I’ve never understood the hype around a fancy dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love going out to restaurants and savoring every meal with a dinner date, but doing so on Valentine’s Day is rarely my vibe. Perhaps as I’m getting older, I’m learning to appreciate the little everyday moments over the grand gestures. But whatever the case, there’s nothing more romantic and cozy than putting on a playlist, lighting a few candles, and cooking a meal together at home. And what V-Day meal would be complete without a specialty cocktail or mocktail to sip while you cook? By now you’re wondering what I’ll be making this holiday. My answer: this very special, totally vegetarian coq au vin.
What makes this recipe a great date night dish? Though it’s a one-pot meal, it requires a decent amount of chopping—perfect for two sets of hands. And while one person tends to the stew, the other can work on the potatoes. In this ultimate date night recipe, two is definitely better than one.
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What is coq au vin?
The name alone sounds fancy (another reason it feels special for a day like Valentine’s). Coq au vin is a traditional French recipe consisting of chicken braised with wine and aromatics, historically developed to make tough meat more tender. And while I don’t eat chicken, I do feel like I’ve experienced the dish myself through many a Julia Child binge-watch and read. But if you’ve never had coq au vin (vegetarian or otherwise), allow me to tease its magic. What makes this dish iconic is the beauty that comes in allowing aromatic ingredients to cook low and slow in the pot and develop an incredible depth of flavor.
What ingredients are used in this Vegetarian Coq Au Vin?
As you might have surmised from the name, there is no chicken in this coq au vin. So how do you get the coq au vin minus the… coq? Let’s dive in.
Aromatics and fresh herbs. To help create that cozy flavor, we’ll use a generous helping of aromatics. Onions, garlic, rosemary, and thyme add a lovely, savory warmth.
Tomato paste. Tomato paste adds a bit of acidity and richness. Pro tip: Freeze leftover tomato paste in tablespoon-size servings in an ice cube tray. In the future, all you need to do is pop a cube into whatever you’re cooking.
Vegetables. I use chopped mushrooms, preferably Bella mushrooms, and carrots. The mushrooms add some bite and make this a filling vegetarian dish.
Lentils. You can use green or black lentils in this recipe. If using dried lentils, soak them for at least 6-8 hours before cooking to reduce cook time and ensure they are cooked all the way through.
Red wine. Preferably dry with just a slight sweetness. But use what you have on hand.
Vegetable broth. Homemade or store-bought—just use the good stuff.
Butter and flour. A roux gets added to the pot at the end of cooking, making the texture of this stew silky and smooth.
Are there any ingredient swaps to know about?
I’ve experimented with some ingredient swaps the last few times I’ve made this recipe. It can be an easy way to make use of what I already have on hand.
Swap the lentils for beans. While it makes this feel a little closer to chili than a coq au vin (which feels slightly scandalous to admit), using a canned white bean like a garbanzo or cannellini bean adds body to the coq au vin and keeps it vegetarian.
Vegetable substitutions. While I usually stick to the onion, mushroom, and carrots as my go-to combination, I have also added some chopped potatoes or a handful of spinach to work in more greens. Again, very far from tradition, but sometimes I’m just trying to use up ingredients.
Warning: don’t swap the wine. While you might be able to get away with a zero-proof red wine, the flavor and acid from the red wine are very hard to replicate with something else. I will generally use whatever red wine I have on hand and adjust the flavor based on the wine. For a drier red wine, I’ll add a teaspoon of sugar to round out the flavor. For a sweeter and fruitier red wine, I’ll add a splash of soy sauce or a bit extra salt just to mellow out the sweetness. Just taste as you go!
How to Serve This Coq au Vin
I firmly believe that this coq au vin tastes best over creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes. It’s just the ultimate cozy combination. But, this coq au vin is equally good over rice, with crusty bread, with whole potatoes on the side, creamy polenta, or on its own and served with a green side salad.
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Tips for Making This Recipe Ahead of Time and Storing Leftovers
Yes, you can make this ahead of time! If the idea of cooking for date night gives you any level of stress, know that you can make the entire thing in advance. Simply store it in the pot in the fridge and reheat in the oven when ready to serve. If the stew thickens up a bit, thin out your coq au vin with a little vegetable broth until you reach desired thickness.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and reheat when ready to eat. Happy cooking!
Scroll on for the recipe, and if you make this vegetarian coq au vin, be sure to rate and review below, and show us on Instagram!