Fresh out of dinner ideas? There’s nothing quite like the dread of needing to make dinner (or any meal, really) for your family and not having the slightest idea of what you’ll prepare. Even more so when you’re hoping to please every member, big and small. If you need something plant-based and tasty, look no further.
We’ve rounded up some of our most loved family-friendly vegetarian meals that tick off all the boxes: kid-friendly, meatless, and easy enough for a weeknight. It's a tall order, we know — but we've got you covered and then some. Take a look at these helpful tips for creating meals the whole family can enjoy along with a handful of recipes you can start whipping up tonight.
Set Yourself Up For a Successful Week
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can’t plan for every meal during the week. Life happens, and sometimes takeout is just what we need to get through the day.
But there are a few things you can do to keep yourself from getting stumped at the last minute and make mealtimes less stressful. Here's a shortlist of common ingredients to have on hand so you can keep your family-friendly vegetarian meals on track:
- Beans and Grains: Keeping a few cans of beans on hand will help if you don't have time for an overnight soak and make it easy to prepare burrito bowls, hummus, add a protein boost to soup, and so much more.
- Veggie Broth and Condiments: Vegetable stock is a given for soups, but condiments like miso and tahini can also help you transform soups, sauces, and dressings in an instant.
- Plant-Based Nuggets: Having delicious plant-based nuggets at home can sometimes mean the difference between a drive-through dinner and a wholesome one cooked at home. Keep a box or two of Nowadays nuggets on hand in your freezer. They’re made with just 7 simple ingredients, providing something little ones and grownups alike will enjoy. Even better? You can have a tray of crispy, crunchy nuggets on the table in about 15 minutes!
6 Delectable and Family-Friendly Vegetarian Meals
While we love a quick tempeh stir-fry, we also love exploring classic dishes and how familiar favorites can get a plant-based makeover. Here are six delicious and family-friendly vegetarian meals the whole family can enjoy. Whether you’re starting to explore veggie-based meals or are looking for a little Meatless Monday inspiration, you're sure to find something to love.
1. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Grilled cheese and tomato soup are almost universally beloved, and Ina Garten's easy tomato soup and grilled cheese croutons are the perfect weeknight recipe. Caramelized onions and orzo pasta make this tomato soup a step above the red can at the store, and you can easily swap the chicken stock for veggie stock without sacrificing flavor.
2. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas
While you might be used to seeing recipes for black bean and sweet potato enchiladas or burritos, we think the quesadilla version is absolutely worth making. Cookie and Kate's sweet potato and black bean quesadillas go from kitchen to table in under a half-hour, and they're easy to customize, ensuring everyone in the family will be asking for seconds.
Another bonus: This recipe is gluten-free (or grain-free with almond flour tortillas) and doubles as the perfect appetizer for a Mexican-themed night of cooking. Pair these with Nowadays crispy tacos with fresh pico de gallo for an unbeatable combo. Our nuggets are a better choice than your grocery store standby and steal the show by keeping your tummy full. Bring on Taco Tuesday!
3. Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Does comfort food get any better (or cozier) than mac and cheese? Be sure and add this recipe for butternut squash mac and cheese to your list of favorite vegetarian recipes. This one-pot meal will please picky eaters and help you sneak veggies on the plate, making it a must for your list of family-friendly vegetarian meals.
Elbow macaroni noodles are coated in a flavorful and cheesy butternut squash sauce and spiced with a hint of nutmeg and freshly chopped rosemary. Don’t forget you can swap in a vegan cashew cheese sauce so you have a fully plant-based option. Toasted whole wheat breadcrumbs add texture and complete the dish for dinner in an hour. Pair with a fresh green salad as a side dish for the grown-ups or a tray of hot and crispy Nowadays nuggets for the kiddos.
4. Veggie Burgers
Two words: Falafel burgers. While we'll always love classic black bean burgers, these falafel burgers are a fun departure from more traditional veggie burgers. These chickpea-based burgers are loaded with a medley of flavors and fresh herbs (you can easily leave out the jalapeño for the wee ones). Feel free to add and subtract as you see fit; we think quinoa would be delicious here too, but be aware that it could alter your end result.
Served on hamburger buns, these falafel burgers would also be delicious with flatbread and hummus. Stick with the tzatziki sauce recipe or give our fun in the sun not tzatziki sauce a go for a perfect plant-based alternative.
5. Lentil Bolognese
No meat sauce, no problem. The Endless Meal's deliciously rich lentil bolognese is the perfect plant-based substitute. Loaded with finely minced veggies like red pepper, carrots, and onions along with fiber-rich lentils, this savory pasta sauce would be delicious in other dishes such as lasagna.
You can load up on vegetables while keeping it totally plant-based with vegan versions of mozzarella, parmesan, or ricotta. (Take a look at our list of favorite vegan food brands for ideas.) This lentil bolognese would also pair beautifully with your favorite veggie-based meatballs.
6. Slow Cooker Chili
If you're still on the hunt for the perfect family-friendly vegetarian dinner, go ahead and add this vegetarian slow cooker chili to your must-make list. This is about as simple as it gets, with minimal prep time and a slow cooker that does all the work for you.
Black, kidney, pinto, and white beans abound in this protein-packed vegetarian chili, and a hearty array of veggies are loaded with nutrients so you can dig into a bowl of goodness through and through.
Make Family-Friendly Vegetarian Meals Part of Your Week
When you're on the hunt for fresh dinner ideas and want to help your family get in their daily serving of veggies, start putting together your own collection of family-friendly vegetarian meals. Even if you run out of ideas, you'll have a list of favorites to fall back on and won't be left empty-handed when you need one.
Don’t forget that plant-based versions of your favorite dishes can be just as satisfying as the original and it’s quite simple to swap in plant-based ingredients for a totally animal-free meal. Grab an apron, enlist a kitchen helper or two, and jump into the plant-based pool. For more veggie-centered meal ideas, check out our Crave Better blog.