Dabbling in vegetarianism? 10 meat-free recipes to cook for Earth Day, or any day

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

Whether going vegetarian reduces your carbon footprint is up for debate. But some experts, including Columbia Climate School's Maureen Raymo, say Americans could positively impact climate change by collectively reducing their beef consumption. What's not in question: eating more vegetables is good for your health. With that in mind, here are some vegetable-forward, meat-free dishes you can cook for Earth Day, or any day at all. 

Creamy cauliflower soup

Creamy cauliflower soup: Cauliflower is a great platform for the warm flavors of smoked sea salt and curry. Apples and carrots add a bit of sweetness to this soup, which you can easily make vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken. It can also be made vegan by leaving out the cream or using nondairy creamer. Get the recipe

Beet salad with goat cheese mousse

Salt-roasted beet salad: This genius method for roasting beets in salt insulates them as they cook, keeping their flavor intact and preventing colors from running once the beets are cut. Salty, tangy goat cheese is a classic pair for beets, and turning the goat cheese into a spreadable mousse makes for an elegant presentation. Get the recipe

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Baked acorn squash: Substitute a pound of mushrooms, sautéed in butter, for the sausage in this recipe to make it meat-free. We particularly like shiitakes here, but you could also use a mixture of wild mushrooms or cremini mushrooms, cooked until the liquid has evaporated. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Get the recipe

Fast food-style vegan burgers are surprisingly delicious, at least when you use the proper vegan patties.

Slutty Vegan copycat burger: Beyond Meat patties are at the heart of this copycat recipe, a luxuriously drippy, messy, rich and entirely vegan burger that mimics the One Night Stand burger from popular meat-free restaurant Slutty Vegan. Get the recipe

Vegan seitan wings come together in a food processor and finish in the oven.

Meat-free "wings": These vegan seitan "wings" are crisp and satisfying, and taste amazing with a Buffalo sauce and "honey" mustard hybrid that adds big flavor. They come together easily in a food processor and get finished in the oven. No steaming or frying required. Get the recipe

Sweet, spicy and crisp, this fried broccoli begs to be served with fried rice.

Bang Bang broccoli: This fried sweet-spicy broccoli is filling and comforting, but still light and crisp. The whole recipe has only 12 ingredients, including the oil for frying and the sauce. Serve this with veggie-fried rice for the perfect vegan weeknight meal. Get the recipe

These olive oil and kale mashed potatoes make the perfect vegan Thanksgiving dish.

Vegan kale mashed potatoes: Olive oil mashed potatoes get studded with kale for a supercharged version of classic mashed potatoes. It’s naturally gluten-free and vegan, and easy enough to make for a weekday dinner paired with tempeh, baked tofu or another main dish. Get the recipe

Sweet potato grits: Good grits can be a beautiful creamy vehicle that, if handled properly, can yield delicious results. In this recipe from chef Bryant Terry, roasted sweet potatoes add a sweet and earthy element to hearty grits. Simply replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock to make it vegetarian. Get the recipe

"Black Food," edited by Bryant Terry, includes Leeonney Bentick's recipe for Green Banana Chowder. (Courtesy of 4 Color Books)

Green banana chowder: Another recipe from Bryant Terry, this chowder is full of the flavors of St. Vincent. It's sustainable and simple, yet bold in flavor, and yields a velvety smooth and nutritious soup. Taro roots can be found in most well-equipped grocery stores, but try sweet potatoes instead if you can't find them. Get the recipe

Vegan Peach Cobbler from Orchids + Sweet Tea.

Southern peach cobbler: This dessert has a secret: It's entirely dairy-free but still delicious. Courtesy of Orchids + Sweet Tea, this recipe combines sweet maple-cinnamon biscuits with dairy-free ice cream for a delightful dessert. No fresh peaches? No problem. Frozen fruit works fine here, too. Get the recipe

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com