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Figuring out what to cook on Valentine’s Day can be tricky when you are, or your partner is, a vegetarian. Valentine’s Day dinner menus at restaurants are typically filled with steak and lobster, sometimes even combination steak-and-lobster (aka surf-n-turf).
When two people love each other very much but don’t love eating meat, recipe options for a luxe and romantic Valentine’s Day meal can feel sparse. But have no fear — there are plenty of great vegetarian Valentine’s Day dinner options just waiting for you.
Food blogger and cookbook author Ali Stafford has put together her recommendation for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for two, starting with a perfectly paired cocktail and ending with dessert.
So whether you’re cooking with your partner or for your partner, here’s everything you need for an impressive — and meat-free — Valentine’s Day dinner.
Braised leeks with pappardelle and parmesan
According to Stafford, braising leeks makes them “meltingly tender,” which is the perfect blurb for a romance novel if I’ve ever heard one. Serve them up with some wide, slippery noodles and a dusting of Parmesan for a dinner you’ll swoon over.
Vanilla bean pots de creme
These tiny jars of vanilla custard taste “like untorched creme brulee, but better, with the smoothest, most velvety texture, perfectly sweet, deeply satisfying in every which way.” You know, just like your relationship (we hope!).
It’s zesty, it’s bubbly, it’s sweet, it’s only a little bitter. A tangerine spritz is the perfect bright and fresh bridge between the aromatic, herby leek pappardelle and the smooth and creamy sweetness of the vanilla pots de creme. You can toast to your relationship, and we’ll toast to that.
Leeks not your thing? Try swapping in one of these recipes instead:
1. Porcini and polenta sausages
There’s nothing sexier than pure umami flavor, and these mushroom and polenta sausages definitely deliver. Serve them up over a bed of mashed potatoes or polenta and a rich mushroom gravy for a dinner that’s meat-free but still totally worthy of a candlelit, romantic steakhouse experience.
2. Roasted butternut squash pasta sauce
With a little bit of fresh sage, this recipe transforms the humble butternut squash into a rich and creamy pasta sauce, perfect for slurping off your plate, “Lady and the Tramp”-style. It’s also not too hard to make, which gives you plenty of time to spend your Valentine’s Day doing, you know, other things. ^_~
3. Dutch oven baked risotto
If ever a dish has screamed “commitment,” risotto is it. But this lemony Parmesan risotto with asparagus is wonderfully hands-off. Trust us when we say your partner will appreciate this. Less time stirring = more time to tell them how much you love them.
4. Vegetarian French onion soup with lentils
Remember what I said about umami being sexy? Yeah, this soup is packed with it too. Soooo many caramelized onions, lots and lots of Gruyere cheese, fresh thyme, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a thicc layer of crusty bread on top. You really can’t go wrong.
5. Baked feta and tomato pasta
This recipe blew up on TikTok recently, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect vegetarian dinner recipe for Valentine’s Day. With lots of great Mediterranean flavors, you can pretend you’re on a romantic vacation in Greece even as you stay inside this year (unless you’re already in Greece, in which case… maybe make something else, OK?).
6. Cheese stuffed shells
Consider these ooey-gooey, cheesy stuffed shells proof that a dish doesn’t have to be complex to be romantic. Go ahead and dive right in together.
7. Vegetarian pot pies
These single-serving vegetable pot pies are just so stinking cute! The recipe makes four to six servings (depending on how many ramekins you have), so you can either treat yourselves to seconds or freeze the leftovers as a Valentine’s Day gift of an easy, low effort meal for your future selves.
Rebecca Eisenberg is a freelance food editor at Greatist. She’s the voice behind the food blog The Practical Kitchen and recently earned her Certificate in Pastry Arts from Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (Class of January 2021). She lives in Boston with her husband and two cats.