Non-vegans often assume that vegans eat mainly bowls of greens, green juices, and fruit. But seasoned, kitchen-curious vegans have found ways to branch out from there to make flavorful dishes that satisfy even the pickiest of eaters and the biggest of meat-lovers. If you're bored with eating the same dishes over and over, it's time for a change in your recipe rotation.
Here's a selection of healthy, family-pleasing vegan dinner ideas that are easy to make, can be made in advance, and keep well as leftovers. Move over steak and potatoes, and make room for these heart-healthy and planet-friendly vegan dinners.
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Healthy Vegan Mexican Meals
Mexican food is comfort food for many and easy to veganize. Mexican dishes are veggie heavy most of the time and allow for substitutions without losing character and flavor. Make great vegan dinners like chickpea and veggie tacos, vegan tempeh tacos, or seitan and mushroom tacos. Also try simple burritos with rice, beans, and store-bought tomatillo salsa. Other Mexican favorites that are vegan include mouth-watering portobello mushroom enchiladas and mushroom and bell pepper fajitas. Try a simple veggie-heavy stir-fry with zucchini, onions, and peppers.
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Simple Vegan Pastas for Dinner
Many of the great Italian dishes you're already eating are vegan, including lots of traditional pasta dishes (just hold the Parmesan). Pasta is always a wonderful lunch or dinner because it's simple and quick, but also because it allows for improvisation. If you have kids, try a simple creamy vegan pasta primavera with a side of tossed radicchio with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For more adventurous palates, make vegan pasta puttanesca capers and olives or vegan penne with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. Serve with a side of roasted broccoli rabe with garlic and sea salt. If you really miss the creaminess of dairy products, you won't believe your taste buds when you try five-star vegan fettuccine alfredo.
For that extra touch, make toasty garlic bread or mix finely chopped parsley with vegan butter and bake ciabatta slices with the butter until golden brown.
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If you don't already love stir-fry for a quick and easy vegan dinner, you soon will. Make the cooking really easy by preparing ahead of time. Cook grains such as white or brown rice, barley, or quinoa and cube vegetables on the weekend, then store them in the fridge. Stir-fries are also very forgiving, allowing you to experiment with sauces. Explore alternative bases for a stir-fry using quick noodles, leftover pasta, sliced potatoes, or zucchini or carrot noodles. Veggie-loaded recipes like vegetable stir-fry are an easy first step.
Vegans are often asked where they get their protein from and stir-fries with versatile tofu and tempeh are one tasty answer. Try dishes like vegan tofu stir-fries, tempeh stir-fry with bell peppers or tofu stir-fry with vegetables in peanut sauce. For people who love Asian flavors, make Thai stir-fry with hoisin sauce. Add more heat if you prefer spicier flavors.
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Thai food is diverse and full of bold flavors. Loaded with veggies and aromatic rice, this type of food is an easy choice for vegans and omnivores alike. With so much powerful flavor from the curry pastes and spices, there's no way you'll be missing the meat! Most Thai curries use coconut as a base, so creating flavorful vegan Thai curries is a snap, like with a quick and easy fresh yellow curry. If you're unsure of what you want, take a look at Thai noodles, curries, and salads, which will give you more ideas for cold or hot dishes. Our easy vegan Thai red curry pairs beautifully with steamed rice or any grain of your choice; a piece of toasted baguette completes a nice dish.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Veganize lasagna and pair it with some warm bread, a green salad and a glass of wine for an easy, complete dinner. Lasagnas are filling so a little goes a long way. Most vegan lasagnas are made with tofu as a ricotta cheese substitute, but you can also try a cashew-based white sauce.
When using ready-made lasagna sheets, make a savory filling from a cheese-less broccoli pesto with store-bought vegan ricotta, but really any hearty tomato sauce with extra sautéed kale or spinach can bring a lasagna to life within minutes. If you want to go full veggie (and gluten-free) with your lasagna, use pan-fried eggplant or zucchini slices instead of the pasta.
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Gluten-free cooking is a whole different beast because it requires a lot of attention to detail, especially if you're cooking for a celiac and not for a person who simply chooses to stay away from gluten. Most store-bought sauces, even if vegan, could potentially have gluten in different forms to make them thicker, so read the labels carefully if gluten is an issue for you or the person you're cooking for.
Even though it calls for more awareness, gluten-free cooking doesn't have to be difficult. From fun tofu stir-fries to just a simple vegetarian chili recipe, gluten-free vegan dinners don't have to be complicated.
Rice, potatoes, plantains, cassava, veggie noodles, rice noodles, bean pasta, legumes, and oats make great bases for savory dishes. Gluten-free vegan soups are complete dinners with a side of jasmine rice or rice cakes topped with sliced avocados.
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Pizza is a great vegan family dinner, and you won't miss the cheese. The more you experiment with these ideas, the more you'll figure out how to make the most out of the new flavors and cheese-less choices.
Whole wheat and vegan frozen crusts are easily found in stores, but most pizza places will sell their dough if you ask.
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Rice in Many Forms
Rice is high in protein, fiber, and many other nutrients. It is also easy to digest, so most people don't have issues when eating rice. Plus rice-based pasta, crackers, and noodles are easy to find. If you're pressed for time, have rice ready in your fridge or steam some in less than 25 minutes. Add some organic canned beans, salsa, cilantro, avocado, and crushed corn chips and you've just made a simple, filling bean bowl, low in fat and high in nutrients. Vegan rice and beans are good answers for simple meals that are easy to put together.
Rice is affordable, versatile, and a staple in many cuisines. From Indian dishes like Indian rice and dhal three ways to 10-minute Italian vegan rice and beans, you'll never run out of ideas when it comes to a dinner based on rice. For hot summer days, rice salads are great. Add to a bowl of rice just about anything in your fridge, such as antipasto; sautéed tofu and seaweed with sesame oil; or leftover roasted veggies.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Quinoa is a magic grain. Filled with nutrients and essential amino acids, it has been a staple of indigenous populations in South America for many centuries. While in the United States many babies eat rice and oats as their first foods, in other parts of the world, it's quinoa.
Quinoa is cooked like rice, so don't be afraid to try it and experiment, such as with quinoa "fried rice" or a quinoa paella. Try dishes like quinoa baked casserole with spinach or a pilaf of quinoa with roasted baby bella mushrooms. Black bean and corn quinoa pilaf is particularly filling when paired with a side green salad. Quinoa stuffing with seitan is delicious, but be aware seitan contains gluten.
If you want to add this healthy grain to your diet and don't know where to start, sprinkle a couple of cooked tablespoons of quinoa on top of your salad or morning oats.
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Whole Grain Dinners
Don't be afraid to try new grains! There's a whole other world of grains out there, including millet, freekeh, barley, and kaniwa, many of which can be used interchangeably in recipes. The same accompaniments with different grains create new dishes, new textures, and so many great vegan dinner ideas! Try millet risotto with broccoli.
Couscous is included in this category, but even if couscous isn't a whole grain, it acts much like one in recipes, lending itself well to pilafs and mixed salads. Cook a cup of couscous and add chopped parsley, cilantro, basil, olive oil, and caramelized onions for a warm summer salad that goes beautifully with grilled vegetables or tofu. Bulgur wheat pilaf with mushrooms and two-grain cranberry pilaf are perfect dinner dishes that keep well for leftover lunches. Barley is a great grain to try. Read our barley recipes or simply cook some barley in salted water; when done, add mint, olive oil, and cherry tomatoes for a quick salad.
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The most marvelous sweets are easy to veganize and some are already vegan, like dark chocolate, dates, and dried figs. Desserts can be rich and decadent when vegan.
Whether you're looking for something quick and easy such as cake mix cookies or something to really impress on date night, you'll find plenty of vegan cakes, cookies, pies, puddings and other easy vegan desserts in this recipe collection.
Easy chocolate sorbet is a classic. Make other quick vegan desserts out of frozen bananas blended with coconut chips and agave; strawberries with shaved dark chocolate; or dates filled with nut butter.
Looking for even more dinner ideas and have little time to cook? Check out these simple vegetarian dinners perfect for busy weeknights.