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Vegetarian cuisine has deep roots in many cultures, and Middle Eastern cuisine is by no means an exception.

Vegetarian cooking: Middle Eastern recipes with tomato sauce

With a clever use of spices, legumes and fresh vegetables, traditional vegetarian recipes from the Middle East are indeed rich in flavour as well as being very nutritious. 

In this article, we explore some of the best vegetarian recipes from the region enriched with tomato sauce, so that we can provide you with ideas and inspiration for a balanced and delicious diet.

Vegetarian cuisine in the Middle East

Middle Eastern cuisine is renowned for its richness and variety. Vegetarian traditions are deeply rooted in many of the cultures of the region, where the use of legumes, cereals and vegetables is prominent. Indeed, Middle Eastern vegetarian dishes have become mainstays of world cuisine.

Common ingredients in Middle Eastern vegetarian recipes include chickpeas, lentils, beans, fresh vegetables such as aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes, as well as spices such as cumin, coriander and paprika. Tomato sauce, in particular, emerges as an element capable of adding depth and richness to any dish.

Health benefits

The Middle Eastern vegetarian diet is rich in fibre, vegetable protein, vitamins and minerals. Adhering to this choice for some can mean a balanced diet that benefits health, good digestion and weight control. Finally, the use of spices and herbs in recipes can be useful both for flavouring and for the nutritional qualities of the chosen ingredients.

Vegetarian dishes with tomato sauce


Shakshuka is one of the most iconic and popular dishes of Middle Eastern cuisine. It is a dish of poached eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce enriched with peppers, onions and spices. It is a perfect meal for hearty breakfasts or light dinners.

Aubergines alla parmigiana

Aubergines alla parmigiana is a typical Italian dish but also ideal in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is indeed a tasty recipe that can be served either as an appetiser or as a main course.

Lentil soup

Lentil soup with tomato sauce is a classic comfort food,  both nutritious and satisfying. The lentils are cooked in a tomato base with garlic, onion, and a mix of spices such as cumin and coriander.

Dolma of peppers

Dolma, or stuffed peppers, are another example of how tomato sauce can turn a simple dish into a nothing less than a delicacy. The filling is a mix of rice, vegetables and spices, enveloped in a rich tomato sauce.

Hummus, pickled vegetables and other side dishes


Hummus is perhaps the most famous side dish in the Middle East. Made with chickpeas, tahina, lemon, garlic and olive oil, hummus is a versatile cream that can be served with pita bread, vegetables or used as a sauce for other dishes.

Some variations of this speciality include beetroot hummus, avocado hummus, roasted pepper hummus and, finally, spicy hummus with harissa.

Pickled vegetables

Pickled vegetables are a staple in Middle Eastern meals. Vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots and cauliflower can be marinated in a mixture of vinegar, salt, garlic and spices, creating a crunchy and tasty side dish perfect for accompanying main dishes.

Olives in brine

Olives in brine are another classic side dish. The olives are preserved in a brine solution with lemons, garlic and herbs, resulting in a tasty appetiser.

Tabulè salad

Tabulè salad is a fresh and healthy side dish made with parsley, bulgur, tomatoes, onion and mint, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. It is perfect for accompanying heavier dishes and adds a touch of lightness.

How to organise the week's meals

Middle Eastern vegetarian cuisine is a treasure trove of flavours, colours and nutrients. With a variety of recipes ranging from main dishes to tasty side dishes, there is something to satisfy everyone.

Meal planning

Organising the week's meals may seem like a challenge, but with a little planning, it can become a healthy and rewarding habit. Starting by selecting a few main recipes and side dishes to prepare in advance can greatly simplify the process.

  • Early preparation: devote one day a week to preparing basic ingredients such as cooked vegetables, chopped vegetables and ready-made sauces. This will allow you to assemble meals in a few minutes during the week.
  • Storage tips: it is essential to maintain freshness and quality. Use airtight containers and divide meals into portions for easy reheating and consumption.
  • Freezing portions: many Middle Eastern vegetarian dishes lend themselves well to freezing. Dishes such as lentil soup and shakshuka can be prepared in large quantities and frozen in single-serving portions for quick and easy meals.
  • Flavouring recipes: to add flavour to vegetarian recipes with tomato sauce, you can add spices such as cumin, paprika, coriander and cayenne pepper. In addition, the use of fresh herbs such as basil, parsley and mint can enhance the taste.

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