Your Guide to a Great (Vegan) Memorial Day Cookout
Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start of summer here in the Northeast. That means it’s time to break out the barbecue and get grilling! If you’re new to a plant-based diet, the idea of holding a cookout might seem a little strange or even impossible, but there are plenty of options for meat-free, dairy-free barbecue dishes that please vegans and non-vegans alike.
I can’t think of a better place to start than with this amazing Guide to Vegetarian Grilling from Oh My Veggies. It starts off with an overview of different types of grills and moves on to discuss eight main foods that you can cook on those grills. And we’re not just talking vegan burgers and veggie kebobs; there are suggestions and recipes for grilled polenta, pizza and even fruit! Healthy. Happy. Life. chimes in with another detailed guide that includes advice on how to make delicious grilled paninis.
And these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to having an awesome Memorial Day meal with an entirely plant-based menu. If you’re looking for recipes to wow your family, amaze your neighbors and show everyone that being vegan doesn’t mean being stuck with a burned Boca burger at every cookout, you’ve come to the right place. Even if you’ve been hosting vegan cookouts for years, you can never have too many recipe ideas!
Vegan Burgers to Die For
Burger are, of course, worth more than a passing mention. No cookout would be complete without a delicious, warm patty served up on a crusty bun with all the fixings. Veggie burgers have come a long way from the tasteless packaged varieties that used to be the only option in the grocery store freezer section, and they just keep evolving. There are so many that I’m not even going to bother to try to list individual recipes. Instead, I’ll point you in the direction of some of my favorite collections and let you decide which delectable combination will be gracing your grill this weekend:
- The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet brings together 101 recipes for burgers inspired by every possible world cuisine along with instructions for homemade buns, condiments and sides. If you’ve been dying for a stuffed seitan burger, this is the book for you.
- The Naked Kitchen Veggie Burger Book uses delicious plant-based ingredients to create a plethora of amazing burgers, sides, buns and even beverages that will make you the star of any cookout. Especially if you bring the sweet potato beer fries.
- And if for some reason you need more burger recipes, head over to BuzzFeed for 26 Veggie Burgers That Will Make Meat Question Its Very Existence. (Substitute your favorite vegan options in the ones that include cheese or eggs.)
- For those of you who prefer to get creative with your own veggie burger concoctions, Happy. Healthy. Life.’s Veggie Burger Test Kitchen is the perfect way to learn how. It covers every component of veggie burgers from bases to seasonings.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a recipe for the classic vegetarian/vegan burger stand-in, the portobello burger. This one comes from Oh She Glows, so you know it’s amazing. I already planned my Memorial Day dinner (and yes, it includes portobello burgers!), but I might just have to switch things up a bit and try this one. It starts with a marinated mushroom cap and quickly becomes something special with the addition of a pesto made with sun-dried tomatoes, kale, and hemp seeds, thus why it’s called…
Grilled Portobello Burger with Sun-Dried Tomato Kale-Hemp Pesto
Reprinted with permission from The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon
The ultimate summertime burger! If you are a fan of juicy portobello mushroom caps, you will go crazy over this simple, but memorable, burger recipe. The tangy balsamic vinegar and lemon herb marinade enhance the mushrooms, and you pair them with a savory sun-dried tomato kale-hemp pesto and succulent caramelized onions. Oh, mama mia. Serve it in a toasted bun or slice it and wrap in a couple of lettuce leaves. (QV Note: If you’d like to make these oil-free, you can use this recipe for an easy oil substitute.)
Serves 2, with leftover pesto
PREP TIME: 15 to 20 minutes plus 1 hour marinating
COOK TIME: 10 minutes
gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, sugar-free, grain-free
FOR THE PORTOBELLO CAPS:
- 2 medium Portobello mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1⁄2 teaspoons (37 mL)
- Fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried basil
- 1⁄4 teaspoon (1 mL) fine-grain sea salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE SUN-DRIED TOMATO KALE-HEMP PESTO:
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed destemmed kale leaves
- 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) hemp seeds
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
- 1⁄4 teaspoon (1 mL) fine-grain sea salt
- Caramelized onions (see Tips)
- Avocado slices
- Kale or lettuce leaves
- Sliced tomatoes
- Remove the stems from the mushrooms by twisting the stem until it pops off. Discard the stem or save it for another use, such as a stir-fry. With a small spoon, scrape out and discard the black gills. Rub the cap with a damp dishcloth to remove any debris. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Add the portobello caps and toss to coat them in the marinade. Marinate the mushrooms for 30 to 60 minutes, tossing them every 15 minutes. (You can also marinate them overnight, if desired.)
- Meanwhile, make the Sun-dried Tomato Kale-Hemp Pesto: In a food processor, pulse the garlic until minced. Add the kale leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, hemp seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and 2 tablespoons (30 mL) water and process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Preheat a grill pan or an outdoor grill over medium-high heat. Grill the portobello caps for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until lightly charred and tender.
- Serve the portobello caps on a toasted bun or sliced up in a lettuce wrap topped with a generous amount of the pesto, and additional toppings of your choice. Any leftover pesto will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 1 week. It’s great on sandwiches, wraps, pasta, and more!
Tips: To make caramelized onions, thinly slice a sweet or yellow onion and sauté it over medium heat in 1 tablespoon (15 mL) oil until golden and lightly browned, but not burned. It usually takes about 30 minutes to bring out the onion’s natural sugars. For a grain-free option, serve the portobello bunless or slice caps and serve in lettuce wraps.
Use a gluten-free bun to make this recipe gluten-free.
Serve Up Some Tasty Sides
Once you’ve got your burgers, of course you need something to go with them!
- This Lemony Dill Potato Salad is a relic from past QV summers and can be made oil-free with the substitute mentioned above, or you can use some homemade vegan mayo for a creamier texture!
- One of my favorite summertime recipes from The Jazzy Vegetarian is Deli-Style Macaroni Salad. It’s chock-full of veggies, lightly seasoned and has a delicious zip thanks to a bit of Dijon mustard.
- For a break from traditional sides, try the Skinny Corn, Cucumber & Tomato Salad from The Skinny. The rainbow of vegetables will brighten up your cookout!
- Oil-free Rainbow Kale Slaw from Whole Foods gives this rock star dark green veggie a place at the table–perhaps even as the star of the show with its orange/balsamic/Dijon dressing.
In addition to these tasty offerings, a platter of fresh vegetables with homemade hummus never goes amiss! Choose crunchy favorites that appeal to both adults and kids such as carrots, celery and sliced bell peppers. If you’re lucky enough to find some early local cherry tomatoes, include those too!
And Don’t Forget About Dessert!
Plant-based desserts don’t have to be fussy to be delicious. One of the simplest ways to round out a Memorial Day meal is with a plate of seasonal fruits, perhaps with some vegan yogurt to dip them in. You can also create a “make your own sundae” bar with a variety of vegan ice cream flavors and toppings such as chopped nuts, sprinkles and fudge sauce.
However, if you really want to wow everyone and don’t mind taking the time to get a little bit fancy, this amazing cheesecake from The Plantpower Way is sure to be a hit. Featuring walnuts, raw coconut and the fresh strawberries that are just starting to come into season, it’s a beautiful concoction that I seriously want to run off and make right now. I’d say it was too pretty to eat, but I don’t think your Memorial Day guests will have any problem making it disappear.
Strawberry Mint Cacao Cheesecake
Reprinted with permission from The Plantpower Way by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt
The people have spoken! Rich’s photo of this pie received our most “likes” to date on Instagram. The combination of real fruit, powerful herbs and raw cacao takes this plantpowered cheesecake to a whole new level. The cacao, coconut, fruit and mint provide a nice variety of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber that will heal your body. Raw pies are so easy to make that once you get the hang of it, you’ll fancy yourself the family baker. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. You won’t really be baking anything at all because the magic happens in the freezer. But we’ll keep that as our little secret. The one tool you are going to need is a great springform pan. There you have it!
- 1 1⁄2 cup raw walnuts
- 1 cup cacao nibs
- 8 dates, soaked and pitted
- 1⁄2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
- 1 pint fresh strawberries
- 1 cup raw coconut meat
- 4 tablespoon cacao powder
- 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup whole coconut milk
- 8 dates, soaked and pitted
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- Fresh mint leaves
- Place one can of coconut milk into the fridge overnight or for at least 2 hours. It’s a great idea to have a few cans stocked in your fridge. If you’re like me, you may get the urge to make a pie in the middle of the night and this way, you’ll be prepared.
- In a medium bowl, cover the dates in filtered water and soak for at least 30 minutes.
- Pour the coconut oil into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan. Using a paper towel or clean cloth, wipe the oil over bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside.
- In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until they are mealy in texture. Add the cacao nibs and pulse again until they are mixed in. Remove the pits from the soaked dates. With the motor running, drop in one date at a time until the mixture forms a ball on one side. You may have to remove the lid and redistribute the mixture a couple times to get all the dates blended in.
- Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the springform pan using flat hands to create an even crust layer in the base of the pan. Sprinkle Celtic sea salt over the crust. Place in the freezer.
- Remove the coconut milk from the fridge and open it. Spoon out the hardened coconut cream leaving the liquid in the bottom of the can.
- Place all the filling ingredients (strawberries, coconut, cacao, mint, hardened coconut milk and dates) into a Vitamix or high-powered blender. Blend on high using the plunger to distribute the mixture to blend smoothly. Taste to adjust for sweetness. You can add a 1⁄4 cup of agave, raw honey, maple syrup or a few more dates if needed to sweeten it up.
- Pour the blended filling mixture into the crust and freeze again for at least two hours or until it is very firm.
- Remove the pan from the freezer. Carefully run a fine knife around the edges of the springform and release the buckle. Slowly remove the rim, allowing it to separate from the pie. Now you are ready to begin creating your strawberry mandala.
- To make that super impressive swirl on top, slice the strawberries lengthwise so you have a cross section of these fruits. Begin on the outer edge and lay the strawberry slices with the tips pointing out from the center. When you finish an entire layer around the outside edge, begin the next layer so it lays partly onto the top of your base layer. Continue just like that, around and around until you arrive at the center.
- Garnish with a fresh flower or a mint leaf in the center. Thaw this pie at room temp for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Voila!
Chef’s Note: If you want a taller cheesecake, double the filling ingredients. Can you use a processor or blender other than a Vitamix for this recipe? Yes, you can. However, the mixture will not be as smooth. You may find little bits of date and coconut that will give it a more grainy texture.
For Even More Plant-Based BBQ Ideas…
This is, of course, just a taste of all the plant-based possibilities there are for your Memorial Day cookout–or for any outdoor festivities you may be enjoying this summer. Check out these fabulous resources for even more ideas:
- One Green Planet offers a list of 50 appetizers, mains and sides that will make your mouth water. (Seriously, don’t lean over the keyboard when you’re looking at this.)
- And you can never go wrong with The Vegan Richa, whose Memorial Day roundup includes a vegan, gluten-free grilled “cheese” sandwich with cheese made from cashew flour and millet.
As you’re enjoying your 100% vegan cookout, please take a moment to pause and reflect on what Memorial Day is all about. The men and women who have served–and are still serving–the US sacrifice so much so that the rest of us can enjoy our freedoms. We owe them more than we could ever repay.