8 hearty meatless main dishes
Looking for a diet that’s good not only for you but also for the planet? If so, go easy on your meat consumption. Producing meat—particularly beef—uses substantially more energy and causes more greenhouse gas emissions than does the growing of plant foods. You need not be 100 percent vegetarian: Eating a few meatless meals a week or just reducing the amount of meat on your plate can help the environment, plus boost your health by making room for more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. To help you on that quest, here are eight meatless main dishes that are sure to satisfy.
Tex-Mex Butternut Stew
If you think deleting the meat from a stew will consign you to a dish that’s weak and watery, think again.The texture of the bulgur in this hearty recipe gives the impression that there’s meat in it. A nutrient-packed whole grain, bulgur offers a good supply of protein, B vitamins, and minerals, including iron and magnesium. It’s also rich in potentially beneficial phytochemicals—flavonoids, lignans, and saponins. Get the recipe.
Couscous with Eggplant “Meatballs”
We’ve given these meatless “meatballs” a Middle Eastern twist by flavoring them with fresh cilantro and coriander and serving them over couscous. Since the eggplant stars in this dish, be sure to choose a good one: It should be symmetrical with satin-smooth skin, no blemishes, and a bright green stem and calyx (cap). If you press the eggplant gently with your thumb, the indentation should refill rapidly (indicating freshness). Get the recipe.
Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes in Barbecue Sauce
Tempeh’s sturdy, chewy texture makes this “meatless meat” well suited to slow cooking. Like tofu, it’s made from soybeans, but it contains more protein and is a bit more flavorful. You can find it in health food stores and in many supermarkets, either refrigerated or frozen. Get the recipe.
Creamy Polenta with Meatless Ragu
Many people think of polenta (cornmeal)—which is essentially the Italian version of grits—as a calorie-dense side dish. But here it’s combined with textured vegetable protein (TVP) to stand alone as a nourishing and healthful main dish. TVP is sold in various forms—chunks or crumbles, dried or frozen, with or without flavoring—and should be available at many supermarkets. Otherwise, check a health food store. Get the recipe.
Found in some Spanish-speaking countries, picadillo is a stew made of chopped meat and tomatoes. In this vegetarian version, textured vegetable protein (TVP) granules stand in for the meat. The abundant tomatoes provide a healthy shot of the carotenoid lycopene; in fact, cooked tomatoes are one of the best sources of this phytochemical because cooking breaks down the cell walls that otherwise hold the lycopene in. Get the recipe.
Black Bean and Yellow Squash Stew
The black beans supply most of this savory stew’s 15 grams of protein per serving, plus they’re an excellent source of fiber. And they can be just as filling as beef, according to a study in the Journal of Food Science. A small amount of peanut butter stirred into the stew offers double bang for the buck: The roasted, rich flavor permeates the entire dish while adding a satisfying thickness to the sauce. Get the recipe.
Southwestern Meatless Chili
You may not be familiar with one ingredient in this Southwestern-style chili: chayote, a pale-to dark-green pear-shaped summer squash, also called mirliton, vegetable pear, or christophene. You can find chayotes in the produce section of large supermarkets; if you can’t find one, use a medium zucchini instead. When peeled, chayote exudes a sticky liquid that may burn or numb the skin, so peel the vegetable under cold running water. Get the recipe.
Middle Eastern Veggie Loaf
This scrumptious meatloaf alternative gets its unique flavor in part from tahini, a creamy paste made from sesame seeds (the word tahini comes from an Arabic word meaning “to grind”). Look for tahini in the ethnic section of your supermarket or at a Middle Eastern grocery store. If you can’t find tahini, substitute creamy peanut butter. The chickpeas and whole-wheat pita in this recipe contribute to its high fiber content: 14 grams per serving. Get the recipe.