10 Delicious and Cheap Vegan Meals That Bust Cost Myths

Tempeh and tofu sit on a cutting board with lentils and spices
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One of the biggest misconceptions about eating a vegan diet is that it’s too expensive. But cheap vegan meals are a thing, and they taste good.

Processed vegan meats, artisan vegan cheeses and vegan eggs are a delicious treat, but the cost can quickly drain your bank account when you are aiming to create vegan meals.

For example, a 16-ounce pack of Great Value American cheese slices runs $2.66, whereas a pack of 7-ounce Follow Your Heart vegan American cheese slices is almost double the price at $4.98. Beef and plant-based meat substitutes are a different issue and depending on where you shop and what grade of beef is compared, prices could be comparable.

However, you can find two Impossible Burgers (8 ounces total) for anywhere from $5 to $6.50. The national average for 1 pound of ground beef is about $4.50 and that would be about $2.25 for 8 ounces.

10 Vegan Recipes on the Cheap

Cheap vegan recipes are affordable and can be made using ingredients you likely already have in your pantry or fridge. Look to natural, not processed, ingredients to save money.

According to Ipsos, a global market research company, there are over 9.7 million vegans in the U.S. That number has increased by 500% since 2014. Even though the actual percentage of vegans in the U.S. is still relatively small, there is a much higher percentage of people who are not strictly vegan, but aim to be.

And more people are joining the movement to eat meatless at least one day of the week which is increasing interest in vegetarian and vegan cooking. Meatless Monday began in 2003 to increase awareness and provide resources.  So many people are looking for ideas for vegan meals.

Whether you’re looking to fully commit to a plant-based diet, or just want to incorporate more plant foods into your daily routine, here are 10 vegan recipes that are affordable, accessible and versatile.

Black bean enchiladas sit on a plate.
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1. Black Bean Avocado Enchiladas

Beans are among the most versatile and commonly eaten foods throughout the world, and many varieties are grown in the U.S. Beans provide fiber, folate, iron, potassium and magnesium while containing little or no total fat, trans-fat, sodium or cholesterol.

Whether you’re using dried or canned beans, they are one of the cheapest protein sources there is, and can be found in any grocery or convenience store.

Vegan Black Bean Avocado Enchiladas from the Garden Grazer  feature creamy avocado, sweet corn and Mexican-inspired enchilada sauce that will satisfy the taste buds and wallet of any budget-friendly vegan. Top with cilantro and pico de gallo to add some extra, fresh flavor.

The Cost of This Dish

According to the Bean Institute, it’s cheaper to cook with dried beans than canned. A 1-pound bag of dried beans will normally cost less than $2 and makes more than 12 1-cup servings. However, it will take time as the beans should soak in water overnight and then cook for a couple of hours. If time is an issue and you don’t want that much food, consider store-brand canned beans and you’ll likely pay less than $1 per 12-ounce can.

2. Everyday Buddha Bowl

Buddha bowls are one of the best ways to get a wide variety of nutrients in one tasty meal. They are easy to make, exceptionally healthy and completely customizable. One explanation for the name is that the bowl includes a balanced mix of ingredients and balance is a primary concept in Buddhism.

These savory bowls often include a legume like chickpeas, fresh veggies such as kale and a drizzle of dressing atop a base like quinoa, noodles or most commonly, rice.

People have been growing and consuming rice for at least 5,000 years, and it’s a staple food for more than half of the world’s population. Jazzing up rice into a full meal is highly affordable and a great way to meal prep for the week.

Check out Everyday Buddha Bowl from Sweet Potato Soul that features roasted sweet potatoes, spicy kimchi and steamed broccoli to get inspired. Sprinkle some pumpkin seeds and soy sauce on top if you’re feeling extra.

The Cost of This Dish

The typical 32-ounce bag of rice only runs you about $1, which makes 20 servings. Fresh veggies can be a challenge to find on a budget, but it’s not impossible. Buying your fresh produce when it’s in season can save you. Fruits and vegetables are “in season” during the time of the year they are naturally harvested.

Get the most muscle for your money with these cheap, high-protein vegan and vegetarian foods.

Biscuit pot pie sits in a cast iron skillet.
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3. Tofu Vegetable Biscuit Pot Pie

Tofu is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of vegan food. It has been a staple of vegetarians and vegans for decades, and has existed for over 2,000 years. Packed with protein, tofu also contains all nine essential amino acids, and it’s a great source of magnesium, zinc and vitamin B1.

A block of tofu is only a couple of bucks, and can be prepared in many different ways. Silken tofu is the perfect base for vegan cheesecake, medium or firm tofu works well in a sizzling stir fry, and super firm tofu can be used in Tofu Vegetable Biscuit Pot Pie from Mississippi Vegan.

You can use whatever veggies you have on hand for this main dish, and to make it even more budget friendly, go with frozen vegetables. You can often find mixed bags of frozen peas, carrots and corn for only a few dollars. The best part? It’s topped with fluffy, golden brown biscuits making it a dinner the whole family will love.

The Cost of This Dish

This recipe calls for a 16-ounce block of super firm tofu which costs under $2. If you have an Asian market nearby, you can sometimes find it for even cheaper. An 8-count container of refrigerated  biscuits is about $2 and some brands are “accidentally” vegan. For example, Pillsbury Grands! includes vegetable oils rather than butter to add flavor and moisture.

For your vegan pot pie, add a 12-ounce bag of frozen mixed veggies for under $1, making the bulk of this meal cost around $6 and serves several people.

4. Tempeh Stir Fry with Peanut Ginger Sauce

Tempeh is often misunderstood, but like tofu, it’s a major traditional soy food and staple of vegan diets. A fermented soy product, tempeh has become a popular meat replacement that is now commonly found on even the most unsuspecting menus.

Tempeh is cheap and has a myriad of health benefits. It’s high in prebiotics and a wide array of vitamins and minerals. It can be crumbled to imitate ground beef, glazed with tangy bbq sauce and eaten like ribs, or cubed like in Tempeh Stir Fry with Peanut Ginger Sauce from Jessica in the Kitchen.

The Cost of This Dish

For about $3 you can buy a 7.5-ounce package of tempeh. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can ferment your own tempeh at home. A 12-ounce bag of frozen soy beans to make tempeh is only $2, and fermenting on your own opens the door to customize your tempeh using whatever kind of legumes or grains you want.

A tortilla chip is dipped in vegan cheese.
Photo courtesy of Simply Vegan

5. Potato-Based Vegan Cheese

Who doesn’t love potatoes? Rich in several micronutrients, potato is a versatile starch that is highly popular worldwide, and is prepared and served in a variety of ways.

You probably already enjoy mashed potatoes or a roasted sweet potato with your meals, but in the vegan world, potatoes are actually a popular ingredient in making vegan cheese sauce. Cheese is often one of the hardest things to let go of when going vegan, but don’t worry – you can easily make delicious, creamy cheese sauce out of potatoes. Next time you need some vegan queso for nachos, or have a craving for vegan mac and cheese, try Vegan Cheese Recipe from Simple Vegan Blog.

The Cost of This Dish

For best results when making this vegan cheese sauce, you’ll want to use yukon gold potatoes. You can get a 3-pound bag for under $5. This variety of potato is in season between late summer and early fall.

6. Crispy Roasted Cauliflower with Creamy Garlic Parmesan Pasta

We all know how cheap and easy pasta is to prepare. Pasta is versatile too. It serves as a perfect foundation for any hearty vegan recipe. With so many combinations of pairings to round out the dish, it can be overwhelming to choose but combining leftovers or other items in your fridge that are on their last leg make for an easy, budget friendly meal.

Crispy Roasted Cauliflower with Creamy Garlic Parmesan Pasta from Make It Dairy Free combines thick fettuccine noodles, crispy cauliflower tossed with olive oil and spices, and a creamy garlic parmesan sauce.

The Cost of This Dish

A 16-ounce box of fettuccine noodles is less than $1, and a head of cauliflower is about $3. Canned coconut milk gives this dish the creaminess you usually get from heavy cream, which you can buy for less than $3 per 14-ounce can.

7. Bold and Filling Lentil Taco Salad

Lentils are often overlooked, even though they’re an inexpensive way of getting a wide range of nutrients. They’re packed with B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Lentils are made up of over 25% protein, which makes them an excellent meat alternative.

You can use lentils as a ground beef substitute in soups, make a mock meatloaf, or bulk up a salad like in Bold and Filling Lentil Taco Salad from Pick Up Limes.

The Cost of This Dish

For less than $1, you can buy a 16-ounce bag of dried lentils which makes two servings. Unlike dried beans, dried lentils are much less labor intensive when it comes to cooking. They don’t have to be soaked overnight and only take about 20 minutes to cook.

The recipe also calls for raw walnuts and cashews. Nuts are one of the more pricey ingredients commonly used in vegan recipes. However, buying nuts in bulk makes a noticeable difference on your receipt. For example, a pound of cashews from a bulk bin is $6, compared to $8 per pound container at a traditional grocery store.

A bowl full of strawberry ice cream made from bananas and strawberries.
Photo courtesy of Minimalist Baker

8. Banana Ice Cream

Bananas don’t have to always be just a quick, healthy snack or topping on cereal. Broke vegans around the globe have relied on this cheap fruit to make delicious and easy vegan ice cream.

The starch content in bananas makes for a perfectly creamy texture that can then be loaded up with whatever flavors or toppings you like. Easy Banana Ice Cream from the Minimalist Baker serves as an ultimate guide and offers 10 flavors to try.

The Cost of This Dish

A bunch of bananas costs less than $2. Since making vegan ice cream calls for frozen bananas, keep an eye out for when stores discount the fruit as it starts to over-ripen and freeze them for long-term storage. Plus, the riper the banana, the sweeter its taste. Perfect for a frozen confection.

9. Healthy Two-Person Berry Crumble

Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth. They’re a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits. These include weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Oats aren’t just for breakfast though. Sweeten them with fruit and maple syrup to make a perfect date-night dessert like Healthy Two-Person Berry Crumble created by From My Bowl.

The Cost of This Dish

A 42-ounce container of Great Value Old Fashioned Oats is under $3. (Great Value is Walmart’s store brand.) While that seems like a lot of oats to go through, when kept in a dry place, commercially processed oats can last up to 2 years. You can also blend your oats into a fine flour, making a great gluten free alternative for baking.

Fresh berries are typically pretty expensive so make sure to buy fresh in season or at a farmers market. Even better, keep an eye out of U-pick farms near you. In the meantime, an 18-ounce container of fresh blueberries costs about $5, but a 48-ounce bag of frozen blueberries is comparably cheaper, costing just over $7.

A person wearing yellow nail polish holds seitan in her hand.
Photo courtesy of The Viet Vegan

10. Washed-Flour Seitan

Duh, flour is cheap and vegan. However, you may not know that this pantry staple can be used to make incredible mock meat that is on par with the expensive, big-brand meat analogues.

A recent viral sensation on TikTok (#washedflour), washed-four seitan is the lesser known meat alternative that has been around just about as long as tempeh and tofu. Seitan is typically made with vital wheat gluten, which can be pricey and is usually hard to find. But with a few extra steps, you can make mouth-watering vegan chicken, spicy pepperoni, savory steak and more with regular ‘ol flour.

This Washed-Flour Method Recipe from the Viet Vegan guides you through the basic steps of making meaty, pull-apart “chicken” seitan that will only cost you a few dollars.

The Cost of This Dish

A 10-pound bag of all-purpose flour costs under $3. While any flour will do, you’ll get the best results with a flour that has at least 11 percent protein content. A 5-pound bag of King Arthur all-purpose flour that contains 11.7 percent protein is just under $4.

Consider the Myth Busted

Now you know. Cheap vegan meals with great taste and easy-to-find ingredients are possible and often under $5. As veganism continues to gain popularity, all it takes is a quick search online to find incredible vegan recipes that are healthy, filling and affordable.

Contributor Tiffany Beyer is a social media coordinator and marketer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. She specializes in real estate and lifestyle stories.