Look, we get it. Transitioning to a plant-based diet isn’t always easy. Between figuring out how to make classic comfort foods meat-free and finding meals that satisfy everyone at the table, cooking plant-based can seem downright daunting. But we’re here to show you that plant-based cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you’re hosting a holiday dinner, enjoying a casual weeknight meal, or looking for snack inspiration, we’ve got you covered. These 10 best plant-based meals are perfect for any occasion and are so delicious, you’ll forget you’re eating vegan. From creamy pasta primavera to crispy buffalo cauliflower wings, this roundup proves that plant-based cooking can be fun, festive and satisfying. Get ready to discover your new favorite meat-free meals. The plant-based revolution starts now!
What Does “Plant-Based Meals” Really Mean?
Plant-based means focusing on foods that come from plants, like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. It’s a diet centered around minimally processed plant foods and excludes all meat, poultry, and seafood.
A plant-based diet has many benefits. It’s better for the environment since industrial meat production strains natural resources. It’s also better for your health. A diet high in plant foods and low in animal products reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
What do plant-based meals look like?
Plant-based meals are simple, delicious, and satisfying. Some options include:
- Buddha bowl: A bowl filled with cooked whole grains like brown rice or quinoa topped with roasted or steamed veggies, beans or lentils, and a delicious sauce. Add some avocado, nuts or seeds for extra protein.
- Burrito bowl: Rice, black or pinto beans, salsa, guacamole, and grilled veggies wrapped in a tortilla or served in a bowl.
- Pasta primavera: Whole wheat pasta tossed with marinara sauce and your favorite veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach and eggplant. Top with nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.
- Hummus and veggie wrap: Spread hummus on a whole wheat wrap or pita and load it up with veggies like cucumbers, carrots, sprouts and avocado.
- Oatmeal with fruit: Steel cut oats cooked in plant-based milk and topped with fresh or frozen fruit, nuts and maple syrup. A delicious, filling way to start your day.
Eating more plant-based meals is an easy and sustainable way to improve your health and do your part for the planet. Give some of these simple, delicious options a try!
Health Benefits of a Best Plant-Based Meals
Plant-based meals are delicious and nutritious. Ditching meat in favor of veggies, grains, and legumes has so many benefits for your health and the planet.
Improved Heart Health
A plant-based diet can help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two major risk factors for heart disease. Studies show people who eat plant-based diets have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Fill your plate with heart-healthy foods like beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados.
Lower Risk of Diabetes
Eating more plant-based foods and fewer animal products can help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. High-fiber, complex carbs found in veggies, fruits, and whole grains help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Plant-based diets are also linked to better insulin sensitivity and healthy body weight, two other factors that influence diabetes risk.
Longer Life Expectancy
Several studies have found that people who follow plant-based diets tend to live longer. Replacing red meat with plant-based protein sources can add years to your life. Nuts, seeds, beans, and soy products contain fiber, healthy fats, and compounds like antioxidants that promote longevity and vitality.
A balanced plant-based diet with the right portions of veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes has so many benefits for lifelong health and wellness. Best of all, plant-based meals are delicious, affordable, sustainable, and kind to our planet. Why not give more plant-based meals a try? Your body and taste buds will thank you.
Best Plant-Based Breakfasts to Start Your Day
Start your morning off right with one of these wholesome, plant-based breakfasts. They’re satisfying, nutritious, and will give you energy to take on the day.
Overnight oats are a perfect grab-and-go option. Combine 1 cup rolled oats, 1 cup plant-based milk like almond or oat milk, and 1/2 cup yogurt or kefir in a jar. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy cold with fresh or frozen berries, chopped nuts like almonds or walnuts, and a drizzle of maple syrup. The oats will soften as they soak up the liquid, resulting in a creamy, pudding-like consistency.
Fruit And Greens Smoothie Is A Refreshing Choice
A fruit and greens smoothie is a refreshing choice. Blend 1 1/2 cups plant-based milk, 2 cups mixed greens like baby spinach or kale, 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit such as bananas and mango, and 2 tablespoons ground flax or chia seeds until creamy. You can also add a scoop of plant-based protein powder for extra nutrition.
A tofu scramble is a savory, protein-packed option to start your day. Sauté 1 pound extra-firm tofu, crumbled, in 1 tablespoon olive oil until lightly browned. Add 1 diced bell pepper, 1/2 onion, chopped, and your favorite veggies like mushrooms, zucchini or tomato and cook until tender. Season with turmeric, cumin, garlic and salt and pepper. Serve the scramble with roasted potatoes, avocado toast or a fresh fruit salad.
Other wholesome choices include:
•Oatmeal topped with peanut butter, banana, and maple syrup.
•Whole grain toast with mashed avocado and lemon juice.
•A burrito bowl with rice, beans, salsa and guacamole.
•A smoothie bowl with fruit, nut butter, coconut flakes and cacao nibs.
With so many delicious plant-based breakfasts to choose from, your mornings will be anything but boring. Start experimenting and find what fuels you best!
Satisfying Plant-Based Lunches for Work or School
A hearty plant-based lunch will satisfy your hunger and give you energy to power through the rest of your day. Here are some satisfying options to pack for work or school:
Lentil soup with whole-wheat bread
A cup of lentil soup is packed with protein and fiber to fill you up. Pair it with a slice of whole-wheat bread to make it a balanced meal. Lentil soup is easy to make in bulk and portion out for lunches during the week.
Chickpea salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a great plant-based source of protein for a salad or sandwich filling. Mash chickpeas with veggies like celery and onions, and season with lemon juice, herbs, and vegan mayonnaise. Pile the chickpea salad onto whole-wheat bread, lettuce leaves or in a pita.
Quinoa bowl with roasted vegetables and tahini dressing
A grain bowl is a hearty, satisfying lunch option. Cooked quinoa is the perfect base for a bowl. Top it with roasted or fresh veggies of your choice, like broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini and carrots. A drizzle of tahini dressing adds creaminess and protein. You can also add extras such as beans, nuts or avocado.
•Burritos or tacos with beans, rice and salsa
•Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-grain bread
•Hummus and veggie wrap
•Black bean burger with sweet potato fries
•Vegetable sushi rolls
A plant-based lunch will give you energy to power through the rest of your day without feeling weighed down. Pack your lunch, bring reusable containers, and you’ll save money while eating healthy, delicious food. These satisfying meals are perfect for work, school, or any busy day.
Plant-Based Dinners the Whole Family Will Love
When you want a dinner the whole family will love, plant-based meals are a great option. They’re healthy, satisfying and kid-friendly. Here are some crowd-pleasing plant-based dinners to try:
Everyone loves taco night! For plant-based lentil tacos, sauté onions and garlic, then add cooked lentils, chili powder and cumin. Simmer until heated through. Serve the lentil mixture in tortillas or lettuce cups topped with salsa, guacamole, shredded cabbage or lettuce and any other favorite fixings like olives, cilantro, lime wedges, etc. Your family will devour these hearty, protein-packed tacos.
Veggie burgers are always a hit. Mash chickpeas or black beans and mix with breadcrumbs, chopped veggies like carrots and zucchini, and spices. Form into patties and bake or pan-fry until crisp. Serve the burgers on buns with all the usual toppings – ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, tomatoes. Sweet potato fries or baked fries on the side make it a meal.
For a classic Italian dinner, whole grain pasta tossed in homemade or jarred marinara sauce always satisfies. Sauté garlic in olive oil, then add the sauce and your favorite veggies such as mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, etc. Simmer until the veggies are tender. Toss with cooked pasta such as penne, linguine or zucchini noodles. Top with nutritional yeast, basil and vegan parmesan cheese.
Other Kid Favorites
Some other plant-based meals kids and families love include:
•Quesadillas or burritos with beans, rice, salsa and avocado
•Mac and cheese made with nutritional yeast, plant milk and veggies
•Pizza with vegetable toppings and vegan cheese
•Stir fries over rice or noodles with tofu and lots of fresh veggies
•Grilled cheese sandwiches with plant-based cheese and tomato soup
Plant-based dinners don’t have to be boring or complicated. Focus on familiar, kid-friendly favorites and you’ll have happy, healthy family meals in no time.
Indulgent Plant-Based Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
When your sweet tooth strikes, indulge in one of these delicious plant-based desserts. They’re so decadent and creamy, no one will guess they’re vegan.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
This rich, nutty pie is pure bliss. A peanut butter cookie crust is filled with creamy peanut butter and chocolate layers. Make the crust with crushed peanut butter cookies or graham crackers, peanut butter, and coconut oil. Fill it with layers of peanut butter, coconut milk whipped cream or whipped topping, and melted chocolate. Chill before serving.
Banana Coconut Ice Cream
All you need is a few simple ingredients to make this frosty treat. Blend frozen bananas, coconut milk, maple syrup, and coconut extract. The bananas provide a creamy base while the coconut milk gives it a tropical twist. For extra decadence, top it with toasted coconut flakes, chocolate syrup, or fresh berries.
Maple Pecan Blondies
These chewy, nutty bars are bursting with fall flavors. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and vegan butter or coconut oil. Stir in maple syrup, plant-based milk, and chopped pecans. Spread in a pan and bake until lightly browned on top. The maple syrup gives them a touch of sweetness while the pecans provide a satisfying crunch.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Spiced carrot cupcakes topped with fluffy vegan cream cheese frosting—comfort food at its best. Blend flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; then stir in grated carrots, coconut oil, and plant-based milk. Bake in cupcake tins, cool, and frost generously with vegan cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. These cupcakes are deliciously moist and perfectly spiced.
Satisfy your craving for something sweet with one of these plant-based treats. Free of dairy and eggs, they’re healthier for you and the planet but taste just as indulgent. Your sweet tooth will never know the difference!
Easy Plant-Based Snacks for on-the-Go
When you’re on the go, plant-based snacks can keep you fueled without the crash. These easy options are perfect for packing in your bag, desk drawer or car.
A homemade trail mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and chocolate chips checks all the boxes. Almonds, cashews, pumpkin and sunflower seeds provide protein and healthy fats. Dried cranberries, raisins, apricots or banana chips add natural sweetness. Just a handful will satisfy your hunger in a pinch.
Fresh or dried fruit
Fruit like apples, oranges, bananas and berries are easy to eat on the go and full of nutrients. Wash and chop fruit ahead of time or opt for individually packaged portions. Dried fruit such as mangoes, cherries or figs are also shelf-stable and packed with flavor.
Veggies and hummus
Cut up veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, celery, snap peas or bell peppers are crispy, refreshing and pair perfectly with hummus for dipping. Look for individual hummus cups or small containers that are easy to transport.
A few squares of dark chocolate, around 70% cocoa or higher, can curb your craving for something sweet in moderation. Dark chocolate contains compounds like theobromine that provide an energizing boost.
Plant-based protein bars
Many protein bar options now cater to plant-based diets and are made from ingredients like nuts, seeds, nut butters, and dried fruit. Look for bars with at least 6 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of added sugar. Some recommended brands include No Cow, GoMacro MacroBars and RxBar.
Pita and nut butter
Warm pita bread or flatbread stuffed with your favorite nut butter makes a satisfying snack. Peanut, almond and sunflower butter are all plant-based sources of protein that provide healthy fats to keep you full.
With the right snacks on hand, you’ll never go hungry following a plant-based diet. Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with these options so you always have something ready to power you through your busy day.
Plant-Based Meals for Special Occasions and Holidays
The winter holidays and special occasions are a perfect time to showcase delicious plant-based meals. Whether you’re hosting friends and family or bringing a dish to share, these crowd-pleasing options are sure to satisfy.
A nut loaf is a classic plant-based main for special occasions. Mix walnuts, cashews and pecans with breadcrumbs, herbs and a plant-based binder like flax or chia eggs. Form into a loaf shape and bake until firm. Serve slices with gravy, cranberry sauce and roasted veggies for a festive meal.
A plant-based wellington makes an impressive centerpiece. Sauté portobello mushrooms with shallots and herbs, then wrap in pastry dough or puff pastry. Brush with egg wash or plant-based wash for a golden crust and bake until the pastry is cooked through. Serve the mushroom wellington with sides like mashed potatoes, green beans and a red wine jus.
For easy entertaining, assemble a plant-based cheese board. Include aged nut-based cheeses, creamy coconut-based options and tangy cashew creations. Accompany with crackers, crusty bread, fresh and dried fruit like figs or dates, olives, cornichons and a variety of nuts. A cheese board is always a crowd favorite and perfect for any special occasion.
End your meal on a sweet note with an alcohol-infused plant-based rum cake. Blend rum right into a rich cake base made of ingredients like coconut milk, coconut oil and molasses or maple syrup. Frost with a creamy coconut frosting and garnish with chopped nuts or coconut flakes. Your guests will surely appreciate this decadent treat—just remind them there’s rum in the cake!
Following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean missing out on delicious meals for special occasions and holidays. With nut roasts, wellingtons, cheese boards and boozy cakes, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from for your next celebration. Your guests may not even realize the food is 100% plant-based!
FAQ: Answering Common Questions About Plant-Based Meals Eating
Plant-based eating is gaining popularity, but many still have questions about adopting a plant-based diet. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions to help you on your journey.
Do I have to be vegan to eat plant-based?
No, eating plant-based simply means focusing on foods primarily from plants. You can be plant-based and still eat meat, dairy, and eggs in moderation. A vegan diet eliminates all animal products. As a plant-based eater, you have flexibility in how strictly you adhere to the diet. Many people start by adding more plant-based meals each week and go from there based on their needs and preferences.
Where do I get my protein?
Plants provide plenty of protein. Good sources include beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. A balanced diet of grains, legumes, and nuts can provide all the amino acids your body needs. Some plant-based protein powerhouses include:
•Black beans: 15 grams per cup
•Lentils: 18 grams per cup
•Almonds: 6 grams per ounce
•Tofu: 10 grams per half cup
•Seitan: 30 grams per 3 ounce serving
Don’t I need dairy for strong bones?
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health, but dairy is not the only source. Many plant-based foods are rich in calcium, including:
•Broccoli: 180 mg per cup
•Kale: 94 mg per cup
•Almond milk: 450 mg per cup
•Tofu: 434 mg per half cup
•Blackstrap molasses: 172 mg per tablespoon
What about healthy fats?
Nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconut provide healthy plant-based fats. Nut butters, tahini, and oils like olive oil or coconut oil are also great options. Aim for a balanced mix of mono-unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids which help support heart and brain health.
Won’t I miss certain foods?
At first, you may miss some familiar animal-based foods. But as you explore the variety of plant-based options, you’ll discover many satisfying alternatives. Creativity in the kitchen can help—try plant-based versions of old favorites like veggie burgers, coconut-based ice cream, cashew cheese, and more. An open mind will serve you well on your plant-based journey.
You’ve now got some delicious plant-based meals up your sleeve whether you’re hosting a dinner party, having friends over to watch the game or just cooking for yourself on a quiet weeknight. With options from hearty chili to creamy pasta and crispy tacos, eating more plant-based foods has never been so satisfying or simple. So go ahead, give a few of these crowd-pleasing recipes a try. Your taste buds and the planet will surely thank you. Eating more sustainable, plant-based meals is an easy choice each of us can make to positively impact our health and the health of the environment. Bon appetit!