Eating For Your Health

Tips to Adapt Your Favorite Recipes to Be Vegetarian Friendly

by Salvador Hill

If you are trying to transition to vegetarian eating or are cooking often for a person who is vegetarian, you might not know where to begin. How can you make your favorite foods and dishes differently than before? Fortunately, you don't have to change a lot when you move to more vegetarian foods. You can even make some of the same things you did before with tweaks so they are meat-free and still satisfying. Here are some simple tips that can help you adapt a lot of recipes to be vegetarian-friendly. 

1. Use simple substitutes for flavor.

Because meat often adds flavor to a dish, you need to find things that add just as much flavor without being meat. For example, you might have used chicken stock as a liquid when making rice to help give the rice a nice flavor. When cooking for a vegetarian, you could make simple vegetable stock using vegetable bouillon cubes and water. The rice will still have a rich, salty taste without using any meat-based flavorings. You can also use mushrooms to give a nice meaty flavor to a dish. Also, don't be afraid to increase the amounts of onion, garlic, and simple herbs to help complement the flavor of vegetables in the dish. For example, you might have tossed your Brussels sprouts with bacon bits, but you could carmelize onion or roast some garlic in the oven and use those for flavor instead of the bacon. 

2. Replace meat with good substitutes.

You can find substitute meat products in any grocery store, but these often are not as nice tasting. Instead, learn to make dishes by using whole foods as meat substitutes. You can make tacos, for example, using cooked lentils and walnuts pulsed together and seasoned with taco seasoning. This mixture provides fat and protein, and the flavor is good. With other taco toppings, you won't be missing the ground beef you otherwise might have used. Other good substitutes include beans, split peas, rice, and quinoa. 

3. Showcase vegetables.

Finally, don't try to hide the taste of vegetables. Instead, try to help them shine more. Buy vegetables that are in season and perfectly ripened. Visit your farmer's market for the freshest produce. Fresh produce will taste better, and you will enjoy the veggie-based meals you make with them more because of it. Don't be afraid of serving vegetables roasted with just a bit of salt. These are simple to prepare, and they can make up components in your dishes. For instance, you might put roasted bell peppers as a replacement meat layer in a seven layer dip. They will taste so good that the dip will still be satisfying.