4 Reasons to Add Veggies to Your Recipes

Check out why adding vegetables to your recipes is more than just about nutrition!

My parents grew up in Thrissur, Kerala, where it was very common for families to add vegetables as “fillers” to meat dishes.

Meat wasn’t as easily available or was expensive and seen as a luxury. They also often had large families to feed and needed to stretch meals out.

These fillers became a part of our traditional recipes and not only produced larger quantities but also added unique flavors and textures to our local cuisine.

Nowadays, you might see South Indian dishes like chicken curry with potatoes or beef curry with plantains or coconut pieces.

So adding vegetables to dishes, especially meat based ones, is not just about “healthifying” a recipe. There are so many other benefits!

benefits of adding vegetables to recipes

best vegetables to add to your favorite dishes

Knowing the right type of vegetable to incorporate into dishes, and how to incorporate it is, the key to enhancing a recipe.

benefits of adding vegetables to recipes

They Boost Flavor

  • Savory and aromatic vegetables can enhance mild flavored dishes.
  • Stirring vegetables into dishes can make them taste better, instead of serving them plain on the side.
  • Naturally sweet vegetables add sweetness to desserts, thus allowing you to reduce other added sugars.

They add moisture and/or Improve Texture

  • Veggies contain lots of water, so they add moisture to dishes or keep them from drying out.
  • Grated veggies add crunch.
  • Pureed veggies add creaminess.

They stretch meals into more servings

  • By adding veggies to dishes, you can almost double the amount of servings. This is great if you’re on a budget or have a large family to feed.

And of course…they Do increase nutrients

But this depends on how much vegetables you add.

  • Using 1 cup of veggie mince (see recipe below) for 2 pounds of ground meat, only provides 1-2 tablespoons of veggies per serving. Not a significant amount. But it does add flavor!

  • However, adding a large portion of beans/lentils to chili or stew increases fiber and protein quite a bit.

  • When adding vegetables to a dish, be aware it will increase the water content and might affect the texture of the final product. Have you ever added so much veggies to an omelette it turned into a watery plate of scrambled eggs? Add only enough vegetables to enhance a recipe, not ruin it.

Best vegetables to add to your favorite dishes

Aromatic and savory vegetables

These vegetables have strong savory or umami flavors. Use them only if you enjoy them. You might not want every dish to have a savory flavor. Or someone in your family might dislike the strong flavors.

They Include:

  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Garlic

Use Them In:

Neutral vegetables

These don’t have strong flavors and can easily “hide” in recipes. They add texture and moisture, as well as nutrients and fiber.

They Include:

  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Lentils
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini

Use Them In:

starchy vegetables

These add protein, fiber, and texture. They are also neutral in flavor and won’t affect the flavor profile of a dish. They can bulk up recipes and stretch them into more servings.

They Include:

  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Potatoes


Use Them In:

stir-in vegetables

These veggies don’t “hide” in dishes but rather shine in them. They are usually diced, sliced, grated, or julienned, and tend to hold their shape well.

They Include:

  • Bell peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach


Use them in:

  • Fajitas (e.g. onions, bell peppers)
  • Indian Curries (e.g. cauliflower, peas, potatoes)
  • Pasta Dishes (e.g. peas, spinach, tomatoes)
  • Stir-Frys (e.g. cabbage, carrots, peas)
  • Thai Curries (e.g. bell peppers, carrots, green beans)

Pureed vegetables

Pureéd vegetables can thicken a dish or make it creamier. Depending on their flavor, they can go unnoticed in a recipe. Any veggies can be pureed but below are some of my favorites.

They Include:

  • Pureed Beans & Lentils
  • Pureed Beets
  • Pureed Tomatoes
  • Pureed Pumpkin & Sweet Potato


Use Them In:

  • Soups and Stews
  • Meatloaf or Chili
  • Pasta Dishes

sweet vegetables

These are naturally sweet and can be added to recipes like quick breads, muffins, or cakes. Grate or puree them before adding.

They Include:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato


Use them in:


Large metal bowl with minced vegetables.

Veggie Mince

Joby’s Test Kitchen
This mixture of minced vegetables adds plenty of flavor to ground meat dishes.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 6 cups

Equipment

  • Food Processor, Grinder, or Grater

Ingredients
  

  • 3-5 medium carrots, unpeeled, washed
  • 1 handful garlic cloves
  • 1-2 lbs mushrooms, washed
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3-4 medium zucchinis, unpeeled, washed

Instructions
 

  • Using a food processor, mince or grate each vegetable. Alternatively, grate or hand mince the veggies.
  • Transfer to a large bowl and mix them together.
  • Portion them out in ½ or 1 cup portions and freeze. I scoop them into 1-cup silicon muffin liners and freeze. Or you can portion them into standard muffin cups which hold about ¼ cup.
  • Use about ½ cup of veggie mince for each pound of ground meat.
Keyword ground meat, vegetables, veggies

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