Super Savory Breakfasts

Savory breakfasts have always had a certain appeal and popularity around the world. For centuries the Japanese have started their day with miso soup and simple side dishes of whole grains and vegetables. When visiting India, you might be served dosas (bean and rice pancakes) with dahl (a lentil or split pea dish) in the morning. You can get uppama in South India—a savory semolina cereal with spices and vegetables. And traditional Egyptian breakfast fare is ful medames, small fava beans simmered in garlic with lemon juice and spices. Mung beans are consumed in many parts of Asia; socca, a garbanzo flour flatbread, is sold by street vendors in Nice, France; and sweetened beans are a favorite in Peru.

A traditional breakfast in the United States almost always involves eggs, dairy products, and meat. Though it’s well known that a good breakfast can influence your energy level all day, such conventional fare is a source of unnecessary fat and cholesterol in any healthy diet plan. If you’re looking for a lean, filling meal that will see you through to lunch, combining beans, tempeh, or tofu with complex carbohydrates makes perfect sense.

To jumpstart your day, keep your pantry filled with foods that will make tasty additions to vegan-friendly breakfast dishes. Baked beans, for example, can be heated and eaten over cornbread or whole grain English muffins. Canned beans can be used with artichokes, peppers, corn, pineapple, chilis, or olives and tossed into what I call refried grains—whole grains sautéed for a few minutes in a non-stick frying pan. With pasta sauce or salsa, you can create a healthy breakfast pizza combining beans and veggies to top an English muffin.

And red lentils take only about 15 minutes to prepare; all you need is some stock or water to cook them. Add a bit of garlic or ginger with some diced carrots, and cook until carrots and lentils are done. Sprinkle with a bit of lemon, lime, or orange juice.

Also, consider the potential of last night’s leftovers. Those baked beans might go well with corn and sweet potatoes for an intriguing morning casserole. Or how about turning yesterday’s kale, carrots, or squash into a creamy soup, enhanced with silken tofu and whole grain croutons. A good friend freezes a week’s worth of breakfast burritos made with leftover beans, pilafs, and casseroles, and she takes one with her to eat at work each day.

Peruse the recipes below and change them to suit your tastes or pantry items if you like. Short-order breakfast cooking is all about making changes. So what are you waiting for? Drop the sweet and go for savory breakfast options for a week.

Recipe Index

Easy Morning Combinations

Curried Potatoes And Yams With Hummus In Pita Bread

(Serves 4)

This is a perfect take-along breakfast for those mornings when you have to run and then eat at work. I sometimes use this recipe with hummus I have on hand from the deli. You can also use heated canned refried beans spiced with salsa instead of hummus.


  • 1 can chickpeas (about 2 cups), drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ Tablespoon sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Salt to taste


  • 2 medium red or white potatoes, cut into chunks (about 2-½ cups)
  • 1 small yam, cut into small chunks (about 1 cup)
  • 1-½ Tablespoons oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ Tablespoon chopped bottled hot pepper, such as Pepperoncini (optional)
  • 4 slices pita bread
  • Washed spinach or romaine lettuce leaves (optional)

Blend all ingredients for the hummus except salt together in a blender or a food processor. Blend until creamy. Add salt to taste.

Steam potatoes and yams for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, rinse with cool water, and set aside.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add oil and onions. Stir and cook until onions are soft. Add curry powder and peppers, then stir. Add the potatoes and sweet potatoes. Stir to coat the potatoes.

Spoon some hummus into each pita bread. Add a layer of potatoes and some spinach or romaine lettuce, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 480 Fat: 15 grams
Carbohydrates: 76 grams Protein: 14 grams
Sodium: 500 milligrams Fiber: 10 grams

Quinoa-Millet Pilaf With Winter Squash

(Serves 6)

My squash of choice for this recipe is delicata (also called sweet potato squash or peanut squash), the slender golden and green winter squash that is so versatile and easy to cook. Butternut squash also works well in this recipe.
Toast the pine nuts in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until the color changes and they smell toasted. In place of pine nuts, you can use a few ounces of steamed tempeh, cut into small chunks, if you like.

  • 2-½ cups water, divided
  • ½ cup millet, rinsed well
  • ½ cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ Tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1-½ cups delicata or butternut squash, seeded, washed (not peeled), and cut into about 1-inch chunks
  • ½ cup canned kidney beans, drained
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange (about ¼ cup juice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts (or steamed tempeh cut into small pieces)
  • Chopped parsley or cilantro for garnish

Bring 2 cups of the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add millet, quinoa, and a pinch of salt. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. While grains cook, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and spices, stir and cook for 1 minute, then add squash and ½ cup water. Cover and steam squash until soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove cover. Stir in grains. Add kidney beans, orange juice, zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook until beans are heated. Blend in toasted pine nuts or steamed tempeh. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Total calories per serving: 230 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 32 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 80 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Individual Breakfast Pizzas

(Serves 4)

English muffin pizzas with beans, mushrooms, and greens are a fun breakfast for people on the go in the morning. I use a pressure cooker to cook soaked, dried beans in just 8 minutes. Chard or spinach makes the dish look nice, and both cook quickly. You can also use baby spinach, which is done in no time at all.

  • p>1 Tablespoon oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup dried red beans, soaked overnight (or use 2 cans drained, rinsed red beans)
  • 2 cups finely chopped Swiss chard (or use spinach or baby spinach)
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 vegan English muffins, split

Heat the pressure cooker over medium heat, without the lid. Add oil and onions and cook until soft. Remove pressure cooker from heat and add basil, garlic, pepper flakes (if desired), oregano, tomatoes, water, mushrooms, and red beans. Secure the pressure cooker lid in place and bring up to pressure. Cook for 8 minutes. Use quick release by running room-temperature water over the lid so the pressure will come down quickly. Return to stovetop. Add Swiss chard and cook until soft but not overcooked.

For the stovetop version using canned beans, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add oil, onions, and mushrooms; cover with a lid; and cook until soft, adding a little water, if necessary. When onions and mushrooms are soft, add basil, garlic, pepper flakes, oregano, tomatoes, mushrooms, and canned red beans. (Omit the water for the stovetop version.) Cook for about 8 minutes, add Swiss chard, stir, and cook until soft—about 5 to 7 minutes.

For both versions, stir in salt to taste. Toast English muffins. Spoon beans over toasted muffin halves and enjoy. If you find the beans too soupy, use a slotted spoon for a thicker consistency.

Total calories per serving: 390 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 62 grams Protein: 18 grams
Sodium: 630 milligrams Fiber: 16 grams

Orange-Ginger Red Lentils

(Serves 2)

Sometimes, you can find interesting flavors of vinegar at a farmers’ market. Lavender and raspberry vinegars are favorites over breakfast lentils at our house. Wasabi powder, which tastes a bit like horseradish, can be found in Asian markets and natural foods stores.

  • ½ cup red lentils
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup diced carrots
  • 1 Tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate (or use another flavor, such as apple or raspberry)
  • Dash of wasabi powder or cayenne (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
  • ½ cup soymilk
  • Dash of salt
  • About 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar or your own favorite vinegar

Combine lentils, water, carrots, orange juice concentrate, and cayenne or wasabi powder in a small saucepan. Squeeze grated ginger over the lentils. Discard the pulp. Stir and cook until lentils begin to get soft. Add soymilk and continue to cook until lentils get mushy and thick. Add a dash of salt and drizzle rice vinegar over the lentils before serving.

Total calories per serving: 210 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 38 grams Protein: 13 grams
Sodium: 45 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams

Scrambled Tofu

(Serves 2)

The easiest breakfast of all, and you can vary it every day. Turmeric adds color, and arrowroot sprinkled on top while cooking gives the tofu a more egg-like consistency.

  • 8 ounces firm or extra firm tofu
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon arrowroot (found in natural foods stores and Asian markets)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons salsa

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Crumble tofu into pan, and add turmeric, arrowroot, and salsa. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.

Total calories per serving: 110 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 8 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 80 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

Variations: There are many options for changing this scramble. Add any interesting leftover whole grains or vegetables to your scramble. You can drop the salsa and add 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon curry powder. Or you can try ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon oregano, a bit of frozen corn, and some canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce (found in the grocery store). You can also add a couple teaspoons of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.

Early Riser Marinated Tofu Sandwich

(Serves 2)

Marinate the tofu overnight for this recipe. Tofu absorbs a marinade better if you press out excess water first. To press tofu, set a block of tofu on a plate and place a number of plates on top of it for about 10 minutes.
Then, slice and marinate tofu. Light and dark (or toasted) sesame oil can be found in natural foods stores and some supermarkets.

  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1-½ Tablespoons light sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon dark (or toasted) sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweetener, such as maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 4 slices whole grain bread or vegan English muffins
  • Mustard or vegan mayonaise (your condiment of choice)
  • Sliced tomatoes and pickles
  • Lettuce or spinach leaves

Drain tofu and press the water out of it. While tofu is being pressed, combine the juices, soy sauce, sesame oils, sweetener, ginger, and hot sauce for the marinade. Drain the water off pressed tofu and cut tofu into 4 slices. Place in a shallow glass or stainless steel baking dish.

Pour marinade over tofu. Cover and marinate tofu overnight in the refrigerator.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook tofu for 3-5 minutes on each side or until heated through. Spread whole grain bread with your choice of condiments, and top with tomatoes, pickles, and spinach leaves.

Total calories per serving: 380 Fat: 20 grams
Carbohydrates: 37 grams Protein: 18 grams
Sodium: 1,280 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Glorious Greens Bisque With Steamed Tempeh

(Serves 4)

When one of my friends mentioned she likes soup for breakfast, I realized there are soup fans who would love nothing more than to start the day with a warming soup. Make this soup year-round using various greens—one of my favorite versions was made with nettles. If you would like a thicker soup, purée with about 1 cup silken tofu.

  • 4-6 cups finely chopped packed greens (use collards, kale, or Swiss chard)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces tempeh
  • ½ Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup cooked leftover vegetables (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, lime juice, or rice vinegar
  • 2 slices whole grain bread, toasted and cut into small cubes

Place greens, water, and ginger in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until greens are very tender. This should take 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Blend peanut butter, salt, and pepper with the greens and water, adding about 1-½ cups at a time. Return to saucepan and heat gently.

While soup cooks, steam tempeh in a steamer basket for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle soy sauce over tempeh.

Cut into small cubes and add to soup. Stir in leftover vegetables, if desired. Add lemon juice and top each serving with toasted whole grain bread cubes.

Total calories per serving: 190 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 16 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 290 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Balsamic White Beans And Greens With Whole Grain Tortillas

(Serves 4)

*Pictured on the cover. This easy dish cooks in just 10 minutes in a pressure cooker. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, use 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed. After sautéing the onions, cook the beans and the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan for about 15 minutes or until greens are tender. Use the best traditionally aged balsamic vinegar for this recipe that you can find. You won’t be sorry.

  • 1-½ Tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup dried white beans (use Great Northern or small white beans), rinsed, soaked, and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups braising greens (small leaves of young kale, collards, Swiss chard, or other dark greens often found next to bins of salad mixes) or chopped kale
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 whole grain tortillas

Heat the pressure cooker over medium heat, without the lid. Add oil and onions, stir, reduce heat, and cook until onions are soft. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and carrots. Stir, then add boiling water, drained white beans, bay leaf, and braising greens.

Lock pressure lid into place and bring the cooker up to pressure. Cook for 12 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and stir in vinegar and salt to taste. Warm the tortillas by placing each one in a frying pan briefly until it is hot. Spread the the white beans and greens onto warm tortillas, fold, and eat.

Total calories per serving: 350 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 64 grams Protein: 18 grams
Sodium: 220 milligrams Fiber: 12 grams

Easy Morning Combinations

  • Lentils or canned beans can be cooked with diced carrots, chopped onions, apples, pears, peppers, corn, diced sweet potatoes or yams, and canned artichokes. Serve over whole grain bread, over warm cornbread, or wrapped in tortillas.
  • Prepared bean spreads, such as hummus, are great on a whole grain bagel or rice cake. Mash in some leftover squash for a bit of sweetness, and top it with tomato, sliced cucumbers, or roasted red peppers.
  • Tortilla roll-ups are easy when made with leftover casseroles, beans, vegetables, tofu, or crumbled cooked tempeh. Add spinach or baby salad greens and condiments, if desired.
  • Breakfast soup was never easier than using yesterday’s vegetables, grains, or beans alone or with tomato sauce or miso (approximately 1 Tablespoon per serving) for flavor. Another option is canned or cooked beans puréed with the same amount of soy or rice milk and 1 Tablespoon nut or seed butter for a creamy texture. For more texture you can toss in some frozen or cooked vegetables or some extra firm tofu squares, and crumble baked tortilla chips on top. Add your favorites, and you’ll never be disappointed.
  • Quick-cooking whole grains, such as buckwheat, millet, or quinoa, can be soaked the night before to cut cooking time. Add chunks of marinated tofu or cooked beans, or toast some nuts and add to the mixture.
  • Baked potatoes (make extra when you bake them) are a special treat topped with a bean spread, a pasta sauce made with tempeh, or salsa and beans with a sprinkle of vegan cheese, if desired.


Written by Debra Daniels-Zeller

Debra Daniels-Zeller is a frequent contributor to the Vegetarian Journal.

Written for the Vegetarian Resource Group and originally appeared in Vegetarian Journal

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