Tired of cheese pizza and fish sticks? 10 Lent recipes for no-meat Fridays
It’s Friday. You’re tired, it’s been a long week and you’re hungry. You don’t have energy to think about dinner for yourself, much less for your family. And then you remember: It’s Lent. (Hopefully it didn’t just occur to you that it’s Lent, but if it did, we understand.) Half of the ideas about what you want to make go out the window because, unfortunately, they all include meat. What now?
We asked our editors and staff at America to share some of their favorite recipes as a corporal work of mercy: to (help) feed the hungry. We hope this alleviates some of the stress of Lenten meal planning during a pandemic. We know it can be rough, and we’re right there with you. (We’d love to see your favorite recipes, too! You can share them in the comments section.)
But, if all else fails and you just want to order food, we’ve got you covered there too:
1. Recipe: Eggplant, Caramelized Onion and Tomato Pasta
This is my absolute favorite recipe because it is something I’ve learned to put together in less than an hour but with an outcome that tastes like it took much longer (which on a Friday during Lent is key): eggplant, caramelized onion and tomato pasta. The recipe calls for homemade pasta sauce and caramelized onions, though you can use store-bought sauce. Both of these sounded intimidating the first time I tried this recipe, but now they are second nature to me and I can’t use store-bought tomato sauce anymore. If you’re looking for an easy recipe that makes you feel like a star chef, this is the recipe for you. It’s also technically vegan but I always just use non-vegan butter, so it’s more vegan-ish. The point is, make this recipe if you need a win in your life (because at this point in the pandemic, who doesn’t?). You won’t regret it.
Vivian Cabrera, assistant editor
We asked our editors and staff at America to share some of their favorite recipes as a corporal work of mercy: to (help) feed the hungry.
2. Recipe: Cheesy Bean Burrito
After college, when I worked as a volunteer teacher making $200 per month, my community of four loved making this inexpensive, easy dinner: Combine one can of corn (drained), one can of black beans (drained), one jar of salsa (16 oz.) and one block of frozen spinach (thawed; excess water pressed out) in a pot and cook on the stovetop on medium low, stirring occasionally until heated. Add cumin (approximately 1 teaspoon) and cheddar cheese (approximately 1-2 cups, shredded) to taste. Stir until cheese is melted and mixed throughout. Serve wrapped in a warm tortilla. These days, this meal is also a hit with both my 4-year-old and my husband, who claims to not like black beans. We’re also fans of these crispy, buttery chickpeas and this cheesy black bean bake, both of which we serve over rice and top with avocado.
Kerry Weber, executive editor
3. Recipe: Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche
I don’t much care for fish, so Fridays in Lent have usually been an exercise in “what can be done to this sea creature to make it taste like meat?” But a few years ago in El Salvador I discovered a tiny seafood restaurant that made ceviche with shrimp as the sole protein, and I was hooked.
The first time I tried this recipe, I made the mistake of using frozen shrimp. DO NOT DO THIS. Boiling frozen shrimp turns them into pencil erasers. They’ve got to be fresh, which makes them more expensive (but to be honest, you’re not bothering with the scallops, so there’s a cost-saver there). You’ll need a quarter of a cup of kosher salt, a pound of medium shrimp, two lemons, two limes, two oranges, one cup of diced cucumber, half a cup of chopped red onion, two serrano chiles (three for the bravehearted), one cup of diced tomatoes, one diced avocado, one tablespoon of chopped cilantro and a fourth of a cup of olive oil.
After boiling the shrimp (almost flash-boiling them, they only need a few minutes), chop them up and add the juice from the citrus fruits; then stir in the cucumber, red onion and chiles. Stick in the fridge for an hour. Then add the tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and olive oil. Let it sit at room temperature for half an hour to warm up the shrimp and the citrus mix. The recipe calls for it to be served in a chilled martini glass, but chez Keane, a cereal bowl from Target works just as well.
James T. Keane, senior editor
4. Recipe:Skate with Capers and Bread
My family has been enjoying Skate with Capers and Bread. Skate reminds me of my favorite meals from one of my favorite restaurants in New York City. This recipe is very easy to make with fresh fish, and everyone in the family will eat it (kids included). One word to the wise: After you take the skillet out of the oven, remember that the pan is hot—I badly burned my hand one time but it hasn’t stopped me from making this almost every week!
Heather Trotta, advancement strategist
5. Recipe: Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake
I was skeptical of this recipe at first, but it’s quickly become a favorite go-to dinner or appetizer all year long. It’s also ideal for Lent: simple, affordable and nourishing. (And because this Lent takes place during a global pandemic, the fact that it also feels a bit decadent in its pizza-ness is O.K.) For the recipe, I double the amount of tomato paste and use more garlic and less cheese than the recipe suggests. Throw some fresh basil on top after baking if you have it. Serve with a simple green salad and crusty bread. And a bottle of red. (Again, it’s O.K. during pandemic Lent.) Perfection.
Michael O’Loughlin, national correspondent
I don’t much care for fish, so Fridays in Lent have usually been an exercise in “what can be done to this sea creature to make it taste like meat?"
6. Recipe: McKinless Family “Tuna Nuna”
To this day I don’t know if everyone calls it this or if my mom made it up but in the McKinless household it was called Tuna Nuna, and if it was a Friday during Lent and we weren’t ordering cheese pizza from Pizza Hut (sad), this was what we had for dinner.
Admittedly, I have not eaten Tuna Nuna (a.k.a. tuna noodle casserole) since becoming a pescatarian at the age of majority and discovering there are other fish in the sea. But I have very fond memories of Tuna Nuna nights, and I’m sure it’s still just as delicious and easy to make.
I texted my mom to get the recipe, which she described as “so simple it is almost embarrassing”:
Boil 8 ounces of egg noodles for 6 to 8 minutes. Mix together two cans of tuna fish and one or two cans of cream of mushroom soup depending on how “soupy” you want it. Add salt and pepper. If you’re in a big hurry you microwave the seasoned tuna and soup to get it warm while the noodles are cooking. Then you mix everything together and serve. (~10 minutes from starting to boil the water to putting it on the table.)
If you have more time you can crumble Ritz crackers on the top and put it in the oven to bake at 350 for 30 minutes. We always serve ours with LeSueur baby peas on the side. But I mix those into my Tuna Nuna before I eat it.
Ashley McKinless, executive editor and host of Jesuitical
7. Recipe: Shakshuka
Apparently, shakshuka is popular in New York, but I hadn’t heard of it before moving here. It’s delicious. It’s meatless. It’s breakfast for lunch and dinner that involves vegetables and spices. It sort of surprised me, you know, that something like this could come out of my oven. These flavors, really, this gift—for me? Apparently there is debate about the dish’s origins—is it North Africa? Yemen? The Ottoman Empire?—although it is enjoyed across those regions today, from Morocco to Israel to Yemen in different variations. The New York Times recipe was my introduction, although I’d encourage you chefs to look up the dish and find a variation that sounds exciting to you. Ironically enough, the dish is sort of sweet (read: tomatoes, onions, paprika), and eating a sweet thing during this season, regardless of your Lenten practice, is a good opportunity to relish in the goodness of life.
Erika Rasmussen, O’Hare Fellow
8. Recipe: Vegan Mac and Cheese
Remember when Paul was struck by a blinding light on his way to Damascus (Acts 9)? It was a moment of epiphany that eventually led to his conversion: the perfect story to read and reflect on during Lent. When you “go vegan,” as I did three years ago, you set yourself up for a different kind of epiphany: Meatless and dairy-free foods can be everything you thought they couldn’t be! I love comfort foods—classic American dishes and cheesy homemade casseroles—so I was delighted to discover thisvegan mac and cheese recipe. The best piece of advice I can give new meatless-eaters: Discover nutritional yeast; it will change your life. The problem is vegan dishes are so rich, complex and delicious that they hardly seem like a “fast” on Fridays during Lent, so I recommend serving this one up on Sunday!
Sebastian Gomes, executive editor
When you “go vegan,” as I did three years ago, you set yourself up for a different kind of epiphany: Meatless and dairy-free foods can be everything you thought they couldn’t be!
9. Recipe: Perfect Fish Pie
It was only in my twenties that I learned to toss a salad. Until then, I had lived at home and was expressly forbidden by my expert-cook mother—who was a chef in Portuguese and Italian restaurants—from even approaching an oven knob. Imagine my surprise then, when I entered the Jesuit novitiate in Birmingham, U.K. and was forced to unleash my culinary prowess on a dozen, and sometimes more, hangry men. But, luckily for them, I discovered then that my passion for food extended to preparation and not only to its consumption. My go-to recipe book then was Jamie’s 30-minute Meals. Yes, he of “Naked Chef” fame. Although, this was much to Mum’s chagrin because, as she told me, “He’s a dirty cook; he never rinses his herbs!” Be that as it may, an Oliver favorite for me is his “Perfect(-for-Lent) Fish Pie.” It silences even those who don’t like fish and is really easy to throw together. And it works for me because you can toss in whatever veg, cheese or fish you have in the fridge or freezer. I refuse to slavishly submit myself to recipes! Although, I do foresee a problem for our U.S. readers trying to follow the video-recipe, so read what follows carefully. When Jamie says “spring onions,” that’s “scallions” for you (please disregard the bacon in his video)! Still, your problems won’t be nearly as big as mine will be when I show Mum this video. I've just discovered that she was right, indeed. Jamie did not rinse the parsley!
Ricardo da Silva, S.J., associate editor
10. Recipe: Fasting
I’m sure you clicked on this list to get some ideas about how to indulge yourself with a nice meal during this penitential season. Well, I hope you didn’t think you could get to the end without a nice helping of CATHOLIC GUILT. Perhaps instead of trying to cheat the system by having a “nice” vegetarian meal that reminds you that “giving up meat isn’t so bad after all,” consider that God might be calling you to try Lent: Hard Mode and abstain from food altogether (for a day). While I have great admiration for Muslims and their sun-up-to-sun-down Ramadan fast, I know that I am far too feeble and too weak to be able to pull that off for more than one day at a time. So every Lent, I try my best to abide by a Ramadan-inspired fast on Fridays only. Coffee and water are allowed (for the benefit of my wife and coworkers; see section about me being weak). Smoothies are for true moments of weakness. But no solids are permitted until the sun falls (this provides the added benefit of increasing difficulty as Lent goes on and the days get longer).
Special recipe tip: Do it with others, or find at least one fasting buddy to whom you can send unfiltered texts throughout the day about your hunger level. I’d be even worse at fasting than I already am if it weren’t for my small men’s group at my parish.
Zac Davis, associate editor and host of Jesuitical