Vegetarian BBQ Ideas & Recipes

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Why should vegetarians miss all the fun at summer barbeques? Host a barbeque where all your guests feel comfortable with delicious vegetarian choices that even non-vegetarians will enjoy.

Vegetarianism vs. Veganism

Guests at your vegetarian BBQ might be vegetarian or vegan, and your menu should include food all your guests can eat. If you're not familiar with meatless diets, the differences between them may seem confusing. Really it's very simple:

  • Vegetarianism: Vegetarians don't eat meat, poultry or fish, but they do enjoy dairy and eggs. Basically, if it wasn't killed, a vegetarian will eat it.
  • Veganism: Vegans don't eat any animal products at all, so that means you'll need to exclude dairy and eggs from vegan menu items as well as meat, poultry and fish.

Vegetarian Cooking Etiquette

If you're planning a completely vegetarian BBQ, grilling is simple. Most vegetarian BBQs, however, have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian guests. Your meat-eating guests won't worry about whether their burger touched a vegetable, but most vegetarians are very squeamish about their food touching meat. To keep everyone happy:

  • Grill vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods on different areas of your grill or on separate grills entirely.
  • Carefully clean any charred meat remains from the grill before grilling vegetarian items.
  • If you're using a single grill area, cook vegetarian items first.
  • In the same spirit of courtesy, grill vegan foods before those containing dairy and eggs, or use a separate grill area.

Another important consideration is checking ingredients on prepared foods you're using to make sure vegetarian offerings are truly vegetarian. Lots of seemingly meatless foods contain sneaky animal ingredients. Vegetarians can't eat:

  • Baked or refried beans with bacon fat
  • Worcestershire sauce with anchovies
  • Vegetable soups with beef or chicken broth
  • Marshmallows containing gelatin.

In addition to meat ingredients, vegans can't eat:

  • Mayonnaise containing eggs
  • Anything with dairy whey or casein added.
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Vegetarian Grilling Recipes

Some people might think a vegetarian BBQ would be boring, but vegetarian foods actually taste great on the grill! Almost any vegetable benefits from smoky grilled flavor. Here are a few vegetarian foods that work particularly well on the grill, either skewered or in foil:

  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Corn on the cob
  • Apples
  • Marinated tofu
  • Pineapple rings
  • Zucchini
  • Bell peppers
  • Sweet onions

Look for vegetarian baked beans, buns made without animal shortening and of course salads with meatless (and if necessary, dairy-free) dressings. Serving veggie burgers or dogs further simplifies life, since your side dishes will complement everybody's main dish. Delicious commercial vegetarian burgers and dogs are available, most of which hold up well on the grill. Of course, if you're feeling adventurous, create your own easy veggie burgers from scratch.

Easy Veggie Burger Recipes

Spicy Chickpea Burger Recipe

Yield: 4 burgers

Serving Size: 1 burger

Calories per serving: 199

  • 1 can of chick peas, drained
  • ½ mushrooms, finely chopped
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 egg (or equivalent vegan egg substitute)
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chili sauce
  • ½ cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
  1. Preheat an outdoor grill to high, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil.
  2. Mash chickpeas with a fork in a bowl until pasty.
  3. Stir vegetables and garlic into beans.
  4. In separate bowl, combine egg, spices and chili sauce.
  5. Stir egg mixture into bean mixture.
  6. Mix in breadcrumbs and divide into four patties.
  7. Grill patties on foil for about eight minutes on each side.

Portabella Burger Recipe

Yield: 4 burgers

Serving size: 1 burger

Calories per serving: 205

  • 4 Portabella mushroom caps
  • ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 2½ tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 6 cloves or garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 slices of cheddar cheese or vegan cheese substitute
  1. Stand mushroom caps, round side up, on a plate.
  2. Create the marinade, by whisking together all remaining ingredients except the cheese.
  3. Pour marinade over mushrooms and marinate for 15 minutes, turning occasionally.
  4. Preheat grill to medium high.
  5. Grill on oiled grate for about seven minutes on each side, brushing frequently with remaining marinade.
  6. Melt cheese over mushrooms during the last two minutes of grilling.

Fun Vegetarian BBQ Side Dish Recipes

These vegetarian salads should appeal to all your guests:

Creamy Pasta Salad Recipe

Yield: 8 servings

Calories per serving: 215

  • One box of whole grain pasta, any shape
  • One box of chopped, frozen spinach
  • One can of straw mushrooms
  • One can of baby corn
  • One cup of cooked green peas
  • One cup of ranch dressing, to taste (Vegan option: use dairy-free dressing)

Defrost spinach by running hot water through it in a colander and then mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Health Slaw Recipe

Yield 8 servings

Calories per serving: 50

  • One small head of cabbage
  • ¼ of a sweet onion
  • ½ of a bell pepper
  • ½ cup of raisins
  • Fresh juice of two oranges
  • 1½ tablespoons of cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Run vegetables through a food processer and transfer to serving bowl. Stir in other ingredients and marinate overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Including vegetarian and vegan choices insures that all your guests have something to eat at your BBQ. Your delicious vegetarian foods may even end up being the most popular choices on your menu!

For non-vegetarian options, see The Best Summer Beach Party Food and Great Grilling Recipes For Summer Dinners.

Last Updated: March 27, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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