4 Easy Ways to Make Vegetarian Meals

So you’ve newly decided to become a vegetarian, or one of your friends or family members has. Whatever the reason is, you need to make vegetarian meals, you want them to be good meals, but you aren’t really sure what you’re doing. Luckily, the secret to vegetarian cooking is the same as the secret to cooking in general: It’s really easy when you get the hang of it.

1 Use Meat Substitutes

Pick a meal you already know how to make, such as sausages and mash, spaghetti Bolognese or chicken curry, and swap the meat out for a meat substitute. While vegetable burgers have their place and are delicious, these days there are some outstanding meat substitutes – depending on the meat product, you might have to pay close attention to keep track of which one is veggie!

There are meat substitutes for easy to make meals, such as sausages, pies or steaks, which you can just put in the oven then put on a plate. There are also substitutes for meat ingredients, which you use in something like a stew, sauce or curry, such as mince, meat-style pieces. There are even versions of ready-to-eat meat products like scotch eggs. In fact, it’s hard to find something made of meat that you can’t buy made of a meat substitute.

What to be aware of:

Make sure to read the cooking instructions! Meat substitutes often take around the same time to cook as the meat product they’re the match to, but most don’t change colour or show other signs of being ready that meat shows. Some products can be dry compared to the meat counterparts, which have meat fat stopping them from drying out, so be prepared to add a bit more sauce (or even water, depending on the meal) than you’d expect.

2 Add Cheese

Much is made of the joke that people in general are obsessed with bacon and would have it in any meal, or in fact any way possible including bacon car air freshener and bacon pattern socks. The same obsession is sometimes joked about with vegetarian people and cheese, and judging by how often vegetarian options are cheese based, there’s some truth to it.

There’s a lot of variation in cheeses, so looking into which cheese is good to use for what kind of meal is a good idea. For example, halloumi is a fantastic barbeque alternative, and mozzarella is the classic melted cheese on pizza. Thick cheese sauce or a cheese topping can make a simple meal feel more substantial and filling.

What to be aware of:

Cheese is not vegan, cheese is very high in fat, and many people are lactose intolerant.

Not all cheeses are vegetarian, either, including most hard cheeses like Parmesan. The meat product in them is animal rennet, an enzyme used for separating milk. There is such thing vegetarian rennet, so the best way to tell if a cheese is vegetarian is to read the label for “suitable for vegetarians”.

3 Go Global

Cuisine and diet varies greatly around the world. There are areas that are less well suited to animal farming, areas with high populations of religions that tend to be vegetarian, and areas that just happen to have a lot of vegetarian dishes. Having a lot of Hindus and Buddhists, who are often vegetarian, India has one of the most veggie-friendly cuisines in the world. A lot of Asian dishes are vegetarian, and simple vegetable curries and stir fries are relatively easy to make.

As well as rice and noodles, there are other food ‘basics’ from around the world that are easily paired with vegetables. Italy is a good example: as well as pizza and risotto, another rice dish, Italian cuisine is very pasta-heavy. Quick cooks like spaghetti and various pasta shapes only need to be paired with vegetable sauces, but pasta also includes dishes such as lasagne and cannelloni.

What to be aware of:

While thinking of global dishes might spark inspiration, it can be just as daunting to find vegetarian meals by country as by any other quality. For example, while you might think of avocados, quesadillas and beans when you think of Mexico, you might just as likely find vegetarian burritos as hard to find in a sea of meat tacos and chili con carne.

4 Look Up Recipes

Despite not being as popular as they once were, recipe books are still incredibly useful. Many recipe books are themed: You can get books themed by country or continent, such as Italian or Asian, by meal type or ingredient, such as soups or pumpkin recipes, and by lifestyle, such as student, quick and easy, or large families. While all these cookbooks (except meat-specific ones) are likely to have a few vegetarian recipes, vegetarian cookbooks abound, and in just as many specialities. Introduction to vegetarian cooking is even its own recipe book genre.

The internet is an infinite source. There are thousands upon thousands of websites and blogs dedicated to vegetarian recipes, and even more that aren’t but include them. You can search for recipes with a search engine or on various blogging sites, too! The added bonus of using your computer is that you can save your favourites, edit or combine them, and file them however you like. You could even print them off and make your own hard copy recipe book.

What to be aware of:

Be careful of food or hob damage, especially if you’re using a computer!

Recipes tend to be very precise, so make sure that you find recipes at your skill level and that you have all the equipment and ingredients you need before you start. Following recipes can take more effort than not, but it also guarantees that you make the meal ‘right’ (as long as you follow the recipe carefully).