Fancy-ish Vegan Meals from Trader Joe’s For Less Than $3

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These easy, tasty, and budget-friendly meals from Trader Joe’s cost less than $3 per serving!
Plus, they’re kinda fancy and just so happen to be vegan.

Affordable, tasty, and fancy-ish food = my idea of the perfect trifecta. I’ve been making budget-friendly recipe videos on my Youtube channel for quite some time now, and thought I would flex my old creative muscles again. 

Today I’m sharing 3 Italian-inspired vegan recipes with you, made with ingredients exclusively from Trader Joe’s. They’re relatively easy to make, and cost-effective too — each serving size is less than $3.

plates of lemon ricotta pasta, roasted vegetables with crispy polenta, and pesto cauliflower gnocchi on white background

So, let’s get right to it! Each recipe will include a cost breakdown + detailed instructions. If you’re more of a visual learner, you can watch the recipe video instead:

1. PESTO CAULIFLOWER GNOCCHI

ingredients for pesto cauliflower gnocchi next to plate of cooked gnocchi on white background

Pan-seared gnocchi are covered in Trader Joe’s vegan kale pesto sauce, then tossed with some kalamata olives and arugula for some brightness & bite. Not a fan of either? Sun-dried tomatoes and spinach would also be great!

Total Grocery Cost: $14.65
Cost of Groceries Used: $8.64
Price per Serving (3): $2.88

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Pesto Cauliflower Gnocchi

This cauliflower gnocchi is pan-seared in garlic-infused oil, then tossed with pesto, olives, and arugula.

  • Author: Caitlin Shoemaker
  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 Minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic-Infused Olive Oil
  • 2 bags of Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi, frozen
  • 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Vegan Pesto (or sub this pesto)
  • 15 kalamata olives, sliced in half
  • ~2 ounces arugula (or sub baby spinach)

Instructions

  1. Add the oil to a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil heats up, remove the gnocchi from the package and use a knife to carefully separate any pieces that are stuck together.
  2. Once the oil is warm, add the gnocchi to the pan and gently toss until coated in oil. Let the gnocchi pan-fry for at least 5 minutes, then use a spatula to toss/flip the gnocchi. Loosely cover the pan with a lid (leave a crack for steam) and cook for an additional 5 minutes, undisturbed.
  3. Remove the cover, toss the gnocchi again, and cook for longer, if desired. Once the gnocchi is thawed and cooked though, turn off the heat and stir in the pesto, olives, and arugula.
  4. Divide onto 3 plates, then serve warm; leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days and are best reheated on the stovetop.

Keywords: vegan pesto gnocchi, cauliflower gnocchi recipes

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2. ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH CRISPY POLENTA AND ROMESCO SAUCE

ingredieningredients for roasted vegetables with crispy polenta next to plate of cooked dish on white background

I swear I’ve eaten something almost identical to this in a restaurant before. And it certainly didn’t cost $2.64! Roasted bell peppers and eggplant combine with crispy pan-fried polenta (aka your new obsession), smoky romesco sauce, and some chickpeas to round everything out.

Total Grocery Cost: $13.03
Cost of Groceries Used: $10.57
Price per Serving (4): $2.64

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Roasted Vegetables with Crispy Polenta and Romesco Sauce

Roasted vegetables combine with pan-seared polenta and a smoky romesco sauce to create a satisfying and delicious dish.

  • Author: Caitlin Shoemaker
  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 Minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stovetop, Oven
  • Cuisine: Americam
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium/large eggplant, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered
  • 1 18 ounce (510 g) package pre-cooked polenta
  • 2 15 ounce (425 g) cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 8 ounce (227 g) package Trader Joe’s Romesco Dip (or make this recipe)
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Roasted Veggies: Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, then place the chopped eggplant and bell peppers on it. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then toss the vegetables on the tray until they are evenly coated. Place the tray in the top rack of the oven and bake for 30-32 minutes, until the edges of the vegetables turn golden.
  2. Polenta: In the meantime, remove the polenta from its packaging and slice it into 1/4-1/2″ rounds. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to a large nonstick pan, and warm it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the polenta rounds to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side. (Note: I recommend using a splatter guard if you have one). Once the polenta is golden and crispy, transfer the rounds to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
  3. Chickpeas: Add the chickpeas to the pan (with remaining leftover oil) and sauté until warm, 3 to 5 minutes. If you wish for the chickpeas to be crispier, you can cook them for a little longer.
  4. Serve: Use a spoon to spread 2-3 tablespoons of the romesco sauce on the bottom of a large plate, then top with the crispy polenta, roasted vegetables, and chickpeas. Finish each plate with a dollop of the remaining romesco sauce and a lemon wedge; serve warm.

Did you make this recipe?

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3. LEMON RICOTTA PASTA

ingredients for lemon ricotta pasta next to plate of cooked dish on white background

Bouncy noodles are coated in a creamy lemon-infused ricotta sauce made from tofu and cashews! Not only is this recipe super budget-friendly, but it’s also incredibly customizable. Feel free to add in some frozen/roasted/cooked veggies, or just enjoy as-is! 

Believe it or not, this recipe is already on the blog! Get the full recipe for this Vegan Lemon Ricotta Pasta here. To make this more budget-friendly, I omitted the miso paste and the arrowroot powder. The final result was still delicious!

Total Grocery Cost: $16.65
Cost of Groceries Used: $5.36
Price per Serving (2): $2.68

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS:

  • Don’t shop at Trader Joe’s? Most ingredients are accessible from any grocery store or can be made from scratch. Don’t be afraid to get creative and substitute your own favorite products too!
  • Want more Italian-inspired inspo? You’ll also love this Mediterranean Pasta Salad, this Sweet Pea & Corn Risotto, and these Sweet & Smoky White Beans!
  • Share the love: If you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I love seeing your delicious recreations 🙂

About the Author

Hey there, I’m Caitlin! I make easy-to-follow, wholesome, and budget-friendly vegan recipes that are mostly gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I’m also an avid yogi, love the great outdoors, am chocolate-obsessed, and enjoy eating almond butter straight off of the spoon.

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