The 21 budget vegan main dish recipes in this list prove that you don’t have to choose between good-for-you delicious meals and inexpensive ones. Delicious and cheap can go hand in hand!
One of the myths about going vegan is that it involves buying and cooking with esoteric and expensive ingredients. Vegan cookbooks and many online recipes help further this misconception by presenting recipes with looooooong lists of ingredients that seem anything but cheap.
Though sometimes whole food plant-based ingredients and organic produce can be a bit pricier than mass-produced foods, that’s not always the case if you shop wisely. In fact, fresh produce is often one of the best food bargains available.
Do you want more budget-friendly ideas?
Vegan on a Budget by Nava Atlas
Using lots of whole foods, these main dishes are easy to prepare, tasty, and affordable. Many college students are going vegan, often for ethical and environmental reasons, and, on other end of the spectrum, seniors and retirees are giving plant-based meals a try as a way to boost their well-being.
No matter where you are on your vegan journey, it’s useful to have a go-to list of budget-friendly dinner ideas that are comforting and satisfying, yet won’t break the bank.
Vegan Sausage, Potato, and Cabbage Skillet: It’s hard to think of any two vegetables that give you more bang for the buck than cabbage and potatoes. And fittingly, they go so well together in many kinds of dishes — case in point, this combo of vegan sausage, cabbage, and potatoes.
Quick Indian Lentil and Kidney Bean Curry: Inspired by a traditional Indian recipe that combines two tasty, high-protein legumes, this already-vegan lentil and kidney bean curry makes a filling, quick, and easy dinner. Delicious served with a fresh flatbread and/or a cooked grain.
BBQ-Flavored Lentil Sloppy Joes: As satisfying as any kind of burger meal, these vegan barbecue-flavored lentil sloppy joes are ready fast, especially if the lentils are cooked ahead of time. You also have the option of using canned lentils, because why not? Sometimes saving even 20 or 25 minutes can be a lifesaver when it comes to getting dinner on the table.
Jamaican Rice and Beans: This is a shortcut and slightly Americanized version of Jamaican rice and red beans, a traditional favorite, simply called “rice and peas” in the island nation. Busy families may enjoy this quick route to a satisfying and economical dish.
Korean Beef-less Bowl: Korean Beef Bowl is an easy recipe to convert to a completely meatless version. The original is a simple dish made of ground beef bathed in a gently spiced and slightly sweet sauce, served over rice and topped with scallion. The beefy crumbles in this dish are a tasty and high-protein combo of quinoa, walnuts, and black beans.
Teriyaki Fried Rice and Tofu: Embellished with bell peppers and peanuts, this rice and tofu stir-fry just might become a mainstay in your repertoire. Having the rice cooked ahead of time makes this a breeze.
Curried Sweet Potatoes with Chard and Chickpeas: A fusion of flavor and color is what this hearty dish of curried sweet potatoes with chard and chickpeas is all about. It’s nice served like a stew in shallow bowls, accompanied by warm flatbread; you can also serve it over hot cooked grains.
Mujaddarah: A traditional Middle Eastern dish, this is sometimes made with rice, or, in certain regional variations, with cracked wheat or bulgur. Either way, the grain is combined with lentils and lots of onions browned in olive oil. I like making this simple dish with brown rice, since it can be cooked together with the lentils. It’s such an appetizing dish — even if, admittedly, it isn’t the prettiest.
Indian-Spiced Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew: A meal centered around a delectable cauliflower and chickpea stew costs a fraction of take-out, even with using a prepared Indian simmer sauce and splurging for frozen samosas, which brought the cost per person to between $5 and $6 for a special at-home meal. Still not bad at all!
Teriyaki Asian Noodles with Tofu and Stir-Fried Vegetables: Teriyaki Asian noodles with tofu and stir-fried vegetables tastes just as great as what you might get for take-out. The recipe gives you an option to make your own teriyaki marinade in case you already have the ingredients on hand.
Sweet and Smoky Beans and Greens: Beans and greens are a match made in vegan heaven. Pairing them in simple dishes is cheap, nourishing, and, with the right seasoning, so tasty and appealing. I love to use barbecue seasoning as what I call a “flavor bomb” —something that, even in modest quantity, adds a big burst of flavor to simple preparations.
Lasagna-Like Pasta Casserole: Here’s an easy vegan pasta casserole that has all the great flavors of lasagna with less hassle. Plus, it only needs about 20 to 25 minutes in the oven — just enough time for the (vegan) cheese to melt and the flavors to meld. Serve with a simple salad and a steamed green veggie and you’ve got a fantastic and economical meal.
Kale Pesto Pasta with Mushroom “Bacon”: If there’s any downside to a mostly kale pesto, it might be its ultra-mild flavor — which is why this dish is embellished with mushroom “bacon.” These smoky-sweet bites give this dish great little bursts of flavor. If you’re a mushroom lover (especially if you love the idea of bacon-y flavored mushrooms), you might like to double the mushroom “bacon” portion of the recipe.
Spanish-Style Chickpea Stew: This chickpea stew makes a nice meal served over rice or quinoa (or, as I’ve done here, a combo of white rice and red quinoa — the two grains can be cooked together). Or, if you’d prefer to skip the grain you can serve this in shallow bowls with fresh bread. All you need to complete the meal is a simple green salad or slaw.
White Bean Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Squash: Here’s a vegan white bean stew that you could possibly call a white bean chili, though you need not call it anything but simple and tasty. It’s a warming cool-weather stew that comes together quickly without tons of simmering, thanks to a couple of shortcuts.
Stir-Fried Sweet & Sour Vegetables with Seitan, Tempeh, or Tofu: This luscious preparation of stir-fried sweet and sour vegetables has several steps, but is made easily and at a leisurely pace. Best of all, it results in a delicious, filling meal. You have a choice of what kind of plant protein to use — seitan, tempeh, or tofu. Use a different one each time you make this dish.
Mexican Rice Bowl: This colorful Mexican rice bowl, filled with fresh flavor and great texture, makes an easy and affordable everyday main dish. And fittingly, this recipe was contributed by Toni Okamoto, from her book Plant-Based on a Budget.
Vegan Enchilada Casserole: Filled with Southwestern flavors, and making a generous amount, it’s my favorite in-a-hurry casserole. It involves throwing together a lot of convenient ingredients like canned beans, tomato sauce, and frozen corn, Yet it’s unbelievably good when you need an inexpensive, tasty dinner.
Easy Black Bean Tostadas: Tostadas are crisp tortillas layered with a variety of toppings — the standards include beans, lettuce, and salsa. Everyone can construct their own tostadas, making it easy on the cook. Case in point, these easy vegan black bean tostadas. Tostadas make a quick weeknight meal for the family or fun fare to serve to company.
“Hungry Guy” Vegan Black Bean Burgers: Jazzy Vegetarian Laura Theodore says of these hearty and super-easy vegan black bean burgers: “My husband always complained that I did not make our veggie burgers BIG enough! So the Hungry Guy’ burger was born. Packed with hearty black beans, spicy salsa and rolled oats, these five-ingredient wonders are filling and super-quick to prepare. Now everyone’s happy!”
For more budget vegan main dish recipes, explore these selections:
Here’s hoping you enjoyed browsing through this selection of budget vegan main dish recipes. Do you have any favorites of your own?