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25 Cheap Low Fat Vegan Meals That Cost Less Than $1 A Serving

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cheap low fat vegan mealsThere are many ways to cut back on your food expenses.

Cutting back on meat and eating more plant-based meals is one of them. Meat is so expensive, as is milk and dairy.

Unprocessed plant-based foods are cheap if you know what to buy.

You can eat meals that are inexpensive and healthy, and in the process, lose weight too.

The recipes in this article are based on the McDougall diet, founded by Dr. John McDougall in 1983.

This is a diet of plant-based foods.

It includes whole grains and whole-grain products. On this diet, you can still eat pasta, tortillas, and whole grain bread.

It also contains every conceivable variety of fruit and vegetable you can imagine.

You can have all the spices you want on this diet, as well as a little sugar and salt to enhance the natural flavor of food. But no animal foods are allowed—which means no meat or dairy.

Also, oils are forbidden.

The diet considers oil to be liquid fat that contributes to obesity.

Whether you’re vegan or only want to eat healthier, here are 25 recipes to get more low-fat plant-based meals in your diet.

And, each meal is less than $1.00 a serving.

1. Vegan Pasta Salad

Pasta salads taste so good on a summer night when it’s too hot to do much cooking. They’re also great in the spring when all the new greenery is starting to come up. The ingredients in this dish will remind you of the freshness of the season. This one’s not only fat-free—it’s as simple as can be, too.


  • 12 ounces dried whole grain rotini
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 to 1½ cups fat-free Italian salad dressing
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Black pepper (to taste)


  1. In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Add frozen vegetables in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta.
  2. Transfer pasta and vegetables to a large bowl. Stir in spices and onion. Add dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled. Makes six servings.

2. Instant Pot Black Bean Soup

This taste of the Southwest uses dried beans for a full-flavored taste. Instant Pot cooking makes any meal so much easier.


  • 1-pound dried black beans
  • 1 diced large onion, diced
  • 6 cups boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 12 ounces frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup of salsa


Check the beans for debris. Rinse well. While you chop the onion, boil 6 cups of water. Turn your Instant Pot on Sauté. Add the onion.  Cook until it’s softened and just starting to brown. Make sure to stir frequently.

Add the beans, boiling water, cumin, salt, and chili powder to the pot. Turn off the sauté setting. Make sure the lid is locked. Make sure the pressure release valve is set to “PRESSURE.” Press Manual to select high pressure.

Adjust the time to 30 minutes. The pot will begin coming up to pressure and will count down to zero once pressure is reached.

When the pot is finished cooking at pressure, allow it to come down naturally for 20 minutes. Turn the pressure release knob to steam to release the pressure.

Open the lid very carefully. Angle it away from you so the steam doesn’t burn you. Check the beans to see if they’re tender. If they’re not, put the lid back on. Cook them two minutes more at high pressure. Check the liquid level first. If it seems dry, add more water.

Once the beans are done, you may blend part of the soup or leave it as is. Add the corn and salsa. Add water if it seems dry. Taste the soup, and add extra salt, cumin, and chili powder as needed. Turn on your sauté setting. Adjust the heat to low. Cook, stirring often. Scrape up from the bottom until it’s hot throughout.

Serve with optional garnishes.

3. Teriyaki Pasta

This is one of my all-time favorites. So easy and so filling!


  • 8-ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchinis, julienned
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned
  • 8-ounces whole wheat pasta
  • 10-ounce low-sodium teriyaki sauce


Cook pasta according to package directions. During the last five minutes of cooking time, add the veggies. Drain, and then add the teriyaki sauce.

4. Barbecued Tofu with Broccoli

Freezing the tofu gives this dish a satisfyingly meaty texture.


  • 14-ounces extra firm tofu
  • 12-ounce oil free barbecue sauce
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • Cooked brown rice


Freeze tofu for at least twelve hours and then thaw it. Put tofu in a large covered container with the barbecue sauce. Let marinate for three hours. Preheat the oven at 375 degrees. Bake tofu for 45 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

5. Rockin’ Potato Tacos

Make these for taco Tuesday! This budget meal is easy on both your waistline and wallet.


  • 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons taco seasoning
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • salsa
  • 2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped
  • avocado, sliced


Leave the skins on the potatoes. Boil them until tender. After cooling, cut them into cubes. Put into a non-stick sauté pan and cook until browned on all sides. Add taco seasoning. Mix the potatoes and taco seasoning until the potatoes are well coated. Cover and cook for another minute.

Warm up the tortillas by putting a moistened paper towel between each one. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Serve the potato mixture on a warmed tortilla. Add salsa, chopped cilantro, and sliced avocado.

6. Chili Baked Potatoes


  • 2 cups dried kidney beans
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • Baked potatoes


Put all the ingredients except for the corn into the slow cooker. Cook on high for 8 hours. When it has 15 minutes left to cook, throw in the corn. Scoop on baked potatoes.

7. Mexican Beans and Rice

This tasty but easy meal only takes minutes to prepare. Super easy!


  • 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15-ounce can tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed


Combine everything in a sauce pan. Heat thoroughly and serve.

8. Plant-Based Sloppy Joes

This is a comfort food from your childhood reinvented to be healthier.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2-15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup fat-free barbecue sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • whole wheat buns


Place the bell pepper and the onion in a non-stick pan. Add the vegetable broth. Cook on medium heat until vegetables soften. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until well heated. Serve on whole wheat buns.

9. Super Easy Coleslaw

This takes  60 seconds to make and is completely fat-free. Choose a flavor of salad dressing to suit your mood.


  • 16-ounce prepackaged broccoli slaw
  • Oil-free dressing of your choice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Combine everything in a large serving bowl. Chill for 30 minutes before chowing down.

10. Quick and Easy Vegetable Soup

Soup is cheap, and a great way to lose weight.


  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans beans rinsed and drained
  • 2 1-pound bags of frozen vegetables
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • 1 15-ounce can diced potatoes


Add 5 cups of vegetable broth to a large pot along with the rest of the ingredients. Reduce heat until the vegetables are done (about 30 minutes). Add more broth if the soup’s too thick.

11. Bean Burritos

Because the beans are cooked from dried in a slow cooker, they have a rich and flavorful taste you just can’t get from canned beans.


  • 3 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 whole cloves fresh garlic
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Salsa
  • guacamole


Put all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook for 10 hours on the highest setting. Pour out most of the cooking water. Keep a little bit to mix with the beans. Mash the beans, onions, and garlic with a potato masher or electric mixer. Roll up in a tortilla shell with salsa and guacamole.

12. Pizza Potatoes

This is a tasty variation on the boring old pizza recipe. It’s made healthy and plant-based by a few additions and substitutions.


  • 4 cups potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups of pizza toppings, such as mushrooms or black olives
  • 2 15-ounce cans fat-free pizza sauce


Mix the water and the sauce together and set aside.

Place two cups of potatoes in a crockpot. Layer your chosen toppings over the potatoes. Cover with half of the sauce. Layer on the remaining two cups of potatoes and add the rest of the sauce. Cover and cook on low for eight hours.

13. Fat-Free Fried Rice

This dish is a very easy way to use up leftover brown rice. Have healthy Chinese food that’s also cheap!


  • 1 teaspoon garlic, crushed
  • ½-1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 cup baby corn
  • 1 cup bamboo shoots
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 5 cups cooked brown rice
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce


Put ½ cup of water in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until water boils. Add the vegetables and cook until vegetables are al dente. Add the rice and soy sauce. Cooked until heated through.

14. Garbanzo Stew

This is a hearty stew that’ll stick to your ribs. Meals taste so much better when you use dried beans. They’re cheaper too.

  • 2 cups dried chickpeas
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 potatoes, chunked
  • 2 carrots, thickly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thickly sliced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce


Soak the garbanzo beans overnight. After draining the water, put the beans and eight cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for two hours. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for two more hours.

15. Falafel Patties

The best falafel I’ve ever had was at a food truck at the Newport Folk Festival. This version is a close second.


  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 8-ounce tub oil-free hummus
  • 2 tablespoons flour


Throw all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixed.  Then, put this mixture in a bowl. Scoop up the mixture with a large spoon and drop into a non-stick griddle. Flatten slightly with your fingertips. Bake for 12 minutes on each side. Keep flipping the patties until they become a nice golden-brown color. Put them on a plate to cool. As they cool, they’ll firm up.

16. Split Pea Soup

This is a hearty soup best served on a cold drizzly day. Add a little oil-free bread and a salad for a complete meal.


  • 2 cups dried split peas
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups potatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • Black pepper to taste


Get out a large soup pot and put the peas and water in it. Bring it to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the tomato. Stir it up real good and bring it to a boil again.

Reduce heat and simmer until all veggies are tender (about 45 minutes). Add the tomato.

17. Bean Soup

This recipe has built-in flexibility. Feel free to experiment with different types of beans.


  • 2 cups dried beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon sage
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce


Put everything in a big pot. Then, bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 4 hours until the beans are tender.

18. The Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever

Very easy to make, and delicious over everything. Try it on polenta, baked potatoes, and pasta.


  • 2 large onions, cut in half, then sliced into rings
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 2-15-ounce cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with jalapeño peppers
  • 4 small zucchinis, cut in half, then sliced into chunks


Put the vegetable broth and onions in a large sauce pan. Cook until onions soften. Add the canned tomatoes and the liquid it came in. Cook for about 15 minutes. Add zucchini and cook until it’s tender.

19. Easy Black Bean Burgers

Craving McDonald’s, but don’t want the unhealthy fat? Try this scrumptious plant-based substitute instead!


  • 1 1/3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Whole wheat burger buns


Partially chop the oats in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the beans are coarsely chopped. Pour the mixture in a bowl. Cover, and chill in a fridge for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F. Put parchment paper on a baking sheet. Form mixture into six patties. Bake for 30 minutes. They should be crispy on the outside and a little moist inside when they’re done. Put them on buns with the condiments of your choice.

20. Zoodles with Sesame-Peanut Sauce

Dying to try “zoodles” (spiralized zucchini)? This is a great way to do it. The nutty goodness of the sauce is the perfect complement for the zoodles.


  • 3 small zucchinis, spiralized
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger


Place paper towels in a large serving bowl. Put the red bell pepper and zoodles in the bowl. Whisk the peanut butter in a small bowl with a ½ teaspoon of water. Add the rest of the ingredients. Remove the towels. Pour the sauce on the zoodles so that they all get coated.

21. Fat-Free Marinara Sauce

This is a delicious fat-free sauce that’s great on whole wheat pasta. Try it on baked potatoes, polenta, and rice too!


  • 1/3 cup onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 2 14.5-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • salt to taste


Sauté the onion and garlic in a little vegetable broth until softened.  Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for four minutes more. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir thoroughly. Add the spices and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

22. Potato Leek Soup

This six-ingredient meal is quick and easy. And it freezes well!

  • 3 medium leeks (use only the white and light green parts of the plant)
  • 4½ cup vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 lbs. potatoes, cubed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • salt, to taste


In a large pot, sauté the leeks with ½ cup of the vegetable broth until they’re soft. Add the potatoes, the rest of the vegetable broth and ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Make sure the potatoes are tender. Remove the bay leaf and puree until smooth.

23. Quick and Easy Mexican Pasta

Here’s an out-of-this-world take on boring old pasta. Quick and easy when you don’t feel like slaving over a stove.


  • 12 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 15 ounce can Mexican-style beans (pinto or black), drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin


Prepare the pasta using the directions on the package. Cook the corn kernels for four minutes in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for five minutes. Make sure you stir frequently. Throw in the cooked pasta and cook for another 2 minutes.

24. Minestrone

Soak up this soup with a dinner roll to make sure you don’t leave a drop. It has a traditional taste without the guilt.


  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 14.5 ounce can Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16-ounce package frozen Italian mixed vegetables
  • 2 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano


Cook the onion and celery in a large pot with ¼ cup of vegetable broth for five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

25. Corn and Bean Enchiladas

Make these easy enchiladas on a night you’re craving Mexican food. Instead of eating out, eat in and have a fiesta in your kitchen! Black beans, corn, and spices give it a plant-based kick.

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

The Rest of the Ingredients

  • 10 flour tortillas
  • 4 cups mashed pinto beans
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 2.25 ounce can chopped ripe olives


Put the ingredients for the sauce in a medium sauce pan. Whisk until everything is mixed together. Cook over medium heat until it thickens up (about seven minutes). Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the casserole, Place 2 cups of sauce in the bottom of a large non-stick baking dish. Spread some mashed beans in the center of a tortilla.

Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Pour all the sauce except for 1 ½ cups over the tortillas. Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the top of the pan.

Cover with parchment paper. Then, cover with foil. Make sure you crimp the foil over the edges of the baking dish.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and let it sit for five minutes. Serve with the extra sauce.

A Few Parting Words

I bet you never thought you could have meals that were not only plant-based but low fat and frugal as well. Here are 25 recipes that fit the bill!

If you do it right, eating healthy doesn’t have to cost a lot. Try a few of these ideas and let me know how you liked them in the comments!

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