A casserole is, technically speaking, a meal baked in a single deep dish, often a cheesy combination of various vegetables, proteins and starches. But on the coldest of nights, a casserole is also a warm blanket, a snug sweatshirt, a hug from a friend. Below are some of the best vegetarian options New York Times Cooking has to offer; some are cheesy, others crunchy, but all are comforting in their own ways. And for even more vegetarian cooking inspiration, be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter, The Veggie.
This grains-and-vegetable casserole from Sarah DiGregorio has all of the best qualities of eggplant Parmesan — without the multiple pans the classic dish requires. The flavors are also reminiscent of pizza, making it an easy sell for the kids in your life. Kalamata olives fleck the dish, creating welcome moments of brininess with each bite.
Choose your favorite white bean as the base in this protein-packed bake from Martha Rose Shulman. Three hours in an oven at low heat yields beans that are so creamy, you won’t even notice that this casserole is dairy-free. You will, however, be grateful for the crisp and crunchy bread-crumb topping, which complements the silky textures below it.
Recipe: Slow-Baked Beans With Kale
At first glance, you’d have no idea how many vegetables are tucked away in this casserole: Leeks! Spinach! Fennel! Mushrooms, beans and wild rice guarantee full and satisfied stomachs, making this Melissa Clark recipe a great option for the vegetarian main event at any upcoming holiday celebrations.
Recipe: Wild Rice and Mushroom Casserole
The ingredient list for this comforting pasta bake from Lidey Heuck may seem short, but it isn’t short on flavor. Fresh basil, garlic and red-pepper flakes go a long way in elevating an otherwise simple weeknight meal, and a solid serving of spinach ensures everything feels a bit more balanced.
Recipe: Cheesy Baked Orzo With Marinara
Set aside the cream of mushroom soup in favor of a vegan sauce of white button mushrooms, your favorite alternative milk and a bit of flour to bind this classic Thanksgiving dish. Gena Hamshaw reaches for all fresh vegetables in her version, but she’ll save you some time on the topping — go ahead and use those store-bought French fried onions!
Recipe: Vegan Green Bean Casserole
Put down the boxed mac and cheese in favor of this dish adapted by Julia Moskin from Nigella Lawson, which hardly takes much more time or effort. The recipe incorporates more than a pound of brussels sprouts in the process, so you don’t have to make a separate side of vegetables to round out the meal.
Get those crisp, cheesy lasagna edges without the fuss of a layered dish using this recipe from Ali Slagle. It’s a simple five-ingredient dish that’s ripe for adaptation: Add hearty greens like kale or collard greens, toss in last night’s roasted vegetables or switch up the flavor profile with your favorite spice blends. Or don’t — it will be delicious all the same.
Consider this recipe from Colu Henry the casserole embodiment of a luxurious wool sweater. It is cozy and warming, with ribbons of Gruyère, fontina and pecorino binding tender florets of cauliflower. It is rich, and, according to one New York Times Cooking reader, “the best cauliflower recipe I have ever found.”
The anise-like qualities of fennel are significantly tamed when the vegetable is cooked and allowed to caramelize slightly, as in this recipe from Aaron Hutcherson. Beans are part of both the sauce and the filling; some are puréed, while others are left whole to mingle with the fennel. The soft and tender filling gets a showering of lemony panko for some necessary crunch.
Broccoli and Cheddar make for a deliciously nostalgic combination, and Sarah Jampel leans into that by topping this casserole with crushed, buttery Ritz Crackers. While her recipe does contain a deceivingly large amount of broccoli (four heads!), it is comfort food first and vegetable-forward second.
Recipe: Cheesy Broccoli Casserole
It would be incredibly rude to round up a team of casserole all-stars and not include the Michael Jordan of the category: lasagna. While this version from Samin Nosrat is among the more involved options, it’s worth the effort. The homemade lasagna sheets and tomato sauce are totally optional, but also a fun project. Take it from one reader: “This is the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted!”