Composing vegetarian meals

It’s really common to feel uncertain when you’re just starting out with vegetarian cooking. And lots of people wonder how to compose a real vegetarian meal. Like, what should go where the meat used to go?

Here are two basic ways to plan vegetarian meals.

First, you might plan what I call a traditional meal. This is where there is a big something supported by a few smaller somethings. Think lasagna, salad, fruit. Done. The point is you have one dish that is the feature of the meal. It’s an easy blueprint that we are all pretty familiar with.

Take this savory vegan pie or stuffed spaghetti squash for example. These are the stars of the table and just need a few sides to round out the meal.

vegan pie
vegan savory pie

stuffedsquash

Stuffed spaghetti squash

Another way to plan your meal is to forgo the main dish mentality and serve many dishes of more or less equal standing. Think vegetarian Indian buffet. The challenge here is creating multiple dishes that work together to create a satisfying meal. It might take more time, or not. It can be a lot of fun too. A low pressure way to experiment with techniques and flavors. And just imagine a variety of small plates full of gorgeous food spread across the table for each to pick and choose.

An example of this could be a Middle eastern style meal with garbanzo bean and or lentil dishes serves with pilafs, a variety of salads, cheeses, pitas, grape leaves. There is no one star, they are all stars!

chickpeas
Spinach soup with tahini

barley_pilaf
Barley pilaf

grapeleafplate
Mini grape leaf casserole

Neither is better than the other. Both are as healthy and awesome as you want to make them.

But if you constantly find yourself trying to create one big main dish and some sides (and feel like you’ve run out of ideas), why not explore and expand your side dish repertoire?

I have to admit, I’m more of a traditional main dish kinda cook. How about you? See more main dishes and sides here!

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