Go to main content

Published on:

Updated on:

Fun and Easy Meatless Main Dishes for Hot Days

Four delicious, low-carb recipes that emphasize summer vegetables (and just so happen to be vegetarian!)

If you’re cooking meatless main dishes this summer — because you’re a vegetarian, because you’re feeding a vegetarian, or because you’re simply trying to eat less meat — then you may feel like you’re in a bit of a rut. In my house, this rut is filled with a lot of veggie burgers on the grill, a lot of herby scrambled eggs, and a lot of . . . veggie burgers on the grill. What else is there? I’m always racking my brain, and I find that it can be especially tricky if you’re keeping carb counts low – especially given how many of our summer staples can be a little carb-heavy (pasta salad, potato salad, and burger buns, we’re looking at you!). That’s where these recipes come in.

Here are three salads and a summery egg dish to mix it up a little. They hit all of the sweet spots of summer cooking and eating, and they’re perfect for those days when it is “too hot to eat” (I, myself, never have days like that, but I hear about them from other people). Plus, in the future, when we get to gather together at potlucks and barbecues again, these recipes will be perfect for sharing. We can hardly wait!

Until then, stay well, stay safe, and enjoy everything you can enjoy. It is, after all, as the poet Mary Oliver calls it, “your one wild and precious life.”

Here are a few other meatless mains on diaTribe:

Cauliflower “Mac and Cheese”

Crustless Quiche with Broccoli, Cheddar, and Mustard

Caprese Salad

Flavor-Saturated Tofu

Crustless Cauliflower Quiche with Blue Cheese

Baked Huevos Rancheros

Mason Jar Salads

1. Zucchini Ribbon Salad

This beautiful tangle of wide zucchini ruffles shines in a simple lemony dressing. The cheese and pine nuts add enough heft and richness to transport this to main-course territory, but you could also serve it as a gorgeous side to something off the grill. Full disclosure: I invented this salad because my children have always found cooked zucchini “a little bit squashy” – a sin you could forgive since it is, after all, squash. But when it’s fresh and bright and raw like this, they eat it happily.

View the recipe

2. Cobbless Cobb Salad

Okay, while this recipe is missing the chicken and bacon that would make it a traditional Cobb salad, it has retained the other crucial elements that create a perfectly balanced meal: juicy summer tomatoes, pungent blue cheese, creamy avocado, and tender-yolked eggs. By all means add the meats back in, if you like. Or do what we sometimes do, and sprinkle on a handful of chopped smokehouse almonds; you’ll get bacon’s smokiness and crunch in a delightful vegetarian format.

View the recipe

3. Grilled Tofu Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

This salad hits all of our favorite notes: it’s creamy and rich, spicy and herby, tender and crunchy, and it’s filled with smoky flavors from the grilled tofu. Plan to serve it right away, though, since the cabbage and cucumbers will give up a lot of liquid fairly soon after they’re dressed. If you’ll want to wait a bit before serving, toss the vegetables with a teaspoon of salt and leave them to drain in a colander for 5 or 10 minutes; then dry them in a salad spinner or dish towel before assembling the salad.

View the recipe.

4. Chile-Cheese Custard with Corn

This deliciously cheesy and corn-studded egg bake is a little self-conscious about not being a salad, so let me sing its summery praises: it will be ready to bake by the time the oven is preheated; you will dirty only one bowl and a baking dish; it is lovely eaten at room temperature or even cold; and it makes the most of a couple of ears of summer corn – enough for a cup of kernels, but not enough to serve on the cob. (Frozen corn is a perfectly acceptable substitute, however.) If you’ve never bought canned green chiles before, do try them here. You’ll find them in the Mexican food aisle of your supermarket in a tiny little can, and unless they say otherwise, they’re quite mild.

View the recipe.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her book "How to Be A Person" was published in 2020. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]