Finding the meat you want at the grocery store can be hit or miss these days, making easy meatless meals sound so appealing. Frankly, we’re just getting tired of the same recipes — and so we started looking around for some fresh inspiration.
“Why not give some vegetarian recipes a try and see how you like them before making a long-term commitment?” says Jackie Alpers, a Tucson, Arizona-based cookbook author who has some great tips and recipes for enjoying meatless meals. “There are some excellent plant-based meat alternatives on the market right now.”
Reimagine the veggie burger
Alpers suggests giving your meatless meals a Southwestern spin, as the cuisine can be simple and snackable.
“Chef Teresa Matias told me that to help satisfy her children’s cries for burgers when buns weren’t handy, she would fold a hamburger patty into a tortilla and fry it. Topped with cheese, lettuce and tomato, it later became a regular menu item at her restaurant, Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe,” Alpers says. “Apparently, a lot of moms had the same experience, because the beef patty taco has been standard restaurant fare around southern Arizona since at least the mid-1970s.” Meatless Mondays can include family-pleasing burgers — veggie burgers, that is — that will challenge the perception that burgers have to be made with meat to be delicious and satisfying.
Essentials for making awesome veggie burgers:
Vbites Ground Beef Style Box ($35; rastellis.com)
Make the preparation of meatless meals simple with this delivered-to-your-door box of meatless “beef” that will fill bellies and have everyone asking for seconds.
’The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet’ ($8.85, originally $22.99; amazon.com)
You can make your own amazing veggie burgers with this book packed with a wide variety of recipes. “The cookbook begins with a helpful hints and tips section, with information regarding cooking and preparing, as well as descriptions of different ingredients that may be unfamiliar to some readers,” one reviewer writes.
’Vegan Burgers and Burritos: Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes for the Everyday Cook’ ($15.38; amazon.com)
This everyday easy book is packed with family-friendly recipes that use whole foods to make meatless dining easy and delicious.
Daring Plant-Based Chicken Box ($69; rastellis.com)
If you’re looking for a different flavor from plant-based meats, try this gluten-free plant-based chicken, which is shipped directly to your door in six 10-oz packs.
GreenPan Levels Stackable Hard Anodized Ceramic Nonstick, Frypan, 12-Iinch, Black ($59.95; amazon.com)
Fry up those tortillas with the meatless filling of your choice in one of these GreenPan skillets that allow you to cook with little or no fat. FYI, we also deemed this the best eco-friendly nonstick frying pan of 2020.
Jackie Alpers’s crispy vegetarian tacos
Ingredients per taco:
- About ¼ cup plant-based ground beef alternative or refried beans
- 1 corn tortilla
- Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
- Canola or neutral-flavored vegetable oil, for frying
- Shredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese
- Shredded iceberg or Romaine lettuce
- Diced tomatoes
- Fill a deep skillet or Dutch oven with 1 inch of oil, being sure to leave at least 2 inches of clearance between the oil and the top of the pot for safety. Warm the oil over medium heat until it reads 325°F on a deep-frying thermometer.
- While the oil is heating, spread a thin layer of refried beans or plant-based meat alternative over half of each corn tortilla so that the meat is about ¼-inch thick. Sprinkle the filling with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Using tongs to carefully lay the open-faced tortilla filling side up in the oil. Fold the other side of the tortilla over the filling and gently press down. Fry for about two minutes, then flip the taco with the tongs and cook until the tortilla is crispy, and the filling is hot, about two minutes longer.
- Remove the taco from the oil, turning it on its side over the oil to drain. Transfer to a paper towel or wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.
- Top the tacos with shredded cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes and your favorite salsa.
Bake instead of fry: For crispy baked tacos you can skip the frying. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the filled tacos on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shells are brown and crispy and the filling is heated throughout.
Essentials for making vegetarian tacos:
’Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona’ ($30.44, originally $34.99; amazon.com)
“You can also simply use good old beans! Even canned refried pinto or black beans taste great when fried up inside a crispy taco,” says Alpers. “There are recipes for refried beans made from both dried and canned beans in my cookbook ‘Taste of Tucson.’ They will all work equally well in this recipe. You can also mix and match the fillings to suit your taste or to adapt to what you have on hand.”
Le Creuset Signature Oval Dutch Oven ($384.95; surlatable.com)
This 6.75-quart deep oval Dutch oven is perfect for frying taco shells among many other things. It comes in a rainbow of colors that will coordinate with almost any kitchen and dining room —- yes, it goes effortlessly from the stove to the oven to the table. But, most of all, this is an investment piece that will stick with you for years and years to come if treated with care. That means only use wood or silicone tools while cooking with it, and never use abrasive cleansers on the porcelain coating.
Scanpan ES5 Saute Pan With Lid ($129.96, was $245; surlatable.com)
This simple skillet has high sides, making it deep enough for a quick fry. it works double-duty as a wok in a pinch and can stir-fry enough food for a family.
KT THERMO Deep Fry Thermometer With Instant Read ($11.99; amazon.com)
The key to a crispy taco is getting the oil temperature just right. A thermometer like this kitchen standard is essential.
Checkered Chef Baking Sheet and Rack Set ($22.95; amazon.com)
Use this to drain the oil off of your fried tacos and then use it for a million other things in your kitchen from baking bacon to making the best chocolate chip cookies.
Verve Culture Tortilleria Kit ($45; surlatable.com)
Can’t find tortillas, or just ready to try your hand at making your own? This kit makes it simple.
For other meatless and plant-based ideas, try these classic and simple cookbooks
’The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook: A Fresh Guide to Eating Well With 700 Foolproof Recipes’ ($19.99, originally $34.99; amazon.com)
From the tried-and-true chefs at America’s Test Kitchen, this exhaustive vegetarian cookbook is a must-have for home cooks — vegetarian or not.
’V Is for Vegetables: Inspired Recipes & Techniques for Home Cooks – from Artichokes to Zucchini’ ($35.53, originally $40; amazon.com)
This cookbook, from Gramercy Tavern executive chef Michael Anthony, is designed to give home cooks an exhaustive guide to cooking vegetables, but isn’t strictly vegetarian. If you’d like to learn more about unlocking the flavors of veggies, this is the book for you.
’Vegan Recipes in 30 Minutes’ ($9.49, originally $14.99; amazon.com)
Designed for people with busy lives (so basically everyone), this customer-favorite cookbook is a great introduction to removing or reducing meat and dairy in your diet.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.