Anyone who decides to eat a vegan diet is in for a great ride. Honestly, the possibilities for animal-free dishes open up like flood gates when you consider how many whole, plant-based foods are out there. The produce section alone contains more ingredients than most of us will ever eat in one month (and for some, even longer). Then you’ve got all the different varieties of beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and if you’re into them — superfoods, exotic fruits, and an assortment of spices, herbs, and condiments to meet your every need. Expanding beyond the whole food options, there’s also a variety of non-dairy milks, yogurts, egg replacers, and clean veggie burgers you can give a try too.

The Beauty of Simple Meals

But among all these possibilities, we all need at least five dishes to keep on hand that are simple, quick to make, and ones we can always rely on when we need a healthy, filling meal that requires little mental energy or kitchen time. Because life happens and as much as we wish we had hours to spend making gourmet raw enchiladas and exotic raw cakes, most of us just don’t have time on a daily basis.

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Thankfully, these five meal ideas below are staples that offer so many different options when it comes to variety within each dish.  You can switch up the ingredients in all of them to suit your health needs, taste preferences, or just your personality! Consider these five dishes below recipes that all plant-based eaters should learn how to make, preferably first before you start taking on more elaborate recipes that might seem a little overwhelming.

Dig in, things are about to get tasty!

1. A Killer Smoothie

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Smoothies aren’t anything particularly new, but everyone should have a favorite they can go to time and time again. For some of us, smoothies were life-changing; they were the first dish that helped us transition into a healthier lifestyle, or just gave us a new appreciation for something as simple as a blender. The awesome thing about smoothies is you can make them as healthy as you want, as filling as you want, or even turn them into something more like dessert to eat instead of ice cream. You can have them for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and even dinner if you make them super thick and make them heavier in fats and protein. Veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, greens, and fun superfoods can all be used in smoothies, and they all make for a perfect breakfast to start things off on the right foot! See some tips for the Best Order of Ingredients to Make Your Superfood Smoothie here, and see all of our smoothie recipes for flavor variations of all kind.

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2. A Meal-Sized Macro Bowl

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Macro bowl, veggie bowl, a hodge-podge bowl, or a Buddha bowl — call it whatever you want, but they’re all the same. The concept is to add cooked or raw veggies, grains, nuts and/or seeds, beans, and legumes to  huge bowl and toss them all up. The bowls usually come with a healthy fat like tahini or avocado to use as a dressing, while others have plant-based protein such as tofu, tempeh, or a crumbled veggie burger on top. The possibilities for a bowl are endless, just like a smoothie. They’re great for dinners, lunches, and make perfect left-overs to keep on hand all week. You can even pack them up if you’re headed on a trip and stow them in a container in your travel-on for a great vegan-friendly airline meal. If you’re trying to introduce a friend to a plant-based diet that thinks it’s all about salads and raw veggies, serve them up one of these bowls and they’ll change they’re mind in no time!

3. A Rockin’ Salad

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Forget just using lettuce and veggies in a salad, vegan salads are so much more! People eating vegan know that salads are just another way to pack lots of nutritious foods into one bowl, much like a macro bowl, but normally with more greens and less grains. Toppings can include veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh or legumes, a small amount of cooked grains, healthy fats like avocado or tahini, and even better, some zesty and oil-free salad dressings too. You can keep salads on hand just like you would the bowls above, but be sure you don’t add the dressing until right before eating them to prevent them from getting soggy. Try a vegan cobb salad, Nutritious Chili Salad, Spicy Raw Thai Salad, or a Super Protein Kale Salad as some great first-time options. You’ll learn to put different flavor spins on them to make time and time again whenever you want something filling and healthy!

4. A Mean Bowl of Chili or Soup

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Chilis and soups will get you through the coldest of winters and the chilliest of falls, so much so that you’ll be ready for the cold weather to get here just so you can eat them without breaking a sweat! Or, keep your soups raw if you’re into that kinda thing, and experience the cooling effects they have at meal times. Remember, meat doesn’t have to be a part of a soup or chili; you can use meaty veggies like mushrooms, artichokes, beans, legumes, and even some grains like quinoa or oats, or even roasted sweet potatoes and beets instead of meat. Some of our favorite filling options include: Healthy Vegan Chili, Cheezy Tomato Soup, Tuscan Ribollita, Mild Coconut Carrot Soup, Sweet Potato and Carrot Leek Soup, and Mexican Black Bean Soup. Make these in your slow cooker to save time, hassle, and so you can make big batches to keep on hand all week.

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5. A Belly-Filling Bowl of Perfect Porridge

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Oats, quinoa, barley, amaranth, and any other grain all make for a perfectly easy breakfast or a lazy dinner. You can add whatever you want to your porridge, whether it be nuts, seeds, fruit, superfoods, or even nut butters and coconut for extra healthy fats. If you enjoy chilled porridge, make overnight oatmeal with coconut yogurt and chia seeds so it’s nice and thick, or enjoy a piping batch of oats right out of your slow cooker. Everyone should have a hearty bowl of porridge they can customize with ingredients that will also keep them healthy. Try all of our porridge recipes to find ones that suits your needs!

Bonus Dishes

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Once you’ve got these down pat, be sure you learn how to make easy, homemade veggie burgers, quick raw desserts (because we all need chocolate in our lives), and while you’re at it, brush up on some sandwich ideas beyond PB&J. Explore more of our plant-based recipes to add to your menu once you’ve got the basic go-to’s mastered, and let us know if you have a favorite set of vegan dishes you turn to time and time again. We’re willing to bet that each one of you have some we might enjoy, so leave a comment and share!

Lead Image Source: Quinoa Salad With Creamy Balsamic Dressing