7 Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Recipes for the Budget Foodie

A person holds a spoonful of a greek yogurt parfait.
This three-ingredient Greek yogurt parfait is both simple and inexpensive to make with all of the ingredients bought from Trader Joe's. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

If you’re looking for a way to cut food costs and still eat well, going vegetarian could be the solution — especially if you know what to cook.

Fortunately, we’ve come up with some tasty budget-friendly meatless recipes that you can find by shopping at Trader Joe’s.

It’s not as if being a vegetarian is a new concept — or a fringe idea. Nearly one in four Americans reported eating less meat in the previous year, according to a 2019 Gallup Poll.

And with food prices steadily rising, cutting food costs could offer a major way to save. (Also check out this article on additional ways to save on food costs.)

Beyond cutting costs by buying less meat, plant-based diets offer potential health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart attack, certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

By incorporating simple ingredients you can find at Trader Joe’s, these vegetarian recipes can help prevent you from getting bored with your food — or breaking the bank.

7 Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Recipes for the Budget Foodie

We’ve found some delicious ways to make simple meatless dishes, whether you’re a committed vegetarian or simply trying to eat less meat than you usually do.

Going vegetarian doesn’t have to mean going all-in organic (though you can check out these seven ways to save on organic food) or spending a bundle on fancy meat substitutes.

To make meals healthy but still delicious, simply include a protein-rich food and look for ways to incorporate vegetables or fruit in every meal.

Here are seven of our favorite meals to make after a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s.

1. Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Trader Joe’s does the hard part for you — it sells cauliflower that is already “riced” in the frozen vegetable section. Cook the riced cauliflower with minced garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt and pepper. (Trader Joe’s even sells already-prepared frozen vegetable fried rice for $3.)

From there, add your favorite vegetables or whatever you have in your freezer or fridge — think: carrot, celery and onion. You can toss in a scrambled egg for extra protein.

Cauliflower fried rice is surprisingly filling, especially when served with tofu for a protein boost. You’ll get several servings of vegetables with this meal and lots of vitamin C from the cauliflower.

2. Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers With Fries

Although the Trader Joe’s Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers don’t pretend to taste like meat, they’re a pretty good substitute when you’re having a burger craving.

Inspired by cowboy caviar, the patties are filled with quinoa, black beans, peppers and roasted corn. Serve on a whole wheat bun for a boost of fiber, and skip the fries in favor of veggies (or veggie fries!) to make the meal healthier.

You can load up the burger with a tomato, sauteed onion, mayonnaise and cheese — or whatever toppings you’re craving.

This burger is lower in protein (it only has 5 grams on its own; the bun has 5 grams too), but it’s an easy, healthy vegetarian option.

3. Greek Yogurt Parfait

Greek yogurt has an unbelievable amount of protein. The nonfat version has 15 grams in one serving — that goes a long way toward your daily intake. Buy the unflavored Greek yogurt to avoid too much added sugar, then add honey to sweeten to taste. From there, add your favorite toppings; we recommended blueberries and granola.

This Greek yogurt parfait is perfect for breakfast, lunch, snacks — whenever. It resembles a dessert but is seriously protein-packed, and it even has a serving of fruit.

4. Kale and Chickpea Salad

Even if you’re a vegetarian, salads can get a bit boring — and some veggies get a bad rap, like kale. The key is in how you prepare it. Before dressing the salad, go through the kale leaves to remove hard stems.

After rinsing, add a small spoonful of olive oil and gently massage the kale to break it down and remove bitterness. Start with more kale than you want to end up with, because after you’re done massaging it, it shrinks to nearly half its size.

A bowl of a kale and chickpea salad.
The ingredients for this kale and chickpea salad can be found at Trader Joe’s. The total is $11.26 for four servings. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Now, the best part. Pour Trader Joe’s Goddess Dressing, a creamy Greek dressing, over the greens (not too much!). Stir to combine. Then top with chickpeas and shredded parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Now, enjoy the best salad you’ve ever had.

5. Tofu and Vegetable Biryani

This is an easy meal to make, but it still packs protein and vegetable servings. It’s the ultimate lazy dinner meal — you can make it in the microwave in under four minutes.

If you’re wondering, “What’s biryani?” It’s a mixed rice dish from India that can have vegetables, meat, eggs or potatoes.

Combine it with Trader Joe’s Sriracha Baked Tofu for protein and to make it a full meal.

Beware of the high sodium content — especially if you’re adding a sauce. This meal will give you 20 grams of protein per serving.

6. Brussels Sprouts With Sweet Potato

For this recipe, pour maple syrup and soy sauce over the Brussels sprouts and then oven-bake until they’re crispy (about 25 minutes at 400 degrees).

Once they’re done, add a sprinkling of goat cheese. The creaminess of the cheese complements the crunchy, sweet flavor of the glazed Brussels sprouts perfectly.

This meal is surprisingly filling, so just add a baked sweet potato to enhance the sweet flavor and add some diversity — and a huge dose of vitamins — to your plate. If sweet potatoes aren’t your thing, cook these Brussels sprouts as a side and add to your other favorite meals.

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Goat cheese
  • Sweet potato

7. Honorable Mention: Tikka Vegetables and Naan Bread

OK, this isn’t the healthiest lunch in the world, but it is quite delicious. Whenever it’s cooking, someone is bound to note how good it smells.

Watch your sodium on days you make these — like most frozen foods, Trader Joe’s Tikka Vegetables contains an unhealthy amount, especially coupled with other processed food. But it’s a nice treat packed with health-benefiting spices, veggies and 4 grams of protein.

It heats up quickly in the microwave and is good to have on hand for emergency lunch situations. If the tikka veggies alone isn’t usually enough to keep you full through dinner, crisp up garlic naan bread in the oven (another 7 grams of protein, and a good source of fiber!) or add on some vegetable samosas (4 grams of protein). This meal is fast and comes in at a few bucks per serving.

Joline Buscemi is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Senior editor Johna Strickland contributed.