Protect the Planet with these 10 Water-Friendly Meatless Meals

Fresh water is vital to life — and not just for drinking. We use water everyday: to produce food, consumer goods, and energy; and while it may seem like the supply of water is infinite, in reality, our planet contains only a limited amount of this precious resource. So how do you go about saving water?

Aside from reducing your shower time, one of the most practical and effective ways to preserve water and protect the environment is by eating water-friendly, plant-based foods. Water is involved in all aspects of producing foods, from growing to processing, and preparing. Beef is one of the most water intensive foods to produce due to the water required to grow crops for feed, as well as the animal care and processing. Grains, vegetables, and fruits have much lower water footprints, so understanding a food’s water requirements is a helpful way to choose the most sustainable option.

The water footprint of any animal-based food is generally greater than that of most plant-based foods with equivalent amounts of protein. But when it comes to foods that use the most water, the cow stands alone. Taking into account all stages of production, one kilogram of beef (roughly two pounds) requires close to 40 times more water than the same amount of vegetables. In practical terms, a hamburger made with one quarter pound of beef requires 425 gallons of water to produce compared to a plant-based soy burger which requires about 30 gallons of water to make.

But there are tons of water-friendly foods available, many of which you likely use on a daily basis. Our friends at Food Print have developed a guide that clearly outlines which foods have the smallest (and largest) water footprints. According to their research, ingredients like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (except rice, which has a higher water footprint) are all sustainable options that don’t require lots of water to cultivate and grow. This Monday, check out our list of water-friendly meals and start cooking like a conservationist.  


Cabbage with Orange and Apple

Cabbage is one of the most underutilized ingredients out there, and there’s so many different ways to prepare it: raw or cooked, savory or sweet, light or decadent. This recipe pairs the brightness of fresh orange juice with the sweet-and-sour bite of fresh Granny Smith apple. Start to finish, this sustainable recipe takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. Enjoy!

  For the Cabbage with Orange and Apple recipe, click here.

Cauliflower Rice Tabouleh Salad

Traditional tabouleh salad is made with bulgur wheat, but this version uses cauliflower rice instead. Cucumber, parsley, tomato, and fresh mint add pops of brightness to each bite. All the primary ingredients in this salad have relatively low water footprints.

For the Cauliflower Rice Tabouleh Salad recipe, click here.

Hummus Club Sandwich

Instead of using sliced turkey, chicken, or ham, this hummus club sandwich incorporates creamy hummus, shredded carrots, red onion, and juicy slices of heirloom tomatoes. The resulting sandwich is fresh, light, and destined for warm weather picnics.

 For the Hummus Club Sandwich, click here.  

Minestrone Soup

Who would’ve thought an ordinary bowl of minestrone could help save the planet? The soup is loaded with sustainable ingredients like celery, potatoes, protein-rich beans, and tomatoes, and it’s also a great way to use up leftover produce that’s lingering in the refrigerator.

For the Minestrone Soup recipe, click here.  

Panzanella Salad

This bright and refreshing bread salad uses a lot of fresh produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions. It’s a perfect way to start a dinner or can serve as the star of a light lunch.

For the Panzanella Salad recipe, click here.

Rainbow Veggie Pizza

A simple snack that’s good for all ages, this rainbow veggie pizza includes a lot of sustainable vegetables and can also serve as a great teaching tool to help young people learn a little more about what they’re eating.

For the Rainbow Veggie Pizza recipe, click here.

Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri Dip

The potato seems like a humble ingredient, but the many varieties of tubers are surprisingly nutrient-dense and sustainable. You can do a million different things with a potato, but this simple recipe pairs its inherent creaminess with a bright, herbaceous chimichurri dip. Super easy, yet super delicious.  

  For the Roast Potatoes with Chimichurri Dip recipe, click here.

Smoky Chipotle Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos

Taco night just got a lot more environmentally friendly, thanks to this recipe for smoky and spicy black bean and roasted sweet potato tacos. Season the sweet potato with warm spices like cayenne, chipotle, garlic, and dried oregano and roast in the oven until tender. Then just add your cooked black bean mixture and spoon into tortillas or taco shells. Part of the appeal of this recipe is that you can customize it to fit your taste preferences or ingredients you have on hand.

 For the Smoky Chipotle Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos recipe, click here.

Vegan Tikka Masala with Tofu and Cauliflower

Using a combination of different vegetables and plant-based proteins allows you to incorporate more seasonal ingredients into your meatless meals. The sweet, spicy, creamy masala sauce goes well with pretty much anything, so don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients that you already have in your fridge or pantry.

 For the Vegan Tikka Masala with Tofu and Cauliflower recipe, click here.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Caper Vinaigrette

Let this big, beautiful cauliflower serve as the centerpiece of your Meatless Monday dinner. When roasted, cauliflower develops a toasty, nutty flavor that goes brilliantly with the tangy caper vinaigrette.

 For the Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Caper Vinaigrette recipe, click here.


 Click here for more Meatless Monday recipes. When posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.