Quick and easy gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan, and paleo recipes that still taste good.
With each passing year, my eating habits get progressively healthier, and this year I’ve decided to all but eliminate my meat intake.
I wanted to further reduce my environmental imprint, and eating less meat is the simplest and cheapest way to accomplish that. Plus, there are many possible health benefits (although research is still out on how much of a benefit).
Paleo was working well for me--particularly cutting out sugar, gluten and dairy--but I have been feeling moved to consume less animal products. I finally listened to the nagging little voice in my head that I’ve been ignoring for years and approached my husband about drastically cutting back our meat consumption.
Surprisingly, Alex was on board. We both enjoy meat, and my husband does not share my hippy tendencies, so his consent came as quite a shock. For me, I want to reduce my environmental imprint, and I also just feel increasingly crummy about the living conditions of animals raised for consumption. I was buying local, organic, responsibly-raised chickens from Weber’s Ranch, but we were also still buying “regular” meat from the store, so this is a better compromise.
For my husband, he’s always on board for healthier eating (as long as he can still indulge in the occasional gluttonous, greasy meal and a high-calorie craft beer). As luck would have it, he loses about 4 pounds each week with our new vegan meals--and then gains half of it back over the weekend when he drinks and eats whatever he wants.
In order to make our pseudo-vegan lifestyle work, I needed to find savory, filling, delicious meals. Otherwise we wouldn’t last long on our vegan jaunt. Everything we have tried has been decent, but there have been a lot of “good, but not great” comments.
I narrowed it down to the best vegan and paleo meals that are so flavorful you won’t miss meat. A couple of the recipes call for eggs; I still regularly eat eggs as I buy mine from happy chickens that roam Erma’s Farm, a small, local farm. These free-range chickens have so much freedom that some weeks we don’t have eggs because the chickens hid their eggs so well! They also have lost a few roaming chickens to predators.
As for other non-vegan ingredients, almond or coconut milk can replace cow’s milk, ghee can replace butter, and coconut sugar, molasses, or agave nectar can replace honey.
Here is my list of the Top 10 Best Vegan Meals that even meat-lovers will enjoy:
I have tried a few variations of this recipe, and The Iron You recipes is the best in my opinion (even though it has fewer ratings). The ingredients are minimal (only 7), and they are things we usually have on hand anyway. Everything also fit in our small food processor if that’s all you have.
I doubled the garlic and added quite a bit of red pepper flakes. I followed the recipe exactly the first time but used sweet potato noodles. The second time I used pine nuts instead of almonds and paired it with zoodles. Both were delicious and tasted completely different.
I love cheese, but over the last couple of years, my digestive system has a harder and harder time digesting it. This creamy recipe made with coconut milk is reminiscent of a milk- or cheese-based sauce, but with none of the animal byproducts. We made it extra spicy.
I did feel like this recipe from Minimalist Baker was missing a little something, so I suggest adding mushrooms (or organic chicken if you are still eating meat).
This recipes from Oh She Glows has minimal ingredients and is usually stuff sitting around in the pantry (thus the recipe name). While it took me longer than 8 minutes to cut everything up, it was definitely less than 20 minutes overall.
It’s a great way to use leftover vegetables as it’s basically an Indian stir fry. I’m excited to use this recipe this summer when I have a surplus of fresh vegetables from my Shared Legacy Farms CSA.
I have yet to make a recipe from Minimalist Baker that I didn’t enjoy, and this is one of the best falafel recipes I’ve ever made. I’d suggest reserving this recipe for the weekend as it’s multiple steps. It requires allowing the chick peas to cool for an hour and then letting the falafel mixture set for at least an hour in the fridge.
The actual cooking process is simple though, so if you can meal prep in the morning or early afternoon, this falafel recipe is worth it. Next time I’m doubling the recipe so we actually have leftovers. If I could figure out a way to make the falafel patties into cute shapes, I might even be able to persuade the kids to try them.
PSA: You will breathe and taste garlic for at least 24 hours. But you won’t regret it.
These Indian pancakes from My Heart Beets will satisfy any craving for greasy food while still sneaking in some vegetables. They were easy to make and absolutely heavenly. The only downsides: the pancakes take awhile to cook on the fryer, and the smell of grease and Indian food permeated our house for almost a full week. I may need to save this recipe for days when I can open the windows until we can afford a better venting system.
High in nutrients and fiber, this cashew satay stir fry from Cotter Crunch won’t disappoint. It’s not very time consuming, and I simplified it even more by grinding my cashews at Fresh Thyme while I shopped.
My husband summed it up: “This is actually really good.” Rave reviews from my carnivore!
As usual, I increased the red pepper flake amount, and the extra spice made it that much better.
I used Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce because I couldn’t find harissa, and it was simple and scrumptious.
I’d nix the guacamole and do fresh avocados and squeezed lime juice instead. I opted for freshly ground cashew butter from Fresh Thyme in lieu of the cashew cream. Interesting addition! Totally changed the flavor.
I made these for myself while the kids and my husband ate “regular” pancakes, and both kids ended up preferring these paleo pancakes from Stay Fit Mom! You just throw a few ingredients together and voila. To make them extra fun, I decorate the pancakes with fruit and Nutella to look like their current obsessions, which happen to be babies and ninjas at the moment.
I couldn’t decide between these two muffins, so I included them both. They are very different, so maybe one will appeal to you more than the other. Both are yummy, but the chocolate beet muffins require more work.
My kids USED to love both of these...until they saw me dump spinach into the blender. Now the “Hulk Muffins” are “groooooooooss.” So note to all parents: hide the healthy ingredients.
10. OVERNIGHT OATS
I don’t know how it took me this long to jump on the overnight oats train...I suppose because I spent many years avoiding carbs like the plague. It takes me 5 minutes to prep two jars, and they taste infinitesimally better than when I cook them on the stove. I simply throw my Mason jar in the microwave for 45 seconds and breakfast is ready. Fitful Focus provides a great breakdown of the recipe.
My favorite breakfast combination is gluten-free oats, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, chopped almonds, chia seeds, honey, and unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I make a “dessert” overnight oats that mixes half a banana, gluten-free oats, unsweetened coconut, chia seeds, honey, and cashew butter. So good and mostly guilt-free.
Vegetarian Quinoa Chili: I still prefer my meat chili, but this came very close to the "real" thing!
5 minute Chickpea Curry: NOT 5 minutes, but still fast and very good.
Tofu Vietnamese Spring Rolls: Delicious but time consuming.
What I've learned...
I have realized a few things from my pseudo-vegan voyage. Most importantly, it is significantly easier and less time-consuming to cook without meat. You skip the entire process of seasoning, prepping, and cooking the meat.
My 5-year-old son, who is extremely sensitive to pungent smells, particularly the smell of meat, can actually stand being in the kitchen while I cook now (unless I’m cooking onions--then he’s out).
My meals are much more nutrient-dense when the main course is not meat. I find the more vegetables and seasonings I add, the better tasting the paleo/vegan (or pegan) meal is. These flavorful vegan meals have also allowed me to play with spices and variations.
Lastly, our grocery bills are decidedly smaller, and I’m wasting less food as most vegetables last longer in the refrigerator than meat does. Once our summer coop starts up again, I’ll have an artillery of veggie recipes at hand for the best vegan meals out there.
What's your favorite vegan recipe? Please share in the comments!
Thank you to all of my friends who shared their favorite recipes with me and encouraged me along the way. You guys rock!