Summertime is synonymous with backyard barbecues and all the seared, charred, and smoky foods we remember. But for most, the terms “vegan” and “grilling” go together about as well as “water” and “cats.”
Together we can end factory farming.
Luckily, vegan options for grilling aren’t what they used to be. Beyond Sausages and Impossible Burgers offer the same tasty experience as the animal products they replace, and plant-based grilling isn't limited to the new alternative burger and sausages. There is a whole world beyond Beyond!
10 Delicious Plant-Based Foods You Can Grill This Summer
- Vegan steak. Oh yes, there is such a thing! Creating your own vegan steak from scratch is going to be a little more work than some of the other options below, but it’s no more work than making your typical baked goods, thanks to the magic of vital wheat gluten. FFAC staff member Brandon Blake recommends this protein-packed recipe from noracooks.com.
- Vegan ribs. Again, yes there is such a thing! You can let animals keep their ribs while you whip up some delicious, barbecue-slathered goodness. This recipe from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen uses the magic of jackfruit to give them that shredded texture, along with seitan/vital wheat gluten for the chew.
- Homemade veggie burgers. The great thing about veggie burgers is that you can make them out of so many different things! Some of the most common ingredients are black beans, rice, and quinoa, but the options are endless. Homemade veggie burgers do have a reputation for becoming dry when they are grilled, but renowned food journalist Mark Bittman claims to have developed the perfect recipe that overcomes that flaw.
- Tofu or tempeh kebabs. Kebabs are a classic and easy option that are so versatile when it comes to the protein you choose to include. Some extra-firm tofu or chunks of tempeh work perfectly, paired with fresh vegetables, especially slathered in a barbecue sauce. For a recipe that takes a little more effort but is worth it for the result check out chef Bryant Terry’s Grilled Vegetable and Tofu Kebabs.
- Carrot dogs. The amazing hot-dog substitute you didn’t realize you needed to try. FFAC staff member Alexis Miller loves grilling these up for friends during holiday cook-outs and says you’ll be surprised by how similar the texture and taste end up being. Here’s a recipe from live eat learn.
- Portobello mushrooms. A classic plant-based option that’s easy to brush with a little oil and toss over some flames. You can try this flavor-packed recipe from Bakerita, and if you’re looking for a protein, serve it alongside the baked beans recipe below.
- Cauliflower steak. Cauliflower is one of the most versatile vegetables out there, and although this steak is definitely not trying to be meat, it’s delicious in its own right. A recipe like this one from Our Plant Based World topped with some herby chimichurri sauce is a great option.
- Pineapple. Most of us have probably had some juicy, charred pineapple either on its own or stacked on a teriyaki burger, but if you haven’t, it’s a must-try for all pineapple lovers according to FFAC staff member Iris Woosley (here’s a recipe from Plant Based On a Budget). And the word of fruit-grilling doesn’t stop there—try grilling up some peaches, apples, or these watermelon steaks from Pure Wow (FFAC staff member Elly Ren insists the white part of the watermelon rind is delicious when marinated and cooked)
- Corn on the cob. Another classic grilled vegetable that always delivers. You can throw them on the grill husk and all or peel and wrap them in tin foil, giving them a little direct flame action for the char if you’d like. But however you do it, you can enjoy them with some plant-based butter and/or salt and pepper for some extra umami, dressed up with vegan mayo and spices for some Mexican elote flavors (see below for a vegan elote salad recipe), or just naked in all their glorious sweet juicy-ness! This Minimalist Baker recipe combines a little bit of everything.
- All the veggies. The sky is the limit when it comes to the veggies you can grill up. FFAC staff member Jesse Tandler enjoys taking some veggies like onion, bell pepper, zucchini, or eggplant and tossing them with a little oil and seasonings. It’s basically a kebab without the stick! If you’re ready to move into more creative territory, you can try this grilled artichoke recipe from Oh My Veggies or some grilled avocados with veggie ceviche from Love and Lemons.
To many people, side dishes are the true stars of the barbecue show. Luckily, it’s easy to create all of the best sides with 100% plant-based ingredients without anyone noticing a difference.
- Potato salad: Perhaps the most popular side dish appearing at barbecues around the country, potato salad is packed full of texture and flavor thanks to all of the veggies and spices you can add to your liking. This recipe from Vegan Hugs goes for a classic take, swapping in some vegan mayo for that celebrated creaminess.
- Mac and cheese: The great generation-bridging food, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like a bowl of creamy noodles. This recipe from Sweet Potato Soul uses the creamy power of butternut squash and the right selection of spices to give this dish a creative and equally delicious twist.
- Baked beans. You don’t need any bacon made from pigs to enjoy this hearty and protein-packed dish. This recipe from A Virtual Vegan packs in all the smokey and BBQ flavor you need!
What about smoked foods?
You might have noticed that smokers are very trendy right now. Slow cookers work by cooking foods at a low temperature with heat generated by burning wood pellets that infuses the foods with a deep smokey flavor. There are a lot of plant-based options that are delicious when smoked including tomatoes, corn, and nuts. But you can also make plant-based versions of smoked meats like jackfruit for pulled “pork” and seitan for “brisket!” Check out this One Green Planet article for some ideas.
Recipe: Vegan Elote Salad
From FFAC’s social media manager Meghan Jones:
Ingredients (quantities are up to your preference!)
- Short pasta, like elbows/macaroni, ditalini, fusilli, farfalle, etc.
- Vegan mayo
- Fresh corn on the cob
- Limes or lime juice
- Black beans
- Red onion
- Vegan parmesan or cotija cheese (I recommend Violife or Follow Your Heart parm.)
**Can also add other veggies if on hand, like bell pepper, jalapeno, zucchini, etc.
How to make:
- Cook your pasta in salted water until al dente. Strain, and rinse under cold water until cooled.
- Use a knife to cut the fresh corn off the cob into a large bowl.
- Dice red onion and add to the bowl along with chopped cilantro, rinsed black beans, and chopped tomato
- Add cooked, cooled pasta to bowl along with a few tablespoons of vegan mayo, juice of one lime, and tajin to taste
- Grate vegan parmesan cheese over top, and mix!
- Can serve right away, or store in fridge until needed (: