The Lenten season is a religious observance that begins on Ash Wednesday and runs until Holy Saturday. Filipinos commemorate these 40 days through various activities honoring the life and death of Jesus, including processions, pasyon, senakulo, and Visita Iglesia. It culminates on Easter Sunday through the salubong, depicting the resurrection of Christ.
During this time, the Catholic Church urges believers to pray, fast, and repent. It also obligates everyone 14 years old and above to abstain from meat every Friday. While the task may be simple, many households worry about preparing compliant yet nutritious and affordable food. If you’re in the same situation, check out these meat-free ulam ideas you can include in your Lenten meal plan.
7 Meatless Ulam Ideas for Lent
Preparing your menu early will let you focus on more meaningful Lenten season activities. In fact, food should be the least of your concerns during this season. So, plan your meals ahead and stock up on ingredients for the following recipe ideas.
1. Ginataang tahong
Are you worried about going over your budget with seafood? Don’t fret! Even if you skip shrimp and crabs, you’ll still have numerous wallet-friendly protein options. One terrific ulam you can cook for a meat-free Friday is mussels in coconut cream. Make the dish in 15 minutes by using a packet of Knorr Ginataang Gulay Mix. Serve it with steamed rice and a little fish sauce on the side.
2. Lumpiang sariwa with peanut sauce
On Good Friday, the Church urges everyone to fast and abstain. Besides skipping meat, you can only eat one meal the entire day. Consider making a healthy yet hearty lumpiang sariwa to fill up sans the guilt. Follow this easy recipe, but replace the minced meat with pan-fried tofu.
3. Bangus espesyal
Holy Week sometimes becomes an unplanned reunion for many families. Why not surprise your loved ones with something new, like this fish and vegetable stir-fry? Bangus espesyal is a quick and effortless dish loaded with good-for-you ingredients. All you need are a kilo of milkfish, carrots, potatoes, and Knorr Liquid Seasoning.
4. Spicy pusit
Adobo, grilled, and fried are three common ways Pinoys prepare squid. If you’re bored of these choices, try an easy sizzling pusit with a kick. Similar to pork sisig, this seafood recipe is straightforward and uses minimal ingredients. Feel free to cut down on the chili for a kid-approved version. Serve it on a sizzling plate and enjoy it with mounds of white rice.
5. Odong noodle soup
Abstaining might be easier at the beginning of the Lenten season. But as weeks pass, you’ll also crave something new. Take this chance to get creative with canned sardines. Instead of sautéing the saucy fish in onions and garlic like usual, try making odong. This noodle soup is well-loved in Visayas and Mindanao, where locals even pair it with rice. Prepare the dish using these pantry staples:
- canned sardines
- pechay, upo, sayote, or other vegetables
- odong noodles
- fish or shrimp broth cube
6. Sweet and sour tofu
Abstaining from fried chicken, pork chops, and nilaga can be tough on picky eaters. Get them to choose no-meat meals by serving a familiar ulam like sweet and sour. But make it with tokwa, an economical but versatile ingredient. It’s rich in protein and low in fat, too! So if you’re missing classic meaty dishes this season, tofu can be your best friend.
7. Vegetable kare kare
Who says you can’t enjoy kare kare during Lent? Besides cooking the peanut stew with seafood, you can make an all-veggie version. This one’s a terrific option if you’re cutting down on expenses, too. Just load up this recipe with any vegetable in your fridge – even those you won’t find in the classic dish.
How to Put Together a Meal Plan
Are you new to meal planning? Or in need of a refresher? Here’s an easy guide to help you plan your menu for Lent.
Step 1: Review your schedule.
Assess your schedule to determine when you have time to prep meals. Figure out if you can cook nightly or only once a week. This step is necessary to identify which recipes to include in your plan. Next, figure out when you need to abstain and fast. Remember that the exact Lenten season date varies every year – check your parish calendar for the dates.
Step 2: Choose your recipes.
Choosing from a billion recipes online can be a challenge. Consider these factors to help you finalize your menu:
- Time and style: Select a specific recipe style depending on your schedule. Do you need to cook quick weeknight dinners? How about a vegetable stir-fry? Another option is a slow-cooked dish that doesn’t require much attention.
- Pantry supplies: The ingredients in your pantry or refrigerator can help you decide what recipes to try. Consider options that also maximize leftovers.
- Season: Make the most of your budget by using seasonal ingredients. Take note of holidays and plan your menu based on favorites or restrictions.
Step 3: Match your ulam with your schedule.
Once you’ve completed your recipe list, fit the options into your schedule. Make planning fun by creating themes for the day or week. Here are some samples:
- Global Flavors
- Taco Tuesday
- Leftover Wednesdays
- Pasta Night
- Seafood Fridays
- Pizza Party Saturday
- Slow Cooker Sunday
Step 4: Prepare a grocery list.
Avoid impulse purchases by creating a comprehensive shopping list. Go through your recipes and list all the ingredients and their quantities. Before heading out, cross out items you already have in your inventory. Now you’re ready to shop, cook, eat, and repeat!
The Lenten season can become overwhelming for the unprepared. Whether you’re staying home or partaking in various religious practices during this time, it helps to pin down a plan. Follow these suggestions to make your family’s Kuwaresma as stress-free and meaningful as possible.