Meatless Recipes for Lent and Throughout the Year

Try Something New This Lent

Lent is not known as a time for haute cuisine. Tuna-noodle casserole; macaroni and cheese; fish sticks: These are the standard Lent recipes of many a Catholic household on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent—the days when the Church requires us to avoid eating meat.

But our Lenten abstinence does not have to mean bland food. The recipes we often associate with Lent are primarily popular American dishes from the 1950's. Catholic culture in Europe and Asia, however, has been coping with Friday abstinence (and not just during Lent) a lot longer.

The collections of Lent recipes below may make you long for Lenten Fridays. And if you observe the traditional Friday abstinence, you can use these Lent recipes every Friday of the year!

Lenten Egg Recipes

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© Barbara Rolek, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Every Catholic family has its fallback Lenten food—the one you make when you can't think of anything else to eat. (Spaghetti and macaroni and cheese are pretty common ones.) For my family, it's usually eggs in some form, particularly scrambled eggs or egg foo yung. Quick, easy, economical, packed with protein—eggs make a great Lenten food.

The potential uses for eggs are limited only by your imagination, as these Lenten egg recipes from Barbara Rolek, the About Eastern European Food Expert, show. Polish stuffed eggs, Eastern European crepes, salmon turnovers, Russian cabbage pie—these are probably not the first things that come to mind when you think of eggs. But all of these recipes are egg-based, and every one is delicious!

  • Lenten Egg Recipes

Pareve Main Dishes

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Salmon Soba Salad. © Miri Rotkovitz, licensed to About.com

Kosher food may seem an odd source of Lenten recipes, but as Miri Rotkovitz, the About Kosher Food Expert, points out, "since kosher dietary laws prohibit mixing dairy and meat, it's pretty easy to hone in on Lent-appropriate kosher recipes. All pareve (neutral—i.e., non-meat, non-dairy) dishes necessarily exclude meat, and dairy dishes do as well." Miri's site features a wealth of Pareve Main Dishes, with a heavy emphasis on fish and tofu. Her Dairy Main Dishes feature lots of eggs and vegetables, and include a number of soups and pastas, so most of them could serve equally well as side dishes during Lent.

  • Pareve Main Dishes
  • Dairy Main Dishes

Top Eastern European Fish and Shellfish Recipes

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© Barbara Rolek, licensed to About.com, Inc.

In 2005, during Orthodox Easter, I had the pleasure of spending 12 days in Serbia and Montenegro. One of the great surprises of that trip was eating grilled carp in a hotel in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, freshly caught in the stream that ran alongside the hotel. It was some of the best fish I have ever eaten, and it gave me a new respect for a fish that doesn't have a very high reputation here in the United States.

These Top Eastern European Fish and Shellfish Recipes from Barbara Rolek, the About Eastern European Food Expert, may change your mind about carp (though you'll want to omit the bacon in the carp recipe during Lent)—and herring, too (though herring has long been one of my favorites). But even if you'd rather stick to less adventuresome choices—say, salmon and cod and trout and shrimp—Barb has dozens of delightful recipes for you as well.

  • Top Eastern European Fish and Shellfish Recipes

Eastern European Cheese Recipes

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© Barbara Rolek, licensed to About.com, Inc.

While cheese is a no-go for Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, during Great Lent, Latin Rite Catholics can make use of it—and do, as the ubiquitous Lenten macaroni and cheese testifies. You won't find macaroni and cheese in this collection of Eastern European cheese recipes offered by Barbara Rolek, the About Eastern European Food Expert, but you will find Lent-friendly recipes from appetizers through dessert. A few have variations with meat, so if you grow fond of them during Lent, you can try the carnivore versions during the Easter season!

  • Eastern European Cheese Recipes

Lenten Recipes From Germany

When we think of German food, we think of sausages and sauerbraten, not meatless dishes. Since Germany was the home of the Protestant Reformation, it's easy to forget that parts of the country, especially Bavaria, still hold tight to the Catholic Faith.

These traditional German recipes, presented by Jennifer McGavin, the About German Food Expert, are the sorts of things that Pope Benedict XVI might have eaten during Lent, while growing up in his native land.

  • Lenten Recipes From Germany

French Lent Recipes

Perhaps more than any other Western European cuisine, French food offers a wide variety of elegant meatless dishes. Not all of the recipes in this list are specifically for Lent, but all of them are appropriate for days of abstinence from meat. Let Rebecca Franklin, the About French Food Expert, show you how to add some simple yet elegant variety to your Lenten menu!

  • 25 French Vegetarian Recipes
  • French Lent Recipes
  • Ratatouille Recipe for Lent
  • Pan Bagnat Recipe

Spanish Main Course Recipes for Lent

Americans are well acquainted with Mexican food (or at least an Americanized version of it), but relatively few of us know much about Spanish food, to which it is related. As Lisa and Tony Sierra, the About Spanish Food Experts, point out, though, Spanish food is perfect for Lent, because the Spaniards eat quite a bit of seafood. Still, not all of these recipes, which include tapas (appetizers), paella, soup, and dessert, contain seafood, so there's something here for everyone.

  • Spanish Tapas Recipes for Lent
  • Spanish Main Course Recipes for Lent
  • Vegetarian Paella
  • Potaje de Garbanzos y Espinacas - Garbanzo and Spinach Soup
  • How to Make Torrijas - Spanish Bread Pudding Recipe

Mexican Recipes for Lent

You will find some overlap between Spanish Lent recipes and Mexican ones, but this collection of Mexican recipes for Lent offered by Chelsie Kenyon, the About Mexican Food Expert, may look a bit more familiar. Many staples of Mexican restaurants in the United States, such as cheese enchiladas, chile rellenos, and chilaquiles, make perfect Lenten foods. But Chelsea also includes some delicious side dishes and wonderful desserts-for those of us who haven't given up dessert for Lent!

  • Mexican Recipes for Lent

Italian Recipes for Lent

When we think of the Catholic Church, most of us think of Rome. Under the traditional Lenten fast in the Western Church, no meat was allowed at all during Lent. (And you thought that meatless Fridays were bad enough!) It's no surprise, then, that the Italians developed many wonderful Lenten recipes that are often quite simple and wholesome, yet very delicious.

Kyle Phillips, the late About Italian Food Expert, offered the following collections of his favorite Lenten recipes:

  • Favorite Lenten Recipes
  • More Healthy Recipes for Lent
  • Ribollita & Minestra di Pane
  • Baccala, or Salt Cod, is Perfect!
  • More Healthy Recipes for Lent
  • Spaghetti With Tuna Sauce - Spaghetti al Tonno
  • How To Select a Fish and Estimate Its Cooking Time

Chinese Fish Recipes

Looking for Lent recipes that are a little more exotic? Tired of eating your fish in the ever-popular stick form? These Chinese fish recipes, courtesy of Rhonda Parkinson, the About Chinese Food Expert, may be the cure for your Lenten blues! All of these recipes, which range from stir fries to salmon burgers, are healthy and simple to prepare.

  • Chinese Fish Recipes

Lenten Recipes for Busy Families

My children love meat; they expect it every meal. So planning meatless meals for Lent that will satisfy them takes some time and effort—and those are two things that families may find to be in short supply. That's where Stephanie Gallagher, the About Cooking for Kids Expert, comes in. Her list of ten Lenten Recipes for Busy Families has something that should satisfy even the pickiest of eaters—from salmon patties and baked cod to Mexican pizza, fish tacos, and vegetarian chili, and three Italian-inspired pasta dishes. All are simple, yet so full of flavor that your kids won't even miss the meat.

Make sure to check out Stephanie's collection of Fish Recipes for Kids and her Salmon Recipes as well—all of which are just as easy to cook and just as likely to satisfy hungry children.

  • Lenten Recipes for Busy Families
  • Fish Recipes for Kids
  • Salmon Recipes

Low-Carb Foods for Lent

Have you ever gained weight during Lent, even though you fasted every day and only rarely ate meat? If you're like me, you're one of those people who can benefit from a low-carb diet. Yet our Lenten staples are high in carbohydrates: spaghetti and other noodles; potatoes; breaded fish; even just bread.

You don't need to break your low-carb diet, though, just because it's Lent. Many of the European cuisines listed on this page offer low-carb recipes, but to make it easier to find some, Laura Dolson, the Low Carb Diets Expert at our sister site VeryWell, has compiled a list of low-carb Lenten resources.

  • Low-Carb Vegetarian Resources
  • Vegetable Dishes Low in Carbohydrates
  • More Low-Carb Side Dishes

Whole Foods Recipes for Lent

The "Whole Foods" lifestyle has become more common in recent years, as many people have come to question the wisdom of filling ourselves with prepackaged, processed food. If you've ever thought of moving your diet in more of a whole-foods direction, there's no better time than Lent. As Jen Hoy, the About Whole Foods Cooking Expert, points out, "Whole foods cooking lends itself easily to Lenten cooking with its abundant and simple vegetarian and seafood recipes, and light, clean desserts." Jen's 24 Whole Foods Recipes for Lent will take you through an entire meal, from appetizers to dessert.

  • Whole Foods Recipes for Lent

Greek Orthodox Fasting Recipes

Eastern Orthodox (and many Eastern Catholics) practice a much stricter Lenten fast than Roman Catholics do. They abstain not only from meat but from eggs, dairy products, and even, at points, from oils. That may not seem to leave much that they can eat, but as Nancy Gaifyllia, the About Greek Food Expert, shows in these collections of Lenten recipes, you might eat better when you are fasting than when you're not!

  • Lenten Appetizers & Mezethes for Greek Orthodox Fasting
  • Lenten Salads & Side Dishes for Greek Orthodox Fasting
  • 12 Favorite Greek Lenten & Fasting Recipes
  • Lenten Main Dishes for Greek Orthodox Fasting
  • Menu: Kathari Theftera (Clean Monday) (Clean Monday is the first day of Orthodox Lent, and one of the strictest fasting days)

Serbian Lent Recipes

Heading a little bit further north in Eastern Europe, the Serbian Lent recipes offered by Barbara Rolek, the About Eastern European Food Expert, are typical of Slavic Orthodox recipes for Lent and other fasting periods. While Orthodox fasting rules are more strict than Western Catholic ones, many Eastern Catholics observe a Lenten fast that is as strict as that of their Orthodox brethren. And, of course, all Catholics can incorporate Orthodox Lenten recipes into their own Lenten observance for a little variety.

  • Serbian Lent Recipes
  • Foods That Are OK to Eat for Serbian Orthodox Lent and Other Fasting Times

Meatless Fridays, during Lent or throughout the year, can present a challenge for the busy cook. All of these appetizer recipes are meat-free and very easy to prepare. Use them to add a little elegance to your meatless meals on Ash Wednesday, the Fridays of Lent, and the Fridays throughout the year. All of the recipes come from Linda Larsen, the About Busy Cooks Expert.

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Fish for Lent

One of the reasons fish sticks were such a staple of Lenten cuisine, despite the fact that few people would ever admit to liking them, is that they were quick and easy to make. But Linda Larsen, the About Busy Cooks Expert, has a secret to share with us: Many fish recipes are just as easy, as long as you start with frozen fish fillets, shrimp, or canned salmon. In fact, the recipes she has selected for Lent are "so simple they only take a few minutes from start to finish." With recipes this good and this easy, you'll never go back to fish sticks!

  • Fish for Lent