Less Meat Meals; 40 Classics You Can Make With Smaller Portions of Meat (and More Flavor)

by - Thursday, April 25, 2019

Eating less meat is just about the easiest thing you can do for the environment, and it has HUGE impact.

You can cut your showers in half for a month, but giving up beef would still preserve more water.
You could give up plastic for a month, but giving up beef would minimize your waste more.
You can give up driving one day a week, but giving up meat has a pretty similar impact. 

This blog is so confident that everyone eating less meat will make a huge leap for the environment, that we offer recipes every week to help people eat more meatless meals. 

But here is the thing. Lots of people aren't going vegan anytime soon. They have their reasons, and I have heard them all, but the basic truth is that our diets are wrapped up in our culture, our family history (and comfort), and our perception of our own health and bodies. This meat runs deep!

Some people aren't going to give up meat completely. And that is ok! We have to help the environment in ways you can sustain. Eating half the meat for a year does more than going vegan for a week. You can maintain the meals you love so much and still cut the meat your household eats in half.

This will be good for your health as well. The average American eats over 100 grams of meat a day. That is twice what is recommended for our health. So cutting meat in half will benefit the Earth, but it will make you healthier as well.

But how do you actually do it? Well, let me tell you. This whole battle can become a question of portion sizes. You can still serve meat, but spread a smaller portion further.

For example, we love lasagna at our house, and there are tons of delicious vegetarian and vegan lasagna recipes out there. But we still are used to our spicy sausage in there. So how do we solve this problem? Now we make two lasagnas at once and split the same amount of sausage through two pasta-y treats. We supplement what we already have with zucchini, which cooks easily and seems to have some real appeal (peas and spinach also work well for this).

What do you replace the meat with?


The other really helpful step to take is to cut out beef and replace it with turkey instead (that switch is so good for your body too!). You don't have to become a hardcore vegan to start helping the environment, just get some meat (and most of the beef) out of your diet.

So, you want to cut out some meat, but you don't think your home-mates would go for it? Still need some protein in your diet? Just not ready to become a vegetarian yet? These are half-meat meals that you can introduce into your lives to start cutting down on your impact.  I give these mostly without advice, just to spark an idea.

Here are 50 recipes to make with less meat (and some ideas on how to do this):

1, Lasagna- Switch the beef for turkey or sausage, add zucchini, peas, or spinach

2.Spaghetti- Make triple the sauce with the same amount of meat and freeze what's leftover. You can also do a meatball instead (people will notice the meat more if they get to spread it out themselves).

3. Chicken Marsala- Split the chicken over two bowls and fill the difference with delicious mushrooms. Similar earthy feel with less meat.

4.Basically Any Type of Pasta- More varieties of vegetables can take the attention from the meat.  Spread one chicken breast over 4 fettuccine and add broccoli.

5. Pizza- Basic pepperoni can be great, but it can be fun to branch out. My best advice is to steal ideas from pizzeria menus? Something like mushrooms can add a lot of meaty flavor without having actual meat.

6. Raviolis- Can you ever really tell what is inside a ravioli? Maybe don't bother with meat inside. 

7. Stir Fry- We used to do two pork chops in our stir fry. Now we have two more people in our family, and we use two pork chops in our stir fry. To make it up, we usually throw in more asparagus or beans or broccoli, but you could also do tofu.

8. Paela- My favorite parts of Paella are the green onion, peas, and the saffron. Everybody really wants that saffron. If you still have the carbs and the saffron, you can probably get away with fewer veggies.

9. Jambalaya- This is the same deal. If you still have rice and spices, you can get away with a little less meat. Extra celery, onions, and peppers can do the trick (and you probably have them anyway). Just shift your focus to the grains.

10. Sushi- Pregnancy taught me that you can survive on avocado, green onion, and cucumber rolls. Maybe that isn't your thing, but even one veggie roll (or a bowl of edamame or miso soup instead of a roll) can shift the balance.

11. Rice Bowl- Bowls are a pretty popular vessel right now, so you can find endless bowl recipes for power veggies or burrito ingredients online. This one can easily work with less meat by simply cutting the meat into smaller pieces, so you get the same number of bites with less meat.

12. Sweet and Sour Chicken- Whatever veggies you like with your chicken, have more of those. Also, cauliflower does a near perfect sweet and sour chicken impression, so you could do one batch of those 

13. Sausage Grinder- Cut up the sausage and add more peppers and onions. Spread two or three sausages over multiple sandwiches.

14. Turkey Burgers- Make your own patties and go small. Add avocado and people will love it. Add mushroom and you will be plenty full.

15. Club Sandwich- Those sandwiches are loaded with meat. You can have everything, but just fewer pieces.

16. BLT- Less bacon, and add avocado or a fried egg with a little salt. You still get that fatty richness.

Let this be a lesson to ALL MEALS! When in doubt, eat less meat and throw on a fried egg. Pastas, sandwiches, burritos can all be more delicious with an egg added to the mix. 

17. Chili- People really love my husband's chili. He has used turkey instead of beef for years (it tastes the same and is healthier). Now, we often just do it with lots of black beans, and no one misses the meat much (I think corn makes a big difference here too). You can do a mix of beans and meat too.

18. Clam Chowder- Add more potatoes and veggies, and add fewer clams. I know some people make it with bacon in it, but we fry one piece of bacon and sprinkle it on top (with lots of parsley). It is stinking delicious.

19. Chicken Noodle Soup- More noodles, more veggies (mmmm.... carrots), and just take it easy on the chicken. This can also be the perfect way to use up leftover chicken or turkey.

20. Thai Noodle Soup- Thai soups can have a lot of meat in them, but you can also get away with cutting way down and still enjoy lots of flavor.

21. Basically Any Soup with Meat- Take out half of the meat (or make twice the soup with the same portion of meat) and put in beans instead. Basically any soup with meat will still work with black beans, white beans, or lentils.

22. Tacos- No matter what you like filling your tacos with, you can do less with more pico de gallo or even throw in some black beans. Mushrooms sauteed with taco seasoning are also delicious, and you can mix them in with the meat without anyone noticing.

23. Quesadillas- One chicken breast can go a long way with some black beans and red onion. Make an amazing guacomole on top, and you have an awesome dinner.

24. Burritos- Burritos have so many parts (rice! beans! Salsa! cheese!); just put in half the meat and add more of everything else. You already know how much you add, so it isn't too tricky to just add less meat.

25. Stuffed Peppers- add lots of rice, beans, and spices, so you can go easy on the meat. We have had some amazing ones; the real key is just to have good spicy flavor (not necessarily meat).

26. Carnitas- We freaking love carnitas at our house, but we spread it over a week on salad and in tacos. You don't need a ton to get the flavor, and if you make a great salsa too, your palate has plenty to focus on.

27. Southwest Salad- Most salads can be excellent without meat, but Southwest salads are the perfect stage to cut your meat in half. Only add half the chicken, and fill in with more black beans and salsa.

28. Cobb Salad- I like chickpeas in a cobb salad, and you can use those to fill the space where a TON of meat would usually be. I mean, we all know cobb salads have too much meat in them.

29. Any Kind of Salad- If you eat salads a lot, less meat, more of all the other ingredients. You could even save half and use it in your salad the next day.

30. Chicken Pot Pie- The joy of pot pie is really the crust and the creaminess. You can take out half of the chicken and throw in some potatoes (and celery, which is so good) without even noticing much.

31. Crab Cakes- Ok, no one loves the crab cake filler, so my advice is to skip the filler, make a spicy guacamole to put on top (it's really good!). The other good option is a corn salad with Old Bay to put on top. It doesn't have to be anything too fussy.

32. Chicken Breasts or Salmon- There are a million ways to shrink down the classic chicken and veggies or salmon and veggies. The easiest trick is to cut them into pieces and throw them in a salad or on top of a dirty rice. Another option is to simply serve a smaller portion with one extra veggie on the plate.

33. Chicken Wings- Fried cauliflower with sauce feels and tastes super similar to traditional chicken wings. If you mix the two together, you eat fewer wings and still feel satisfied.

34. Meat and Potatoes- The best advice I have seen out there is to slice one steak up and put it in a salad. You can trick the eye, still end up full, and eat a healthier meal. You can also just eat a much smaller steak.

35. Kabobs- When you are grilling, don't do full steaks or chicken. Do kabobs instead so you can spread one portion of meat over multiple kabobs with lots of delicious veggies. 

36. Omlettes- You are already getting tons of great protein from the eggs, so it doesn't do any harm to go easy on the meat! Have cheese! Have veggies! Nom,

37. Pancake Breakfast- You can do the whole thing with no meat at all (hello, eggs). If you do want some meat on the side, cut one piece of bacon in half, and you have just enough.

38. Egg Sandwiches- This is another place where mushrooms or avocado can take over for a salty breakfast meat. You can still have a little, but you get more flavor if you combine a little meat with these ingredients.

39. Bacon and Eggs- We cut all our bacon in half before we fry it. So in our house, two slices of bacon is really one. Simple trick, but super effective.

If you want to help the environment, but you can't make a vegetarian diet happen, you still have tons of options for minimizing the meat in your diet. Combining low meat options with a few weekly meatless meals will have a huge positive impact on the environment. It's also better for your health AND this can be a fun challenge that helps you get out of a food rut. It's better for you, and it's better for the Earth!

Less Meat Meals; 40 Classics You Can Make With Smaller Portions of Meat (and More Flavor)

How have you cut meat out of your diet? Are you eating more meatless meals? Cutting down your portions? What works for you? 

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