Eating Vegetarian

Want To Eat More Plants in 2021? These Vegetarian Middle Eastern Recipes Have You Covered

Emily Laurence

Photo: Chef In Disguise
This isn’t your standard New Year’s plan. No restrictive diets, no weekly weigh-ins, no “whole new you” for this new year—because, hey, you’re pretty great already. These four expert-led plans—designed to help you move your body, eat more veggies, get a better night’s sleep, or show yourself some loving care—are all about developing healthy habits that better align with your goals. Get the Program

Whether you're new to plant-based eating or have had meat on the back burner for years, it always helps to have new recipes in your repertoire to keep things interesting. (It's a big part of our ReNew Year challenge this year for a reason!) And one region in the world that is full of underappreciated vegetarian eating inspiration: the Middle East.

While you may *think* you need meat to cook up shawarma or moussaka, think again. The 10 vegetarian Middle Eastern food recipes featured here (including dishes and ingredients from Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, and other countries in the region) prove you don't necessarily need lamb, chicken, or any other meat at all in order to enjoy the flavors of this region. Each dish is full of fiber, protein, and, of course, flavor. Ready to get cooking? Keep reading to check out the recipes.

Hungry for some vegetarian Middle Eastern food? Check out the recipes below.

vegetarian Middle Eastern food
Photo: One Arab Vegan

1. Vegan seitan shawarma

Traditional shawarma is a meat-centric dish, made with thinly cut slices of slow-roasted lamb or chicken. But when prepared correctly, seitan can be the perfect replacement. (And bonus: it cooks a heck of a lot faster.) The key is to coat each piece of sliced seitan in a doughy mixture of vegetable broth, olive oil, soy sauce, flour, and spices.

Get the recipe: Vegan seitan shawarma

spaghetti with yogurt and garlic
Photo: Sweet Pillar Foods

2. Spaghetti with yogurt and garlic sauce

"This is a classic Syrian dish even though pasta is not a stereotypical Syrian ingredient," recipe creators and sisters Nadia Hubbi and Deana Kabakibi write on their blog Sweet Pillar Foods. Garnished with pine nuts, this dinner has the perfect combination of creaminess and crunch.

Get the recipe: Spaghetti with yogurt and garlic

vegetarian Middle Eastern food
Photo: Fufu Kitchen

3. Veggie moussaka

Made with eggplant, potatoes, and zucchini, this Middle Eastern casserole is full of fiber. The veggies are cooked and coated in a rich tomato-based sauce and cheese.

Get the recipe: Veggie moussaka 

cauliflower shawarma
Photo: Maureen Abood

4. Roasted cauliflower shawarma

Another way to recreate shawarma without using meat: cauliflower. In this recipe, it's roasted with olive oil and shawarma spice (a blend of turmeric,  cumin, sumac, coriander, allspice, garlic, onion, mint, sea salt, and black pepper). Save the leftovers to add to a salad the next day for lunch; it tastes just as good cold as it does hot.

Get the recipe: Roasted cauliflower shawarma 

shepherd's pie
Photo: Feast In The Middle East

5. Lentil shepherd's pie 

Vegetarian cooking tip: using lentils instead of meat in your shepherd's pie will make it just as protein-rich—and even more full of fiber. This recipe shows exactly how to do it, combining the legumes with veggies and mashed potatoes. Make sure you have cumin, garlic powder, and za'atar (or thyme) on hand; spice is crucial for giving the lentils flavor.

Get the recipe: lentil shepherd's pie 

falafel
Photo: Zaatar & Zaytoun

6. Lebanese falafel

What would a vegetarian Middle Eastern food roundup be without a falafel recipe? Making them is easier than you may think. Cook a batch and then keep them on hand to work into other meals throughout the week as your primary protein.

Get the recipe: Lebanese falafel

fattet hummus
Photo: Chef In Disguise

7. Fattet hummus

Another way to turn your chickpeas into delicious Middle Eastern cuisine: this fattet hummus, or chickpea savory bread pudding. This dish is a popular weekend breakfast food in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine. Cubes of bread are worked right into the hummus and yogurt.

Get the recipe: Fattet hummus

butternut squash and chickpea yogurt crumble
Photo: Bethany Kehdy

8. Butternut squash, chickpea, and yogurt crumble

This is another take on fattet. As with any fattet, hummus and yogurt is a must. Here, they're combined with roasted butternut squash and chestnuts. Top it off with slightly toasted cubed bread and a drizzle of honey.

Get the recipe: Butternut squash, chickpea, and yogurt crumble

roasted vegetable rice
Photo: Tori Avey

9. Roasted vegetable rice

If you're looking for something simple and tasty that's hearty enough to be a stand-alone meal, this is it. Roasted eggplant and carrots, chickpeas, and rice are all spiced with turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Add pine nuts if you have them and dinner is done.

Get the recipe: Roasted vegetable rice

vegetarian middle eastern food
Photo: Mouthwatering Vegan

10. No-lamb Middle Eastern-style bake

This is another dish that is nutrient-rich enough to serve as an entire meal. Veggies and vegan protein are baked in a tangy tomato sauce and topped with cheese. Be generous with the turmeric to ensure each bite is full of flavor.

Get the recipe: No-lamb Middle Eastern-style bake

Watch the video below to see how cooking with turmeric can benefit your body:

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