As anyone who has tried can attest, going vegan is not for the faint of heart. The good news, though, is that reforming your diet doesn’t have to be an all or nothing endeavor. Eating plant-based even part of the time can have beneficial effects on your health and the environment—not to mention the animals that won’t end up on your dinner plate. Plus, the more you experiment with vegan cooking, the more you realize how easy it is to skip the meat and dairy and still leave the table feeling happy and satisfied. Ahead are a few of our favorites, all of which are a great place to start when trying to convert skeptics—yourself included!
Sweet Potato and Green Rice Burrito Bowls from Cookie and Kate
You know that fast casual burrito bowl you eat at your desk every few days? It’s about to get a serious upgrade. These vegan burrito bowls are insanely flavor (and nutrient!) packed. Caramelized sweet potatoes tossed in paprika? Check. Long grain brown rice cooked in a spicy green sauce so good we’d eat it with a spoon? Check. Seasoned black beans? Another check. They’re also a great meal prep option, as the components will keep well in the fridge for a few days. (We recommend storing separately for best results.)
You can also top it with a runny egg for extra protein. The dish won’t be vegan anymore, of course, but it’s important to keep in mind that not all eggs are created equal. This goop guide is a great resource for figuring out which egg purveyors are maintaining the best living conditions for their hens.
Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric from NYT Cooking
This rich, fragrant stew had a viral moment after it appeared in November of 2018—and for good reason. It has all the qualities you want in a weeknight meal. It’s healthy, but doesn’t leave you feeling deprived. It’s flavorful, but easy to prepare. It looks like something you might pay a small fortune for at an L.A.-based eatery, but the ingredients (greens, chickpeas, coconut milk, in addition to a few pantry staples) are delightfully inexpensive.
Created by beloved cook and food writer Alison Roman, this dish includes an optional yogurt topping that would, of course, render your meal no longer vegan. However, we found the additional suggested toppings of crispy chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil added enough extra flavor and texture on their own. It helps that the soup is also already creamy thanks to its turmeric-laced coconut milk base. You can also try coconut milk yogurt for a non-dairy alternative!
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Lots of Kale from bon appétit
Spaghetti without cheese? We were skeptical, too. However, this pasta dish gets a major flavor boost from the generous portions of garlic, black pepper and olive oil it contains. As a result, we’ve found you can skip the suggested parmesan topping to keep things vegan without sacrificing on flavor or satiety.
Don’t be afraid to use a heavy hand on the kale—it shrinks down significantly when you cook it. If you’re not a fan, you can swap the kale out for another green you’re on better terms with (try spinach or Swiss chard). And if you’re having trouble selling your dining companions on the idea of a vegan pasta dish, consider tossing in some sautéed mushrooms for some umami flavor. We also love Field Roast grain meat sausages, which are both vegan and lacking in some of the more suspicious ingredients often found in meat substitutes.