HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Learning to Eat Meat

I have been a vegetarian (cheese/eggs ok) for the last 14 years, but I've recently decided to add small amounts of meat to my diet, for a number of reasons. I plan to be able to eat normal meat dishes when I'm traveling in non-vegetarian friendly places or eating in the home of people serving meat, but at my home I would like to keep a vegetable centered diet, using small amounts of meat to enhance what I'm cooking, and leaving meat-centered dishes for special occasions.

I'm looking for your favorite recipes which are vegetable heavy, but in which meat plays some role. I'm thinking more of main dishes than of side dishes. All kinds of foods/regional cuisines are welcome- although I've never cooked meat, I'm very comfortable in the kitchen and like just about everything. I'm also looking for recommendations of cookbooks featuring this kind of cooking, just to get me started on ideas.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. have you thought to first incorporate fish and poultry? much lighter and easier to digest than red meat.

    1. I would recommend that you focus on Asian dishes, such as stir-fry. In general, the protein component is small, with the emphasis on plenty of fresh chopped vegetables.
      Soups are another way to get protein from meat, with the bulk of the dish being broth, veggies, or pasta/starch, depending on the soup.

      1. Fish and poultry are good gateways, and Indian and Persian dishes will also be good places to start.

        1. I tried doing a search but to no avail. There's a delightful cookbook that I saw reviewed very highly that specializes in recipes that use "just a little meat."

          This vegetarian website has a whole keyword category for "a little meat:"


          It's a big decision you're making. For the best, I think. I've met a couple of people who were malnourished because they weren't doing the vegetarian thing "right." One got better because he added a little meat protein to his diet, per his doctor.

          1. I agree to start with poultry and fish first--not that red meat is hard to digest (it isn't) but if you've gone so long without eating meat you need to get used to the textures again.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MandalayVA

              actually, long-term vegetarians produce much less of the enzyme needed to easily digest meat. there is definitely an introductory phase while your stomach adapts. this is especially true of those on high-fruit diets.

            2. There are two cookbooks that might interest you: "Almost Meatless" and "Almost Vegetarian."

              2 Replies
              1. re: ChesterhillGirl

                Small amounts of good Spanish chorizo can liven up any vegetarian dish. One of my favorites is to cook collards (or kale) with black beans and potatoes, along with an inch or two of thinly sliced (or chopped if you prefer) chorizo. The meat mainly acts like a flavoring....but it tastes soooooo good!

                1. re: EricMM

                  Similarly, I make soup weekly, and frequently start by dicing and deeply browning 4-6 oz. of kielbasa, then adding onions and other vegetables and chicken broth to the pot, for about 3 quarts of finished soup. That's less than an ounce of meat for a meal-sized bowl, yet there is plenty of meaty flavor.

              2. I suggest Ma po tofu and ja jiang mian. Ma po tofu is a bit of ground pork with lots of tofu and a spicy sauce. Delicious served over white rice. Ja jian myun is black bean noodle with a tiny bit of ground pork as well. If you want recipes, let me know. For both of them, you'll need cornstarch, which you might not have. Also, how about a modified version of ratatouille? Basically, sear some meat (anythign really, but I most recently used lamb, chicken pork beef, etc would be great as well, even white fish would). ( Sear= put in hot skillet dont touch until crust forms) <--not meant to be condescending btw. Then, sautee some onions, zuchinni, squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc in the pot, add in a can of crushed toamtoes or tomato sauce, and your meat, add herbs (italian mix works nicely, although anything is good), cook until veggies are soft and meat is cooked though, probably 20-30 min would be good. serve with rice or couscous

                1. I agree that wok cookery might be worth a try for you. Also, whenever you make a salad, consider adding a small amount of meat or seafood to it. I do this often when I think we need a lighter meal. Poached chicken breasts, lean roast beef or shrimp or salmon would be good. Truthfully, I often use good tuna. I dress the salad and then add a bit of the protein on top.

                  1. Go with Asian or pasta. There's a wonderful beef salad in Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet (by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid), that you can make with as much or little beef as you like. Little bits of slivered pork shoulder or ground pork can be added to most any stir-fry. Shrimp with a tomato/cream sauce comes to mind. As does seared scallops on a main course salad.

                    1. Chicken curry has lots of potatoes and carrots, and it's served on rice. You can adjust the amount of chicken to your taste without affecting the dish. For me personally, when cooking with chicken, I like to use rotisserie chickens and pull the meat off, sort of shredded style, rather than boil chicken breasts. Boiled chicken breasts, to me, are more likely to end up still tasting a little raw, or just "off", even when completely cooked, whereas rotisserie chicken always tastes completely cooked (to me). Plus, they put different seasonings on rotisserie chickens, which might help you too if you're concerned about the taste.

                      You can also incorporate a small amount of meat into a cheese enchilada, or put a little meat in a taco loaded with mostly lettuce, tomatoes, beans, and avocado.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: starbucksbrew

                        I actually make a chicken curry that some "vegetarian" (didn't eat meat, but ate things that were cooked with meat?) friends loved. Onions, potatoes, carrots, chicken (I just cut it and cook it with the rest of my vegetables after they'[ve softened a bit) salt, pepper, curry powder, cornstarch, water. Served over rice, it's great, and depending on your spice toelrance, you can adjust the type and amount of curry you use.

                      2. Since you want to continue to keep your diet vegetable heavy, why not just add small amounts of protein to what you're already eating, incorporate them into your veggies.

                        1. Many fine chicken dishes are heavy on the vegetables and light on the meat. That's what makes them perfect for the Champagne Taste/Beer Budget ... or for someone who wants to add just a little meat to his diet. Chicken Marsala would be a great place to start: lots of onion and a bit of chicken breast on a bed of rice.