Vegetarian Showstopper Recipes
September 29, 2019 2:56 PM   Subscribe

You're a skilled vegetarian cook and you don't shy away from any flavors/spices or international cuisines. What are your showstopper recipes? What do you cook that makes both vegetarians and omnivores say "wow"?

All styles and nationalities of food are encouraged, as long as they're vegetarian. Vegan is also A-OK.

Bonus points if it doesn't involve heavy amounts of cheese/cream (I love cheese/cream but for dietary reasons don't want to use them in my cooking too often right now). However, plain yogurt is welcome; eggs are more than welcome, too.
posted by nightrecordings to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 136 users marked this as a favorite
The moussaka from Veganomicon. It is incredible and a lot of work. Vegan, but incredibly decadent.
posted by gryphonlover at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

The vegan ramen from Serious Eats is a lot of work, even if you break it out into multiple days or sessions of cooking, but it’s absolutely incredible and has changed multiple people’s minds about what vegan cooking can taste like.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:12 PM on September 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

The legumbres en pipian recipe in the Greens Cookbook is so good that my ex’s family promised to stop making fun of me for cooking things that take two days to make. It’s vegan unless you put sour cream in it and fabulously tasty.
posted by centrifugal at 3:19 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of the simplest things I make always gets raves: Locro (Peruvian Squash and Vegetable Stew)
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:19 PM on September 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

The vegan experience tag on Serious Eats is a tremendous resource for this. This vegan mapo tofu is sosososo good. (Seconding the ramen above as well.)
posted by obfuscation at 3:37 PM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’ve found that Pasta and sauce from scratch is a novelty and a “wow” comfort food for a lot of people. Homemade bread, too!
posted by nuclear_soup at 3:38 PM on September 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Seconding vegan ma po tofu (I use a variant of Fuschia Dunlop's recipe, but the one linked here also looks good). And a vegan potluck goto for me is chana masala.

Recently my wife has been making this mujaddara recipe. She include a cinammon stick, and we use hot sauce and some plain yogurt as condiments. You get a real nice cool versus spicy contrast that way that livens up the dish. The real wow element here is the crispy, caramelized onions, which can be used to great effect in a lot of vegetarian dishes. Make extra.
posted by serathen at 3:54 PM on September 29, 2019

From Oh She Glows, Potato Taco Crisps and Life-Affirming Nacho Dip.
posted by carolr at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

This Ottolenghi eggplant and zucchini upside-down cake tasted really good and looked amazing on the table.
posted by LizardBreath at 4:56 PM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hopping on the Serious Eats train, the vegan wellington is also an excellent showstopper of a dish. Lots of work, but all pretty easy (wear an apron for the assembly though!) and delicious.

Also, people are really unduly impressed by homemade waffles, but that's probably not what you're looking for.
posted by snaw at 5:11 PM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Eggplant rollatini / eggplant parm.
posted by at 5:22 PM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

I got this recipe from my mother, who was far from the greatest cook, but she got it from someone else and every time I make this I get asked for the recipe. It uses both cottage cheese and Monterey Jack cheese, but it's so yummy even extreme meat eaters gobble it up.

Vegetarian Lasagna (a.k.a. 8-pound lasagna)

1.5 T olive oil, divided
10 lasagna noodles (I use Barilla no-boil noodles; if you use regular noodles, they should be cooked first)
1 med onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 pound carrots, shredded
3/4 cup pitted olives, sliced (I omit these because I don't care for them and no one has complained)
1 can tomato sauce (15 or 16 oz)
1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
1.5 t dried oregano
1/2 t salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
2 cups well-drained cottage cheese, divided
2 pounds spinach, chopped, cooked, drained, and divided
1.5 pounds shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 T grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 1 T oil in a large skillet. Saute onion and garlic over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until the moisture evaporates (about 12 minutes). Add carrots and cook 3-5 minutes. Stir in olives, tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and pepper. Combine well and remove from heat.

Grease a 9x13 baking pan with 1/2 T olive oil. Line the bottom of the pan with five lasagna noodles. Over the noodles, spread half the cottage cheese, half the spinach, and 1/3 the Monterey Jack cheese, in that order. Cover with half the tomato mixture. Repeat the procedure, starting with the remaining noodles. Top with the last 1/3 of the Monterey Jack cheese. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.
posted by DrGail at 5:30 PM on September 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've converted Brussels sprouts haters with these two recipes from 101 Cookbooks:
Golden Crusted Brussels Sprouts
Caramelized Tofu with Brussels Sprouts
posted by Lexica at 6:06 PM on September 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's not really an entree, but a very impressive dish is pilaf or biryani. The New York Times has a recipe for Persian jeweled rice that is similar to how I've made it. (I've used the recipe from Ana Sortun's cookbook Spice.)
posted by serathen at 6:17 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

This recipe is vegan, yet it has been very well received by vegetarians and omnivores.

Red Lentil Curry
1 can of coconut milk + 1 can of water
½ can of tomato paste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp garam masala
½ inch of ginger, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 tsp soy sauce
2 vegetable soup stock cubes
1 onion chopped
1 cup red lentils
2-3 medium carrots chopped
6-8 stalks of Chinese broccoli (choy sum, ideally) chopped to the same size as the carrots
OR replace Chinese broccoli with chopped kale (1.5 – 2 cups)
1 tbsp cashew butter

chop the onion and saute in the oil for 2 minutes
add ginger, garlic and dry spices
saute for another minute or so.
Add coconut milk, water, tomato paste, soup stock and red lentils
Simmer for 20 minutes

Taste and add soy sauce as needed, add water if needed
Add carrots and greens
Simmer until carrots are soft (about 5-10 min)

Add cashew butter and stir until it is well mixed

Serve with toasted naan bread.
posted by keeo at 6:23 PM on September 29, 2019 [7 favorites]

Homemade “stuffed” foods (or as I call them, “food inside of food”) always seems to impress: samosas, ravioli, dumplings, egg rolls, masala dosa, etc.
posted by mezzanayne at 8:55 PM on September 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Extremely lazy ratatouille a la serious eats. The key, in my opinion, is the herbs de Provence. I made it a ton of times this summer—it’s casually vegan because it’s basically all veggies, but every time I serve it to guests, they can’t help but have that Anton Ego moment from the end of the same-named Pixar Movie.
posted by sleeping bear at 8:58 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

For something that requires a bit of effort and ends with an attractive presentation, try Puri Phulgobi (Whole Curried Cauliflower). Cauliflower-haters will eat it.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:01 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Caponata, shakshuka -- come to think of it, this is what Ottolenghi is for.
Spanakopita is cheesy, but it is really a showstopper. In my experience, it is absolutely possible to cut down on the amount of cheese is this recipe. Served with a Greek salad, it's a feast.
VEGAN CHINESE AUBERGINE + Kung Pao Mushrooms + seasonal greens + rice + soup. We just had this the other day, it's not exactly a banquet, but definitely a vegan meal to make you happy.

Another vegetarian lasagna recipe (my omnivore kids and their friends prefer this to the bolognese version!):
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 aubergine, cut into 1/2 squares
1 glass of white wine
1 can of top quality chopped tomatoes or a pound of fresh if they are really ripe
1 cup of vegetarian stock
1/2 stick of butter
same amount of flour as butter
1 pint of milk (you can use low-fat milk here)
fresh lasagna noodles
freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste

Heat the olive oil and cook the onion, celery and carrot in it till the onions are clear, add the crushed garlic and stir a minute more. Avoid any browning. Add the aubergine and stir well until it has begun to cook, perhaps taken on a bit of color. Add the wine, and cook till there is no smell of alcohol left, then add the tomatoes, stock and oregano. Season gently with salt and pepper, and let the sauce simmer for minimum 30 minutes. It gets better with more time, but think of how long you'll be cooking it when you add salt.
While the red sauce is simmering, make a bechamel: melt the butter and add flour, stir well till the flour is totally incorporated, but don't let it brown. Now add the milk gradually while stirring energetically. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and keep stirring as the sauce thickens.
Assemble the lasagna: in the bottom of the dish, put a layer of red sauce, then lasagna sheets, then more red sauce, then sprinkle with bechamel and parmesan, then lasagna sheets, then red sauce, then sprinkle with bechamel and parmesan. Keep going but make sure you have enough bechamel for covering the last sheet of pasta with a good layer of bechamel only, and then sprinkle with the cheese. In a very hot oven, it only takes 15 minutes to bake till golden brown on top. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into it.
Try making it this simple, I like it when the produce itself stands out. If you want more punch, you can add chili and lemon juice to the red sauce, to taste. Have some crostini while the lasagna is resting. A salad with oranges, fennel and green olives is a nice crunchy contrast to the comforting pasta dish.
posted by mumimor at 10:07 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

The aubergine should be cut into 1/2 inch squares. Sorry about the mistake.
posted by mumimor at 11:06 PM on September 29, 2019

I like to make 3 or 4 veggie curries (generally from the same country) plus rice, pickle as homemade bread. Often I would do a dal plus something with paneer plus 1 or 2 seasonal veg curries but obviously you can skip paneer. These days I might use seitan also.

Feels like a real feast with the variety in taste and texture that veg food can lack.
posted by kadia_a at 12:43 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ratatouille is a classic and can have a stunning presentation if you take the tack of slicing/stacking/arranging the vegetables, rather than making a stew in a pot. Unless you have remarkable knife skills, you'll need a mandoline to make the slices very thin and uniform.

When I was deluged with squash and eggplant this summer, I cheated a little bit and made it like so: oil a baking pan; 1/4 inch of marinara sauce in the bottom of the pan; drizzle heavy cream on the tomato sauce; arrange vegetable slices on top (summer squash, eggplant, zucchini, onion slices, pepper slices, maybe shaved carrots, tomatoes, whatever was fresh); drizzle olive oil on top; salt, pepper, parmesan. Bake covered with foil at 400 for half an hour, take the foil off and maybe half an hour more until a little bit browned.

Man, it was good.
posted by Sublimity at 5:24 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just made Samin Nosrat's kuku for the first time and it was maybe the most delicious thing I've ever cooked, looked very pretty too. I liked it best warm, soon after cooking it.
posted by EmilyFlew at 7:39 AM on September 30, 2019

Beet Risotto from "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone"

Add in greens or goat cheese as you see fit. Delicious!
posted by zizzle at 8:11 AM on September 30, 2019

The Chocolate Vegan Death Cake from the Grit is the most amazing chocolate cake I've ever had. It's the recipe my husband settled on because it's just omg good.
posted by malthusan at 11:47 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

This Roasted Eggplant recipe looks great and is pretty easy
posted by Dmenet at 1:46 PM on September 30, 2019

Smitten Kitchen’s Corn Chowder with Chile, Lime, and Cotija is world-changingly fabulous.
posted by picopebbles at 6:05 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

This isn't a main course but these Thai corn fritters from shesimmers are fantastic. Aromatic, crispy, and both gluten- and dairy-free. Especially if you can get the kaffir lime leaves (Whole Foods sells them under "Makrut lime leaves" if memory serves) it's an unusually nice flavor.
posted by Lady Li at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2019

No-Effort Vegan Coconut Curry. Exactly what it says and meat-eaters and vegans alike love it.
posted by mmw at 2:19 PM on October 1, 2019

This spicy Ethiopian lentil stew is amazing.

And some MeFite here tipped me off to this chocolate sorbet, which is like mainlining chocolate right into your bloodstream
posted by Mchelly at 9:08 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love love love this tart: NYT tomato tarte tatin

It does get very wet, however, so either splitting/draining the tomatoes or pre-roasting them or something else to dry them out a bit is helpful. Still delicious if you don't, but slightly messier.
posted by CookieNose at 2:30 PM on October 2, 2019

You might find some of the answers to this question I asked a few years back about decadent veggies useful.
posted by rpfields at 7:53 PM on October 5, 2019

I came in just to be sure Ottolenghi got recommended. Everything I've made from his book, Simple, has been fantastic, the kind where you don't make a big deal about it but then your guest takes a bite and turns to stare at you wide-eyed before swearing out loud and demanding the recipe.

This one's for people who aren't sure if vegan desserts can be amazingly decadent:

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pots de Creme

In a double boiler or saucepan over low-medium, stir
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup maple syrup
until the chocolate has melted.

In a blender, combine
one 12oz package silken tofu
1 cup smooth peanut butter
the melted chocolate/syrup mixture
and blend until smooth. If needed, add a tablespoon at a time of soy milk or water to help your blender handle the thick mixture--but only if you really need it, because this should end up thick.

Spoon into 8-12 dessert cups (they'll seem like small portions till you try it). Chill it if you want.
posted by mabelstreet at 8:03 PM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

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