The number of people adopting meat-free diets keeps climbing. According to NPR, the percentage of Americans abstaining from meat has grown by nearly 50 percent in the past ten years. Restaurants and caterers are noticing, too, and that means the range of vegetarian lunch options is more abundant than ever.
Managing everyone’s individual dietary preferences can still get complicated, though. First of all, you might be stumped when it comes to ordering for vegetarian colleagues. What, exactly, do those herbivores eat? Simply put, a vegetarian does not eat fish or meat (those who eat fish but not meat are called pescatarians). And while that definition sounds simple enough, non-vegetarian ingredients can hide in seemingly vegetarian dishes in the form of meat stocks and broths, cooking fats, fish sauce, and shrimp paste, and gelatin. Here’s a list of 25 reliable vegetarian lunch options, all organized by cuisine, to ease the ordering process.
Sandwiches: Meat isn’t the only thing you can place between two slices of bread. Most caterers now have several vegetarian lunch options available, and they typically include heartier vegetables like avocado, mushrooms or eggplant.
Burgers: Thanks to recent technological innovations, the newest meatless burgers have never tasted “beefier.” Some of them even appear to “bleed” on the grill. Some caterers also make their own vegetarian burgers using beans, vegetables, or grains.
Salads: Chances are several vegetarian lunch options on any salad section of the menu. If not, it’s easy enough to ask the caterer to hold the chicken, turkey, or other meat on the dish. But when it comes to dressing, make sure to confirm the ingredients in advance because some contain anchovies or fish sauce.
Cauliflower steaks: This trendy dish is showing up on menus across the country. It’s made with a whole cauliflower that’s sliced through the head into four large pieces and smothered in a sauce.
Grain bowls: Fill a bowl with healthy grains like rice or quinoa and then top it with everything from acai berries to beans and pico de gallo or kale, beets, and goat cheese.
Vegetable sushi: Almost every sushi spot has a vegetarian roll, usually stuffed with cucumbers, carrot, green onions or avocado. Also find them filled with tamagoyaki, a type of Japanese rolled omelet.
Bahn Mi: This Vietnamese baguette is appearing on menus more frequently, but fillings like mushrooms, fried tofu, and even sweet potatoes are standing in for the pork.
Spring rolls: While Southeast Asian cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino can be challenging for vegetarians because of their reliance on fish sauce and shrimp paste, these rice paper rolls bursting with julienned vegetables or tofu are usually animal-product free. Just remember to verify the ingredients in any accompanying dipping sauce.
Naan: This oven-baked flatbread usually comes stuffed with cheese, onions, or garlic.
Dal: This word encompasses a variety of heavily spiced lentil dishes served with rice.
Palak paneer: Cubes of firm cheese are cooked in a spicy, spinach-based sauce redolent of garlic and garam masala.
Samosas: Everyone will love these dough pockets stuffed with turmeric-spiked potatoes and dotted with onions and peas.
Veggie Lasagna: Instead of the meaty version, consider ordering vegetarian lasagna packed with zucchini, eggplant, or peppers.
Pasta: Familiar pasta dishes like Baked Ziti, Fettucine Alfredo, Pasta all Vodka, Pasta Primavera, and Cheese Ravioli or Tortellini are all naturally vegetarian.
Eggplant Parmesan: No one will miss the meat when biting into a dish of sliced eggplant layered with tomato sauce and gooey, melted cheese.
Pizza: Most pizzerias now offer several vegetarian lunch options, along with classic meat-free versions like cheese and Margherita.
Burritos: Massive tortillas wrapped around black beans, refried beans, or veggies taste just as good without the meat.
Tacos: Vegetarians have long relied on bean tacos (as long as they don’t contain bacon fat) for sustenance at Mexican restaurants. But lately, restaurants are getting more inventive and experimenting with fried avocado or roasted vegetables as fillings.
Enchiladas: Cheese, beans, or potatoes have traditionally been common fillings for these corn tortillas smothered in a fiery sauce and baked.
Quesadillas: You can’t go wrong with flour tortillas filled with cheese and then grilled. Just hold the chicken for a tasty vegetarian lunch option.
Falafel: These fried fritters made of chickpeas are naturally vegetarian.
Hummus: Chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), and garlic comprise the main ingredients in this favorite spread that’s usually served with pita bread.
Baba ghanoush: Smokey roasted eggplant combined with olive oil and tahini combine to make another famous dip.
Tabbouleh: Complete your mezze selection with this salad of tomatoes, parsley, mint, onion, and bulgur seasoned with olive oil, and lemon juice.
Mujadara: Cooked lentils and bulgur come together to make this hearty dish topped with sautéed onions.
Ready to find vegetarian catering near you?