Before we begin, I must make a confession in saying that I only really ever go to two out of the four dining halls on campus; Frank and Worcester, and occasionally Blue Wall. So, I cannot speak for the vegetarian options offered at Berk or Hamp in the Southwest area since I’ve only been there enough times to count on two hands. Some may see my options as somewhat limited or as a guide for your new vegetarian adventure!
I’ve only been a vegetarian for about a year and a half so I’m still very new to the game. I decided to go down this path because I felt like the meat industry is a big factor in the planet’s declining environment and decided that this was one of the few ways I could really help. Many people may think the process of becoming vegetarian is difficult, but living on the UMass campus has made the transition so much easier.
Over this past week, I’ve gone to the dining halls a number of times to review some of the best-offered vegetarian/vegan options. Below, I’ve listed my top five choices, plus a few honorable mentions.
- General Tso’s Tofu
This dish, which usually features chicken, is quite common in the dining hall, especially at Frank grab and go. However, it has slowly grown in popularity in the vegan section as well. “General Tso’s Baked Tofu” is one of my favorite meals and definitely gets me excited for lunch. The Tofu is coated in General Tso Sauce which I would describe as tasting similar to a sweet and sour sauce with a hint of spice to it. The dish also contains broccoli that has been marinated in the sauce as well. Overall, the dish is a solid 9/10. It offers a good source of protein without you having to miss out on the amazing taste.
- Plant Based Chorizo & JALAPEÑO Quesadilla
I love a good Mexican meal, but a lot of the food served in the Latin line almost always contains meat so seeing these quesadillas is always a delight. The nicely toasted tortilla encases veggie crumbles mixed with jalapeño peppers. This dish offers the perfect balance of spice and tastes delicious with guacamole or sour cream. Now, if you don’t like spicy things the Jalapeño Quesadilla is not for you, but there’s always the option to eat a bean and rice burrito if you’re wanting something similar. I rate the Quesadilla a solid 7/10. Not one of my favorites, but a definite go-to when it’s set out.
- Quinoa Corn & Avocado Salad
This meal is a solid go-to. The blend of fresh veggies mixed with the quinoa creates a perfectly light and easy dish. The ingredients include a number of vegetables such as avocado, corn, cherry tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, and red onions. The quinoa is seasoned with some lime juice and then stirred together with the rest of the ingredients. I love this “salad” because it offers such a nice fresh taste to your plate and includes a number of healthy vegetables as well as a relatively high protein count found in the quinoa. This one will always receive a 10/10 for me; it’s a solid meal that never lets me down.
- Cheesy White Bean Zucchini & Tomato Bake
This was a new one for me. Out of the three years I’ve been eating at the dining halls on campus I’ve never seen this meal before, but I wasn’t disappointed. The dish is a blend of Cannelli beans, local zucchini, plant-based mozzarella cheese, tomato paste, and garlic. The whole thing is mixed together with a generous layer of mozzarella cheese on top and tastes amazing. The mix of all the flavors really come together to offer a nice home-cooked meal vibe, which is sometimes hard to come by on a college campus. A solid 7/10, definitely needs a bit of salt, but overall was solid and I will be keeping my eyes out for it again in the future.
- Greek Lentils
Now to be fair, I haven’t seen this one in a while, but I loved it so much last semester that I took a picture of it and sent it to my mom to make for when I came home. The ingredients are lentils, tomato paste, yellow onions, veggie broth, fresh parsley, and garlic along with some other seasonings. It tasted almost like tomato sauce but with added flavor from the lentils. I really enjoyed this one and have my fingers crossed that UMass brings it back. A 9/10, will never leave me unsatisfied. I highly recommend you try it, whether you’re a vegetarian or not!
These next two “meals” aren’t necessarily meals but are some sides I really enjoy and always find myself gravitating towards when I want to pair something with the options above.
- Bush’s baked beans
I know some people have a love-hate relationship with these beans but let me tell you, if I had to survive on one thing for the rest of my life, it would be these beans. Not only are they an excellent source of protein but they also just taste delicious in their own simple way. As long as there are beans in the dining hall you will always find them on my plate. 10/10 would recommend it without a doubt.
- Spinach and Garlic
Now I love spinach, a lot of people may find this one odd but the spinach mixed with the garlic creates a subtle flavor that adds so much to the rest of your meal. Not only does spinach go good with practically anything but it is also really high in fiber and a number of other nutrients. 10/10 will ALWAYS be recommended.
I hope this list of meals offered at UMass helps my fellow vegetarians find new and exciting things to try when it feels like the only things offered are meat-based. And I also hope it gets some people more interested in the amazing tastes of the vegetarian/vegan world.