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I'm Not Vegan, But I Can't Stop Making These Exceptional Plant-Based Dinners

Food52 logo Food52 6/12/2019 Brinda Ayer
a meal of pizza and salad on a plate © Provided by Food52

A couple years ago, I challenged myself to eat entirely plant-based meals for a month. That meant no yogurt, eggs, cheese, gelatin-laced foods—the works. Surely it wouldn't be that big of an adjustment, I told myself. After all, I'm already a vegetarian, and pasta is generally plant-based, right? (Right!) I would be fine.

And fine I was, of course, but also a lot more thoughtful (and creative!) about my food choices. Where I'd usually throw in a soft-boiled egg or garnish with a few nubs of cheese, I pressed tofu, marinated tempeh, and roasted jackfruit—ahead of time. I carefully read labels, asked questions at restaurants, and went through a lot of nutritional yeast. And I actually didn't eat that much pasta!

Thanks to a handful of powerful plant-based recipes—including many of the 13 below—I learned ways to make vegan meals flavorful and filling. I've gone back to eating cheese and eggs, but a fair few of these remain in my regular rotation because they're pretty dang delicious.

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Best Plant-Based Diet Recipes

1. Zucchini Verde Vegan Enchiladas

This is the recipe I could eat all summer (and I plan on it). Warm corn tortillas are filled with sweet, crunchy zucchini and smothered in a zingy salsa verde—not to mention a bunch of sliced avocado and ultra-rich cashew lime cream. (Psst: It's gluten-free, too!)

a box filled with different types of food on a table: Zucchini Verde Vegan Enchiladas © Provided by Food52 Zucchini Verde Vegan Enchiladas

2. Sushi Salad

Take hearty, nutty brown rice, top it with a bunch of veg and protein-packed edamame, pour on a highly addictive dressing, and get happy. Feel free to throw on some grilled or roasted tofu, tempeh, or seitan for even more heft.

a bowl of food: Sushi Salad © Provided by Food52 Sushi Salad

3. Gingery Noodle Salad

Okay, this is technically pasta, but it's also fresh and gorgeously green and full of staying power that we're going to count this as salad. Tofu, tempeh, or even a big handful of crushed peanuts wouldn't feel out of place here.

a dish is filled with food: Gingery Noodle Salad © Provided by Food52 Gingery Noodle Salad

4. Twice-Baked Potatoes with Creamy Chive Pesto

Cozy, comforting, and craveable—this dish is the plant-based trifecta. Cashews, once again, save the day here (and add protein, to boot), as they're blitzed up with chives to make a luxurious pesto.

a plate of food with broccoli: Twice-Baked Potatoes With Creamy Chive Pesto © Provided by Food52 Twice-Baked Potatoes With Creamy Chive Pesto

5. Stuffed Zucchini with Freekeh Pilaf and Currants

I can't tell you how much I adore this dish—with rugged freekeh, toasty pine nuts, and chewy and sweet currants, it's got basically every flavor and texture imaginable. The best part? It's all big-batchable and can be made a few days ahead (or par-cooked and frozen!), making it a meal-prepper's dream.

a pizza sitting on top of a stove: Stuffed Zucchini with Freekeh Pilaf and Currants © Provided by Food52 Stuffed Zucchini with Freekeh Pilaf and Currants

6. Boiled Potato on Rye Bread (Kartoffelmad)

When I'm at my laziest, this is the dish I turn to: nutty, dense Danish bread covered in an herby vegan remoulade, slices of perfectly boiled potatoes, and lots of alliums and herbs thrown on top. It's outstanding, fills me up for hours, and couldn't be simpler to throw together.

a sandwich sitting on top of a table: Boiled Potato on Rye Bread, aka Potato Salad on Toast (Kartoffelmad) © Provided by Food52 Boiled Potato on Rye Bread, aka Potato Salad on Toast (Kartoffelmad)

7. Spiced Peanut Sweet Potato Salad

Recipe writer and cookbook author Ella Mills (Woodward) writes that this is her favorite recipe in her recently released cookbook: "I'm completely addicted to it. The sweet potatoes are roasted with ginger, cinnamon, and cumin until they're perfectly tender, then they're tossed with sesame seeds, dates, parsley, and a smooth peanut butter dressing while still warm. They're heaven!" Though they're billed as a side, these sweet potatoes are hearty and satisfying enough to hold their own, especially with a heap of radicchio or leafy greens.

a bowl of food on a plate: Spiced Peanut Sweet Potato Salad, from Deliciously Ella © Provided by Food52 Spiced Peanut Sweet Potato Salad, from Deliciously Ella

8. Spicy Miso Eggplant & Broccoli Salad

Another gem from Ella, this time with hardy, crunchy broccoli and miso-roasted eggplant. You could eat this with noodles or rice, or you could have a double helping as a main (I certainly would).

a bowl of salad on a plate: Spicy Miso Eggplant & Broccoli Salad, From Deliciously Ella © Provided by Food52 Spicy Miso Eggplant & Broccoli Salad, From Deliciously Ella

9. Indian Peanutty Noodles

Thick, chewy udon make an excellent bed for a creamy peanut chutney and a lot of crunchy veg. A hint of chile and cumin in the sauce gives this dish just the touch of pep it needs.

a bowl of food on a table: Indian Peanutty Noodles © Provided by Food52 Indian Peanutty Noodles

10. Baked Sweet Potatoes with Spiced Lentil Salad & Lemon Tahini Dressing

Followers of a plant-based lifestyle keep sweet potatoes near and dear—and this sweet potato recipe keeps them exciting. A warm green lentil salad, spiced with harissa and rounded out with tomatoes, gets heaped on some halved roasted sweets and is doused with an incredibly rich and creamy tahini–lemon dressing. This one keeps me full for most of the day.

a meal of pizza and salad on a plate: Baked Sweet Potatoes with Spiced Lentil Salad & Lemon Tahini Dressing © Provided by Food52 Baked Sweet Potatoes with Spiced Lentil Salad & Lemon Tahini Dressing

11. Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachio Gremolata

This cauliflower dish seems uber-fancy for a weeknight, but really only takes about 20 minutes to whip up. Punctuated with sticky-sweet dates, crunchy pomegranate arils, and a nutty, herby pistachio gremolata, all this one-pan wonder needs is a big hunk of warm pita to pick it all up.

a plate full of food: Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachio Gremolata © Provided by Food52 Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachio Gremolata

12. Crispy Roasted Shallot and Lentil Sheet Pan Mujadara

Another quick and simple sheet-pan supper, this time with spiced rice and lentils! A drizzle of tahini, good olive oil, and a tangle of herbs would be right at home.

Crispy Roasted Shallot and Lentil Sheet Pan Mujadara © Provided by Food52 Crispy Roasted Shallot and Lentil Sheet Pan Mujadara

13. Marcella Hazan's White Bean Soup with Garlic & Parsley

This soup is a classic for a reason—it proves that simple is almost always the most satisfying. In this dish, creamy white beans are the real star of the show, as they swirl around with parsley and garlic in broth. Thick grilled bread is listed as "optional" here, but who are we kidding.

a bowl of food on a table: Marcella Hazan's White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley © Provided by Food52 Marcella Hazan's White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley

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