6 Meatless Meals for Under $20

These delicious spring dishes don't need meat to satisfy the senses.

Whether you celebrate Good Friday or just want something exceptionally good every Friday, you can't go wrong with meatless meals when cooking for a crowd. By cooking in season, you can get the best ingredients and the best prices.

With the spring harvest coming in, take advantage of what your local farmers markets have to offer. If you want save your hard-earned cash, check out these meat-free mains — they're a fantastic way to enjoy scrumptious spring produce.

Baby Bella Risotto

Baby Bella Risotto

Total Cost: $11.82

Glutamate-rich Parmesan and fresh baby bella mushrooms add enough umami to this risotto to satisfy any meat-lover's craving. Pair this dish with an arugula-and-watercress salad topped with your favorite vinaigrette to balance the creaminess.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups vegetable stock ($3)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (11 cents)
  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, cleaned ($3.78)
  • 1 bunch green onions (54 cents per bunch)
  • ¼ cup basil, loosely packed, roughly chopped ($1.98 per bunch)
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice ($1.30)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan (82 cents)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (29 cents)

Directions:

  1. Trim the fibrous bottom ¼ inch from the mushroom stems. Slice the mushrooms lengthwise into ¼-inch slices.
  2. Bring the stock to a simmer and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Have a ladle or measuring cup at the ready.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat for a couple minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they start rendering moisture, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the onion and basil. Season the mushrooms to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Cook the mushrooms until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add the rice to the pan.
  6. Sauté the rice until sizzling, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add about ½ cup of simmering stock to the pan, stirring constantly. When the rice absorbs almost all the stock, add another ½ cup, stirring vigorously throughout.
  7. Continue adding stock in ½-cup increments for about 25 minutes, stirring constantly, and then taste the rice. Add more stock in ½-cup increments until it's al dente.
  8. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon of cream. Taste the rice and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you feel the risotto needs more creaminess, add the remaining tablespoon of cream.
Spiced Cauliflower Steaks With Quinoa

Spiced Cauliflower Steaks With Quinoa

Total Cost: $8.64

If you only think of crunchy florets and ranch dressing when you imagine eating cauliflower, get ready for a paradigm shift. These cauliflower steaks have a meaty quality you rarely find in a cruciferous veggie, and their pleasantly piquant spice paste rounds out the experience.

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower, leaves removed ($4.68)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (22 cents)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • ½-inch knob ginger, freshly grated (18 cents)
  • 1 teaspoon ground mild chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (19 cents)
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed ($2.04)
  • 2 cups seasoned vegetable stock or salted water ($1 or free)
  • Lemon juice, to taste (33 cents per lemon)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the cauliflower stems to about ½-inch to ¾-inch long. Slice each head of cauliflower down the center from top to bottom.
  2. Lay each cauliflower half flat side down on the work surface and cut two 1-inch-thick "steaks" from each half. Reserve the unused cauliflower for another dish.
  3. Season the cauliflower with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Brown the cauliflower steaks in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  4. Transfer the cauliflower steaks to the roasting pan. Whisk together the ginger, chili powder, turmeric and remaining olive oil.
  5. Brush the spice mixture on both sides of the steaks and place them in the oven. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
  6. Bring the vegetable stock or water to a boil in a saucepan while the cauliflower roasts. Add the quinoa and turn the stove to the lowest setting.
  7. Cook the quinoa for 15 minutes and set aside, covered, for 5 minutes. Add a few drops of lemon juice and olive oil to the quinoa and fluff with a fork. Serve the cauliflower steaks on a bed of quinoa and garnish with cilantro.

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Slow-Roasted Early Season Ratatouille

Slow-Roasted Early Season Ratatouille

Total Cost: $13.53

Slow roasting reduces the sugars in this early-season ratatouille, creating a sweet caramelization that will have your guests exclaiming at first bite. If you find yourself with leftovers — a rarity for this dish — use them in wraps or sandwiches or mix them with pasta for a resourceful next-day lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears of corn, husked ($1)
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (16 cents)
  • 1 red onion, sliced (44 cents)
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/3-inch slices (33 cents)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped (31 cents)
  • 2 cups snap peas ($5.56)
  • ¼ cup olive oil (22 cents)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 4 cups spinach leaves, loosely packed, roughly chopped ($2.28)
  • ½ cup basil, loosely packed, roughly chopped ($1.98 per bunch)
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan (optional) ($1.25)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Slice the kernels from the cobs and add them to a mixing bowl with the garlic, onion, zucchini, tomatoes, snap peas and olive oil.
  2. Season the veggies with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir the ingredients to coat, and spread them in an even layer on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Place the pan in the oven.
  3. Roast the vegetables until caramelized and al dente, about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Then, take the pan out of the oven.
  4. Fold the spinach, basil and Parmesan into the vegetables. Serve the ratatouille on its own — or with your favorite grain.
Gruyere, Watercress and Sun-Dried Tomato Crustless Quiche

Gruyere, Watercress and Sun-Dried Tomato Crustless Quiche

Total Cost: $13.67

This quiche combines heartiness and elegance in the best possible way — inexpensively. To complement this crustless meal's luxurious texture, serve it alongside a simple salad of fresh spring greens dressed with lemon vinaigrette.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the pan (11 cents)
  • 2 large leeks, sliced lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise ($5.96)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 4 large eggs (46 cents)
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta ($1.13)
  • ¾ cup milk (2 percent) (9 cents)
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped (64 cents)
  • 3 ounces Gruyere, shredded ($3.48)
  • ½ cup watercress, roughly chopped ($1.47)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped (33 cents)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 10-inch baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Sauté the leeks until softened, about 6 minutes. While the leeks cook, beat together the eggs, ricotta, milk, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.
  4. Fold the leeks, sun-dried tomatoes, Gruyere, watercress and thyme into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into the pan and place in the oven.
  5. Bake the quiche until barely set, about 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn on the oven's broiler and brown the top of the quiche, about 3 minutes. Take the quiche out and let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Roasted Vegetable Curry

Roasted Vegetable Curry

Total Cost: $11.72

One word sums up this roasted vegetable curry: filling. The combination of spice and hearty spring vegetables creates so much umami that you'll have trouble convincing your mouth you're going meatless.

Ingredients:

  • 1 russet potato, diced into ¾-inch pieces (47 cents)
  • ½ cauliflower, broken into florets ($1.17)
  • 1 eggplant, diced into ¾-inch pieces ($2.45)
  • ¼ cup red curry paste, such as tikka masala (60 cents)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (18 cents)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes ($1.38)
  • 1 can (13 ½ ounces) coconut milk ($1.89)
  • 2 zucchini, diced into ¾-inch pieces (66 cents)
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced into ¾-inch pieces ($2.54)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (38 cents)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the potato, cauliflower and eggplant with 2 tablespoons each of curry paste and olive oil.
  2. Spread the vegetables in an even layer on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Roast the vegetables until almost tender, about 30 minutes. Take the vegetables out of the oven.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until caramelized, about 12 minutes. Stir in the rest of the curry paste, tomato, coconut milk, zucchini and bell peppers.
  4. Simmer the curry until all the vegetables cook through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve alone or with rice, bulgur wheat or couscous.
Toasted Barley and Spring Vegetable Ragout

Toasted Barley and Spring Vegetable Ragout

Total Cost: $15.80

This ragout is based on vignole, a classic Italian vegetable stew that celebrates the first spring harvest of the year. Toasted barley adds depth and gives the dish a roasted feel. You can choose an affordable wine to complement the meal. Ragout goes best with a crisp white wine or a low-acid, low-tannin red with a floral bouquet.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup pearl barley (34 cents)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (11 cents)
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced (44 cents)
  • 1 leek, cut in half lengthwise and sliced crosswise ($2.98)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 artichokes ($5)
  • 1 ½ cups fava beans ($2.15)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed ($2.78)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock ($1)
  • 1 cup English peas, frozen (42 cents)
  • 1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, stems removed (58 cents)

Directions:

  1. Heat a dry sauté pan over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the pearl barley and cook until toasted, about 5 minutes, tossing or stirring occasionally. Set the barley aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Add the sliced onion and leeks, and season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Sauté the onions and leeks until softened, about 10 minutes. Set the pot aside.
  4. Add the artichokes to a large pan of salted water and boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon and let them cool.
  5. Add the fava beans to the boiling artichoke water. Blanch the beans for 1 minute, and remove with a slotted spoon.
  6. Peel away the tough outer leaves. Scoop out the choke using a spoon and quarter the hearts.
  7. Add the artichokes, fava beans, barley and chard to the pan of leeks and onion. Pour in the stock and season to taste.
  8. Simmer the ragout until the barley is al dente, about 10 minutes. If needed, add a little water or stock to achieve a stew-like consistency.
  9. Add the peas and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Serve the ragout on its own or with a thick Italian noodle, such as mafalde or tagliatelle.

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