Vegan Grilling Guide: Planted Based Tips for Summer Eats
Plant Based Grilling?
Think a plant-based life and grilling don’t go together? Think again! Vegan grilling is awesome. Veggie burgers, tofu, and tempeh, along with any fruits and vegetables can be seared to juicy, delectable perfection outside over gas, charcoal, or electric heat. There’s a depth and smokiness that grilling adds that just can’t be beat and, to many, is the flavor of summer.
Just in time for the first day of summer, Father’s Day and 4th of July, this guide has info, tips, and recipes to help you master the delicious art of vegan grilling.
There are a few pieces of equipment that are essential to get started grilling, but that doesn’t mean they have to be overly complicated or expensive. New grills and accessories can be found at online retailers as well as your local stores. Don’t dismiss the idea of buying used, either. Fantastic bargains can be found at yard sales and online marketplaces. Reusing equipment is a great way to save money and further reduce waste and our impact on the planet.
Think of your grill as an outdoor kitchen. Basically, it’s a way to cook food by placing it on a rack over a dry heat source. Your heat source can be charcoal briquettes, gas, or electric.
Gas grills and electric grills are easy to get started and will heat up fast. In as little as a few minutes, you can be lit up and ready to go. Gas grills are a little more costly than electric, but can still be had for around $150 for a basic unit. Electric grills start out as little as $65-$100 for a small one.
Charcoal grills take longer to prepare and heat but offer a deeper, smokier flavor. They can also be significantly less expensive at the outset, with a small, basic charcoal grill costing less than $20. Wood pellet grills are available, but tend to be more expensive and complicated to use. They’re good for prolonged smoking when a deeply smokey flavor is desired.
There are many options for grilling accessories. Vegan grilling isn’t messy and difficult, and smaller, lighter tools work really well with plant based foods. A set of basic grilling utensils is all that most of us will need and can usually be found for around $20. A good scrubber for cleanup can be handy, too.
Regular kitchen tools will work, though. A metal spatula, a few heavy duty forks, and brillo pads for clean up will get you started just fine.
Basic Marinades and Sauces for Grilling
Marinades and sauces can add even more flavor. Here are a couple easy, quick, and tasty ideas.
Citrus and balsamic based marinades go really well with any grilled food. An easy one is equal parts orange juice or balsamic vinegar paired with olive oil or avocado oil, salt and black pepper. If you like things sweet, like I do, add an equal part of maple syrup or agave.
My all time favorite marinade is equal parts OJ, balsamic vinegar, avocado oil, maple syrup, and salt/pepper, and some crushed red pepper flakes.
BBQ sauces will go especially well on any grilled veggie burger. Most store bought BBQ sauces are vegan and delicious. To make an easy one at home, just mix 1/2 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons mustard, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, pinch of cayenne, pinch of red pepper flakes, and liquid smoke, if desired.
Prepare your burgers, dogs, fruit, and veggies ahead of time, heat the grill on high with the lid closed for several minutes, and let’s get started.
How to Grill Veggie Burgers
Veggie burgers come in all shapes, sizes, and ingredients and will need to be treated according to their own particular characteristics. Homemade burgers are usually more delicate than store bought, as well. Packaged burgers can be placed on an oiled grill grate and heated for 4-5 minutes on each side.
Because they tend to be low in fat, brushing any plant based burgers with a little oil or an oily marinade can keep them moist and prevent sticking.
A large portobello mushroom cap can make an excellent burger, too. Just treat the same as any veggie burger and grill for 4-5 minutes on each side.
Vegan Hot Dogs
My go-to plant based hot dog is the Smart Dog, hands down. They are delicious and easy to work with. Just place on an oiled grill and turn after 1-2 minutes on each side all the way around. Just don’t cook too long as they get too chewy on the outside.
Seitan dogs and even carrot dogs are options for a plant based cookout and take well to marinades and BBQ.
How to Grill Tofu
Use extra firm tofu for most grilling. Even the extra firm variety needs to be handled gently on a grill, or it will stick or fall apart … or both. Pressing the tofu for a half hour or so before grilling will remove a lot of the water and makes it more sturdy and less prone to sticking.
Another option is to freeze the tofu in the package and then thaw and press for at least a half hour. The tofu becomes more sponge like after a freeze/thaw cycle, and will easily soak up any marinade or BBQ sauce.
Don’t disturb the tofu more than necessary. Place your tofu of choice on an oiled grill. Brush liberally with marinade or BBQ sauce if desired and heat, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes until seared and grill marks appear. Flip carefully, brush again with marinade or BBQ sauce, and let cook another 3-4 minutes on the other side.
How to Grill Tempeh
Tempeh is tofu’s tougher cousin and is perfectly suited for grilling. Just place 1/2 inch slices on a lightly oiled grill and heat through for about 4-5 minutes on each side. A good dose of marinade or BBQ sauce can bring out the best in a hunk of tempeh.
How to Grill Fruits
Fruits really shine on the grill. The heat brings out their flavor and caramelizes their natural sugars. Any fruit can be grilled. Watermelon, pineapple, peaches, plums, pears, tomatoes, and apples are easy to handle and commonly available. Avocado, also a fruit, is spectacular when grilled, too.
Slice the fruit, but not too small or thin. Keep any fruit at least 1/2 inch thick. Peaches, plums, avocados, and tomatoes can be simply cut in half. Pineapple and watermelon can be sliced as thick as an inch or more and still be delectably delicious when heated.
Place halved or sliced fruits on a heated, oiled grill and heat for about 3-5 minutes. Apply marinade, if desired. Turn and heat on the other side for 1-3 minutes until nicely charred.
How to Grill Vegetables
Smokey and fresh at the same time, zucchini, asparagus, corn, green beans, bell peppers, eggplant, onion chunks, mushrooms, cauliflower, and even lettuce are just stunning cooked over flames.
Like fruit, slice about 1/2 inch thick and place on a heated, oiled grill. Most vegetables will take a little longer to cook than fruit. Zucchini or eggplant slices will take as long 6-7 minutes on each side to get tender. Asparagus spears, green beans, and bell pepper and onion chunks, will be tender after 4-5 minutes.
Corn can be grilled in the husk and stays nice and moist. Shuck the outside leaves of the corn but leaves several leaves covering the corn. Place on a heated, oiled grill and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway through.
Head lettuce can be sliced in half and grilled, cut side down, for a delicious twist on the usual salad. Serve as a wedge with dressing, or slice the slightly charred and wilted greens and use in your usual salad or one with grilled fruits and veggies.
Larger mushrooms can hold their own out in the grill with the big boys. Small mushrooms, and other smaller items, might need a grilling basket to keep from falling through the grate.
Easy Vegan Shish Kabobs
Easy peasy. Just cut your vegetables in similar and compatible sizes and pierce with skewers. Place on a heated, oiled grill for 5-6 minutes per side, using marinades as desired.
Mmm … Dinner’s on.
Get your vegan grill on!