whether you’re an omnivore or a vegetarian. And luckily, if you’re vegan, most of the recipes here can be easily ‘veganised’ too!
Are you vegetarian, or do you enjoy cooking vegetarian dishes? Or are you just trying to eat less meat and want to know where to start? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.