50 Easy Vegetarian Meal Ideas for Kids (That even the Picky Eaters will Love)

by - Friday, October 09, 2020

Looking to cut down the meat from your kids' diets? You are not alone. 

There are so many great reasons to introduce more vegetarian and vegan meals into your kid's diet: it's better for their health, it is a fun way to introduce new foods, it protects animals, but the biggest reason to feed your kid vegetarian meals is that it protects their future.

Every time we eat meat, we add to many of the world's biggest problems, issues our children will be desperate to solve after things have gone too far. We know that big agriculture, especially beef farms are causing dead zones in our water sources, waste huge amounts of land, water, and resources, and are a major contributor to climate change.

I know a lot of us are already feeling grief about the things our kids are missing right now, but the scary news is that because of climate change, their lives will get further and further away from what we imagine as "normal." We have to do something. 

Lots of us also grapple with picky eaters. You can still do this! Here are my biggest tips:

- Just remember, the smaller you dice the veggie, the less they will even notice it is there.
- Beans can be a great source of protein. 
- The more involved our kids are in the cooking (and growing) of our food, the more into eating it they are. I have a few favorite resources for cooking with kids- we do Raddish boxes, which we love and usually have at least 2 out of 3 meatless options. We also love America's Test Kitchen Cookbooks for kids (not all vegetarian, but a lot is).

If you aren't ready to give up all meat, start by giving up beef, and just eat less of everything else. This week, keep track of how many meals you eat with meat in them. Then set a goal to cut that number in half. You can also cut down the meat in your meals- check out this post for meals where you can cut the meat portion in half without anyone really noticing. By stretching those portions farther, you save money and shrink your environmental impact. 

I am going to give my ideas and a recipe that could be a huge hit for each, but you don't even have to make it that complicated! Switch your pepperoni for peppers or just do cheese. Start simple, and you will see it works out just fine. 

easy vegetarian meal ideas for kids
from Simply Recipes

American-Style Comfort Food

We all can get pretty hesitant about trying new foods or ways of eating. If you are trying to introduce more vegetarian meals into your kids' diets, start with meals they (or you) already love!

1. Pizza - Even if your kids love pepperoni, you can find vegetarian versions that taste very similar. To make it fun, let them add the toppings. I love this Daniel Tiger-style rainbow pizza from Like Mother Like Daughter

2. Vegetable Pot Pie- I didn't grow up with pot pie, but now I love it so much. You may think of it as needing meat, but there are tons of great ways to just use veggies. I am especially excited about this pie that includes chickpeas from Live Eat Learn, but this recipe from Simply Recipes also looks super fun and uses mushrooms . 

3. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese- Simple and classic! If you don't already have a family recipe (or a favorite canned soup), this recipe from Aurora Satler looks simple and delicious. 

4. Pasta Salad- Some people add ham, but most pasta salad is already meatless. There are hundreds of pasta salad recipes out there, using Italian dressing or just simple olive oil. From Mexican Street Corn salad to lemon basil pasta salad.

5. Macaroni and Cheese- Want to make just boxed mac n cheese? No judgement! It's delicious! You can add something simple like peas to make it a little healthier. If you want to do something homemade (I love this now- who can fight with breadcrumbs?), Mom on Timeout has a great recipe. 
6. Veggie Dumplings - Do your kids love dumplings? This is a perfect meal to do vegetarian! I love this Recipe World plan for vegetarian momos. Such a treat, but no meat! 

7. Potato Pancakes - Latkes are usually vegetarian, and you can even step it up and make them vegan, like these from I Love Vegan. You can also use other potato pancakes, like these sweet potato and zucchini pancakes from Zest my Lemon

8. Veggie Kabobs - Fun for kids who love to help! Check out this recipe from The Forked Spoon. If you need a twist, maybe test a bunch of different dips for the veggies. 

9. Panzanella Salad- Our favorite RadDish box of all time was a panzanella salad, with croutons and tomatoes and goat cheese deliciousness. It is a go to in our house, and the perfect way to trick our kids into eating a salad (happily even). We love these boxes at our house, and I would truly recommend them to anybody. 

from two peas and their pod

Burgers and Sandwiches 

Sandwiches and burgers are easy wins. If you want to make it even easier, wrap it in a tortilla and put the sauce on the side for dipping. Our kids don't buy into many salads (unless lots of croutons are involved), but we can put the same ingredients in a sandwich or wrap and have a winner. 

10. Grilled Cheese- Sure, you can stick with the classic, but you can also try adding more fun stuff. We personally love apple and cheddar grilled cheese, but you could also try tons of combos- pesto grilled cheese (from Beyond the Chicken Coop), or even a super extra vegan grilled cheese (from Rainbow Plant Life). 

11. Peanut Butter and Jelly- Ok, I'll be honest. My kids eat this almost every day for lunch, usually with jelly from their grandmother (so slightly less sugar? Slightly?). If you want to switch it up, you could try pb and bananas or add some raisin bran if you are a weirdo like my husband. 

12. Black Bean Burgers - When you don't have much time, most frozen food sections have black bean or veggie burger options. I find with a piece of cheese, some red onion, and guacomole, basically any burger seems pretty good. If you want to make your own, Delicious Little Bites has a really flavorful southwestern one. 

13. Lentil Sloppy Joes- Do kids still love sloppy joes? If yours do (or have never tried one) these lentil ones from Monkey and Me look gloriously messy. 

14. Caprese Sandwiches- If I had to eat one sandwich for the rest of my life, this would be it- pesto, mozarella, and tomato is all you need, though you can switch it up with basil, balsamic, or even a fruit like nectarines. If you need a recipe, check this one from 40 Aprons

15. Chickpea Salad Sandwich- If chicken or tuna salad is your family's thing, switch it up with chickpeas instead. This recipe from 40 Aprons looks pretty good (though to be honest, I think chicken salad is gross). 

16. Veggie and Hummus Pita- Check out this delicious (and quick!) recipe from Toaster Oven Love- and if you think it might be a hard sell for your family, just leave the hummus out for dipping! We can sell a lot just by letting them dip things. 

17. Fried Egg Sandwich- We go through fried egg phases in our house, and if you pair it with avocado instead of bacon, you still get that fattiness. Check out this recipe from Valentina's Corner for more ideas. 

18. Cucumber Sandwich- This generally seems a little fussy for kids, but many of them already love cucumbers. Also, when I read this recipe from two peas and their pod, I was ready to eat right away! 

Noodles and Carbs

Sometimes Carbs are the answer. They are almost always a hit at our house. If you have particularly hesitant veggie eaters, you can dice mushrooms or veggies really thin and hide them in a sauce. 

19. Lasagna - This is my absolute favorite meal, from my mom's as a child to my husband's now. It still works great if you load it up with peppers, onions, zucchini, and peas (oh I love peas so much). This recipe from Aberdeen's Kitchen also throws in carrots, which makes lots of sense. But seriously, add peas. 

20. Beets Pasta - Beets, goat cheese, and pesto has been a favorite of our 4 year old since he was eating real food. I know it sounds out there, but it's delicious, and it goes to show that in those early years, caretakers get to decide what normal is. Just Beet It has a good recipe to start with, but I would add goat cheese unless you are vegan.

21. Risotto - There are so many ways to make a vegetarian version of this dish, but this Love and Good Stuff one looks delicious AND you can make it in the Instapot. I know we can't be the only family using our instapot all of the time! 

22. Yakisoba Noodles - This was another huge win from RadDish. Our kids ask for it again and again. If you are looking for something simple (but not necessarily legit), this recipe from the Wanderlust Kitchen shows how it's the perfect 15 minute meal. 

23. Pasta Primavera - If you are trying to sell your kids on veggies, pairing them with noodles can be an easy win. If you cut them pretty small, they will end up eating some without you even having to ask. I think this lemon and garlic one from Evolving Table looks so colorful and delicious! Perfect for spring. You could also do an alfredo sauce- broccoli alfredo was one of my favorites as a kid!

24. Spaghetti and Lentil Balls- Spaghetti is another perfect dinner to cut veggies up and sneak them into your kids' dinner. If you want to add a "meaty" element. there are lots of lentil meatball recipes out there, like this one from A Saucy Kitchen

25. Gnocchi- Do you want your kids to be more involved in the cooking? It's a great idea, and this is the perfect place to start, because there are so many fun jobs for them to do. We have had trouble finding a perfect gnocchi recipe (if you have one, send it my way), but this one from The Hungry Waitress skips the making it yourself to keep things simple. You could go either way.  

26. Pizza Rolls - Ok, I am weirdly obsessed with pizza rolls, but I think they are a big hit for kids too. I think you could skip the pepperoni and do peppers and other veggies instead. This recipe for air fryers from Cook It Real Good could be a winner. 

from Love and Good Stuff

Tacos and Burritos

27. Mushroom Tacos- There are so many great options for vegetarian tacos that we made a whole post about them. Check it out for tons of great ideas. 

28. Quesadillas- We love ours with lots of veggies likes carrots, beets, and beans. This recipe from Erhardt's Eat looks pretty good, but you can experiment with all sorts of combinations! We use this as a way to sneak veggies in, because with lots of cheese and guacomole, our kids don't even notice. 

29. Burritos- These lentil burritos from Love and Good Stuff combines lentils with smashed avocado, rice, and grilled veggies. Perfect for sneaking a new meal and still leaving them full. 

30. Enchiladas- Black beans and sweet potatoes. So super filling and nutritious. I can't wait to try these enchiladas from Tastes Better from Scratch

31. Burrito Bowls- Have your own Chipotle style line at home where everyone can pick all of the toppings they want. This recipe from Chisel and Fork combines the protein of black beans with sweet potatoes, guacomole, and all sorts of good grilled veggies. This looks like a winner to me, but you could combine ideas to have the best combo for your family. 

32. Loaded Nachos- Want to have a HUGE hit on your hands? I think my kids would go absolutely crazy for these loaded nachos from two spoons; they would be so impressed for getting chips for dinner! We have friends who also serve their kid chili on chips with cheese, and he likes that too. 

Stir Fry Veggies for Kids
from Build Your Bite

Veggies and Rice

33. Rice and Beans- This is one of those meals we make almost every week at our house. We like the recipe from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook for kids, but every good vegetarian recipe book will have their own take. Our kids could live on just rice and beans. 

34. Veggie Stir Fry- A stir fry loaded with vegetables can be fast and easy to pull together with basically whatever you have (and mushrooms are so good with soy sauce). This one from Build your Bite looks like a good place to start. 

35. Veggie Sushi- Sushi is my son's favorite, and I had never thought of it as a fun make it yourself vegetarian option until I saw it on the Earhbound Family instagram feed. There are so many fun ideas out there, and it could be a blast to make it as a family. Oh my Veggies has a whole list of fun sushi ideas for vegetarians. 

36. Curry- This is a huge category, and the opportunities here are basically endless. We just had slow cooker curry this week, and it was so easy and so delicious. Its another way to use up whatever vegetables are in the fridge, and I find anything with coconut milk has the sweetness to appeal to our kids, even if it is a bit spicy. This one from A Chef's Kitchen is close to what we do, but we always add chickpeas and regular peas too. 

37. Jambalaya- Skip the met and go for the beans. It works because the spices and celery are really the best part, and you will feel just as full. Here's a recipe from Lord Byron's Kitchen

38. Stuffed Peppers - Such a fun one. We love them for fall, and have especially fun Halloween takes on them. We have a whole post on these to check out. 

39. Fried Rice- Cookies and Kate has a recipe that looks delicious. Another one that could have a million combinations if it is a hit! 

from Vegetarian Ventures


40. Chili- So many amazing vegetarian chilis out there, but this one from TheKitchn looks the closest to what we do. Let them pick their own toppings (cheese, avocado, etc) to make it fun. 

41.Veggie Noodle Soup- Try skipping the chicken the next time you have a sick day- it doesn't add as much to the soup as you think! Try this chickpea and veggie noodle soup from Vegetarian Ventures instead. 

42. Minestrone- So yummy! Check out this recipe from Little Spice Jar

43. Wild Rice Soup- Check out this one from Veggie Balance. It takes less than 30 minutes to make!

44. Cheddar Brocolli Soup- It's a big hit with kids. This recipe from Easy Peazy Mealz is pretty close to the Panera Bread one, which my kids can't get enough of. 


47.Fritatas- Eggs are a perfect trick for getting protein in when you don't have meat. Healthy Fitness Meals has a beautiful one, but there are so many good ideas out there! Start with your kids favorite ingredients to win them over! Plus you can make more than one and save yourself time during the week!

48. Blueberry Pancakes- We love the recipe in the America's Test Kitchen kids cookbook, But seriously, any pancakes are good. Throw some berries on top and they will be psyched. Waffles would work too, maybe french toast. All brinner is a treat. 

49. Omelets- The eggs can make it hearty, and kids can add whatever they want! Here's a good one from The Spruce Eats

50.Breakfast Tacos or Burritos- Ok, is it just me, or does this Vanilla and Bean recipe for a sweet potato breakfast taco sound weirdly amazing? 

Ok, I have tons of ideas we are going to try- how about you? What's your favorite vegetarian meal to make with kids? 

50 Easy Vegetarian Meal Ideas for Kids

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