Save Time and Energy with These 10 Semi-Homemade Meatless Meals

Cooking is a labor of love, but why not cut down on the labor part by incorporating some semi-homemade products into your recipes? By using jarred sauces, frozen tater tots, minute rice, and ready-to-bake pizza crust, you’ll save tons of precious prep and cleaning time, while still putting a delicious meal on the table.

Some people have a stigma against packaged foods, but many times these products taste better than their scratch-made counterparts. That’s because food companies dedicate time and resources to perfecting their formulas to ensure that jar of sauce or that cauliflower pizza crust has just the right taste, texture, and flavor.

But maybe you’re concerned packaged foods aren’t as healthy as homemade meals? While it’s true that some prepared foods can contain higher levels of sodium and sugar, some provide healthier options. You can increase the nutrient quality of these meals by incorporating fresh, frozen, and canned ingredients, such as a can of chickpeas, a bag of frozen spinach, or a package of cherry tomatoes.

Another cool thing about creating your own semi-homemade meal is that it allows you to explore different cuisines. You may never commit to making your own tikka masala, pesto sauce, or red pepper romesco, but you can find them all ready-to-go in your local supermarket.

This Monday, expand your pantry and save yourself some time with our list of quick-and-easy meatless semi-homemade meals.

Easy Pizza

Frozen pizza crust has evolved over the years, and now there are many different varieties available, from gluten-free to cauliflower to ancient grain. Frozen pizza crust is a great foundation for a meal; it’s also a fun cooking project to do with kids. You can load your pizza with veggies, olives, barbecue, spicy honey, plant-based pepperoni, vegan cheese—let your imagination run wild. But remember, the key to a crispy golden-brown crust is to brush the bottom of the pizza with a little olive oil before baking.

Fried Rice

By using a microwaveable pouch of brown or white, you can recreate a tasty fried rice dish in minutes. Give the rice a quick nuke in the microwave (but don’t cook all the way), and then add some frozen or fresh vegetables and pre-seasoned tofu into a sauté pan with sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic powder, and any other of your favorite seasonings. Quickly cook all the ingredients together and top with sliced scallion for a healthier version of takeout.

Marinaded Vegetables

Grilling vegetables brings out their natural smoky sweetness, but you can amp up the flavor of eggplant, zucchini, onion and any other grilled vegetable by marinading them in salad dressing. Italian dressing and balsamic vinaigrette are both excellent for marinades, but feel free to get creative and use whatever dressing you have in the fridge.

Pesto Pasta Salad

A pesto pasta salad is refreshing, easy to assemble, and totally customizable. Buy a container of your favorite pesto sauce, boil some pasta, and toss in some cherry tomatoes, arugula, and peas, and you have a refreshing summer meal ready in no time. Substitute ‘zoodles’ (spiralized zucchini) for the pasta for an even more veggie packed meal.

Refried Black Bean Soup

Nothing is easier and more delicious than this “recipe” for refried black bean soup. Just open the can, plop a scoop of beans in a bowl, thin out with some water, and microwave until hot. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and crumbled tortilla chips for some extra texture and zing. If soup is your thing, we’ve got more recipes for you to browse.

Salad Kit Meal

You’re likely familiar with bagged salad kits, the ones that typically come with a pouch of dressing, some crunchy tortilla strips, and maybe a few cubes of cheese. Well, these simple salad starters can become a meal in themselves when you add a can of drained chickpeas or black beans. Add in a little extra seasoning of salad dressing if you need to kick up the flavor another notch.

Spinach Tortellini Soup

Start the meal with something delicious by serving this semi-homemade spinach tortellini soup. All you need is vegetable stock, canned tomatoes, a package of tortellini (can be plant-based), frozen spinach, and some seasoning, such as dried herbs or Italian blend seasoning. Bring the stock to a boil, cook the tortellini, and drop to a simmer before adding the tomatoes and spinach. Season to your liking and top with plant-based Parmesan.

Stuffed Peppers

A baking dish of stuffed peppers presents really nicely, making it a dinner option when hosting guests. By using a microwavable packet of rice, you can skip the onerous task of cooking rice and cleaning a messy pot. This Meatless Monday recipe from Goya for stuffed peppers, recommends microwaving the peppers before stuffing and roasting in the oven, which speeds up the cooking process.

Tater Tot Casserole

A tater tot casserole is certainly a crowd pleaser. It comes out of the oven looking crisp and crunchy, but beneath the potato surface, you can pack the casserole with any number of vegetables, beans, or other plant-based products. This recipe for a Mexican-style tater tot casserole from Rabbit and Wolves, uses a package of taco seasoning to flavor the beans, but you can also add textured tofu or soy chorizo to add some extra oomph to the dish.

Tofu Tikka Masala

Indian food uses a distinct blend of spices and ingredients, but many times it’s the sauce that’s the standout. To create your own version of Indian takeout, buy a premade jar of tikka masala (some may contain dairy), and use it as the base of your own vegetable-forward meal. Add tofu, spinach, broccoli, or any other vegetable of your choosing and serve over rice.

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.