45 Whole-Food, Plant-Based Recipes That Are Clean (but Taste Naughty)
We’re calling it now: Plant-based eating is going to be big. For starters, there are the health benefits (it can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and help you lose weight, according to this study by Kaiser Permanente). Oh, and the financial benefits (all that meat and dairy is expensive). And did we mention it’s environmentally friendly to boot? Yeah, it’s pretty great.
Whether you’ve recently started embracing vegetable-centric meals or are already a pro, the whole-food, plant-based diet might be for you. Not entirely sure what that entails? Allow us to explain.
What is a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet?
The idea behind the whole-food, plant-based diet (WFPB for short) is surprisingly simple: Eat whole, unrefined, plant-based foods. So yes, that means meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs are off-limits, like a vegan diet. But it’s not the same as a vegan diet because the emphasis isn’t on eliminating those groups. Instead, the goal is to eat a large variety of minimally processed foods. And the best part? There aren’t a bunch of rules or restrictions. There’s no calorie counting, you don’t have to worry about eating raw versus cooked and the list of things you can enjoy is robust.
What does a WFPB diet include?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a WFPB diet is rich in the following foods:
- Whole grains such as whole wheat, steel cut and rolled oats, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, millet, amaranth and teff
- Legumes of all kinds (both dried and canned), including beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, soybeans and peas
- Leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, arugula, bok choy, lettuces and herbs
- Root vegetables like potatoes of all kinds, alliums (i.e., onions and garlic), beets, carrots and radishes
- Other veggies such as squash, tomatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower
- Fruits of all kinds, like berries, bananas, apples, citrus and stone fruits
- Beverages like water, unsweetened plant milk and unsweetened decaf coffee and tea
And while not off-limits, these should be eaten in moderation:
- Nuts and seeds
- Avocados and healthy fats
- Dried fruit
- Unrefined sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and molasses
- Minimally processed soy products like tofu, tempeh and miso
- Beverages like alcohol and caffeinated coffee and tea
So, basically, eat as many whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes as your heart desires. Enjoy nuts, seeds, healthy fats, soy products and unrefined sweeteners in moderation. Avoid refined grains, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy entirely, and minimize your use of oils as much as you can.
Hungry yet? Here are 45 whole-food, plant-based recipes that are diet-friendly (but taste really delicious).
1. Creamy Vegan Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Bake
Who knew that lentils could taste so decadent? To make this dinner truly plant-based, you swap the panko bread crumb topping for crushed pine nuts (or walnuts, or pecans, or…you get the idea).
2. Watermelon Poke Bowls
We’d take pause before tackling raw fish at home. These guys? We’re gonna try them tonight.
3. Radicchio, Lentil and Apple Salad with Vegan Cashew Dressing
The dressing is so creamy, we had to triple-check that it didn’t have dairy. It’s just the thing to balance the crisp, slightly bitter radicchio.
4. Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad
If you’ve ever thought of salad as a punishment, we have a dish for you. This naturally sweet number tastes like a million bucks (and will make you feel that way too).
5. Keto Instant Pot Greek Cauliflower Rice
Rice is included in the WFPB diet, but we just love cauliflower rice too much. This one serves eight as a side, or you could use it as a base for a light lunch.
6. Delicata Buckwheat Bowls
You can store the leftovers in a glass container in the fridge for two to three days. Read: It’s great for meal prep.
7. Vegan Slow-Cooker Detox Coconut Soup
Here, coconut milk is the secret to creamy decadence without any dairy. This is also gluten-free, in case you were wondering.
8. Vegan Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Marinara Sauce
If you’re using store-bought sauce, just be sure to check the ingredient list for those sneaky hidden refined sugars.
9. Vegetarian Sushi Cups
Swap the sushi rice for a brown variety and now we’re talking. It’s less refined, not to mention packed with extra antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals and fiber.
10. Chickpea and Vegetable Coconut Curry
We always have at least two cans of chickpeas in our pantry, which makes this 30-minute dinner a no-brainer.
11. Clean-Eating Bibimbap Bowls
Pile those veggies as high as your bowl will allow.
12. Sweet Potato Noodles with Almond Sauce
Our dream dinner is comforting and hearty but still packed with protein, low in saturated fat and full of vitamins. Luckily, it’s right here.
13. Antoni Porowski’s Cauliflower Steaks with Turmeric and Crunchy Almonds
Our Queer Eye food crush knows a thing or two about nutritious home cooking. This plant-based recipe comes together in 35 minutes.
14. Avocado, Radish and Walnuts with Carrot-Miso Dressing
Proof that lettuce isn’t a requirement when it comes to salad.
15. Kung Pao Cauliflower
When you’re craving Chinese takeout, make this lightened-up version instead.
16. Pearl Couscous with Chickpeas, Eggplant and Peaches
A dish that’s great cold, warm or at room temperature, and you can make it up to one day ahead. Need we say more?
17. Vegan Instant Pot Pho
For plant-based bonus points (and a nutrient boost), use brown rice pho noodles.
18. Yellow Tomato Gazpacho
The beautiful thing about this diet? Even croutons are fair game (just make ’em with whole-grain bread).
19. Vegan Butternut Mac and ‘Cheese’ with Smoky Shiitake ‘Bacon’
PSA: Roasted, pureed butternut squash makes a mean replacement for cheese sauce.
20. Soft Polenta and Mushroom Bowls
Polenta is creamy and satisfying even without the addition of dairy, plus it’s endlessly versatile. In our humble opinion, that makes it a plant-based miracle food.
21. Zoodles with Avocado and Mango Sauce
Oh hey, 15-minute lunch (or dinner).
22. Easy Indian-Inspired Kitchari Bowls
Never heard of kitchari bowls? The Ayurvedic dish is a staple comfort food in Indian cuisine…and just so happens to plant-based too.
23. Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower Bowls
It tastes super complicated, but all you really have to do is marinate your cauliflower in a bunch of warming spices, then roast it until it’s golden.
24. Charred Broccoli with Sriracha Almond Butter Sauce
We love this as a crunchy side dish, but for a quick main course, you could also toss it with your favorite whole grain of choice.
26. Harissa Chickpea Stew with Eggplant and Millet
It’s a breeze to whip up, it’s packed with protein and it can be modified depending on the season (or your mood).
27. Easy One-Pan Ratatouille
While the traditional version of this dish is slow-cooked on the stove, we made it delightfully hands-off and minimized your cleanup. Bon appétit.
28. Cheesy Raw Vegan Zucchini Lasagna
Comfort food meets super food.
29. Rainbow Collard Wraps with Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce
You can make them ahead of time (up to two days in advance) and they won’t get soggy in the fridge.
30. Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Corn Chowder
This soup has a secret: It uses pureed corn and cashews for an ultra-creamy base sans heavy cream.
31. Cauliflower and Plantain Tacos with Lemony Pesto Dressing
The combo of sweet, savory produce and bright, tangy dressing is quickly becoming one of our weeknight favorites.
32. Charred Cauliflower with Garlic Tahini Sauce
We’re pretty convinced this garlic tahini sauce is the key to happiness.
33. Dairy-Free Butternut Squash ‘Fondue’
Who says cheese eaters get to have all the fun? Once again, you can thank your friendly neighborhood butternut squash for this one.
34. Creamy Curried Cauliflower Lentil Soup
Lentils are packed with filling protein and lend a creamy texture to this spicy pureed soup, which happens to freeze beautifully for leftovers.
35. Curried Chickpea Salad
Chicken salad doesn’t know what’s coming.
36. Wholesome Lentil, Mushroom and Kale Lasagna
Skip the vegan mozzarella in favor of homemade cashew cream. (You won’t regret it.)
37. Vegan Butternut Squash Black Bean Enchiladas with Jalapeño Cashew Crema
It looks complicated, but this dish is surprisingly easy to pull off. Even better, it’s a family-friendly crowd-pleaser.
38. Vegetarian Chili
Sweet potatoes, black beans and chili powder make a knockout team. (Plus, you probably already have most of these ingredients in your kitchen.)
39. Meal-Prep-Friendly Tofu Tahini Lunch Salad
It’s flavorful, full of protein and easy to whip up on a Sunday night for meal-prep lunche
40. Curried Quinoa Chickpea Burgers
Did you hear that? Burgers are on your diet.
41. Crispy Falafel
Skip the takeout falafel in favor of this homemade version, which is baked instead of fried. (Go you!)
42. Roasted Chickpea-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro-Garlic Cashew Sauce
ICYMI, roasted sweet potatoes make an excellent vehicle for all sorts of toppings.
43. Roasted Cauliflower Hummus Bowls
If you can find whole-grain naan, it makes an ideal companion for this creamy bowl. If not, don’t worry. It will still be delicious.
44. One-Pot Cauliflower Dal Green Curry
This one goes out to those who love eating and hate doing dishes (aka all of us).
45. Vegan Ramen with Miso Shiitake Broth
This has comfort food written all over it. Now where’s that chenille blanket?