See Ya Later, Spaghetti: 18 Non-Pasta Vegetarian Mains

Lentil Burgers from Big Girls, Small Kitchen

I eat a lot of vegetarian food, even though I’m not a vegetarian. Especially during the summer, when weekends consist of grilling sausages, burgers, and hot dogs, I gravitate towards grains, beans, and salads for some balance during the week.

Yet I’m often guilty of running to the cabinet for pasta when I go to make a meatless meal. Many of the most satisfying vegetarian dinners are based on lasagna, linguine, and orzo, but other grains and vegetables can be the starting point too. I thought I’d share inspiration for pasta-free vegetarian dinners good enough to serve to guests, and the BGSK archives yielded a ton of options I hope you’ll enjoy. (Note: despite being pasta-less, some but not all of these mains are gluten-free.)

**Vegetarian Mains, Hold the Pasta**

1. Seared Pepper Tacos with Pintos and Avocado Crema. A combination of spicy peppers and onions and home-cooked pinto beans makes these vegan tacos hearty and healthful. Don’t forget the avocado crema–that’s key.

2. Middle Eastern Carrot Tacos. We go fusion here, bringing carrots dressed with spices and herbs to the center of a cheesy taco. And, look, there’s avocado on top of these, too! (How could I not?)

3. Fried Rice with Shiitakes and Cashews. Fried rice used to be a dish made out of leftovers. Now I cook rice precisely for the purpose of mixing it with mushrooms, cashews, and scrambled eggs for this filling, easy main dish.

4. Sweet-and-Sour Tofu with Bok Choy. This recipe, which originally came from a reader, hits a perfect balance of sweet, tangy, and filling. Paired with bok choy and rice, this one dish makes for a complete vegetarian meal.

5. Quinoa with Roasted Tomatoes, Avocado, and Pesto. The quinoa salad fills a need in my diet for something quick, not too heavy, and delicious, especially in the summer when grain salads rule the picnic basket. This version combines all my favorite ingredients, from roasted tomatoes to fragrant pesto.

6. Roasted Caponata Salad with Chickpeas & Goat CheeseChopping vegetables to the same size as chickpeas makes this little vegetable toss as aesthetically pleasing as it is delicious. Serve big bowls topped with goat cheese.

7. Smoky Red Lentil BurgersI always have lentils around in jars that never seem to empty. These burgers are more refined than my typical lentil preparation–a stewy soup–thanks to a dose of smoked paprika and a pretty presentation inside toasted pitas.

8. White Bean Burgers with Pesto, Tomato, and Roasted Eggplant SpreadThe crispy exteriors of these burgers pairs gorgeously with their summer accompaniments: eggplant, pesto, and thickly cut tomatoes.

9. Swiss Chard Turnovers with Parmesan and Pistachios. Like empanadas, these little turnovers are easily held in your hand for on-the-go eating. Next to a big salad, two or three are a great light dinner.

10. Oversized Mozzarella Arepas with Summer Veggies. Even after a decade of enjoying arepas, the process of turning masa harina (par-cooked finely ground corn flour) into these dense, crispy corn cakes still astounds me with its simplicity. On top of the crispy, cheesy cakes, I pile a simple spring veggie sauté.

11. New York Corn Chowder with Tarragon. Corn chowder is better without any cream or milk, and this light and herb-filled bowl is the perfect recipe to prove it. When corn is in season, I couldn’t ask for a better dinner than a big mug of this sweet goodness.

12. Really Good Vegetable Soup. I searched far and wide for the perfect vegetable soup recipe, and I finally found it in Peru. To make this unequivocally filling, throw in handfuls of quinoa and chickpeas towards the end of cooking.

13. Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata. Sliced sweet potatoes and slow-cooked onions (both easily made ahead of time) turn the classic frittata into a farmers’ market affair with a whiff of the breakfast-for-dinner vibe.

14. Crispy Potatoes with Baked Eggs and Pesto Yogurt. Since hash browns are pretty much the best food ever, I see no reason not to serve them at dinner as well as brunch. This one-skillet dinner is totally homey and a little gourmet.

15. Zucchini & Tomato Curry. The scent of browning mustard seeds and searing zucchini will fill your apartment with the scent of India and the satisfaction of using only seasonal ingredients. A cool dollop of yogurt finishes off the dish.

16. Vegetarian African Peanut Stew. For all you peanut butter lovers, don’t stop eating spoonfuls just because it’s dinner time. Mixed with veggies and served over rice, this African stew doesn’t disappoint.

17. Tortilla Espanola. Potatoes and eggs in another form, this traditional Spanish tapas can be made ahead and eaten room temperature or cold, a perk when you’re entertaining.

18. Baked Spaghetti Squash with Tomato and Ricotta. Let’s end with the return of spaghetti–only in the gluten-free, unprocessed form of spaghetti squash! This dish gets heft from yummy tomato sauce and plenty of ricotta.

Posted in: The Best of BGSK
  • Chelsea Turner

    I love these ideas! I like to do vegetarian once or twice a week as a cheaper option instead of meat. I just wrote a post about money saving meals and will have to try these out next!

  • hena

    mm yum. some great ideas.

  • Arthur


  • Chelsea Creekmore

    Great list. I’m a vegetarian for 15 years and I cook a lot of arepas after falling in love with them in Colombia. I don’t know why more vegetarian sites don’t mention them!! They’re so easy to make, super cheap, and my family loves when I do mozzarella stuffed arepas with black beans, plantains and rice. I’ll have to switch it up with your topping!

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