Help! I Need Meal Ideas for a Picky Vegetarian Eater

Good Questions

Q: My teenage brother recently went vegetarian, but we're having trouble finding foods he likes. We like to eat a wide variety of foods, but he isn't into exotic recipes. We used to not have problems with this, because when we would make a dinner such as spaghetti squash and roasted tomatoes with chicken Parmesan, he would eat the chicken.

We've been trying vegetarian dishes, such as a coconut curry full of vegetables, but he didn't like it. He doesn't like tomatoes, but he likes marinara sauce; he doesn't like tofu but he likes edamame. I've looked at The Flexitarian Table, but all the dishes, while they sound good to me, wouldn't be so hot with my brother.

What meals could we make for our family that aren't bland (we're tired of pizza and pasta) but work with a picky vegetarian and a family of adventurous eaters?

Sent by Emily

Editor: Emily, well how tiresome! You have all my sympathies: A vegetarian who doesn't like vegetables is not an easy person to cook for. Perhaps I am just in a tough-love mood (and I should point out here that I have five younger brothers, so I have had similar experiences) but I think this situation calls for less recipe adaptation and more behavior modification.

If it were me, I would tell your brother that he is in charge of making himself pasta or a frozen pizza every night he doesn't choose to eat your more vibrant, vegetable-focused meal. You will make sure there is always a satisfying meatless option on the table, and if he chooses to bypass that then he can eat pasta with jarred red sauce for now. But hopefully he gets bored enough to branch out into the more diverse foods the rest of his family clearly enjoys.

And if you're feeling generous, you can make him this Lemony Pesto Pasta with Edamame & Almonds (pictured above) — as long as he doesn't object to almonds.

Readers, what do you think? Take a hard line? Or am I being too tough on the teenage picky phase?


Related: Help Me Find Fresh Ideas for Flexitarian Meals!

(Image: Leela Cyd Ross)

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.