Ideas for 15-Minute Plant-Based Dinners and What to Have on Hand

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One myth out there is that plant-based cooking takes a lot of time. I’m here to prove that’s not always the case. There are plenty of plant-based dishes that can be made quickly without losing healthiness, affordability, and flavor. I link to recipes where I have one — many can be improvised. I also provide a list of items to consider stocking in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer so that you can put together a quick dinner at a moment’s notice. Bon appetit!

Ideas for 15-minute plant-based dinners

What to have in stock


  • Tempeh

  • Vegan crema 

  • Frozen vegetables (spinach, corn, peas, edamame, carrots, etc.)

  • Frozen “beef crumbles” (Boca or other brand)

  • Make double batches of entrees, burgers, soups, and sauces and freeze the leftovers

  • Raw cashews


  • Cilantro and parsley

  • Broccoli and/or cabbage slaw

  • Miso

  • Extra-firm tofu

  • Fresh Yakisoba and/or Udon noodles

  • Vegan cheese (can also be frozen)

  • Vegan mayonnaise

  • Yumm sauce

  • Long-lasting vegetables (carrots, celery, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, etc.)

  • Shorter-lasting vegetables each week (mushrooms, asparagus, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, etc.)


  • Potatoes

  • Onions

  • Garlic

  • Tomatoes

  • Avocados

  • Cans of beans, including refried beans, baked beans, and chili beans

  • Cans of tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce

  • Tahini

  • Roasted seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)

  • Peanut, almond, and/or cashew butter

  • Shelf-stable cooked brown rice

  • Bulgur, couscous, quinoa

  • Whole wheat tortillas

  • Corn tortillas

  • Salsa


  • Oregano, basil, thyme, Italian herbs

  • Garlic and onion powder, lemon pepper

  • Chili powder, red chili flakes, cayenne pepper

  • Spice mixes

  • Italian dressing dry mix

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Six Amazing Oil-Free Salad Dressings

For a long time I was skeptical about oil-free salad dressings. How could you possibly get that creamy texture and the perfect coating of lettuce leaves without oil? Well, I have been proven wrong, but it took a lot of experimentation. I tried out dozens of recipes that ended up in nasty stuff going into the garbage. But I found few gems, and some I shaped and polished further. Oh, and gems they are! There are only five of them so far, but each one is delicious (to me at least, and to the people I shared them with at a recent cooking workshop). 

You'll notice a gaping hole here, though. There's no vinaigrette. I haven't succeeded at creating a good enough oil-free vinaigrette recipe. Please post one if you have it. The emulsion of oil into vinegar, lemon juice, or other liquid is very tough to imitate. I've tried recipes with ground up chia seeds, flaxseed meal, and some that just leave the oil out. Nothing has worked for me yet. Any ideas? 

Amazing Oil-Free Salad Dressings

Jill's Oil-Free Creamy Sunflower Seed Dressing (or Sauce)

Peanut Dressing

No-Oil Carrot Ginger Dressing

No-Sacrifice Tahini-Dill Dressing

Gracious Vegan Oil-Free Tahini Dressing

Spinach Salad with Curry Dressing



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Delicious Plant-Based Recipes Using Greens

Greens are healthy, versatile, gorgeous, and readily available. I recently found out some things about greens’ amazing nutritional benefits:

See Basic Green Soup

See Basic Green Soup

  • Greens are the best source of lutein and zeaxanthin, the antioxidants that may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.

  • Greens are the best source of plant-based nitrates, which may play a role in the prevention of heart disease and high blood pressure.

  • Consumption of greens and cruciferous vegetables appears be linked to lower rates of cognitive decline.

  • Greens provide antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

  • As an added bonus, intake of greens is associated with reduced facial wrinkling. For more information on this discovery, see a summary of the study.

Here are some of my favorite recipes featuring greens.





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Two Vegan Dinner Party Menus

Sometimes it’s hard to think of complementary dishes for a satisfying meal, especially if you’re new to meatless cooking. Here are two ideas for your consideration. They work at our house.

Saucy Plates

If you have 4 or more people (and this is good for a crowd), consider serving this meal buffet-style. Set up the dishes on a counter, and everyone can walk by and take as much or as little as they want, constructing their own unique combination of ingredients.

Thai One On

Here’s the way we eat Thai curry--a bit of fusion going on with Chinese-inspired spring rolls, but it works.

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Healthy Broccoli and Cauliflower Recipes

These two cruciferous vegetables are packed with nutrients and definitely worth the trouble to work into your daily, or at least weekly, diet. For more on the specifics of their potential to help your immune system, liver function, cholesterol levels, and cancer risk, start with this short summary and follow links from there.

The great thing about these vegetables is their texture—they stand up to many different kinds of cooking (roasting, boiling, etc.) as well as freezing (raw or cooked). While they have a strong flavor, the right spicing and complementary ingredients make for dishes with a lot of taste impact. 





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Menu Ideas for a Plant-Based Christmas


Plant-based holiday recipes are awesome! Here are some ideas for various occasions that may take place around Christmas.

WFPBNO = whole-food plant-based, no oil

For a Soup-Centered Christmas Eve Dinner

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Gracious Vegan Corn Chowder (WFPBNO) is a creamy, indulgent soup that is filling enough to be an entree in itself.

Spinach Salad with Curry Dressing (WFPBNO) has a unique dressing that surprises and pleases.

Bread or other accompaniments

For an Open House or Cocktail Party

Olive Tapenade (WFPBNO) is an intense olive spread that you either love or hate…. needless to say, I love it.

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Whole Wheat Flour Tortilla Crisps are a great, tasty way to use leftover tortillas, and baking them makes them much healthier than tortilla chips.

Gracious Vegan Potato and Pea Samosas — these baked (not deep-fried) samosas are great as hors d’oeuvres — easy to pop into your mouth in two bites.

Almond Feta Cheese  (WFPBNO) is wonderful on crackers.

Holiday Entrees

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Hearty Vegan Vegetable Lasagna (WFPBNO) is perfect for the a festive sit-down or buffet meal.

Spinach-Mushroom No-Bake Enchiladas (WFPBNO) are great for the holidays if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.

Pesto Stuffed Shells with Pan Sauce are lovely on the plate and feature the delicious taste of pesto in every bite.

Gracious Vegan Vegetable Pot Pie is comfort food at its finest; no one will miss meat with this one.


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Gracious Vegan Fruitcake has no eggs and uses dried, not candied, fruit; this recipe has been an annual tradition in our family for years!

Vegan Flourless Chocolate Cake (WFPBNO) proves the indispensability of almond flour! This moist cake taste amazing!

Rich and Creamy Vegan Tiramisu features a cashew-based vegan mascarpone that will knock your socks off.

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Gracious Vegan's Favorite Plant-Based Thanksgiving Recipes

I love Thanksgiving!

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Aside from all the other cool things about the day, it’s a chance to make all your favorite traditional dishes, whether they go back to your childhood or only a few years. I now have so many “special” dishes that I can’t fit them all into one day—and that doesn’t count new recipes I still want to try. I’ll probably spill them into Christmas meal planning or wait until next year.

I hope you find a few great plant-based Thanksgiving recipes here to try. All of the recipes I recommend have been tested with picky omnivores, meaning for each vegan dish you make, you should be able to replace another dish rather than increase the total number. 

Here is the line-up of my favorite Thanksgiving-worthy recipes. I hope you try a few of them. Enjoy!

(WFPBNO = whole-food plant-based no-oil recipes)



Gravy and Dressing


Other vegetables





Sweet Potato and Pumpkin



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