Vegetarian recipes that don’t assume you’re a rabbit

Vegetarian recipes that don’t assume you’re a rabbit

Illustration for article titled Vegetarian recipes that don’t assume you’re a rabbit
Photo: Allison Robicelli

It’s the 21st century. We’re well past the era of bland, boring vegetarian food—or rather, the widespread assumption that all vegetarian food must be bland and boring. Gone are the days of herbivores being forced to subsist on wet, lifeless iceberg house salads at restaurants and struggling to find items like lentils and tofu at the grocery store. We’re living in an enlightened age in which flexitarians, vegetarians, and vegans are all invited to the party, and the spread is colorful, flavorful, and satisfying. It’s a good time to eat plants.

The following are some of The Takeout’s best vegetarian recipes, from salads to sides to entrees. Of course, you don’t have to observe a plant-based diet to find them hearty and delicious, and you can add meat directly to these dishes or serve them alongside a nicely grilled chicken thigh, if that’s your thing. In any case, they’re a solid body of evidence that “vegetarian food” doesn’t have to be a category unto itself. It can simply be the very best stuff you cook and eat.

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Step out of your comfort zone with grilled fruit

Step out of your comfort zone with grilled fruit

Grilled Watermelon Burgers with Goat Cheese and Charred Orange-Fennel Gremolata
Grilled Watermelon Burgers with Goat Cheese and Charred Orange-Fennel Gremolata
Photo: Allison Robicelli

As watermelon sits directly over an open flame, the most miraculous things happen to its flavor and texture. When placed on a ciabatta bun, a thick slice of grilled watermelon can absolutely function as a burger, skeptics be damned. And just like beef burgers, grilled watermelon is delicious on its own but becomes even more exciting when you play around with toppings. Get the recipe for Grilled Watermelon Burgers with Goat Cheese and Charred Orange-Fennel Gremolata here.

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Swap mushrooms for beef in this Nebraska classic

Swap mushrooms for beef in this Nebraska classic

Mushroom and Beer Runzas
Mushroom and Beer Runzas
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Ever heard of a runza? It’s Nebraska’s answer to a Hot Pocket, a baked yeast dough surrounding a savory filling for maximum portability. This runza recipe removes the traditional beef filling and replaces it with cooked mushrooms, cabbage, and a can of beer, among other things. The result is a baseball-sized snack that freezes and reheats exceptionally well. Get our recipe for Mushroom and Beer Runzas here.

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Capture the magic of McNuggets with crispy tofu

Capture the magic of McNuggets with crispy tofu

Lemon Pepper Tofu
Lemon Pepper Tofu
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Not all great vegetarian recipes are a one-to-one substitution for meat—in fact, it’s usually better if they’re not—but this appetizer swaps out chicken wings for tofu and uses a magical microwave method to give the tofu an overall meatier texture. The resulting “nuggets” are cooked with hot sauce and coated in lemon butter, and if all of that sounds as enticing as we’re hoping it does, then you can find the recipe for Lemon Pepper Tofu here.

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Grilled cauliflower: much more exciting than it sounds

Grilled cauliflower: much more exciting than it sounds

Carolina-Style BBQ Cauliflower
Carolina-Style BBQ Cauliflower
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Carolina-style barbecue works exceptionally well with vegetables—particularly cauliflower, since its many nooks and crannies are perfect for holding on to smoke, spices, and lots of vinegary, mustardy mop sauce. This can be served as a main course with cole slaw and warm bread on the side, but it also makes for a unique side dish if you’re not yet ready to embrace a completely meat-free cookout. Of course, once you taste this cauliflower, you might very well change your mind about what a backyard barbecue menu can be. Get our recipe for Carolina-Style BBQ Cauliflower here.

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Summer pasta is all about summer squash 

Summer pasta is all about summer squash 

Zucchini Pesto Pasta
Zucchini Pesto Pasta
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Whenever you’re craving pasta, it’s actual pasta you want—not zoodles. There are better ways to incorporate vegetables into your dinner. And if you want to eat pasta while also eating a whole bunch of zucchini, this is the way to do it. Summer squash has a ridiculously high water content, which makes it the perfect summer sauce when steamed and pureed. Throw in a bit of basil, cheese, and toasted nuts, and you’ve got a thick pesto “cream” sauce without the need to spend $60 on groceries to make a small pint of pesto. Get our recipe for Zucchini Pesto Pasta here.

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Have an air fryer? We have ideas

Have an air fryer? We have ideas

Sichuan Cumin Asparagus
Sichuan Cumin Asparagus
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Cooking vegetables in an air fryer is a truly transformative experience, one that will put an end to your struggles of figuring out what to do with your produce at dinnertime. Even when your veggies are simply prepared, the air fryer turns them into something worth snacking on. Get our recipe for Sichuan Cumin Asparagus here.

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Mix fried pasta and fresh veggies for textural contrast

Mix fried pasta and fresh veggies for textural contrast

Crispy Gnocchi and Raw Tomato Sauce
Crispy Gnocchi and Raw Tomato Sauce
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Just as you can air-fry vegetables themselves to create crispy new possibilities, you can also air-fry other components of your meal to pair with fresh vegetables, which creates a unique and exciting textural contrast. The air fryer does something wonderful to gnocchi, and that something is “evolves them into crispy little potato nuggets.” Paired with fresh cherry tomatoes, it’s a combination you’ll want for lunch, dinner, and second dinner. Get the recipe for Crispy Gnocchi and Raw Tomato Sauce here.

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Endive will always love you

Endive will always love you

Seared Endive and Grapefruit Salad
Seared Endive and Grapefruit Salad
Photo: Allison Robicelli

If you’re familiar with endive, you might know it for its strong bitter flavors. But endive can be tamed! The flavor softens quite nicely when grilled—sometimes almost too much. If you want to preserve some of its vegetal bite, this salad balances the equation: sweeten the inner layers of the endive by searing them, while keeping the outermost layer raw. Top the salad with some sweet and jammy cooked grapefruit, and you’ve got a salad that only tastes better and better the longer it sits around. Make this as a work-from-home lunch, then save the leftovers for dinner. Get the recipe for Seared Endive and Grapefruit Salad here.

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Lentils are the imagination’s playground

Lentils are the imagination’s playground

Lentil Rice Balls with Lemon Tahini Sauce
Lentil Rice Balls with Lemon Tahini Sauce
Photo: Allison Robicelli

This recipe, adapted from Eddie McNamara’s Toss Your Own Salad, is insanely versatile. Using a mixture of lentils, rice, cheese, and spices, you can fry up some plant-based burger patties, prepare some “meat”loaves with glaze on top, or form “meat”balls that you can deep fry, air fry, or simply bake in the oven. Top them with a lemon tahini sauce for a satisfying meal you’ll want to add to your weekly rotation immediately. Get the recipe for Lentil Rice Balls with Lemon Tahini Sauce here.

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No, this Honeydew Salad is not a fruit salad—we’ll explain

No, this Honeydew Salad is not a fruit salad—we’ll explain

Honeydew Salad
Honeydew Salad
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Did you know that honeydew is maybe the most divisive fruit in the supermarket? People either love or hate this melon, which has often been dismissed as the saddest part of any fruit salad. Well, no longer. It’s time to showcase honeydew’s best qualities with a stunning and flavorful salad. This recipe combines quick-pickled diced honeydew and thin ribbons of fresh honeydew with lettuce, cheese, and a sweet vinaigrette, and the whole thing is topped with crunchy roasted honeydew seeds (although you can sub in roasted almonds if you prefer). Get the recipe for Honeydew Salad here.

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A vegetarian smorgasboard that’ll last all week

A vegetarian smorgasboard that’ll last all week

Beans, Ricotta, And Broccolini
Beans, Ricotta, And Broccolini
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Who doesn’t love saving money? This bang-for-your-buck vegetarian dinner is actually three recipes in one, because when you use your Instant Pot to cook both the beans and the ricotta, you’re left with some delicious byproducts: curds that can be strained and made into cheese, and whey that can be mixed with a bit of yeast and flour to make a loaf of bread. You’ll feel like a real homesteader assembling these meals for your family (or just for yourself), and you’ll only end up spending around $15 to do it. Will this be the recipe that turns you vegetarian for good? Get the recipe for Beans, Ricotta, And Broccolini here.

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A root vegetable dish for any time of year

A root vegetable dish for any time of year

Melting Glazed Turnips
Melting Glazed Turnips
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Turnips get a bad rap. They’ve enjoyed none of the newfound popularity of their fellow cruciferous vegetable, the Brussels sprout. Why not? They’re every bit as tasty, or at least, they can be if you show them some love. This turnip recipe is as simple as they come, and it plays up the very best characteristics of turnips to help you fall in love fast. Acidic balsamic vinegar and sweet honey temper the turnips’ natural bitterness, which is also mellowed by roasting. Every bad turnip-related memory stubbornly lodged in your brain will be jostled free and swept away. Get the recipe for Melting Glazed Turnips here.

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Char will change the way you think about cucumbers

Char will change the way you think about cucumbers

Blistered Cucumbers with Cumin Yogurt and Parsley
Blistered Cucumbers with Cumin Yogurt and Parsley
Photo: Kevin Pang

Consider charring your cucumbers, like chef Abra Berens. The advantage of this method—which Berens cites as the most surprising technique in her cookbook, Ruffage: A Practical Guide To Vegetables—is that the cucumbers develop a caramelized “crust” on the outside while the inside stays juicy and cool, a contrast not typically associated with the watery vegetable. Combine the smoky and subtly sweet flavors of the charred cucumber with with shallots, parsley, and a sauce of yogurt and cumin, and you’ll be amazed at what this heretofore plain veggie can really bring to the table. Get the recipe for Berens’ Blistered Cucumbers with Cumin Yogurt and Parsley here.

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A one-pan wonder curry for Meatless Mondays

A one-pan wonder curry for Meatless Mondays

Easy Potato-Pea Curry
Easy Potato-Pea Curry
Photo: Karl Gustafson

This dish is primarily based on two kitchen heavyweights: butter and potatoes. The heat is primarily provided by the red pepper flakes, so you can adjust the spice level at will, and peas lend sweetness and the ability to say you ate a green vegetable with dinner. While this meal is great on its own, you could also serve it over rice—technically it won’t be a one-pan meal that way, but a two-pan meal this good is still a wonder. Get the recipe for Easy Potato-Pea Curry here.

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Did you think we’d forget to include cauliflower?

Did you think we’d forget to include cauliflower?

Cauliflower Cheese “Grits”
Cauliflower Cheese “Grits”
Photo: Stacey Ballis

Riced cauliflower is a magical ingredient. It provides a heartiness and mild flavor that allow you to replace the carbs in a dish with zero loss of enjoyment. This recipe uses riced cauliflower to its advantage in an adaptation of that down-home comfort food of the American South, cheese grits. Using riced cauliflower and the technique of cheese grits, this dish comes together in about 15 minutes in one pan with little fuss. You won’t think it’s grits, but you will think it is delicious. Get the recipe for Cauliflower Cheese “Grits” here.

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