Expensive ingredients do not a delicious meal make. In fact, some of the most satisfying vegetarian recipes from New York Times Cooking are also the most affordable, highlighting the versatility of vegetables, legumes and tofu — and the skillfulness of the cooks who, time and again, prove that less really can be more.
This recipe from Genevieve Ko is suitable for whatever vegetables you have on hand — broccoli, green beans, peas, you name it — so no need to run out to the store just to make it. Beyond your preferred vegetable(s), you’ll need little else: Some tofu, a can of coconut milk, an onion and a tablespoon of curry powder do the trick.
At the intersection of sheet-pan meals and 30-minute pastas is this smart recipe from Alexa Weibel. White beans and cherry tomatoes are roasted on a sheet pan before they’re tossed with the pasta shape of your choice for a creamy sauce with a bit of texture and a lot of flavor.
Sure, a carton of eggs is hardly “cheap” these days. But when a recipe requires only five ingredients (not including salt, pepper or oil), you get a return on your investment. Naz Deravian caters to breakfast-for-dinner lovers here, nestling eggs into pockets of perfectly cooked, tomatoey nuggets of potato.
Asparagus and peas for spring? Groundbreaking. But a couple of fresh (or frozen!) vegetables go a long way in brightening a bowl of subtly seasoned barley. Ali Slagle spikes the broth with soy sauce, miso, ginger and rice vinegar, so it’s both comforting and invigorating.
Recipe: Spring Barley Soup
If you’ve ever stocked up on frozen corn without much of a plan, look no further than this recipe from Hetty McKinnon. For a cream-free creamed corn, thawed kernels are blitzed in a blender to release their starches, then seasoned with ginger, garlic and scallions, and mixed with vegetable stock and a cornstarch slurry. The result is a sweet and savory topping for cool silken tofu.
Recipe: Sook Mei Faan (Cantonese Creamed Corn With Tofu and Rice)
When your pantry is stocked with flavor-packed staples like gochujang, brown sugar, soy sauce and garlic, you can easily toss together a hearty stew with just a couple of cheap vegetables and a can of beans. This aromatic one-pot meal from Eric Kim leans on baby potatoes, Tuscan kale and cannellini beans for plenty of heft, but serving it with some steamed white rice will ensure no one leaves the table hungry.
“Deceptively simple; incredibly delicious.” Take it from the comments: While this Ali Slagle recipe is rife for riffing, as written, it is the ideal combination of smart technique and affordable, staple ingredients. Add more spices if you like, toss in extra broccoli if you’ve got it — it’s sure to satisfy.
Recipe: One-Pot Broccoli Mac and Cheese
Freezer-friendly? Protein- and fiber-packed? Cheap? These quick burritos filled with buttery refried beans are a little bit of everything. Mashing the pinto beans with some pico de gallo, as Kay Chun does here, balances the richness of the filling for burritos that taste like they took three times the time.
To minimize food waste and be economical, save those Parmesan rinds. When simmered in water or broth, as Melissa Clark does here, they add complex savoriness without needing to buy additional ingredients. Cabbage and rice lend plenty of body to this soup, which manages to be humble and luxurious all at once.
Recipe: Parmesan Cabbage Soup
Want to make simple vegetables taste expensive? Toss them in a silky, tangy piccata sauce made of little more than butter, lemon, capers, and sautéed garlic and shallot. Hetty McKinnon pairs roasted, lightly caramelized cauliflower florets with canned chickpeas for a well-rounded meal.
Recipe: Cauliflower Piccata