Trying to Eat Less Meat? These 6 Recipes Are Easy-Peasy

This is now my second year of living with my current two roommates, and we’ve become much better chefs over the past two years than when we first moved in. My roommate put together a binder (laminated page holders!) of recipes from all types of cookbooks and websites when we moved in to help keep us accountable for actually cooking and having recipes to make. Last year, we cooked with chicken and beef almost every week. We would go to Costco and buy meat in bulk (a cheaper option) and then freeze it, and it would usually last us about a month.

Turns out, we all hate cutting chicken, because yeah, it’s kinda gross. Meat is also relatively more expensive than the other ingredients we were always buying, and we know that it’s not the best for the environment. This year, without much discussion, our collective mindset shifted to cooking with much less meat. We may have chicken on hand or buy it at our regular grocery store if we really need it for a recipe, but we’ve shifted to more plant (spinach and kale), pasta, and chickpea or bean-based recipes. 

I originally thought that cooking without meat would be difficult, or that it would be hard to find substantial and/or healthy recipes, having grown up with my mom cooking really regularly with pork, beef, and chicken. Turns out, recipes without meat are everywhere, and honestly, we all love them! Here are six of our tried-and-true meatless recipes that you can try out at home (also note that while they're all meatless, not all are necessarily vegan).

  1. 1. Chickpea pesto

    Pesto

    This is seriously so good, it’s unbelievable. I think about this meal so regularly.

    Ingredients:

    1 and ¼ cup of basil leaves

    ⅓ cup of sliced almonds

    2 tablespoons of olive oil

    2 tablespoons of water

    1 tablespoon of lemon juice

    ½ teaspoon of salt

    2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped

    1 and ½ cup of cooked chicken peas (1 15-ounce can)

    1 carrot

    Instructions:

    Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender and serve on bread (if you’re me, a baguette). It really couldn’t be easier.

  2. 2. Mixed bean curry

    Beware: this is pretty spicy. Everytime we make it, we are surprised, but also so pleased. 

    Ingredients:

    4 14-ounce cans of beans (pinto, great northern beans, chickpeas, red kidney)

    2 cups of diced onions

    1 cup of pureed or crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh)

    2 tablespoons of coconut oil

    1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger

    1 tablespoon of minced garlic

    ¼ cup of Madras curry powder

    4 cups of vegetable stock

    1 13.5-ounce can of coconut milk

    ¼ cup of minced jalapeño

    ¼ cup of chopped cilantro

    Instructions:

    1. Warm the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the 1 tablespoon of ginger and 1 tablespoon of garlic to sauté for one to two minutes. 

    2. Add 2 cups of diced onions and cook until golden brown (or just until you feel like it).

    3. Add ¼ cup of curry powder. Cook while continuously scraping the pan. Add 1 cup of tomatoes and stir. Add 4 cups of vegetable stock and bring to low boil.

    4. Stir in 1 can of coconut milk, then add in ¼ cup of jalapeño and ¼ cup of cilantro. Mix together and add salt to taste.

    5. If using canned beans, drain and rinse, then add to the pot and stir together gently. And most likely have a little taste of chickpea because you can’t resist.

    6. Serve over rice (my fav) or with a dollop of plain yogurt, or include naan (my other fav) for dipping.

  3. 3. Mac & cheese “casserole”

    Am I a casserole person? No, not at all. But this? Did not disappoint.

    Ingredients:

    4 and ½ cups of milk

    8 ounces of cream cheese

    1 teaspoon of dry mustard powder

    ½ teaspoon of black pepper

    ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)

    ¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

    1 and ½ cups of bread crumbs

    ⅔ cup of grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

    4 tablespoons (½ stick) of melted butter

    1 pound of macaroni pasta

    5 cups of sharp cheddar cheese

    Instructions:

    1. Take the cream cheese out of the fridge to soften for about 30 to 60 minutes.

    2. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

    3. Boil the macaroni to be a little harder than al dente. (This wasn’t really in the original recipe directions, but I didn’t trust putting in totally uncooked pasta into the oven, so we boiled for a few minutes).

    4. In a blender or food processor, blend the cream cheese, milk, salt, mustard powder, black pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne (optional) until smooth.

    5. In another bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter until crumbs are coated.

    6. Put the semi-cooked macaroni and the cheddar cheese into a baking dish (we didn’t have one, so yeah, we used a large pot) and mix until the cheese is dispersed. Pour in the milk mixture and stir. Sprinkle on bread crumbs evenly.

    7. Bake for 20 minutes, then increase the heat to 450 degrees and bake another 15 to 25 minutes until the top is golden and/or bubbling. Remove and let sit, and serve warm or cold.

  4. 4. Chickpea noodle soup

    Chick Peas

    Yeah yeah, a lot of our recipes have chickpeas in them. They are just so good, OK? This recipe seems to have a lot of ingredients, but I guarantee you already have some of them in your kitchen, and I promise it’s worth it.

    Ingredients:

    3 tablespoons of olive oil

    1 medium onion, sliced

    3 medium carrots (cut up into quarter moons)

    2 small parsnips (we can never find these, so we use small potatoes)

    3 medium ribs of celery, chopped

    3-4 cloves of minced garlic

    1 tablespoon of dried oregano

    2 tablespoons of thyme

    2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari

    1 and ½ cup of cooked chickpeas, or 1 15-ounce can, drained

    ¼ cup of parsley, chopped

    6 cups of vegetable broth

    ½ cup of white wine (or more broth)

    8 ounces of noodles broken into smaller pieces

    2 tablespoons of lemon juice

    Instructions:

    1. Warm olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the onion, carrots, parsnips (or potatoes) and celery. Sauté until the onion begins to brown (about five minutes). 

    2. Add in garlic, oregano, and soy sauce and cook for one more minute.

    3. Add in chickpeas, thyme, parsley and white wine (or more broth). Add the broth and let simmer for about five minutes.

    4. Reduce the heat and add in the cooked noodles and lemon juice.

    5. Add in salt and pepper to taste or more herbs if necessary. Serve right away (yay), preferably with a baguette.

  5. 5. Rice biryani

    I’ll be honest, the picture from the recipe we originally used looked much better than this usually turns out, but maybe you can make it work.

    Ingredients:

    2 cups of rice (jasmine works well)

    3 and ½ cups of water

    2 tablespoons of olive oil

    2 cups of chopped vegetables (carrots, broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini, etc. It’s up to you!)

    1 onion, sliced into strips

    ¼ cup of cashews or peanuts

    ¼ cup of raisins (highly optional, if you ask us)

    1 tablespoon of curry powder

    Instructions:

    1. Cook rice with water in a pot, or use a rice cooker. My go-to rice cooking technique, since we don’t have a rice cooker, is two cups of water for every one cup of rice, and honestly just continue to watch it for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, until most water is absorbed.

    2. While the rice is cooking, put oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Add the other ingredients and sauté until raisins are plump (if you’re using them) and curry powder is fully mixed.

    3. Add rice and stir until evenly distributed or the color is uniform (eight to 10 minutes).

    4. Serve with plain yogurt, naan (my favorite), or a little lemon juice. You can add fresh ginger, cilantro (yum), or diced cooked potatoes.

  6. 6. Garlic breadcrumb pasta

    This seriously couldn't have been easier to make.

    Ingredients:

    ¼ cup of olive oil

    6 garlic cloves

    4-8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped (I honestly missed this the first time even looking at the ingredients, and definitely left it out)

    1 cup of breadcrumbs

    1 pound of spaghetti (or any pasta, really)

    4 tablespoons or ½ stick of butter

    ½ cup of fresh parsley leaves

    Lemon wedges

    Crushed red pepper flakes

    Instructions:

    1. Boil the pasta. Fingers crossed you can do this one. Before draining, scoop out about a cup of pasta water.

    2. In another pan on medium-high heat, heat the oil for 20 to 30 seconds. Stir in the garlic, anchovies (optional), and red pepper flakes. Garlic burns fast, so only heat it for about a minute. 

    3. Stir in the breadcrumbs, stirring frequently until golden brown.

    4. Melt the butter in the pasta pot and whisk in about ¾ cup of the reserved pasta water. Add the pasta back in and the parsley. Stir, and if it seems dry, add a little more pasta water.

    5. Toss ¾ of the breadcrumb mix into the pasta, and serve with a squeeze of lemon. Or a lot of squeezes. I like lots of squeezes.

If you’re looking to cook with less meat, these recipes are perfect for easing your way into what we call being-a-lowkey-vegetarian-but-not-really-an-actual-vegetarian. Whether you only try these recipes out once or they become some of your go-to meals, good luck, and happy cooking!