Monday, June 4, 2012

Grilling for vegans

No meat here!

I was reading an online health and fitness forum recently where the topic had turned to grilling, and one of the participants said she did not grill because her family was vegan.

Oh, you guys. My uncured nitrate-free certified-humane grass-fed beef hot dog nearly fell out of my mouth.

Now you know we partake of the delicious meats here at our house, and you know why (my inability to metabolize non-heme iron, P's and H's allergies to most vegetable proteins)(see also: deliciousness), but I am here to tell you: I grill WAY more than just meat. WAY MORE. Just because you're not down for some elk or pastured chicken or wild-caught Alaskan salmon does not mean you should turn up your nose at the concept of grilling.

Here is some stuff I make OFTEN on the grill that's either 100% vegan already, or can be easily adapted as such:

Fresh asparagus tossed with a bit of olive oil can go directly on the grill racks. Just keep an eye on it, turning the spears with a pair of tongs every couple of minutes until they're done. Slabs of zucchini (sliced lengthwise) and eggplant can be grilled this way as well, just brush them with oil and season with salt and pepper or whatever spice mixture you like. I know they've become kind of a vegan barbecue cliche, but portabella mushroom caps are also excellent brushed with oil, seasoned, and grilled over direct heat like this.

Lettuce is amazing on the grill. No, I'm not kidding. Get some heads (or hearts) of Romaine, cut them in half lengthwise, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and stick them right on the grill racks for just a minute or two. You can serve them as-is or chop them up and drizzle with vinaigrette dressing for a warm salad. Delicious.

I do a mixed veggie grill (pictured above) that is awesome -- mushrooms, onions, yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, okra -- pretty much any tender spring/summer veggie (try baby artichokes with the choke scooped out), cut in slices/chunks of more or less the same size, drizzled with olive oil and tossed into a perforated grill pan (you also could cover the racks with foil, poke a few holes in it, and cook them right on that)(or if you're feeling fiddly, thread everything onto skewers). Serve these on a pile of herbed quinoa and you've got yourself a meal.

Corn on the cob is awesome on the grill. I know some people peel back the husks, remove the silk, then put the husks back over the corn and grill it that way but I can't be bothered. I just remove the husks and silk altogether and wrap the ears in foil. Either way, so good.

I cook a lot of veggies in foil packets over indirect heat on the grill (either on an upper rack or an unlit burner). Green cabbage is awesome this way -- cut it in wedges, drizzle with a bit of oil (I actually use butter, but feel free to substitute) and season with salt and pepper, seal it up in some heavy-duty aluminum foil and stick it over indirect heat for about half an hour. I also layer 1/4-inch slices of waxy potatoes and sweet onion in foil packets, drizzling and seasoning liberally with each alternating layer, sometimes tossing a few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary in there, and cook them the same way as the cabbage. Believe it or not, carrots are also fantastic cooked in foil packets on the grill. I slice them 1/3-inch thick on the diagonal or use baby carrots, steam in the microwave until crisp-tender, then grill in foil packets with minced garlic and herbs (again, I use a bit of butter here, but a drizzle of olive oil would work just fine).

Stone fruit is AWESOME on the grill, if you've never tried it. Cut peaches or nectarines in half, remove the pits, and grill cut side down. Some people sprinkle sugar on the cut sides before grilling but that has made an unholy mess whenever I've tried it, so I just grill 'em plain. Pineapple is also awesome on the grill, cut in rings or wedges. You can either eat the grilled fruit as-is, chop it up and make a kick-ass fruit salsa, or put a couple of scoops of coconut milk ice cream on top of the hot fruit.

In short, I'm pretty sure the only non-meats I HAVEN'T tried to grill are beans and grains. If I figure out a way to make those work, I'll let you know. I'm sure grilled slabs of tofu, seitan, nut/grain loaves and other vegan "meats" would be awesome, but we don't eat those so I can't help you there.

If you can't grill it directly on the racks then thread it onto skewers, plop it into a grill pan or cover the racks with foil. If you can't grill it any of those ways either, stick it in a foil packet over indirect heat. But whether vegan or omnivore, for crying out loud, get your ass out of the kitchen this summer! It's too hot to cook in there.


  1. We too are carnivores, but I made grilled "french fries" out of sweet potatoes last night that my DH scarfed down like they were the full-fat version. The smaller you slice the sweet potatoes, the faster they cook. Slice them like french fries, toss with a little bit of olive oil and some spices (mine had salt, pepper, garlic, chili, and paprika), and then grill in a basket or in foil. Cook until soft. Yummy! You could also bake these in winter.

    1. Awesome! I have never tried sweet potato fries on the grill -- I always make them in the oven. Will definitely give these a try!

  2. I adore a red potato wrapped in foil, then cooked right in the bottom on top of the coals. Steamy perfection. And I'm with you on the peach, and I don't even like peaches!

  3. Kathy, great post. We grill everything too. You can throw the corn on the grill without removing the silk. I just snip off any that sticks outside of the husk. When done I put on heavy kitchen gloves and strip husk and silk over a garbage can. Have to try grilling carrots but have done most of the other veggies. Grilled pineapple is awesome sprinkled with basil.


  4. We grill everything, all summer. I've even been known to grab a sheet pan and grill french fries, fish sticks, frozen bread loaves. Pretty much anything that would go in my oven goes on my grill.