7 Vegan Winter Dinners Ready in 30 Minutes or Less

Winter takes a toll on us all—from too many sweets and hosting the in-laws to fitting holiday shopping in at odd hours—but especially working parents. Treat yourself this chilly season with a few vegan recipes that are healthy and, just as important, quick. The festive dishes in The Colorful Family Table: Seasonal Plant-Based Recipes for the Whole Family are nutritious pick-me-ups on chilly days. Here are some favorites.

1. Pumpkin-Stuffed Pumpkin Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Total time: 20 minutes (plus time for roasting pumpkin) | Active time: 20 minutes | Makes: 6 servings

The all-time most popular recipe on The Colorful Kitchen blog is the original version of this dish, which uses sweet potato instead of pumpkin as the base. This dairy-free mac ’n’ cheese is always a guaranteed hit for dinner, and it’s easy to subtly switch the flavor up by using different varieties of sweet potato, pumpkin and squash. Use your favorite pasta to make it your own—I like gluten-free brown rice elbows. This variation is extra fun because it uses a whole pumpkin: the flesh provides the base for the sauce, the shell forms the serving dish, and the roasted seeds add a pop of crunch on top.

Ingredients:
6 servings of your favorite pasta, uncooked
1 Roasted Pumpkin* (see below)
1 cup nondairy milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 cups packed greens of your choice
1/3 cup chopped Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (see below; optional)

  1. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
  2. To prepare the sauce, scoop 1 cup of flesh from the pumpkin (scoop half from each side so the sides are even) and place it in a blender. If using canned puree, transfer it to the blender.
  3. Add the non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, garlic, tamari, mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper to the blender, and blend until smooth.
  4. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the greens with 1 tablespoon of water until they wilt, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the sauce and pasta, and heat until warm, 4-5 minutes.
  5. To serve, place the pumpkin halves on a serving dish and transfer as much of the pasta as will fit into the hollowed-out centers (serve the rest of the pasta on the side if necessary). Top with the Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (if using) and enjoy warm.

Note: Greens like kale and chard can be tough for toddlers to chew. To make this recipe more kid friendly, steam the greens until tender, then blend them right into the sauce.

*You can substitute 1 cup canned pumpkin, squash or sweet potato puree for the roasted pumpkin. The presentation might not be as fun, but the dish is just as delicious.

2. Flu Shot Noodle Soup  

Total time: 30 minutes | Active time: 30 minutes | Makes: 4 servings

During the winter months, when avoiding friends and family members with colds and dodging sneezing strangers on the street becomes a full-time job, this soup is a mainstay in my family’s weekly dinner rotation and our stay-healthy routine. It’s packed with onions, garlic, and ginger to help boost our immune systems and it’s loaded with veggies for extra nutrients—plus it’s as flavorful and cozy as dinners come. To make it a complete meal, I usually use bean-based pasta to provide protein.

Ingredients:
4 servings of your favorite pasta, uncooked
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
1 medium leek, sliced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
6 cups vegetable broth
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
5 stalks celery, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Salt and black pepper, to taste

  1. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, leek, garlic and ginger and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, carrots, celery and dill and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the carrots and celery are tender. Add the cooked pasta to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

3. Mushroom & Tempeh White Chili  

Total time: 30 minutes | Active time: 30 minutes | Makes: 4 servings

Classic tomato-based chili with beans and veggies was one of the first real meals that Baby V fell in love with. To continue introducing her to different flavors and ingredients, I came up with this tomato-less white chili, which ended up being a huge hit with my entire family. Now that Baby V is older, we love searching the farmer’s markets to find different varieties of mushrooms to use in this chili and she gets a huge kick out of learning about all the different funky-looking varieties.

Ingredients:
Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (13 1/2-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (4-5 medium potatoes), chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cups sliced mushrooms*
1 (8-ounce) package tempeh, crumbled
1 cup packed chopped kale
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (reduce or omit for less spice)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Optional Toppings
Fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
Vegan sour cream (see below or store-bought)

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned.
  2. Add the coconut milk and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the potatoes, mushrooms and tempeh, lower the heat to medium, and simmer until everything is tender, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the kale and stir for 1-2 minutes, until it wilts. Stir in the white beans, nutritional yeast, tamari, cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until everything is warm. Serve warm with desired toppings.

*I like to use a mixture of different kinds of mushrooms for an exciting texture. Special varieties you find at the farmer’s market, like oyster, chanterelle or enoki, will be great. You also can’t go wrong with grocery store staples like cremini, button or portobello.

4. Creamy Coconut Curry PB Noodle Bowl  

Total time: 30 minutes | Active time: 15 minutes | Makes: 4 servings

When it’s freezing cold outside and I want to get a warm and cozy dinner on the table in under half an hour, this is my go-to recipe. Made with fresh ginger and curry paste, the creamy sauce features spices that will warm you from the inside out. Even if you’ve never cooked with curry paste before, you’ll find the recipe super simple to throw together.

Ingredients:
Noodle Bowl
4 servings of rice noodles or soba noodles, uncooked
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 (13 1/2-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup shelled cooked edamame (thawed, if frozen)
1-2 tablespoons tamari
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Optional Toppings
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 tablespoons shredded red cabbage

  1. Prepare the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Stir in the curry paste and peanut butter, letting them dissolve. Add the broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Cover and simmer, stirring every few minutes, until everything is tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the edamame, tamari, salt and pepper and let everything cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer to bowls and add the noodles. Top with the green onion and cabbage (if using).

Chickpea-Artichoke “Crab” Cakes

Total time: 30 minutes | Active time: 30 minutes | Makes: 10 “crab” cakes

Crab cakes were one of my mom’s go-to dinner recipes. She always kept the ingredients on hand and could whip up a batch with just a moment’s notice when our family was hungry and she wanted to get a delicious dinner on the table quickly. This plant-based version also uses pantry staples and it makes a quick and tasty meal when you’re short on time.

Ingredients:
“Crab” Cakes
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
1 (15-ounce) can or jar artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons vegan mayo (see below or store-bought)
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning (or other seafood spice blend)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Oil for frying
Lemon Dill Sauce
1/4 cup vegan mayo (see below or store-bought)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Serve With
Slider buns or green salad

  1. Line a plate with a clean dishcloth or paper towels to place the patties on so the excess oil can be absorbed.
  2. Pulse the chickpeas and artichoke hearts in a blender or food processor until a shredded but somewhat blended texture is formed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the breadcrumbs, mayo, onion, Old Bay seasoning and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Wet your hands and form the mixture into patties, using 1/4 cup of the mixture for each. Fry each patty for 4-5 minutes on each side, until browned. Add more oil as needed.
  4. Repeat until all the mixture is used.
  5. To prepare the Lemon-Dill Sauce, stir the ingredients together in a small bowl.
  6. Serve the “crab” cakes warm, either on slider buns or over green salad, with the sauce.

6. Tempeh Tacos with Peach Salsa  

Total time: 30 minutes | Active time: 30 minutes | Makes: 4 servings

I like to keep taco night in my back pocket for whenever I’m out of ideas about what to make for dinner. This meal is perfect for bringing your family together at the table—the DIY aspect is fun for kids and everyone can customize their tacos to their tastes. This taco filling is a staple on our dinner table all year long, but the Peach Salsa is a special addition that I love to whip up when peaches and cherry tomatoes are all over the summer markets.

Ingredients:
Peach Salsa
2 cups diced cherry tomatoes
2 cups diced peaches
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
½-1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (omit for kids and others who don’t like spice)
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Taco Filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8-ounce) package tempeh, crumbled
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Serve With
Tortillas
Optional Toppings
Black beans or refried beans
Vegan sour cream (see above or store-bought)
Guacamole or sliced avocado

  1. To prepare the salsa, stir all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. To prepare the taco filling, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, add the tempeh and tamari and sauté for another 5 minutes. When the tempeh starts to brown, turn the heat to low. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and cayenne pepper (if using) and cook for another 3 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
  3. To serve, layer the taco filling and Peach Salsa in tortillas and add your favorite taco toppings.

    7. Grandma D’s Sweet & Sour Beetballs

Total time: 45 minutes | Active time: 25 minutes | Makes: 4 servings

My Grandma D’s sweet-and-sour meatballs were legendary. Our large family could easily eat 100-plus meatballs in one sitting and whenever the family got together she would start cooking them well in advance, making her entire house smell like the magical sweet sauce for days. Of course, I had to make my own plant-based vehicle (hello, beetballs!) for her traditional sauce. Serve this over your favorite pasta—Grandma D always used penne. If you prefer a more traditional dish, the beetballs are also great with marinara sauce and spaghetti.

Ingredients:
Beetballs
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons warm water
4 medium beets, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8-ounce) package tempeh, crumbled
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, plus extra if needed
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Sweet & Sour Sauce
1 (15-ounce) can or jar whole cranberry sauce
2-3 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce, to taste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Serve With
Your favorite cooked pasta

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Prepare a flax “egg” by stirring the ground flaxseed and warm water together in a small bowl. Let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes before using.
  3. Pulse the beets in a blender or food processor until they are mostly shredded.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and beets, and sauté for 7-10 minutes, until the beets soften.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the blender or food processor. Add the flax “egg,” tempeh, tamari and Worcestershire sauce and pulse until the mixture has a moldable texture.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs, adding enough so that the dough can be easily rolled into balls and season with salt and pepper. Wet your hands and roll the mixture into balls, using 1 heaping tablespoon per ball. Place the balls on the baking sheet and brush the tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip the beetballs with a spatula and cook for 10 minutes more.
  8. While the beetballs cook, prepare the Sweet & Sour Sauce by combining all the ingredients together in a small saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  9. Serve the beetballs over your favorite pasta and ladle the sauce over everything.

Ilene Godofsky Moreno is the founder of The Colorful Kitchen blog, a recipe blog focused on simple plant-based recipes. Her new cookbook, The Colorful Family Table: Seasonal Plant-Based Recipes for the Whole Family shares 90 delicious recipes full of color and healthy veggies to please the whole family.

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