When throwing a cookout, I'm as guilty as anyone of treating vegetables as an afterthought, while the meat gets the lion's share of my devotion. I'll scare up a quick slaw or skewer a few mushrooms or peppers, sure, but my focus will largely remain on the barbecued ribs or spatchcocked chicken. But the grill offers huge potential for vegetarian dishes, and not just veggie burgers—although those can be delicious when done well, as you'll learn below. That plus recipes for grilled pizza, salads of grilled vegetables or corn, vegetarian kebabs, and more can be found in the collection here, which should be enough to convince you to set aside some room on those grates for meatless fare.
Homemade Vegan Burgers That Don't Suck
When I was a kid, we always had store-bought frozen veggie burgers in the house, which apparently were enough to turn me off the concept entirely for years. But there's no reason vegan burgers have to disappoint. Ours get big flavor and a nice interplay of textures from a long list of diverse ingredients, including chickpeas, nuts, barley, panko bread crumbs, eggplant, and leeks. Though it's an involved recipe, you'll be delighted with the improvement in flavor once these patties come off the grill—and even happier knowing you can raid the premade veggie burgers in your freezer for a quick lunch.
Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers
Here, we save homemade black bean burgers from a mushy fate by partially dehydrating the beans in the oven first. Then we combine them with chopped cashews (for crunchy texture), feta cheese (for moisture and flavor), panko (for binding), and sautéed onions, garlic, and peppers. Don't grill these just as you would a beef burger—moderate heat is best.
Balsamic-Marinated Portobello Burgers
Grilled portobello mushrooms are a classic vegetarian sandwich filling, but the meaty, savory heft often attributed to them is really evident when they're first soaked in a simple balsamic marinade, leaving them juicy, salty, and tangy. A burger it's not, but it's plenty satisfying in its own right.
Grilled Lemongrass- and Coriander-Marinated Tofu Vietnamese Sandwiches (Vegan Banh Mi)
Burgers, vegetarian or otherwise, aren't the only grilled sandwiches out there—tofu takes exceptionally well to the grill if you use the right technique, and grilled tofu is the perfect filling for a vegan banh mi. Here, we flavor the tofu with lemongrass and coriander before cooking, then layer it into baguettes with crunchy pickled carrots and daikon, crisp cucumber, jalapeños, cilantro, and vegan mayonnaise.
Grilled Pizza With Grilled Tomatoes, Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Marcona Almonds
The grill is one of the best ways to make crisp, well-charred pizza at home without any particularly exotic equipment. And, while you've got the fire going, why not bring out the flavors of your toppings by grilling them, too? For this pizza, we use grilled asparagus spears and cherry tomatoes, plus creamy goat cheese, fresh basil, and Marcona almonds.
Grilled Pizza With Grilled Broccolini, Chilies, and Garlic
The classic flavor combination of broccolini and hot chili pepper is heightened when the broccolini is tossed in garlic oil and grilled, helping the pieces crisp and caramelize. We pair them with fresh mozzarella and thin slices of hot Thai chilies on top of this pie, then finish it with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil.
A good cookout needs a few side dishes, and coleslaw is one of many classic sides that happen to be vegetarian, but you can do better than the standard overly sweet, mayo-based formulation. This simple vinegar-dressed coleslaw, made with green cabbage, grated carrot, and sliced onion, will provide tart relief alongside smoky grilled meats. It's tossed in a mixture of cider vinegar and sugar, flavored with garlic, black pepper, and celery seed.
Simple Grilled-Potato Salad With Grilled-Lemon Vinaigrette
Even if you (like me) have a soft spot for old-school creamy potato salad, you'll fall for this light, summery version. The recipe pumps up the flavor by grilling both the potatoes and the lemons in the tangy, pungent vinaigrette. Not that it's in keeping with the vegetarian theme, but if your crowd eats meat, some grilled bacon mixed into this salad definitely wouldn't hurt.
Blistered-Tomato Pasta Salad With Basil
As common as it is to see summertime pasta salads with raw tomatoes mixed in, uncooked vegetables and cooked pasta just don't play very nicely together. A better route: Sauté cherry or grape tomatoes with olive oil and garlic until they blister and burst, making a light sauce to coat the noodles. Finishing the pasta with raw torn basil leaves adds a fresh note.
Grilled Corn, Tomato, Feta, and Herb Salad
All this recipe needs is the very best in summer produce—sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, and a handful of fresh herbs—plus chunks of salty feta. Otherwise, there's not much to it at all: Grill the corn, cut it from the cob, toss it with the other ingredients, add a bare-bones mixture of olive oil and lemon juice as dressing, and enjoy the flavors of the season in a bowl.
Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Elotes are the absolute best way to serve corn, and your cookout will be better for including them. Luckily, they're also easy. Grill ears of fresh sweet corn using our basic approach, then slather them with a sauce of Mexican crema, Cotija cheese, mayo, garlic, cilantro, and chili powder and serve them with lime wedges for squeezing over. The result is creamy, salty, nutty, and just plain delicious.
Simple Grilled Asparagus
Grilling asparagus is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to prepare this vegetable—just toss the stalks in olive oil, salt, and pepper and grill them over high heat until they're well charred and tender. Though they're tasty enough on their own or with a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice, we find they make a great backyard snack when served with a garlicky aioli for dipping. Go with a classic aioli, or try slightly more elaborate versions flavored with harissa, sumac and mint, or tarragon and lemon.
Grilled Spiced Cauliflower
Cauliflower is best when cooked with high heat until it browns and crisps, so it's a natural choice for grilling. In this recipe, we flavor it first with a turmeric-tinted spice mix inspired by chicken keema. Rather than attempting to grill florets, which are liable to slip through your grates, try cutting the cauliflower vertically into steaks.
Balsamic Vegetable Skewers
Grilled vegetable kebabs are a well-intentioned addition to a cookout, but the time-honored combination of squash, onion, and bell pepper chunks can turn out a bit bland on its own. These skewers get an extra hit of flavor from a tangy balsamic marinade. To double down on the flavor, spoon extra marinade over the vegetables after they come off the grill.
Halloumi and Vegetable Skewers
Halloumi, the squeaky, firm cheese native to Cyprus, is remarkably grill-friendly, browning deeply on the outside while softening inside and retaining its shape. For these skewers, we alternate cubes of cheese with zucchini slices, grape tomatoes, and chunks of onion to provide complementary textures and flavors, but in truth, this dish is all about the cheese—you'll hear no complaints from us.
Grilled Eggplant Rollatini
A version of Italian-American eggplant rollatini tailor-made for cookouts, this recipe fills tender, browned slices of grilled eggplant with a blend of cheeses—the usual ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, but also a little provolone for sharpness—plus fresh basil and egg for binding. After they're rolled, we finish the stuffed eggplant on the grill with a topping of quick marinara sauce and extra cheese filling.
Eggplant Spirals With Greek Yogurt, Tomatoes, and Cucumber
These roll-ups are similar in format to the rollatini above, but lighter and more refreshing thanks to a filling of Greek yogurt mixed with feta and bright herbs, chopped fresh tomatoes, and cucumber. The result strikes a balance of smoky, charred flavor from the grilled eggplant and cooling sensations from the yogurt mixture.
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