15 Vegan Grilling Recipes for Summer Cookouts
Unsure what to grill at a vegan bbq? We have ideas!
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If you’re reading this, you likely fit under one of two descriptions:
1) You’re a non-vegan hosting a vegan at a cookout, and you have no idea what to make them (because surely we’ll be past the quarantine soon and can have friends over some time, right?).
2) You’re a vegan or vegan-curious cook, you're sheltering in place with your grill this summer, and hoping to find something different and interesting to cook.
Great news — we have vegan recipes that everyone will enjoy, whether you crave old standards or something off the beaten path.
Jump ahead to:
The best vegan foods to grill
Nothing against tofu, but there are plenty of much more exciting vegan grilling options. The best vegan bbq recipes celebrate foods for what they are, rather than pretending to be something else.
Sturdy vegetables like summer squash, eggplant, and zucchini are all classic. Or try grilling something that’s not the main dish. Sides like corn on the cob, or salads (grilled romaine heads, we’re looking at you) are simple as well as a surefire hit with eaters of all persuasions.
Think outside the bun! We’ve got a top-notch veggie burger recipe, but why stick to that when there are so many other tasty things to cook? Grill your own flatbread, or branch out and grill fruit. And if you are craving a hot dog fix, grilled asparagus spears or whole carrots make clever and fresh swaps for those store-bought tofu dogs or veggie sausages that can grill up dry and lackluster.
Useful equipment for vegan grilling
In most cases, the grill itself will be adequate. But since vegetables like cauliflower, asparagus, or bell pepper strips can fall though grill grates, a grill pan or grill basket can spare you some anxiety over foods lost to the ashes.
Know your ingredients
Vegans are used to showing up at gatherings and having few food options — that’s why they usually bring something along to share. Put forth an effort to be accommodating and you'll make them feel so much more welcome! To do this, you'll need to learn a classic vegan skill: Reading ingredients labels for stealth animal ingredients. Mayonnaise, honey, and Worcestershire sauce are not vegan. Many condiments and barbecue sauces contain these ingredients, so either look for one that’s in the clear, or make your own, like the vegan barbecue sauce recipe below.
The best vegan grilling recipes
Burgers, kebabs, "steaks," even desserts — there are a host of inventive vegan grilling ideas that will make your cookout delicious no matter who’s eating!
A rich tahini marinade with ginger, lime, and coconut milk becomes a luxurious drizzle over these satay-style kebabs that will quickly become your favorite vegan grilled eggplant recipe. Thinly sliced eggplant is easy to thread onto skewers, grills up meltingly tender, and will blow any chewy band of seitan out of the water. This recipe calls for kecap manis, a sticky-sweet Indonesian sauce that’s like a super-syrupy soy sauce. If you don’t have any, use 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce and 1 teaspoon maple syrup or brown rice syrup.
Grilling avocados imbues them with an intriguing smokiness. At that point you could mash them into guacamole, but why stop there? A grilled stuffed avocado is a main and a salad all in one! Roast the tomato and corn filling ahead, if you like, then grill the avocados when it’s showtime to allow you more enjoyment on the deck lazing with a cool drink.
For that umami touch, a glaze enriched with miso makes plain old grilled zucchini worthy of seconds and thirds. Sweet sauces like this can burn on the grill, which is why you brush the zucchini with the glaze just after grilling.
Jackfruit makes an interesting and all-natural stand-in for pulled pork, but jackfruit itself is not very grill-friendly. In this recipe, you cook the jackfruit bbq on the stovetop and then stuff it into grilled zucchini. The recipe has you finishing the stuffed zucchini in the oven, but to do it on the grill, just move them to the cooler side (low heat) with the flames on the other side still on medium-high. Close the lid and grill until tender, about 10 minutes.
Cauliflower plays so nicely with other flavors, but to make it compelling, you really need to bump up the spices. These fiery little guys could also fill tacos, pita, or sandwich rolls. You’ll need a grilling grate for this, since cauliflower tends to crumble on the grill.
Sure, you can heap a portobello mushroom cap on a burger bun, but why not try something different? This is easily one of the more decadent vegan grilled mushroom recipes we’ve seen. Marinate the mushrooms, grill them, slice them into slabs, and top it all with zingy, colorful chimichurri. This recipe has three components — the chimichurri, the marinade, and a “steak” seasoning — so pace yourself and tackle one sub-recipe at a time. (Besides, this makes a lot of chimichurri; leftovers freeze splendidly!) As for the homemade onion strings, we’re sure they’re great, but maybe just save yourself the time and buy a bag of good potato chips instead.
When the grill is fired up, we’re hard-wired to throw burgers on it — all it takes is one whiff of smoking charcoal. But veggie burgers tend to break apart on the grill. Minimalist Baker understands! Behold the grillable veggie burger, the vegan grilled burger of your dreams. Walnuts, black beans, brown rice, panko breadcrumbs, and a host of tasty seasonings make these meaty and flavorful. To push them over the top, serve with a giant spoonful of vegan thousand island dressing or the barbecue sauce that follows.
We know what you’re thinking — what makes barbecue sauce not vegan? Some sauces have ingredients like Worcestershire sauce or honey that aren’t vegan. And some vegans eschew conventional sugar because it’s processed with animal products (organic sugar is in the clear, though). To be on the safe side, you can make this tangy vegan bbq sauce. If you can’t find vegan Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s brand is one), use more soy sauce, or just omit it.
Carrot dogs are all the rage in clean eating circles, and for good reason. They have about ten dozen fewer ingredients than tofu hot dogs, they’re easy to grill, and they’re gluten-free and nut-free. To help the carrots grill up tender instead of crunchy, boil them in hot water first. Then marinate the carrots with the balsamic dressing for a few hours, or up to overnight. It takes only a quick stint on the grill for them to be bun-ready.
Take all the touchstones of ratatouille — tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini — and reinvent them as a grilled vegan kebab. Cherry tomatoes always seem to slide and slouch on a skewer, but this recipe sidesteps that by using the tomatoes in a bright red tomato sauce to serve on top. You can make the sauce indoors, or on a small pan over the fire.
Let’s be honest — hot, freshly grilled flatbread could be a meal in itself. Make a batch of these to serve with any veggie kebab (like the ratatouille kebab above) for the upgrade of the century.
This sweet corn has a one-two punch with a dry rub on the cob, and a spicy crema to top it once it hits your plate. For the crema, the smoky sauce from a can of chipotle gets a rich foil in coconut milk.
Quickly mark halved heads of romaine on the grill, finish with olive oil, salt, and pepper. That’s it. With something so simple, it’s important for the olive oil to be as good as it can be, so reach for some extra-nice stuff if you have that option.
Instead of pouring balsamic all over a portabello cap, why not switch the scene up with fruit? A brief spell on the grill renders the berries sweeter and softer for an alluring vegan dessert that’s still light and summery. To make this vegan, replace the honey in the glaze with agave nectar.
Yes, you can grill a fruit cobbler! A cast iron skillet can withstand the flames. You’ll be best off if you grill this well before the main event, as it takes a good 30 minutes, plus it needs to sit a bit longer before you dig in. If you’re in the mood for dessert but don’t have a grill-friendly skillet, bake this in a small dish (about 8-inch square) in a 350° oven instead.
Learn more about vegan cooking
If you’re new to veganism or want to support a loved one who’s giving it a try, we have loads of resources on Yummly to help, including more vegan cooking articles and hundreds of thousands of vegan recipes.