5 Inexpensive Vegetarian Meals that Meat-eaters Will Love

By: Denise Harrison

Pizza is always a crowd pleaser, even without meat toppings.
Pizza is always a crowd pleaser, even without meat toppings.
Antonio Luiz Hamdan/The Image Bank/Getty Images

What if you have company over for a steak dinner, only to learn that one of your guests has been meat-free for a decade? Or, what if your teenage daughter suddenly decides to commit to a vegetarian diet?

Whether you're meat lover, a meat hater, or you exist somewhere in between, it's always a good idea to have a few (or perhaps more than a few) vegetarian recipes in your arsenal of delightful meals. Not only are plenty of vegetarian dishes guaranteed crowd pleasers, but they're often healthy and more economical than your basic steak and potatoes. So, introducing a veggie meal into your regular rotation may improve your family's health, and save you hundreds of dollars at the grocery store a year.

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The trick is to find recipes that are so tasty no one at the table -- not even the meat lovers -- notices they don't include meat. Here are five delicious dishes anyone and everyone is bound to savor.

5: Veggie Pizza

Who doesn't love a cheesy pizza loaded with toppings? And who doesn't love the cost savings? Homemade pizza, especially vegetarian, can cost half of what it costs to have your pie delivered. One of the great things about homemade pizza is you can make it as simple or complex as you wish. For example, you can purchase a frozen crust, one from the grocer's bakery or make your own. The same is true of the sauce; buy a jar sauce or whip one up yourself.

Here's how to prepare your homemade pizza: Slather the crust with sauce, and then sprinkle on a generous amount of grated mozzarella cheese. Top with your favorite vegetables -- popular choices include bell and red peppers, mushrooms, onions, black olives and spinach. Spoon small amounts of olive oil in a sweeping motion over the top of the pizza (cover the top with oil, but don't drench it!). Then, dust the pizza with your choice of seasonings, like salt, pepper, basil and Italian seasoning. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 12 to 18 minutes or until the cheese and crust start to crisp. (Also, check out our grilled vegetarian pizza recipe.)

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4: Black Bean Chili

Chili is a treat any time of year, but this hot, hearty meal is especially welcomed when the family is coming in from the cold. Chili doesn't have to include meat to be tasty, either. Black bean chili, for example, tastes fantastic, costs little and is filling enough for even the hungriest in the brood.

Ingredients might include dried or canned black beans, garlic, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, tomato sauce, and, typically, chili powder. If you wish, add cayenne, cumin and jalapenos, too.

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After sautéing the onions and garlic, combine all the ingredients into a pot and simmer for a half-hour, if using canned beans; simmer two hours if using dried beans. You can spoon on a dollop of sour cream or sprinkle with cheese just before serving. For a closer look at the ingredients, check out our black bean chili recipe.

3: Veggie Quesadilla

It's hard to find a meal as fast and easy to make as quesadillas, and they're a cheese-lover's delight. The basics -- flour tortillas, cheese and a few vegetables -- make these Mexican meals budget friendly, as well.

Buy small or medium tortillas for quesadilla lunches or appetizers, or the large size for a dinner entree. Layer plenty of cheese on the unfolded, round tortilla (a good cheese combination for quesadillas is half Monterey Jack, half cheddar). Keep cheese away from the edges, though, to reduce dripping while cooking.

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You can keep your quesadillas simple, made solely with cheese, or you can include any of a variety of veggies, such as spinach, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, green chili peppers, cilantro and jalapenos.

Bake at 350 degrees, about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted. You can also toast your quesadillas for a crispier tortilla. When done, fold in half and carefully slice into wedges. Serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream or plain yogurt.

2: Pasta and Vegetable Stir-fry

Put an Asian twist on your vegetarian meal with a stir-fry, an affordable dish that requires few ingredients to make it scrumptious. The noodles-veggies combination is a popular classic, and once you get past the chopping, cooking is quick. (To make it even quicker, use a vegetable slicer or buy pre-sliced packages of frozen Asian vegetables.)

You can include just about any vegetables, such as white or green onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, red, yellow and green bell peppers, cabbage, mushrooms, water chestnuts and snow peas.

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Cook noodles (rice noodles, macaroni or penne, for example) as usual by boiling, then draining. Coat your wok or skillet with sesame oil or peanut oil and add a tablespoon of soy sauce. Sauté the garlic and onions. Then stir in the rest of your vegetables, a few tablespoons of vegetable broth, and season with your choice of salt, pepper, a little curry powder and ginger. Stir fry until thoroughly heated. Add noodles, and stir fry for another minute. Remove from the stove. Top with sesame seeds, and offer more soy sauce on the side.

Looking for an exact recipe? Try this simple yet sophisticated cavatelli and vegetable stir-fry.

1: Vegetarian Lasagna

With all that cheesy flavor, no one will even notice the lasagna is without meat.
With all that cheesy flavor, no one will even notice the lasagna is without meat.
E. Jane Armstrong/Foodpix/Getty Images

This Italian dish is an American favorite and it's molto buono without meat, too. Vegetable lasagna doesn't require much beyond lasagna noodles, sauce, cheese, spices and a few vegetables, so shopping is quick and won't set you back at the register.

One of our favorite vegetable lasagna recipes includes carrots, spinach, mushrooms and broccoli, spiced with nutmeg, parsley, basil and oregano. The recipe calls for three cheeses: ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella.

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Prepare your sauce and cook your noodles. Cook vegetables in a skillet and set aside. Combine ricotta and mozzarella, parsley, basil, oregano, cornstarch and black pepper in small bowl. Spread tomato sauce at the bottom of the baking pan and lay out three noodles side by side. Top noodles with cheese mix, then vegetable mix, and then top with sauce. Repeat those layers and place more noodles on top. Sprinkle Parmesan and mozzarella on the top noodles, cover and bake for 30 minutes in a preheated oven.

For something truly original that will wow everyone at the table, serve these spinach lasagna roll-ups with tomato coulis.

For more on cooking and vegetarian meals, visit the links on the next page.

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  • McLaughlin, Moira E. "Ever Wondered: Who invented pizza?" Washington Post. April 5, 2010. (Nov. 28, 2011)