Even if you don’t eat meat or are trying for more plant-based options, you can still enjoy a summertime barbecue: You just need some vegetarian barbecue recipes at the ready. The right meal ideas can make the festivities fun and tasty for omnivores and plant-based eaters alike.
For the meat-eaters reading this, hosting a vegetarian and vegan-friendly cookout doesn’t mean that you have to forgo your usual grilling recipes. Plenty of popular barbecue side dishes, like potato salad and coleslaw, are completely vegetarian to begin with. And they can also easily become vegan-friendly too, with a few simple swaps, like subbing traditional mayonnaise for a store-bought vegan mayo option. In others, like baked beans, you can simply omit the animal product—in this case, bacon—without messing too much with the classic taste.
But sides alone aren’t enough for a truly satisfying cookout, which is why it’s also important to clear a space on the grill for protein sources and mains that the vegans and vegetarians in your circle can enjoy. Things like halloumi, tempeh, and tofu are all sturdy enough to stand up to the heat of a live flame, and just as hearty and filling as meat when cooked on a grill. Nowadays, there are also plenty of veggie burgers—both homemade and store-bought—that won’t fall apart when cooked over high temps.
What’s more, a number of vegetables take on textures and flavors that could be mistaken for meat when cooked and seasoned a certain way. Vegetarian BBQ marinade recipes made with umami-packed ingredients like soy sauce give vegetables a savory oomph that’s more often found in meat. And ingredients like mushrooms and eggplant take on a meaty consistency when cooked both on and off the grill.
Of course, the easiest way to ensure your vegetarian and vegan friends are satisfied at your next barbecue is to stock up on recipes you know they’ll like. Before we get into what you should cook, keep reading for extra tips to guarantee the plant-based people in your life don’t leave the party hungry.
What can vegetarians eat at a BBQ?
According to plant-based eaters with experience navigating barbecue season, there are truly so many dining options for your vegetarian and vegan friends.
Preeta Sinha, from One Green Planet, tells SELF that you can’t go wrong with a focus on veggies, especially ones that are sturdy enough to hold up well on the grill. For instance, think about bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, corn on the cob, asparagus, and onions. Not only are these strong enough not to fall apart, but they also have a natural sweetness that’s highlighted by the smoky flavor of the grill, she says. As for your main dishes, offering vegan or vegetarian burgers, sausages or hotdogs, and barbecue vegetable skewers are great ways to make everyone feel included without a ton of additional effort.
Sides are also a huge part of the plant-based BBQ experience, Rhyan Geiger, RDN, owner of the Phoenix Vegan Dietitian, tells SELF. She turns to classics like potato and macaroni salad, both of which are vegetarian and, as we mentioned above, can easily be made vegan with some light swaps.