Healthy Vegetarian Dishes

    Many people learn 10-15 recipes and then make the same meals over and over again.

    Have you ever experimented and tried some of the exotic flavors found in other parts of the world?

    Before the advent of the Internet, we could usually only eat what we could find at our local farmer’s markets or grocery stores.

    While big cities tend to offer a lot of international choices, people living in rural America typically haven’t been able to buy Indian spices like chat masala or Japanese soba noodles or mandioca flour (to make Paraguayan tortillas).

    But luckily, we have so many options now. No matter where you live, you can get online, make a couple of clicks, and in a few days, your pantry can be stocked with exciting ingredients from all over the globe.

    Spice up your meal time this month with these 8 quick and healthy international vegetarian dishes taken from various regions of the world.

    1. Korokke (Japan)


    These mashed-potato balls are not traditional Japanese fare. The name “korokke” is taken from the French word for “croquette”, and they are commonly made in many parts of the world, including South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

    The ingredients vary from place to place, however.  When I lived in Japan, I learned how to make these from a very nice Japanese lady named Keiko, and they’ve been one of my favorite dishes ever since.

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook Time: 20 minutes

    Yield: 12 Korokke


    • 4 cups mashed potatoes (you can use instant, but homemade tastes better!)
    • ½ cup onion, chopped
    • ¼ cup green peas
    • ¼ cup grated carrots
    • ¼ cup corn
    • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
    • 3 eggs, beaten
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • Ketchup or Tonkatsu Sauce


    1. Prepare your mashed potatoes. If you’re in a hurry, you can use the instant kind. Just make sure they’re fairly stiff and not runny. For the best taste, however, make your own. Peel and dice 6 baking potatoes and boil until soft. Mash them, and add enough milk to make them smooth and creamy (about ½ cup milk). Set aside.
    2. In a skillet, sauté the onions until they are golden brown. I use water to sauté them to avoid the fat in oil. If you are using frozen peas or corn, add those to the skillet, too, while you’re cooking the onions.
    3. When the onions are cooked, put them in a sieve to get rid of any excess water.
    4. Add the onions, carrots, peas, and corn to the mashed potatoes. Stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Put the eggs in a bowl and beat them.
    6. In another bowl, add 1-2 cups of Panko bread crumbs.
    7. Shape the mashed potato mixture into patties. I make mine about 3” in diameter and 1” thick.
    8. Dip the patties into the egg and coat them well, then put them in the Panko bowl and coat them completely with the bread crumbs.
    9. Normally, korokke are deep-fried, but to avoid oil, I bake them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.
    10. When done, eat them while warm. You can dip them in ketchup or cover them with Japanese Tonkatsu Sauce.

    2. Tofu Tikka Masala (India)

    Tofu Tikka Masala
    Tofu Tikka Masala

    Tikka Masala is normally made with chicken, but I use tofu instead.  It is a hearty sauce that is served over rice (or you could make naan, and eat it with that).

    Indian food uses a lot of spices, and many of them are not found in your local grocery store.  I suggest you go online and stock up on some of the staples, like garam masala, chat masala, cumin, and coriander.

    True Indian dishes are usually hot because they use chili peppers and spicy red pepper, but I omit those because I don’t like hot spicy food. You can use them or omit them, according to what you like.

    Most of the Indian dishes I make all start off the same way – saute onions and add diced tomatoes.  The different dishes come mostly by adding different spices, along with 1 or two other ingredients.

    Prep Time: 15 minutes

    Cook Time: 45 minutes


    • ½ block Firm Tofu, diced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
    • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger 
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin 
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander 
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric 
    • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped 
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala 
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons mild chili powder 
    • One 35-ounce can peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, with juices 
    • Pinch of sugar 
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
    • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • ½ cup peas
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • ¼ tsp. pepper 


    1. Sauté the onions until golden brown in a large soup pot. You can do this using water instead of oil.
    2. Add the canned tomatoes, with juices.
    3. Add garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, garam masala, chili powder, sugar, spinach, peas, tofu, salt, and pepper. Partially cover the pan and simmer on med-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    4. Add the heavy cream and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
    5. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro.


    3. Vegetarian Borscht (Ukraine, Russia)

    Vegetarian Borscht
    Vegetarian Borscht

    Borscht is a traditional beet soup that combines sweet and sour tastes. It is a popular dish in the Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, and Romania.

    Prep Time: 15 minutes

    Cook Time: 50 minutes


    • 4 medium beets, diced or julienned
    • 2 carrots, sliced or julienned
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 1 cup green cabbage, shredded
    • 4 Tbsp. tomato paste
    • 3 Bay Leaves
    • 1 Tbsp. sugar
    • 1 ½ tsp salt
    • ½ tsp black pepper
    • 2 medium potatoes, diced
    • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
    • 4-6 cups water
    • ¼ cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced


    1. In a soup pot, cover the bottom with ½ cup water and add onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are golden brown.
    2. Add beets, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots and cook for 20 more minutes on low heat. Make sure there’s enough water so that it doesn’t stick or burn. Add more water if necessary.
    3. Add the rest of the water, tomato paste, bay leaves, sugar, and salt and pepper. Cover and boil for 20 minutes.
    4. Add the lemon juice and boil for another 5 minutes.


    4. Githeri (Kenya)


    Githeri is a popular meal in Kenya. It is a bean stew mixed with corn and other vegetables. You can eat is as a soup, or serve it over rice.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook Time: 25 minutes


    • 3 cups of cooked beans – any kind. I use baked beans in a can. If you use dried beans, soak them overnight.
    • 2 cups corn (I use frozen)
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 2-3 tomatoes, diced
    • 2 medium potatoes, diced and boiled
    • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
    • 4-6 cups water
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp coriander
    • 1 tsp. mild chili powder
    • 1 tsp. mild curry powder
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • Salt to taste
    • ½ tsp. black pepper
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
    • Chopped cilantro for garnish


    1. In a soup pot, cover the bottom with water and add onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are golden brown.
    2. Add all remaining ingredients, cover, and bring to a boil. Cover and let it simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    3. Garnish with cilantro.


    5.      Vegetarian Quesadillas (Mexico)

    Vegetarian Quesadilla
    Vegetarian Quesadilla

    I make these healthy, oil-free quesadillas often because they are delicious and quick.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook time: 10 minutes

    Yield: 4 Quesadillas


    • 1 cup chopped frozen spinach
    • ½ cup frozen corn
    • ½ cup frozen peas
    • 2 cups shredded cheese
    • ½ cup shredded kale
    • ¼ cup grated carrots
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
    • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
    • ½ block firm tofu, diced
    • 3 tbsp bottled sauce (optional). I have used tonkatsu sauce, okonomiyaki sauce, oyster sauce, sesame teriyaki sauce, and sweet and sour sauce. Not required, but it gives it extra flavor.
    • 8 Whole-wheat tortillas (2 for each quesadilla)
    • Salsa and sour cream for topping (optional)


    1. In a medium saucepan, add ¼ cup water, corn, peas, carrots, tofu, garlic, spinach, kale, cilantro, flax seed, and optional bottled sauce. Cook until the vegetables are not frozen anymore, about 10 minutes.
    2. Put the mixture in a sieve to remove all excess water. Spinach will hold water, so press on it to make sure all water is removed.
    3. If you have a quesadilla cooker, use that, otherwise, use a frying pan.
    4. Put 1 tortilla in the cooker or pan, sprinkle shredded cheese on it, cover it with the vegetable mixture, add a little more shredded cheese on top of that, then put another tortilla on top. Cook until the tortilla is “toasted” or slightly brown and the cheese inside has melted.
    5. If using the pan method, flip the tortilla to brown the other side. (Quesadilla cookers brown both sides at once).
    6. Remove, cut into 6 triangles, and top with sour cream (optional) and salsa.


    6. Shafoot (Yemen)


    This dish is popular in Yemen, especially during the month of Ramadan. It consists of a type of spongy bread called Lahooh that is smothered with a creamy green sauce.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes



    • 1 small tomato (a big one will make it taste sour)
    • 2 cups plain yogurt
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 4-5 fresh mint leaves (you can use dried mint leaves if you don’t have fresh ones)
    • 1 tsp. cumin
    • ¼ cup cilantro
    • ¼ leek (green part)
    •  1-2 tsp salt

    Lahooh Bread

    In Yemen, you can just buy the Lahooh, but here, you’ll have to make it. My Yemeni friends make the bread with wheat flour, white corn flour, red corn flour, and yellow corn flour, but since those are hard to find, we’ll use boxed pancake mix to mimic the Yemeni version.

    • 1 cup pancake mix
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tsp baking powder (check your pancake mix ingredients to see if yours has baking powder already in it. If so, don’t add more)
    • ½ tsp salt


    First, make the lahooh bread:

    1. Mix the pancake mix, water, baking powder (if needed) and salt in a bowl.
    2. Add a small amount of oil to a pan, and heat it up. Pour in the batter and make “pancakes”, flipping them when they’re light brown on one side. Try to make the pancakes thin.
    3. Make a layer with the cooked lahooh (pancakes) in a shallow glass baking pan.

    Now, make the sauce:

    1. Put all the sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until it’s a smooth liquid with no chunks.
    2. Pour the sauce over the lahooh and let it sit for 5-10 minutes so the sauce gets soaked up by the bread/pancakes.

    Divide into bowls and eat with a spoon!


    7.      Vegetarian Casado (Costa Rica)

    Vegetarian Casado
    Vegetarian Casado

    Casado is a traditional meal in Costa Rica, and it consists of rice, beans, salad, a vegetable side.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook Time: 30 minutes



    • ½ cup brown rice
    • ½ avocado, diced
    • ¼ tsp cumin
    • ¼ tsp garlic powder
    • 2 cups fresh kale, finely chopped
    • ½ lemon or lime
    • 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds (optional)
    • Ground flax seed (optional)
    • ½  can black beans, rinsed
    • 1 sweet potato
    • Salt and pepper to taste


    1. Cook the brown rice according to the directions on the package. Typically, combine ½ cup brown rice with 1 ¼ cups water, bring to a boil then lower heat, cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed (about 30 minutes).
    2. Remove the skin from the sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, put them on a baking sheet, and bake at 375 F for 25-30 minutes, or until soft.
    3. Make kale salad by combining the kale and avocado and squeezing the lemon juice over it. Take your hands and rub the lemon juice into the leaves. I like to sprinkle sunflower seeds and flax seed on mine, as well.
    4. Warm up your beans, either on the stove or in the microwave. Add cumin, garlic powder, a dash of salt, and a little bit of lemon juice.
    5. On a plate, arrange your brown rice, sweet potatoes, kale salad, and beans. Add salt and pepper to taste.


    8. Falafel Sandwiches (Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt)

    Falafel Sandwich
    Falafel Sandwich

    Falafel sandwiches are quick to make, healthy, and filling. They are a great option when you need a packed lunch.

    You have two options: you can buy falafel mix in a box for around $2-3 (this is super quick and just as delicious), or you can make your falafel from scratch.

    If you choose to use the box method, Casbah Falafel Mix is a great choice. You might have to order it online, because a lot of grocery stores don’t carry it. Simply put the mix in a bowl, add 1 cup of water, let it sit for 15 minutes, shape them into small patties, then fry or bake them.  Very quick and easy!

    If you want to make your falafel from scratch, here’s how:


    • 2 cups dried chickpeas (you can try to use canned chickpeas, but that never works for me)
    • ½ cup chopped cilantro
    • 2 tsp. cumin
    • 2 tsp. coriander
    • ½ cup chopped onion
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
    • 1 ½ tsp. salt
    • ½ tsp. black pepper
    • 3 Tbsp besan (chickpea flour) If you don’t have this, you can use regular wheat flour. But besan tastes better!
    • Pita bread
    • Plain yogurt
    • Relish


    Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water. Water should be about 3 inches over the top of the beans. Let soak overnight.

    Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In a food processor, add the chickpeas, cilantro, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice, and besan (or wheat flour) and mix until it forms a homogenous, coarse paste.

    Some people refrigerate the mixture for a couple hours to help the consistency and make sure it sticks together, but it’s not necessary. Form the mixture into patties, about 2” in diameter and 1” thick.

    Typically, falafel are fried in oil, but it’s much healthier to put them on a non-stick baking sheet and bake them in the oven at 350 F for 20-25 minutes.

    To serve:

    Spread yogurt on a piece of pita bread, add relish, then add the falafel. I crunch up the falafel into little pieces, but you can choose to leave them as patties if you prefer. Fold in half and enjoy.


    Michele Swensen
    Michele Swensen is a vegetarian, a mother, and a blogger who loves to travel. You can see her latest article at



    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Verify Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

    Most Popular

    Your Guide to Recovering from Flu.

    If you or a family member have been struck down with Flu, try out some of the ideas below to help your body to tackle the virus.

    Top Sennheiser headphones to buy for the gamers among you.

    Yes, you can use just about any headphones for this purpose, and you might have also heard people advising you not to buy gaming headphones.

    Killer Rave and EDM Festival Outfit Ideas.

    What is the best Killer Rave and EDM festival outfit ideas? Headed to a rave or an electric dance...