During Lent, it never fails: I’ll crave vegetables all week long, but come Friday, nothing sounds better than a big, juicy burger. I have a feeling it’s not just me—if you’ve also decided to take up the sacrifice of going meat-free on Fridays (or you just want to cut back on meat in general) there’s something in our brains that seems to crave what we can’t have only when we can’t have it.
Fortunately, though, it doesn’t take quite as much restraint to skip a Big Mac when I’ve got an arsenal of delicious meatless go-tos to choose from. And as a nutritionist, food blogger, and proponent of the mostly plant-based Mediterranean diet, I do happen to have a pretty extensive list!
If you’re looking to jazz up your 40 days with meat-free meals that taste great, try these seven easy recipes—one for each Friday during Lent.
This recipe is one of my own creations, born of the desire for a poke bowl without the motivation to leave the house. Canned tuna and crab make surprisingly legit substitutes for pricey fresh seafood, especially when paired with edamame, cucumber, carrots, a spicy Sriracha cream sauce, and any other add-ons you happen to crave. It’s a one-dish meatless meal that doesn’t even require any cooking (unless you count steaming some rice).
The latest possible date for Ash Wednesday is March 10. This happened in 1666, 1734, 1886, and 1943, and, granted, won’t occur again until 2038—but whichever way the calendar falls, Lent takes place mostly during the winter, starting in February. To me, a hearty, warming stew always sounds good when it’s frigid outside.
Believe it or not, stew doesn’t have to contain meat (or any animal products) to be satisfying. This vegan version gets plenty of heartiness from potatoes, carrots, kale, and lentils. A simple mixture of herbs and spices seasons it to perfection.
This cheesy bean casserole is panzanella’s wintertime cousin. (If you’ve never tried panzanella, it’s a Mediterranean bread salad—kind of like if you removed the lettuce and just ate the croutons and toppings.) I’m a lover of all things bread and cheese, so I can’t argue with this recipe’s combo of crusty sourdough and stretchy mozzarella. And as a nutritionist, I’m only too happy it also includes a can of cannellini beans for protein and fiber and tomatoes for ample antioxidants. Meat who?
With today’s rising food costs, salmon can get pretty pricey—so if you’re going to splurge on this high-protein fatty fish, you may not want to spend much on additional ingredients. This maple glazed salmon recipe has you covered, using just a handful of pantry staples (soy sauce, maple syrup, vinegar, ginger, and red pepper flakes) to create a sweet-and-savory dinner. Did I mention it’s super easy, too? Serve with sides of roasted broccoli and fluffy quinoa for an elegant, healthy meal.
It’s one-pot, it’s healthy, it’s quick, and it’s meatless—could a Lenten meal ask for any more? Despite having no meat, this simple pasta doesn’t skimp on protein at 28 grams per serving. And though the recipe calls for a blend of bagged frozen mixed vegetables, you can toss in any winter or early spring veggies into the mix. I could see asparagus, radishes, or Swiss chard adding color and crunch!
I always say if you think you don’t like tofu, you just haven’t found the right recipe. So allow me to introduce you to your new favorite ’fu: these savory BBQ sliders. Much like sliders made with chicken or pork, this tofu version soaks up tangy barbecue sauce—but unlike a run-of-the-mill sammie, this one gets topped with a cool and creamy cabbage slaw.
During Lent or not, Friday night is pizza night! I recommend switching up your usual pepperoni with something more unique, like a veggie Mexican pie. Using mashed black beans as a pizza “sauce” might sound weird at first, but hear me out. A quick pulse in the food processor turns beans into a creamy base that’s just right for spreading atop pillowy pizza crust. Then cheddar, Monterey jack, and fresh veggies like corn and tomatoes join the fiesta. Even my kids enjoy this meatless pizza—and my guess is you will too.