My family and I have recently been cutting down our meat intake, so I thought a vegetarian cookout would be a great idea, considering it’s cookout season. I don’t want the kind of vegetarian cookout that deprives hungry guests of their favorite sizzling meats, but one that makes them forget about them for a few blissful, veggie-filled hours.
And after much experimentation, I’ve landed on these crowd-pleasing vegetarian cookout ideas, tips, tricks, and recipes. Here’s to vegging out this summer!
Skip the veggie burgers
I love a good veggie burger, but I’ve found that serving processed plant patties in lieu of hamburgers tends to leave carnivores missing burgers in a big way.
Instead of offering a direct meat substitute like a veggie burger or veggie hotdog, I now try to offer guests something unexpected, like grilled flatbread with nice cheese and plump tomatoes, or a plateful of veggie and tofu kebabs.
These are vegetarian cookout ideas that don’t invite comparison, but delight in their own way.
However if you can’t imagine a cookout without something patty-shaped, I suggest you one of these lighter eco-friendly burgers which keep things juicy and delicious.
Use other foods to deliver that charred flavor of a cookout
You know that smoky cookout smell that wafts through the neighborhood and heralds the arrival of summer? Hosting a vegetarian cookout doesn’t mean you miss out on that!
In fact, there are loads of other food vehicles for that complex, charred flavor that makes cookouts so delicious. Here are a few favorites to play around with:
I used to be so intimidated by grilled pizza. Would it stick to the grill and cause a fire? Would I be able to add the toppings before it burned? But it turns out, grilling pizza is delightfully easy and gets you way closer to the wood-fire-oven taste than your oven ever could.
Follow our writer Jane’s instructions for perfect grilled pizza (above), and your guests will forget all about burgers for the evening.
Or, skip the toppings and make grilled flatbread instead to accompany your vegetarian cookout meal. Same method, and incredible taste.
I’m loving this recipe for Bryant Terry’s grilled tofu and veggie kebabs from The Kitchn. The sauces really shine here, so having a blank canvas like tofu is actually a benefit if you ask me.
Just make sure that when you drain your tofu, you don’t completely squish it; it will need to hold up well enough to stay on the kebab — and not fall off on your grill.
It requires an extra step, but making your own grilled salsa delivers such a rich flavor that I think it’s totally worth it. Make it while you’re warming up the grill and waiting for guests to arrive, then serve with chips for an appetizer, or use it to spice up your veggie tacos.
I like this recipe for Grilled Salsa Verde from The Garlic Diaries which she calls “tangy, bright, spicy, perfect.” Yes, please.
Ever since I discovered the magical properties of halloumi, I’ve been obsessed. It’s a cheese you can pan fry, grill, or roast, and it tastes like heaven. You can throw it straight on the grill with a little olive oil and salt, or try something creative like this Grilled Halloumi and Peach Kebabs (above) at My New Roots. It’s one vegetarian cookout idea that will leave guests feeling anything but deprived.
A good veggie taco is tough to beat, especially if you’ve grilled the veggies to crispy perfection. Make sure you include some avocado (I grill those too!) and an awesome sauce like the ones I’ve recommended below.
Mexican street corn
This Grilled Mexican Street Corn makes the perfect side to virtually any main. I’ve made this recipe from Serious Eats so many times, and it’s always a huge crowd pleaser. You can always skip the feta or cotija cheese if you’re vegan.
If you’re going for a more elegant dinner (AKA, your guests might not want a cheese and mayo mustache), try the Grilled Mexican Street Corn Salad version, which you can also cook on the grill.
When in doubt, supplement with great condiments
5-Minute Magic Green Sauce | A Pinch of Yum
I love the flavor of fresh veggies themselves, but I think it can be helpful for non-vegetarians to have an on-ramp to plant-based foods in the form of a great sauce or condiment.
A good chipotle mayo works wonders, or if you want to make something a little more interesting, try Jessica in the Kitchen’s Lime Crema recipe which hasn’t disappointed a hungry crowd of mine yet.
Or, try this am-ah-zing 5-Minute Magic Green Sauce (above) from Pinch of Yum, which tastes divine slathered over pretty much anything, thanks to a combo of avocado, garlic, jalapeños, pistachios, and a blend of fresh seasonal herbs.
Drizzle these sauces over your kebabs, tofu, or faux burgers, or serve them on the side as dipping sauces. Yum’s the word, y’all.
Oh, and bonus: if you’re looking for desserts to finish things off with a bang? No problems there for vegetarians. Here’s a round-up of gorgeous icebox pie recipes to get you started, plus some no-bake cakes — I looove that Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie. Save room!