Vegan Cookout Food (Best Options!)

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by Alena Schowalter
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Summer is the time to gather your friends and share good food! With our top vegan cookout food tips and over 180 crowd-pleasing recipes, your garden party is sure to become a great success.

Grab your sunglasses and favorite summer clothes, we’ll show you how to host a vegan cookout or attend a barbecue as a vegan without flinching.

We’ve already shared our favorite tips for surviving the holidays as a vegan, but the grilling season can be just as tricky if you’re on a plant-based diet — especially if you’re the only vegan in the family.

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Luckily, most people have become a lot more accepting of us plant munchers and are even curious to try some vegan goodness that’s completely free from animal products.

We’re not just talking about food that has been made from scratch but also the plethora of vegan alternatives found in today’s supermarkets (be sure to check ingredient lists!).

According to The Good Food Institute, the $939 million plant-based meat market has grown by 38% over the last two years and the demand for meat products may even fall by 50% in the coming ten years.

Especially those who are curious about hearty meatless meals or following a more plant-based diet might find it more enticing to bite into a burger that’s eerily similar to beef instead of bluntly veggie-stuffed.

But also for any vegans who miss the taste of meat (yup, vegans want to avoid violence and not delicious flavor), these succulent cruelty-free options can make for an even more enjoyable vegan cookout!

Easy vegan BBQ dishes

There are some super common vegan sides, appetizers, or desserts that make the perfect add-on to any well-rounded cookout menu.

  • Bread or rolls
  • Bean burgers
  • Veggie skewers
  • Potato salad
  • Grilled or stuffed veggies
  • Fruit salad
  • Pasta salad

Now, if you add a few delicious plant-based dips to these cookout ideas, you can already create a well-rounded vegan platter of goodness! 

Our favorite vegan dips

What foods to grill

Alongside the obvious vegan meat patties and plant-based sausages, there are so many delicious foods you can put on the grill!

  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Marinated tofu
  • Cauliflower
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Tempeh
  • Watermelon
  • Potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
grill with mushrooms and sliced bell peppers

Best store-bought vegan burgers

From veggie-loaded to cannot-believe-that’s-not-meat, you have so many choices to taste test with your friends and family!

Here are some brands that regularly make the top ten of any “best vegan burger” list:

  • Beyond Burger
  • Gardenburger Black Bean Chipotle
  • Boca Burger
  • Qrunch Quinoa Burgers
  • Trader Joe’s Masala Burger
  • Amy’s California or Black Bean Burger
  • Field Roast Burger
  • Morningstar Farms Burgers
  • Hilary’s Eat Well World Best Veggie Burger
  • Gardein Black Bean Burger & Beefless Burger

Please note that we personally haven’t tried most of these because we usually prefer a simple homemade bean patty.

Also, we are not compensated for recommending any of these, just want to share some ideas.

Tips for vegan cookouts

Now, how to survive a BBQ or cookout as a vegan? Well, you definitely need to be well-prepared — emotionally, mentally and in terms of food.

All of us deal with animals being eaten differently and if you’re a die-hard animal rights activist, you might want to step away from watching cruel footage a few days in advance if you choose to attend this event.

There will probably be some conversation about you abstaining from animal products, so if you want to read up on some ideas for what to reply to things like “we have always eaten meat”, “you will be nutrient deficient” or “I couldn’t just eat boring salads”, check out our article for 16 great vegan comebacks here

The most tangible part, the actual food, can be tackled in a few different ways!

Let the host know in advance

If you’re not the one organizing the grill party, make sure to contact the host in advance and let them know that you follow a vegan diet. 

You can then offer to bring some things for you to eat — which you can also share with everybody else so you’re not the odd one out. 

Tip: if you bring a delicious dish and don’t mention to anyone that it’s vegan, it’ll taste a whole lot better to them!

Ensure there’s good food

Lori from My Quiet Kitchen says that “when invited to an omnivorous cookout, my first thought is always, “How do I make sure we’ll have enough to eat?”

If you already know there will be easy items provided like chips, salsa, guacamole, and raw veggies, you can shift your attention to preparing a vegan side dish, like pasta or potato salad. 

Then, grab some vegan burgers or sausages at the store. From Beyond, to Tofurky, to Lightlife, there are so many delicious options these days, and it’s a great way to show everyone exactly how easy it is to be vegan.”

Young women and men with drinks in their hands gathering in nature

Don’t forget the drinks

Sparkling water, lemonade, iced tea, beer and soft drinks are all very much appreciated during a vegan cookout! Luckily, most of these are already vegan — you might want to check whether homemade lemonade is sweetened with honey, though.

If you want to go for wine, it can be a bit trickier. Most varieties are filtered with gelatin or isinglass (which comes from fish) but you can take a look around for some wines with a vegan label or go directly to where you can find a database of thousands of vegan beer, wine and spirit options. 

Avoid cross-contamination

Wherever meat, dairy or eggs are in close proximity, there’s a good chance some of it might end up on your plant-based food — even if it’s just in small amounts. 

Jackie from the popular blog Vegan Yack Attack knows a simple trick when it comes to that! “If you find yourself attending a BBQ or cookout that isn’t quite vegan-friendly, I always recommend bringing a bit of foil with you! (or asking the host if you’re able to use some of theirs) 

This way you can either make delicious foil packet meals, or just cover parts of their grill for your meal prep, in a convenient way!”

Rebecca from Strength & Sunshine adds to that “Always use a clean safe grill and bring some foil. Check marinades and sauces for hidden ingredients and label your dishes, including serving spoons! You can also ask other people who bring food to write out the ingredients they used in a dish.”

Experiment & offer variety

People who aren’t very familiar with veganism or plant-based diets might feel overwhelmed or unsure about what foods you would actually eat. 

On top of bringing some of the products we recommended earlier in this article which try to imitate the look, texture and taste of meat, you can be more veggie-forward. 

Kelly, author of 4 vegan cookbooks and founder of Seitan Beats Your Meat has a fantastic black bean burger recipe —  she knows that “while there are so many wonderful meat alternatives on the market, sometimes it’s nice to make a veggie burger that tastes like veggies!”

Keep conversations light

If you’re a guest at a non-vegan cookout and meat is on the grill right next to your veggie sausages, it’s very possible that a conversation around the topic of food will arise.

Sooner rather than later, things can get heated and controversial — almost everyone thinks they are an expert on nutrition and the 8346 nutrients that a vegan is sure to be deficient in.

When responding to questions or arguments, be mindful and choose how deep you want your answer to be while still staying truthful. Talking about yourself and how you came to this lifestyle without suggesting that everyone should do the same keeps other people from feeling ashamed and shutting down.

Pro tip: talk about veganism when your conversation partner is enjoying vegan food compared to a meat burger — for some reason, this will make them more susceptible to the message.

woman standing next to a bowl of potato salad and mixing it with two spoons

Hosting a vegan cookout

Let your guests know in advance if you are planning to keep your garden party fully plant-based. Unless you only invite vegans (which is rather unlikely), some of your friends will want to bring something to share with everyone.

In this case, you could offer to help them veganize the dish they want to make or share your favorite vegan recipe website with them where they can choose what to prepare. You can also make specific suggestions like veggie skewers, fruit salads or marinated mushrooms which can be put on the grill.

Or why not ask them to bring beverages, ice, plates, cups or other non-food items? Perhaps even some that are biodegradable if that’s important to you.

Try to put together a delicious vegan cookout menu by choosing from the 180+ recipes we’ll share further down in this article. Focus on great taste, lots of variety, and take food sensitivities or preferences of your guests into account.

We also love to put together a lovely summer garden playlist to ensure the cookout is as much fun as possible!

Let’s move on to our favorite crowd-pleasing vegan cookout recipes so you can create your own menu.

220 vegan cookout options + recipes

The days are hot and nights are long, so gather a few people and fire up your grill! The following recipes are great for lovely weekends as well as special occasions like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Father’s Day, Summer birthdays, or graduation parties.

We hope you’ll have a fantastic vegan cookout this year! What were your favorite tips and did you try any recipes? Share with us below and Pin this article here.

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Hi, I'm Alena Schowalter — a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with my husband, I founded nutriciously in 2015 and have been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages toward a healthy plant-based diet. I enjoy discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature, and creating new recipes. Read more about us here.

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