19 Kid-Friendly Vegan Dinner Ideas (No Pasta)
Looking for kid-approved, plant-based meal ideas that aren’t more pastas? Or burritos? Or nuggets? I was too! After trying dozens of recipes and tinkering with many of my own concoctions, I have found a handful of kid-friendly, vegan dinner ideas that the whole family enjoys beyond our go-to, pasta.
Note: some ingredients and toppings are optional, it all depends on what your kids will try…see “kid note” under each dinner idea below. Some photos include adult toppings that I omit for my kids.
Here are my 18 kid-friendly, vegan dinner ideas beyond pasta.
Disclosure: I only recommend products I use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Chili w/ Topping Bar
Chili is not only a delicious comfort food that is simple to veganize; it can also be a fun meal idea for kids by offering a topping bar so everyone can customize their own bowls.
We have tried some tasty recipes, like Homemade Vegetarian Chili by Cookie and Kate, a super healthy version that focuses on veggies and beans without a meat substitute. We have also veganized meaty recipes by subbing out the meat with Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef, Impossible Burger, and others.
Kid note: I try to include at least 3 toppings that they enjoy to engage them in the meal. Examples include avocado, crushed tortilla chips, vegan yogurt or sour cream, vegan shredded cheese, corn bread, and tomatoes.
Other adult toppings include cabbage, onions, hot sauce, and salsa.
Looking for plant-based comfort food? Look no further than Vegan Shepherd’s Pie! Buttery mashed potatoes atop a mild lentil and vegetable stew, Minimalist Baker’s Shepherd’s Pie is definitely a kid favorite!
While this dish takes a bit of time to prepare & cook (about an hour), it is well worth it…your family will taste the love. And will likely yield leftovers!
My son even requested to make this for Christmas dinner this year;)!
Semi-Homemade Dumpling Soup
This dumpling soup is a great way to pack in veggies to your diet while still enjoying your favorite store-bought potstickers or gyoza (our favorite is Trader Joe’s). While it is almost too simple for a recipe, I have mastered some preparation hacks that are worth sharing. Here is my recipe.
Kid note: Use veggies your kids love, or at least only include the ones they like in their bowls.
Buddha bowls are another kid-friendly vegan meal idea… Simply prep all the ingredients and let your hungry eaters customize their own bowls.
Simple air fryer tofu makes an awesome kid-friendly protein in a Buddha bowl: it’s crispy and crunchy without being overly flavored. Other protein choices include edamame, black beans, white beans, chickpeas, or plant-based nuggets.
Prepare other healthy veggies and grains. Veggie possibilities are endless but include roasted beets, roasted carrots, roasted cauliflower, steamed broccoli, sautéed kale or spinach, peas, jicama, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, olives, pickles, and avocado.
Grains and other healthy carbs for buddha bowls could include quinoa, brown rice, bulgar wheat, farro, barley, pasta, tortillas, toast, or noodles.
Kid note: Try include at least 3 items your kids’ enjoy; bonus, maybe they will try something new too!
Chickpea ‘n Rice Soup
This unassuming soup by Dreena Burton is one of our all-time favorites! Cozy, herbaceous, and BIG on flavor, this soup is comfort food at its healthiest. In fact, we love it so much that my son and I began a tradition two years ago of eating this soup in a sourdough bread bowl during the winter holidays!
While the recipe is from her Plant-Powered Families Cookbook, lucky for us, Dreena and her publisher have allowed us to share it with y’all here for the first time on the web (below)! Oh, and if you are a fan of hers like me, check out my recent interview with Dreena Burton too.
Kid note: This soup is truly delicious as is…I would just recommend serving with your kiddos’ favorite bread for dipping (or a bread bowl!). Unless your wee ones are anti-chickpea, this one’s a safe bet!
Chickpea ‘n Rice Soup (serves 5-6)
1-2 tablespoons plus 3½ – 4 cups water, divided
1½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup sliced or chopped celery
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried sage (optional)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dry (ground) mustard
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup uncooked brown rice (short or long grain)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (14 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, 1 cup reserved
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ tablespoon light miso (ex: chickpea or brown rice)
2 bay leaves
2 cups vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)
In a large pot over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the water, onion, carrot, celery, oregano, dry mustard, rosemary, sage, sea salt, and thyme. Stir through, cover, and let cook for 4–5 minutes. Add more water if beginning to stick.
Stir through again, then add the rice and garlic, and let cook for just a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
Add 2½ cups of the chickpeas, nutritional yeast, miso, bay leaves, remaining 3½ cups of water, and stock. Increase heat to bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30–35 minutes, until rice is fully cooked.
Remove the bay leaves, and then with an immersion blender, briefly pulse soup to add some body; do not fully puree, but leave some chunky texture. Stir in the reserved 1 cup chickpeas, cover, and let simmer for 5–10 minutes. Add more water to thin, season to taste with additional sea salt and black pepper if desired, and serve.
Vegan Sushi Rolls
Sushi-making intimidated me for years…it wasn’t until the sheer boredom of COVID lockdown that we attempted it at home, and boy are we excited to add this to the repertoire!
While I am certainly not a sushi-making expert by any means (I recommend a You Tube video for that;)), I include it in this kid-friendly vegan list as it is definitely worth trying both because it is easy to customize rolls and because it is a SUPER FUN activity!
We tend to keep the kids’ rolls simple. However, I have experimented quite a bit for the adult rolls, from spicy watermelon rolls by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken to garlicky caramelized shiitake and asparagus to vegan California rolls! In fact, I have created two recipes for vegan California rolls, one with hearts of palm and one with tofu. Check them out!
Kid note: Let your kids pick their favorite ingredients. My daughter likes avocado and cucumber while my son goes for sweet potato, avocado, and carrot.
Split Pea Soup
Yum! This Split Pea Soup by Healthier Steps is so delicious that my daughter has been asking for it on repeat. Ten minute prep and into the Instant Pot…the dish is ready in under an hour (she also has a stovetop version). In this photo, toppings include the wildly addictive Trader Joe’s Crispy Jalapeños, sriracha, and fresh parsley.
Kid note: Omit fancy toppings, serve with fresh bread, croutons, or toast.
Lentil Sloppy Joe’s
These vegan Sloppy Joe’s are a nostalgic delight for parents, and the slightly sweet, very messy sandwich is a hit for many kiddos too! We have tried a few recipes, and have most recently loved Chef Chloe’s recipe from her cookbook Chloe Flavor.*
Kid note: Serve with just the lentil mixture on toast, bun, or English muffin. And be prepared to make another sandwich or two (if you kids are anything like mine!).
*As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Curry
This Cooking Light recipe was originally a dish I served to half a dozen of my girlfriends for a “girls night in” a few years back. I knew it was a success when every one of them went back for seconds.
What I didn’t realize was that upon sharing the recipe, a few of them put it in their regular family dinner rotations. And now it is part of ours, too.
Sweet, savory, and flavorful, this recipe is SOLID. The Cooking Light recipe is for the slow cooker, but my friend figured out the timing for Instant Pot: 14 minutes on manual. BAM!
Kid note: 1- Omit the pickled onions and cilantro (obviously!). 2- Serve with rice and/or naan bread. 3- Offer plain yogurt (we prefer Kite Hill brand) to mix in if super sensitive palates think it is “spicy”.
Vegan Frito Pies
One of the most fun, kid-friendly vegan meals we have served to a crowd of omnivores are vegan Frito Pies! Essentially a meaty vegan chili over Fritos with all the chili toppings (I veganize this recipe by Delish). In fact, kids love to eat it right out of the bag!
Inspired by the “Vegan Chippy Pie” from Food Republic at the Warriors’ Chase Center Stadium, my husband and I set about to recreate this dish at a camping trip with a group of omnivores. And it turned out to be the most popular meal of the weekend for adults and kids! So vegan Frito Pies are now a regular on our menu for larger gatherings.
Check out my vegan Frito pie video!
“Salad” with Quesadilla Dippers
My kids have always been terrified of “salads”…until one day when I mixed together some of their favorite ingredients, and after happily eating it I exclaimed that that they had just eaten a salad!
Now they often ask for a salad, which is still shocking to hear every time. They aren’t quite ready for dressing or lettuce yet, but I will take it! However, in the example above, I did add in a small squeeze of lime and a pinch of sea salt to their tomato/black bean/corn/avocado salad, and the kids didn’t mind.
Kid note: Simply pick 2-4 whole food ingredients that your kids like and mix together! Ideas include beans, tomatoes, corn, peas, avocado, cucumbers, carrots, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, bell peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tofu, broccoli, nuts, and dried fruit. Serve an old stand-by alongside like quesadilla, sandwich, or bread to balance the meal.
Apple Lentil Dal: Kid-Friendly Vegan Dinner Ideas
Another Dreena Burton favorite from her Plant-Powered Families cookbook, this simple lentil dish is perfect for kids…with surprising sweet apple goodness in every bite! It is a good introduction to lentils too for kids and adults alike, as it is mild yet delicious.
Kid note: This dal is as simple as it gets, flavor-wise. Simply serve with rice and/or naan bread for dipping.
Potato Leek Soup
“DEEEEELECTABLE” was my daughter’s response after tasting this potato leek soup by Loving It Vegan. In fact, she has asked for it on repeat ever since! So simple, creamy, and wholesome, this soup is made with coconut cream (I have used coconut milk too). It is truly a quintessential kid-friendly vegan meal!
Kid note: This soup is really kid-approved as-is, without the fancy toppings. Serve with fresh bread or croutons for a filling, warming meal.
Coconut Curry Chickpea
Vegan Richa is an amazing recipe creator, and her chickpea coconut curry dish is one of our favorites. Flavorful, yet mild, and so easy in the instant pot. If you’ve never used dried chickpeas, this is the perfect recipe to try them. They are far superior to their canned counterpart: tender and velvety in texture. I love to add fresh spinach as well.
Kid note: This recipe is a great recipe for kids to try as an intro to Indian cuisine, as it is fairly mild. Certainly don’t add the greens if your kids won’t have it;)
Vegan Butter Chicken
Who knew that a tofu dish could be so impressive and kid-approved!? But this butter chick’n recipe by Holy Cow Vegan is SO GOOD…the sauce is smooth, creamy and flavorful, and we didn’t even have the fenugreek!
Kid note: Serve with naan bread and/or rice. If your kiddos won’t try tofu, substitute with potatoes, broccoli, chickpeas, cauliflower, etc.
Instant Pot Jamaican Rice and Peas
If your family digs rice and beans, this Jamaican-inspired version by Healthier Steps is a must-try! Essentially it is a one-pot red beans and rice dish using ginger, coconut milk, and other aromatics. It is flavorful, yet mild, and one of my go-to recipes when bringing a kid-friendly vegan dish to a gathering as it works well as a side or main.
Kid note: Sub jalapeno or serrano pepper instead of the scotch bonnet or habanero just to be safe. In such a large dish, the spicy pepper does not overwhelm or make spicy but will still add flavor.
Pumpkin Chickpea Curry
Another favorite by Vegan Richa, this pumpkin chickpea curry made the house smell DIVINE and the whole family had seconds! If that’s not an endorsement for a kid-friendly vegan meal, I don’t know what is;) The uniquenesss in this Indian-fusion dish had my husband asking to add it to the rotation!
Kid note: This can be a fun one for kids, with pumpkin being used for dinner instead of dessert! To ensure your kiddos will try, include only veggies that they like (the recipe broadly calls for a cup of veggies of choice). Also, offer yogurt to mix in to minimize the spice level (which is already mild).
Whether you have a panini press or just a skillet, the creativity for plant-based sandwiches is endless…from souped-up grilled cheese and hot Italian pressed delights to vegan reubens and chick’n parm English muffins, it seems we never repeat a sandwich…but every time it is undoubtedly a delicious mess!
You can find our favorite plant-based cheeses by category here. And a quick melting note: we find that to ensure maximum meltability, it is helpful to either put the cheese right on the skillet to warm/melt, and then scoop it onto the bread, or else add a few teaspoons of water into the skillet with the sandwiches as they cook and covering to almost steam the cheese to melt. Both work like a charm!
Kid note: Since each sandwich can be customized, it is pretty easy to satisfy everyone. Usually we just omit the veggies for the kid sandos and instead serve their approved veggie on the side.
Whenever I a crave a wholesome meal with nutrient-dense ingredients, cozy soup comes to mind.
Savory and sweet with gingery notes, umami undertones and a bright finish, this Superfood Soup is full of flavor! And practically every ingredient is widely considered a superfood.
Kid note: Lessen the ginger amount to 1 teaspoon for sensitive eaters. Kids scared of greens? Add after you portion out their bowls. Serve with fresh bread or toast.
I hope some of these kid-friendly, vegan dinner ideas resonate with your family! If you try one of these, please let me know what you think in comments below or email me!
For more kid-focused ideas, check out these Family-Friendly Dinner Recipes and these Lunchbox Ideas. For more meal ideas beyond pasta, check out these Colorful Salad Meal Ideas too, with kid tips included!