5 Balanced Recipes for the Adventurous Vegan Newbie and Foodie

5 balanced recipes for the adventurous vegan newbie and foodie

A new year often beckons dietary changes. For many of us, it will mean doing our best to cut out sweets or processed foods. For others, it will mean eliminating gluten from the diet. For me, it’s going to mean drinking a little less vino. Some of you, however, will make more drastic changes, like giving your diet a complete overhaul. For those of you who want to switch to a more plant-based diet, which is certainly healthier than one that’s heavy on the meat and low on the veggies, this article is for you. I’d simply like to give you some cooking inspiration if you’re considering a plant-based transformation to usher in the new year. Here are 5 worldly and balanced recipes for the adventurous vegan newbie and foodie that will keep you inspired and crafting nutrient-dense meals all year long!

Indian chickpea masala

If you’ve ever been to India, you know their staple diet consists of one that’s largely vegetarian. Cows are sacred. So you won’t see people enjoying hamburgers or sirloin steak. Instead, an Indian diet is high in plant-based foods—lentils, beans, veggies, herbs and spices. If you like these kinds of foods, you’re in luck. And switching to a vegan diet will be a breeze. If you’re not familiar with Indian dishes, don’t worry. Your taste buds will begin craving all this spicy goodness in no time. Here’s a recipe to get you started:

You’ll need:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 knob of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Handful of fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, basmati rice, or brown rice 
  • Naan, optional

Here’s what to do:

In a deep skillet or pot of your choice, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Saute onions and cumin seeds until the onions are ever-so-slightly browned. Add garlic and ginger and cook another minute or two. Add the remaining spices. Stir and cook until their aromas begin to permeate the kitchen. Add in the crushed tomatoes and stir. Let simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add in the chickpeas, tomato paste, and coconut milk. Cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Depending upon how hungry you are, this dish serves 2-4 people. Serve with your grain of choice, naan bread if you have it, and fresh cilantro. 

rice with green leaf vegetable on white ceramic plate


Thai red curry with eggplant and tofu

While I’m not a huge fan of tofu, it’s good in curry dishes like this one. Thai food can be made vegan in a snap. It’s so full of flavorful spices, you’ll not miss the chicken, shrimp, or beef. Thai curries are really great in the winter, and they’re a full meal when served with your grain of choice. I like quinoa or brown basmati rice for their nutritional value. But, it’s up to you. Ready to cook up a thai comfort dish? Let’s see what you need to do!

The ingredients you’ll need to have on hand are:

  • 1 ½ cans of full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil of your choice
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into ¼ inch strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed for 20 minutes or more
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves

Here’s what to do:

In a large saucepan, stir coconut milk and red curry paste together. In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Cook eggplant strips until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes on each side. Place the browned eggplant in the saucepan with the coconut milk and curry paste. Add in the onion as well and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 10-15  minutes. Meanwhile, you’re going to prepare the tofu by pressing it to release its liquid if you haven’t already done so. Cut the tofu into cubes, and place in the skillet you used to brown the eggplant. Cook over medium heat until the cubes are browned ever so slightly on each side. Place the cooked tofu in your simmering coconut curry. Add in the red bell pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes or so. Just before you’re ready to serve, place the fresh basil on top. Serve with rice. 

seafood ramen platter

Mexican spicy black bean tacos

We all love tacos, right? But are you eating enough beans in your diet? If not, these are the perfect plant-based tacos to fulfill those spicy cravings. 

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can of black beans
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2-3 teaspoons hot sauce of your choice
  • 3-4 taco shells
  • 1 lime
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced

Here’s what to do:

Heat olive in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft. Add the black beans and stir. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, cumin, hot sauce, sea salt, and stir. Craft your tacos with the bean mix, lettuce, and avocado. Squeeze lime juice on top and enjoy! 

close-up photography of food

Spicy oaxacan-inspired buddha bowl

This healthy bowl is filled with spices that will give your tastebuds a real run for their money. Think of this as an uber healthy Oaxacan inspired buddha bowl full of a wide variety of nutritious plant-based foods. Cook this one once and you’ll find it becomes part of your weekly repertoire. 

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 small red onion cut into wedges about ½ inch in size
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • ½ cup cashews
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ a red cabbage, shredded
  • ½ cup green onions, chopped
  • ½ cp fresh cilantro, minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 large avocado, sliced
  • Hot sauce of your choice

Here’s what to do: 

The first three ingredients are your spice rub. Simply mix them together in a small bowl. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a pan with parchment paper, and place the sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and onion on the parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle the spice rub over the veggies as well, but use only half of it. Let bake for about 25 minutes.

On another pan that’s also lined with parchment paper, place the cashews. Drizzle them with the agave nectar and some of the remaining spice rub. Let them bake for ten minutes, along with the veggies. 

In a small pot, heat your beans (drained first) over medium heat. Turn the heat to low after the beans are entirely warmed. Meanwhile, mix the cabbage, green onions, cilantro, lime juice, coriander, and sea salt in a bowl. 

To assemble your Oaxacan-inspired Buddha bowl, divide the black beans between 2 bowls. Divide the sweet potato-bell pepper-onion mix amongst the two bowls, then do the same with the slaw, and sliced avocado. Drizzle hot sauce over everything and enjoy!

Italian Baked ziti

This is a real treat if you want a nutrient-dense pasta dish for dinner. And if you’re going gluten-free, opt for a chickpea noodle. While this ingredient list might freak you out at first, there’s no need to worry. Just gather all the ingredients to have on hand in your pantry. Once you’re ready to make this robust meal, the process is super easy. 

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 cups brown lentils, already cooked
  • 7 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups water
  • A little olive oil
  • 12 ounce box of ziti
  • ½ cup vegan parmesan
  • 1 cup vegan mozzarella
  • Nutritional yeast, to taste (optional)

Here’s what to do:

Find yourself an oven-safe pot and put it on the stove over medium heat. Add the olive oil and warm for a minute. Cook the walnuts and lentils until browned. Next, throw in the garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and all seasonings. Lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Now, add the ziti pasta and water to the pot and bring to a boil, then a low boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Add in the vegan parmesan and stir. Toss in the nutritional yeast if using. Heat your oven to 500. Place mozzarella on top of the dish and bake at 500 degrees F for 7 minutes. Serve warm, with a side salad.