Cooking in college is hard. You never have a lot of time, you never have a ton of ingredients, and, if you're anything like me, you hate cooking meat. Don't get me wrong, I'll do it if that's what the recipe I'm ~feeling~ requires it. These days, I'm trying really hard to reduce my meat intake (read more about why this is a good idea here), so I've been researching more recipes that I can make with no meat, but also without sacrificing flavor and protein. Even going meatless one day a week can start you on the right track, so check out these vegetarian protein meals for some fun ideas!    

1. Egg Fried Rice 

This dish is unexpectedly easy, and a great one to cook a ton of in advance and reheat for several meals. The eggs provide a good amount of protein and you can add whatever vegetables you want. I usually go with whatever is left in my freezer or was on sale at the grocery store. While this may not be the most traditional fried rice, it's easy and tasty so you're still #winning . 

2. Cacio e Pepe

It's a grown up mac & cheese! This recipe seems upscale, but it is unexpectedly amazing AND easy. There's plenty of protein in the cheese, and your best bet is to get authentic Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano and grate it yourself. High-quality ingredients are absolutely KEY here. 

3. Tofu Stir-Fry 

vegetable, broccoli, chicken, rice, stir-fry, pepper, meat
Katherine Baker

I know that tofu is a pretty divisive menu item, but no one can deny that it's protein rich. If you really can't handle tofu (though pan frying it and seasoning it well makes it MUCH better), you can still make a stir-fry that's full of protein sans tofu if you incorporate some beans and other veggies like broccoli, mushrooms, and greens.

4. Lentil Soup

This lentil soup takes a bit of time, but is totally worthwhile. The lentils give you a TON of protein, and if you have a family recipe that you want to use, you can just sub in veggie stock for chicken stock and omit the meat to make it vegetarian! Make multiple servings and pop it in your freezer individually packaged, and you have a ready-made warm winter meal that's perfect to fill you up.

5. Tuscan White Bean Pasta

I am a HUGE fan of this recipe and flavor profile, and it's one of my favorites because it's so easy to make. While I originally based my Tuscan white bean pasta on this recipe, I've started adapting and experimenting with this recipe with whatever I happen to have in my fridge or pantry at the moment. 

6. Protein Pasta with, well, Anything!

Recently, there's been a wave of pasta products coming out that are heavy in protein, because they're made out of good stuff like chickpeas, lentils, and more. This is a life-saver for vegetarians or anyone else who is struggling to keep up with their protein intake. For a super simple meal, just boil it and serve with some jarred pasta sauce (any variety will do!). If you're feeling a little more ambitious, use this pasta in any vegetarian pasta dish of your choosing, like this creamy tomato and spinach pasta or this basil pesto pasta with roasted veggies.

7. Vegetarian Chili 

Abby Galyon

Any vegetarian meal list has to include a chili recipe. Even meat chili is pretty heavy on the beans, so removing the meat doesn't actually change the integrity of the meal that much. Just amp up the beans included and maybe the tomato and carrot ratio, and you have a meal that's delicious and filling, and super easy to make–just dump it all in the pot! This is another one that's great to make in advance and freeze for the future.

8. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

This is a tried-and-true combination. Including sweet potatoes seasoned with chili powder and cumin in a taco gives it this really amazing, smoky-sweet flavor that you just can't beat, and black beans add another layer of flavor. Feel free to mix it up with other kinds of beans or veggies; my personal favs are mushrooms, peppers and onions.

9. Loaded Sweet Potato 

The possibilities for this one are endless-- sweet potatoes basically go with any kind of flavoring you can think of. One of my favorite versions this past semester was a roasted sweet potato with chickpeas seasoned with garlic salt, cheddar cheese, and Everything but the Bagel Seasoning from Trader Joe's. (You can see pics of it here!) But you can do anything from Mexican-inspired to Italian–check out this awesome list of loaded sweet potato meals! And even if you don't like sweet potatoes, you can mix it up with a regular baked potato. 

10. Veggie Quesadillas

cheese, tomato, pizza, sauce, vegetable, chicken quesadilla, meat, bread, huevos rancheros
Maddie Cole

This is a classic, and SO easy to make. A basic cheese quesadilla is great, but you can level up by adding beans, veggies, or beans AND veggies. Fire up your skillet and pull out your salsa, because this simple meal is a game changer after a long, hard day.