25 Cheap and Easy Meatless Meal Ideas (NORMAL Food!)

Are you looking for normal Meatless Meal ideas for Lent? The kind you can afford, kids will actually eat, and aren’t sprinkled with goat cheese or pine nuts? Well, I made a list of “normal” food that is meatless to help me on Fridays this Lent, and I thought I would share it with you. Here goes!

If you scroll down to the bottom of this post, I also have a simple printable version of this list plus a few bonus ideas! I love having this list of simple meatless meal ideas that aren’t complicated. 

For more Lenten recipes for kids, check out The Symbolic Holy Week & Easter Cookbook! This cookbook includes 23 recipes that point to the true meaning of Easter. It only includes 29 pages of bonus printables! You do not want to miss this amazing resource. 

Meatless Family-Friendly (And EASY) Dinner Ideas

  • Cheese Pizza– I mean it doesn’t have to be cheese as long as it doesn’t have meat, so feel free to put all the vegetables on it that your heart desires as long as your kids will still eat it! This is so fast and easy for mom- a real life saver on a Friday in Lent. 
  • Mac and Cheese– This has got to be one of the cheapest and easiest meals to cook ever! And a kid pleaser for sure! 
  • Mexican (with beans instead of meat)– We love to make tacos or burritos but use the re-fried beans rather than meat. All the other toppings are still good to go- lettuce, salsa, guacamole, rice, chips, etc. 
  • Tomato Soup and grilled cheese– one of the easiest meals ever and ALWAYS on of my Lenten go-to meals. We like to make our grilled cheese with smoked Gouda. 
  • Pancakes- For dinner? Sure thing! They’re quick and easy and always a crowd pleaser! You can add blueberries, canned pumpkin, bananas, or even peanut butter for different twists. 
  • French Toast– Another breakfast for dinner idea! Just as delicious as pancakes and with all the protein of eggs!
  • Quiche-Breakfast for dinner again?! Yep! Quiche is a great option because the eggs keep you full and you can sneak some veggies in there as well. Depending on how picky your kids are, cut or blend the veggies super small. 
  • Loaded Baked Potatoes (with no bacon)– my kids like… absolutely love potatoes! We eat ours with butter, salt, pepper, sourcream, chives, and shredded cheese. 
  • Omelettes– another variation of quiche, but the usefulness of eggs can’t be overlooked when cooking meatless meals. 
  • Spaghetti– but without meat. I never use actual spaghetti shaped noodles because kids can’t cut or eat them, so I usually like a ziti or shell shape, but you get the idea. 
  • Quesadillas– I like to melt a little butter in a pan, put the tortilla shell, sprinkle it with a little bit of cumin and then garlic salt. Then I add the top tortilla. At that time it’s ready to flip. The butter makes it delicious and crispy! So fast and easy. 
  • Vegetarian Chili– So with all your favorite chili stuff, but minus the beef. A great idea for a slow cooker day! 
  • Fish (fish sticks, baked, broiled, fried, you get the idea)- our favorite way to eat fish is to bake tilapia. In a bowl, I mix some mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, and Worcester sauce. I spread this mixture across the top of the tilapia and bake it. Even my kids, who don’t “like fish” love to eat it this way. It’s delicious! 
  • Tuna Boats– I was surprised how easy these are to make and how much my kids like them! We bake them in the oven in hot dog buns and melt cheese on top. 
  • Tuna Helper– So it’s like hamburger helper, but you use tuna instead. 
  • Salmon Patties– Another really cheap and easy fish recipe for Lent! We eat them like burgers and they’re delicious. 
  • Shrimp And Grits– So for those of you who don’t know, I was born in Charleston and this is one of my favorite meals ever! Here’s the lazy way I make it: Saute small chopped onions in butter and garlic. Add the shrimp and saute until pink. Mix a bunch of instant grits and the right amount of water in the pan. The grits absorb all the butter and shrimp flavor and it’s awesome! 
  • Avocado Pasta– This is a new love in my family. Make pasta, but rather than using marina sauce, smash a ripe avacado over the pasta and add garlic salt to taste. This is actually totally delicious and all 4 of my kids love it. They will have to get past the green color lol. You can see a more involved recipe for avocado pasta here
  • Shrimp Teriyaki Lo Mein– Start your noodles boiling in one pot, and in a separate pan saute some onions, peppers, and veggies of choice in some soy sauce. Add half a can of crushed pineapple and all the juice from the can. Add your shrimp and saute until pink. Drain the noodles and add them to the pan. Stir together so noodles absorb the flavor. 

Meatless Sandwich Ideas For Kids

  • Peanut Butter (with jelly, honey, sugar, bananas… your choice). You don’t even have to have it on bread! You can put it on crackers or roll it up in tortillas or wraps and slice it like pinwheels for easy fun. This is a great staple for Lent because it’s cheap and easy protein. 
  • Egg salad– this is so easy to make! I just smash up hard boiled eggs and add mayonnaise, salt, pepper, a little bit of mustard, and sometimes sweet pickle relish. I don’t even measure anything and my kids always love this! 
  • Fried eggs– This is so fast and easy, and it doesn’t have to be breakfast to serve a fried egg sandwich! Fry your egg and serve it on toast or a bagel. We like ours also with some cheese, salt, and pepper on top. 
  • Pimento cheese– I have never made this from scratch, I buy mine from the grocery store in a tub. This is another great meatless sandwich option. 
  • Tuna salad– because Catholics can eat cold blooded animals on Fridays during Lent, fish (including tuna) is totally fair game! Another great way to get some protein. 

If you’re looking for a printable list of meatless meal ideas that you can keep in your liturgical binder for future reference, you download yours here.

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Meatless Fast Food Ideas

(I’m not saying I think eating a lot of fast food is a good idea, but if you catch yourself out on a Friday, you need to know where you can grab some guilt-free grub at a reasonable price!)

  • McDonalds- fish sandwishes, their new fish Mcbites, or just a salad and fries
  • Hardees- They just came out with a new fish sandwich
  • Wendy’s- fish sandwich, baked potato (hold the bacon bits)
  • Long John Silvers or Captain D’s
  • Taco Bell- cheese roll ups or anything with beans rather than meat
  • Cheese Pizza (Little Caesar’s, Pizza Hut Express, etc)
  • Subway- tuna or veggie sub or salad 
  • Chinese food- Take out or buffet style, there are always shrimp options! 

So before you start getting too creative with your food choices on Fridays during Lent…

weird food

Consider some of these fast, easy, and kid approved ideas. 😉 What are your go-to meatless meals for Lent? Tell us in the comments!

Disclaimer: The kid in these pictures is not my own. He is my little brother. Well, he’s also my Godson, so he’s kinda my own. 🙂

Be sure to check out my Page of Resources for Lent! It’s full of links and ideas!

I now have a printable Lent planning pack for moms that will help you prepare as well! Be sure to check that out for a smooth sailing and meaningful Lent. 


  1. We usually eat meatless Monday-Friday during Lent, so last year I made a Pinterest board with a lot of meal ideas so we weren’t eating the same thing over and over again. Many were the simple things you listed but I also put in a lot of ethnic food recipes and a few more elaborate things.

  2. I wrote a post a few days ago on this with a bunch of ideas (all of which my kids love, but my kids eat almost ANYTHING):


    Ravioli’s always a big favorite, and they go NUTS for gnocchi they love it so much… Cheese lasagna is easy to make ahead of time and you can pack it full of as much spinach as the family will stomach. And various soups – lentil, baked potato, broccoli cheese, etc.

    • I forgot about cheese ravioli and soups! Great suggestions. My kids are getting better about eating what they’re served, but it’s a daily struggle.

  3. We always have fish on Fridays throughout the year anyway and at least one meatless meal during the week. I have planned this month’s menu with some more meatless meal days for Lent.

    Some of our meatless meals are: Pumpkin chili, quinoa mac and cheese, black bean burgers, quiche, omelette, garbanzo and eggplant stew, spicy chickpeas, Lentil soup, lentil curry…

    Lentils are actually pretty versatile, I found that I can use them to replace minced beef/turkey in things like bolognese and shepherd’s pie etc.

  4. Thank you for compiling all these family-friendly meatless meals!
    Another one we do that I didn’t see is beans & cornbread or rice. May you have a Holy Lent!

  5. Jessie Parr says

    I make a batch of minute rice (white or brown) then add a can of black beans and a little salsa. Serve it with sour cream and shredded cheese on top – less than 30 minutes

  6. Thanks for the suggestions! I love your web site and find it SO helpful in planning my kindergarten RE classes.
    I just read also on americancatholic.org the following and I thought I would share. (I did not realize we could use chicken broth etc).

    Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat.

    Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden. So it is permissible to use margarine and lard. Even bacon drippings which contain little bits of meat may be poured over lettuce as seasoning.

    • Okay, I’ve gotta ask…Is he eating a real or candy spider? Thanks for the Lenten meatless meals idea!
      God bless.

    • I’ve been wondering about bacon grease. I usually use it when I make refried beans but was just thinking about whether that would be allowed. Thanks for the info!

      A couple of ideas for using canned tuna:
      * Tuna and noodles (cook a package of egg noodles, drain, add butter and 2 drained cans of tuna along with whatever seasoning you like – we like it with Penzey’s Mural of Flavor)
      * Tuna croquettes (canned tuna, crushed crackers, grated onion, egg, and salt/pepper to taste, formed into small ovals and baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees – this can also be made more “fancy” with chopped bell pepper/celery/onion/garlic and added parmesan, mayo, and any seasonings you like)

  7. Carol McHale says

    We make a lot of soups in Lent, too. Some, if not many, of the recipes use chicken broth or beef broth, but we think that’s ok because it’s for flavoring. One of our favorites is Tuscan Soup: spinach, beans, onions, and carrots. This is quick, easy, and very cost effective. Pair it with some homemade bread and you have a simple, meatless, but not tasteless, meal!

  8. Minestrone Soup
    (I made a double batch of this last night to have on Friday as well!)
    1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 small/medium onion, chopped
    1 large carrot, thinly sliced
    1-2 stalks celery, diced
    1 small zucchini
    4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
    1 cup frozen french cut green beans
    2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    2 15-ounce cans white beans like Great Northern or Canalini
    1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
    1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    32 ounces vegetable broth (that’s 4 cups)
    3 cups hot water
    1/2 cup ditalini or other small shell pasta
    4 cups loosely packed fresh spinach leaves
    2-3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

    Heat a large stock pot to medium high heat. Add olive oil to coat bottom of pan. Add onions, carrot, and celery. Saute 4-5 minutes, until onions start to look translucent. Add zucchini and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes longer, stirring until garlic is fragrant. Add green beans, kidney and white beans, tomatoes, and seasonings and stir to combine. Add broth and water and bring soup to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes, until carrots and celery are tender. Add pasta and cook until pasta is soft, 8-10 minutes. (Add additional vegetable broth or water if you feel you need it for preferred consistency.) Remove pot from heat and stir in spinach and parsley. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

    Yield: 8 servings (1 1/2 cups each)
    Nutritional Info: Calories: 250 Protein: 30 g Fat: 1 g Carbs: 68 g

  9. Love the list. Wish my kids weren’t allergic to wheat and dairy. Makes it more difficult to make kid-friendly meatless meals with food allergies. If anyone has any suggestions other than beans and rice or eggs please post. Have a blessed Lent.

    • Lol! I guess you’re looking for the more “special ingredient” type meals. I’ve had to go dairy free with Anabelle (while I’m nursing her) and it is certainly an extra challenge!

    • I have two boys with food allergies, so we have grain-free (GF/CF) lifestyle. I have made Tuna Chowder, made with coconut milk and cauliflower as substitutes for milk and potatoes. An immersion blender makes it easy to make it 1/2 chunky, 1/2 creamy. We also will have butternut squash soup with coconut flour muffins (banana, apple, cranberry, or whatever I feel like making). Lentil chili is a favorite. I make pancakes out of peanut butter and pumpkin, served with honey and cooked fruit….just some ideas. Just look up pecanbread.com has some great recipes, or search for GAPS diet recipes. Hope that helps!

  10. BTW, what is your brother eating (pretending to eat?) in the picture??

    • I would LOVE to know the same thing…looks creepy & not at all good for you! LOL

    • Lol! I’m not sure. Some kind of squid or octopus. I stole this picture from my mom’s facebook page. 😉

      • This isn’t about a lenten meal but I found it humorous that he is your brother…. I have a 10 year old brother (my parents midlife baby!) who is my Godson also! Just thought it was really neat you do as well! and very Catholic! LOL

        • Haha! So true! It’s funny how we can’t see what our lives need, but God can, and then he provides. My brother has been such an amazing blessing to us all!!!

  11. How about fish tacos made with butter fried tilapia and mayonnaise coleslaw? My family loves these with some tabasco sprinkled over the fish! We also love Zatarain’s Rice and Beans with cornbread.

  12. We have gotten panera on Friday but boy it’s expensive for a group.sonic, if you live near one, has grilled cheese, cheese sticks, and French toast sticks. Flying burrito has fish tacos too.we eat out too much it seems. 🙂

  13. Thank you! LOVE the website!

    We have added a crab scampi meal. It is usually made with chicken, but for lent we still saute veggies (mostly for adults…onion, pepper, squash, zucchini, whatever), toss with lightly buttered or olive oil noodles, and added imitation crab ($2.49 at grocery!) and lightly sauteed (turns tough quick!). top with cheese!

  14. Thanks for your easy recipes. Sometimes it’s fun to make stuff like salmon or shrimp (which my kids LOVE), but it does defeat the purpose of being a sacrifice!

  15. I recently found a great fish recipe that we all love. I really dislike fish and seafood; it is always too fishy smelling for me. I use Oriental Sea Bass, but you could use any white fish. Mix an egg and a little yellow mustard and dip the fish in it. Then use instant potatoes as a breading! Cook it in hot oil for 3ish minutes on each side. Voila! Yummy yummy yummy I tell you!

  16. I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t find it hard to have ‘normal’ meat free meals. However, if you are being REALLY picky, McDonalds fries are flavored with beef, so they really aren’t “meat free”. Interesting, huh?

  17. I use the sneaky chef suggestion and puree white beans and freeze it in ice cube trays. Then I add a cube to the pizza sauce or the spaghetti sauce and the kids get some protein(that they will actually eat) in their meatless meal.

  18. Here in the south we’re big fans of Shrimp & Grits. In fact, that’s what we had for Ash Wednesday last night!!

    • I’m from South Carolina and I LOVE shrimp and grits! Seems awfully yummy to eat as a sacrifice… 😉

  19. We love tortellini soup ~ cheese tortellini; tomato sauce + vegetable broth; Italian spices and Parmesan ~ easy. Delicious with homemade bread or biscuits. I even make it in the crock-pot.

  20. I thought you all could help my family with some great ideas to have more meatless meals during Lent. We use to go meatless for all 40 days, but that when we ate grains, dairy, and beans. Now we no longer eat any of those and to feed a family of six (God willing more) with just fish is so expensive. The whole idea is for us to make simple and not expensive meals. Sigh. We use to eat a lot of tortillas, beans, cheese, etc. but I am stumped in how to be paleo and not go into debt when trying to go meatless (nut flours, fresh fruit, fish, and fresh vegetables are very expensive where we live too) Any suggestions?

  21. Beans are great for something both cheap and meatless. We like to do black bean tacos, and my husband loves my baked falafel! Falafel is kind of a garbanzo bean fritter. We’ve eaten them on top of salads, and in tortillas with things like lettuce, tomatoes, and plain yogurt. I’ll be posting the recipe for it on my blog the next time I make it!

  22. Thanks for this. We go meat-free on Fridays year round, too, but every second week this means fish and chips as my eldest does gymnastics at a very awkward time on Fridays.

    I should also say, that my kids are very much Picky Eaters – no soups, no beans… makes it tough on DH and I! I am loving all the simple and creative ideas here.

    We have convinced them, though, that during Lent there will be no fish and chips from the shop (we will still do fish fingers and oven chips sometimes) and the money saved will go to the alms box.

    This is the recipe that my Mum used to make for us when I was growing up every Friday during Lent: (Chinese Prawn Omlettes) http://doffysdelicacies.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/chinese-prawn-omlettes/

  23. ooh, almost forgot:

    Fish Tacos (outstanding! But watch the red pepper! We buy fish fillets from Captain D’s because I hate frying. Also, cilantro adds a great flavor. Slaw mix works great for the cabbage portion.)

    And kids’ choice: English muffin pizzas (veggie of course)

  24. Tracy Bua Smith says

    Here’s a meatless meal that is a family favorite (even my kids like it) and it’s super easy! Seafood Spaghetti. Recipe on my blog here: http://asliceofsmithlife.blogspot.com/2011/03/mondays-meatless-meal-seafood-spaghetti.html

  25. We try to stay away from animal products most of the time. And we aren’t into seafood. So I get recipes from Dr. McDougall, E2diet.com, heartattackproof.com, and happyherbivore.com. All are healthy and the family loves them!

  26. We also go meatless on Wednesday during Lent. Other ideas are Red Beans and Rice, Shrimp Etouffee, White bean chili, Fish tacos, Ceviche, Hummus, Chinese Stir Fry, and Spring rolls.

  27. We have Tofu Surprise….I made this once and it got its name because we were surprised at how good it was 😉

    Drain Tofu, and lightly batter in Panko Crumbs
    Toast Tofu in Olive Oil over the stove

    While toasting tofu, boil pasta to liking, cook up broccoli or other family favorite green veggies.
    Toss together with a little parmesean cheese. Voila! All my kids eat it!

  28. Nana Bergeron says

    Right now Arby’s has two fish sandwiches for the price of one! And they are GOOD, too! (Nice that they did this at the beginning of Lent for us Catholics!)

  29. Don’t forget Subway tuna sandwiches for fast food meals. Or Little Ceasers cheese pizza.

  30. Michelle S. says

    For families with lil’ picky eaters who won’t eat soup, you could try adding alphabet pasta, or some new or unusual pasta shapes. My husband even asks for the ABC’s in the soup now! By the way, did you know that McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish was invented for Catholics? It’s true! In the 60’s a franchise owner noticed that most of his customers (in a Catholic neighbourhood) refrained from eating meat on Fridays. The new sandwich became very popular among his customers, and was the first non-hamburger item brought in by the new McDonald’s company owner. The franchise owner who came up with the idea and first recipe was Lou Groen in Ohio. Have a Blessed Lent, Everyone!

  31. For us, we are doing Spanish omelette – eggs and chopped and fried potatoes and onions – pancakes with salmon, pasta with courgettes, garlic, prawns and cheese, and my favorite (reminds me of when I lived in Spain and my grandma was alive): dried cod and potatoes croquettes plus “torrijas” – dried bread cut in slices of about 2 cms , soaked in milk, then covered with beaten eggs. We fry them and when they are cold, we put a bit of honey, cinnamon or sugar (quite caloric, I know, but soooooooooo tasty!!)

    BTW I’m real happy of finding this web!! I’m teaching my kids at home – my son also goes to a Catholic school ande has Godly Play- and I’m finding lots of interesting and funny things to do with them

  32. Michelle S- Yes the filet o fish was invented by my Dad’s cousins Husband in Cincinnati !!! I remember living in Cincinnati as a young adult and ordering a toasted cheese at McDonald’s (weren’t on the menu but was available on request and lots of people ordered them – now living 2 hours away from Cincinnati I feel very self conscious ordering a toasted cheese at McD’s -not really sure if they would “understand” On another note I remember as a kid going up in the late ’60’s when Mom realized that cheese pizza was a meatless meal such a grand day in my childhood…..

  33. It took a while because I was sick for about the first half of Lent, but I just posted a meatless meal on my blog. Something a little different; baked felafel.


  34. Can’t remember if I saw this in the comments, but we love broccoli & cheddar cheese soup served with bread on Fridays during Lent. We have scrambled eggs pretty often, as well.

  35. How about veggie stir fry and rice?

  36. Just an FYI for anyone wondering: he is eating fried calamari! Many people are only familiar with the fried “rings” of calamari (squid), but my kids fight over getting the “feet” which is what you see in the pic:)

  37. Alicia Yarborough says

    We make a lot of lentil soup at my house during lent.

  38. Therese Faustina says

    Potato and Cheese Peirogi (basically the Polish version of ravioli) are always good – you just have to make sure you don’t get ones that have bacon. We serve them with sauteed onions and sour cream.

    Tuna Noodle Casserole is another favourite in our houssehold, though smaller children may just prefer the noodles with some cheese.

    For Fast Food –
    Chipotle: you can get both vegan and veggie versions of all their dishes as the tofu based Sofritas version.
    Dunkin Donuts (or pretty much any coffee shop): A bagel with cream cheese, or a breakfast sandwich with only egg and cheese.
    Panera: Similar to dunkin you can get bagels and breakfast sandwiches, but they also have a larger variety including Mac’n’cheese, Vegetable and Tomato soups, as well as a variety of Salads which can be gotten without meat upon request.

  39. Heather Lampman says

    Frozen perogies are a frequent recourse for us, with onions and sauerkraut. I don’t know if they are easily available everywhere. We also love this quinoa salad:
    2 cups quinoa
    1 can black beans
    1 can chickpeas
    Green onions
    ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
    ¼ cup olive oil
    Cumin, salt and lemon juice to taste