If you’re looking for low-carb vegetarian meals, you may be trying to lose weight, control your blood sugar, or stay vegetarian while on the keto diet. Whatever you’re reason, we’ve compiled some of the tastiest low-carb vegetarian recipes that will fit easily into your weekly meal plan, including comfort food dishes, snack and side dish options, and high-protein dinner recipes.
The Benefits of Vegetarian Recipes
There is a lot of clinical support for eating a diet free of meat, poultry, fish, and animal byproducts. Many come to a vegetarian lifestyle for environmental or moral reasons and find that it quickly leads to many health benefits, including:
- Enhanced weight loss: A vegetarian diet can help people lose weight quickly and maintain weight loss and a lower BMI (body mass index) throughout their lives. This means avoiding metabolic disorders that can be caused by obesity and poor diet, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Stable blood sugar levels: Those who already have type 2 diabetes can help manage their blood sugar levels with a vegetarian diet, and those who are pre-diabetic can lower their risk of developing the disease by up to 53%.
- Improved heart health: By removing animal products from their diet, vegetarians can see significant reductions in triglyceride, “bad” LDL, and total cholesterol levels, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Types of vegetarian diet variations include:
- Ovo-vegetarian diets: These remove meat and dairy products but include eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarian diets: Removing meat and eggs but allowing for dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
- Ovo-lacto-vegetarian diets: Eliminating meat but allowing both eggs and dairy.
- Pescatarian diets: Removing poultry and livestock animal meat but allowing fish (and sometimes eggs and dairy).
- Vegan diets: Vegans eliminate all animal products from their diet and lives, including meat, eggs, dairy, and honey.
- Flexitarian and freegan diets: These are mostly vegetarian or vegan diets which allow occasionally for meat, fish, or poultry, say in circumstances where it’s medically recommended or the food is free and would otherwise go to waste.
The Benefits of Low-Carb Recipes
A low-carb diet also has certain health benefits to boast about, including some in common with vegetarianism, like lower triglyceride levels, improved heart health, and better blood sugar control. A low-carb or keto diet also has some unique features including:
- Appetite reduction: By eating more complex proteins and healthy fats instead of quickly digested carbs, a low-carb diet helps you feel fuller longer, which leads to less hunger and lower calorie consumption throughout the day.
- Weight and body fat loss: By extension, lower calorie consumption leads to fast weight loss and body fat loss, particularly the visceral fat that collects around our organs and is not only dangerous but also especially hard to lose.
- Increased “good” HDL cholesterol: Lowering dangerous LDL cholesterol is one thing, but increasing HDL cholesterol improves your cholesterol ratios and helps to clean up any of the smaller LDL particles in your bloodstream before they build up in your arterial walls and organs. All of these aspects lead to lower blood pressure and improved risk factors for other aspects of metabolic syndrome.
Top 12 Low-Carb Vegetarian Meals
Vegetarian low-carb meals and dinner dishes aren’t always easy to come by—half the time you have to sub in your own replacement ingredients and learn as you go. That is why we have compiled these 12 low-carb veggie dishes and sides that are tried and true, so you can mix and match at will.
Keto friendly and sweet and savory, our favorite low-carb vegetarian breakfast meals will keep you satisfied until lunch. For more ideas, check out our list of breakfast vegetables if you want to get creative in your kitchen.
1. Vegetarian Three Cheese Quiche Stuffed Peppers (Ruled Me)
The three cheeses in this recipe include ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella, and Parmesan, all mixed together with eggs, spinach, and parsley (plus garlic for flavor). The low-carb part? Instead of putting your quiche in a crust, you put it in cups made of bell peppers for that extra bit of veggie in the morning.
2. Very-Veggie Cauliflower Hash Brown Breakfast Bowl (Iowa Girl Eats)
With cauliflower rice standing in for old fashioned potato hash browns, this recipe sweeps in all your savory breakfast favorites, including avocados, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and onion. Flavored with salt and pepper, lemon and lime, salsa and garlic powder, this recipe can be made vegan by trading out the eggs for tofu, tempeh, or black bean mash and stirring it all up with extra virgin olive oil.
3. Peaches and Protein Smoothie (VeggieShake)
This is our own recipe, low-carb and high in protein, for those who don’t have a lot of time in the morning and need to take their breakfast on-the-go. With spinach, kale, and delicious sweet peaches for that natural sugar boost in the AM, the recipe calls for almond milk for those who are dairy-free vegetarians or vegans, and MCT oil to help those in ketosis who want an extra bit of energy and satiety.
Dinner is often the meal people look forward to the most, and it’s also the most nutrient dense by far. Here are some hardy dinner meals with low-carb ingredients.
4. Crispy Peanut Tofu Stir Fry with Cauliflower Rice (Minimalist Baker)
With tofu and cauliflower, this recipe combines the flavors of sesame oil, low-sodium soy sauce, light brown sugar, and chili garlic sauce with peanut or almond butter for a deliciously unique stir fry. With substitutions and suggestions that are sensitive to various diets, you can please a crowd with this medley of spices, and even add more veggies on top from your own home garden.
5. Easy Four Cheese Pesto Zoodles (I Breathe I’m Hungry)
Zucchini noodles, aka “zoodles,” are perfect for those who can give up carbs but still dearly miss pasta. Much like spaghetti squash, zoodles are pasta imitators that are gluten free and ready to serve in many delicious low-carb pasta-like dishes. The cheeses in this recipe include Italian classics like mascarpone, Parmesan, Romano, and mozzarella, plus pesto, salt and pepper, ground nutmeg, and, of course, your veggie base: spiralized zucchini noodles. (Pro tip: veggie noodles can also make for a great lasagna.)
6. Low Carb Eggplant Parmesan Bites (Ditch the Carbs)
While each one is a little bite unto itself, these low-carb Parmesan bites paired with the right side definitely makes for a filling meal. Using eggplant (aubergine) slices as your base, you make a topping out of almond meal and shredded cheese for a finger-licking dinner delight.
7. Cheesy Cauliflower alla Vodka Casserole (I Breathe I’m Hungry)
No need to pulverize the cauliflower here. With just the florets you can create this decadent dish by combining whipping cream, butter, Parmesan, and provolone cheese with fresh basil and spices. It’s an excellent meal for the keto dieter or cheese-lover in your life, and you never have to miss pasta on a low-carb diet so long as you can approximate a dish with all your favorite toppings!
8. Zucchini and Sweet Potato Latkes (I Breathe I’m Hungry)
If you’re looking for low-carb recipes, you may be wondering what in the world a sweet potato recipe is doing here. Well, there’s no such thing as a healthy no-carb diet, and since you have to get a little bit of carbohydrate content from somewhere, a low-starch veggie like the sweet potato is perfect: you’ll get the fiber and nutrients with minimal sugar impact. Plus this latkes recipe combines sweet potato with zucchini so you’ll get more filling for a relatively small amount of carbs. Shredded together, an egg and coconut flour provide the binding, while ghee and olive oil make for a healthy fat fry-up. The recipe suggests cumin and garlic powder for flavor, but you can consult your own spice cabinet if you have better ideas.
A lot of the time what makes a meal isn’t just the main course. It’s the main course plus a perfect side dish to round out the nutrients and send everyone to bed fully satisfied. Here are a few plant-based crowd-pleasers.
9. Creamed Leeks (Ditch the Carbs)
Simple and clean, creamed leeks require slicing up leeks and combining them with butter, cream cheese, garlic, and black pepper for an appealing veggie side that could also work as a soup if you want to purée it—not only would that make this a warm winter dish, but it would also do well for you food preppers who like to cook a lot all at once and then freeze a few portions for later enjoyment.
10. Moroccan Roasted Green Beans (I Breathe I’m Hungry)
Gluten free, because just about everything in this side dish is green beans, these greens are spiced up Moroccan style with ras el hanout seasoning mix (translation: “head of the shop”) on top of the standard olive oil, salt, and pepper. Easy, fast, and you can make plenty of it in one big pan to feed a whole table of family and friends. (This recipe also works for roasted asparagus.)
11. Homemade Hummus (VeggieShake)
We’ve got this one covered: our own Homemade Hummus brings you the protein of chickpeas with the flavors of tahini, garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil. By making your own hummus you can guarantee freshness, and it’s perfect for a veggie dip or spread for any meal of the day, including a late-night snack.
12. Keto Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms (Simply So Healthy)
From the mother and daughter team at Simply So Healthy, this recipe fills mushroom caps with marinated artichokes, creamy spinach, and rich goat cheese with a crown of melted provolone cheese. Here’s another example much like the Parmesan Eggplant Bites that serves as a side or a main course depending on presentation. Good for keto and Atkins diets, this recipe is low carb and gluten free.
Veni Vidi Veggie
These are our favorite meatless suggestions, but you can find so many more low-carb veggie meals out there. If you love to cook creatively, remember that substitutions can bring your old carb favorites back to life, like finely chopped cauliflower for fried rice dishes (or pressed into taco shells or tortillas). For those on keto, dishes with cheddar or feta cheese are perfect, and for those on paleo or Whole30, how about some Veggie Noodle Pad Thai? If you don’t have tons of time to prepare dinner, fire up that slow cooker and make some Crockpot Low-Carb Vegetable Soup. There are new and improved variations on old classics available every day.