Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
Warmer summer months call for BBQ! Don’t fret if you’re vegan. Here’s a list of some vegan BBQ sides to bring to your outings.
As a long-time vegetarian, I know all too well that feeling of heading to a BBQ with your friends (or family) and seeing nothing but beef burgers and hotdogs line the grill. I’ve eaten plenty of fruit salad and coleslaw-only plates to know I usually need to bring my own vegan BBQ sides to a gathering!
I look at this as a win-win: I get to enjoy the foods that I want to eat, and I get to share how delicious plant-based and vegan cuisine can be. So many people are surprised when they take a bite of my food, and I beam at them, letting them know it’s 100% plant-based.
Summer nights are here, and BBQs are a plenty! To celebrate, here’s my list of favorite side dishes, salads, appetizers, and mains for your next BBQ.
I tend to make a whole bunch of sliders for the family on game days, and they just pair perfectly with a summer afternoon BBQ. This slider recipe is made of pressed tofu baked and slathered in BBQ sauce. To top it off, a dollop of apple slaw. Together, you have a perfect blend of savory and crispy tartness.
Once you bake the tofu, the rest of the recipe is pretty hands-off. I like to use frozen then thawed tofu for this recipe as it has the best texture. If you don’t have time to freeze and thaw tofu ahead of time, then just drain your tofu and press it.
Shred the vegetables ahead of time using a food processor or mandoline.
Is it even a BBQ without potato salad? Vegans can easily indulge in the staple BBQ side with this healthy but tasty recipe. I’ve never been huge on heavy amounts of mayo, so I opt to use cashew-based mayo whenever possible.
This recipe calls for fresh herbs rather than dried herbs. It really makes a difference in the flavor, so try to harvest fresh herbs or buy some from the grocery store instead of reaching in your spice cabinet.
As the base of this recipe, I highly recommend soaking your cashews ahead of time. Let them sit for 2+ hours before you attempt to blend the mixture.
Doesn’t the dressing look drool-worthy on this chickpea salad? This isn’t your typical plain-jane salad you might find at a cookout. This is a meal all in itself, coated in a hummus-dill dressing and crispy chickpeas. I make my salad with romaine, onions, heirloom tomatoes, and cucumbers, but you can tweak it to suit your taste buds.
I use canned chickpeas to make prep as easy as possible. This recipe is fairly simple to make, requiring you to bake the chickpeas first (or way ahead of time) and simply whisk together the dressing ingredients.
If you’re looking to throw something directly on the BBQ, these kabobs are completely grill-friendly. I love how easy they are to put together, consisting of corn, potatoes, and vegan sausage all coated in a Cajun sauce. They have a slight spice to them, combined with a nice tanginess for a summer’s day.
You’ll need to slightly boil the cut corn and potatoes ahead of grilling. This helps to soften them and ensure they don’t dry out on the grill. I like to do this ahead of time, then place the half-boiled vegetables in the fridge until I’m ready to assemble and grill the kebobs.
Nothing satisfies the taste buds quite like fresh fruit when it’s hot out. I like to serve a fresh fruit salsa as an appetizer prior to the BBQ. This mango salsa can be made spicy or mild to suit everyone’s preference. Since it only requires six ingredients and takes just minutes to make, it’s great for a quick assembly.
Fresh ripe mango is what makes this salsa so yummy. You can easily substitute it for other fruits that are in season, like pineapple, strawberries, peaches, etc.
I make this salad a few times a week – really! It’s my go-to salad recipe that works for any occasion, especially as a vegan BBQ side. It’s full of flavor thanks to well-seasoned greens and homemade dressing. It quickly makes your salad that much more elevated!
Like most salads, this one is fairly simple to throw together and customize based on what you have on hand. I recommend using a variety of greens rather than just one and seasoning all the ingredients with some salt and lemon or lime juice. Fruits and nuts on top give some texture and excitement to the salad.
Salt and vinegar is a combination that I’ll always choose to mow down on. Rather than serve a side of salt and vinegar chips, these wedges give you the same satisfaction but with a healthier, homemade twist. They’re the perfect vegan BBQ side to accompany a veggie burger!
To get those wonderfully golden and crispy potatoes, you need to boil them before baking. While this does take some extra prep work, it’s the best way to ensure a thin and crispy crust. But once they’re in the oven, the work is pretty much over, requiring just a drizzle of malt vinegar to finish them off.
You can’t have a BBQ without some pasta salad! A vegan version of the BBQ side staple, it comes loaded with vegetables making it very nutrient-dense while still fulfilling that pasta craving. To top it off, I covered it in my own version of Annie’s Goddess Dressing which makes literally everything taste amazing.
This recipe can be made all in one go. While vegetables cool in the ice bath, you can work on chopping more veggies and making the dressing.
When there are lots of people attending your BBQ party, keep the people happy while you grill with this cheese ball. I love the taste of cheese as much as the next girl and am happy to present this dairy-free but equally scrumptious substitute.
The base of this recipe is cashews and almonds, therefore, you’re going to need to soak them ahead of time. Ideally, you can do this overnight or four hours before you intend to blend them. The cheese ball itself will also need to be set in the fridge for 4-5 hours. All in all, you need to make this cheese ball in advance of your BBQ cookout.
Besides burgers, pulled pork sandwiches are another BBQ classic I wanted to turn vegan. Jackfruit has a meaty pulled texture very similar to pork and takes on whatever flavor you give it. The result is a near-identical sandwich to the pulled pork sandwiches I grew up on. I don’t miss the originals one bit!
To make things easy, I often use store-bought BBQ sauce for this recipe. Most of the work comes in slicing and prepping the jackfruit before boiling it for 45 minutes. You can do this all ahead of time to minimize work during the BBQ.
I just adore slow cooker meals. Prior to a BBQ, you can toss these meatballs together in the morning and have them ready just in time for dinner. For meatballs, I like to serve them as appetizers alongside some toothpicks for easy munching.
This meal is done entirely beforehand using a slow cooker. Essentially, you put together a sauce, chop up some veggies and pineapples, and add in some frozen meatballs before calling it a day in the cooker.
For those with a love of spice, you’ll definitely want to add these vegan cauliflower wings to your BBQ sides. They’re coated in a crispy batter before being dipped in a spicy buffalo sauce. They might not taste like chicken, but they taste so good you won’t even care!
These cauliflower wings are best served hot and fresh. If you want to do some prep ahead of time, you can cut up your cauliflower ahead of time and mix together the ranch dressing.
While I love salads as a part of my BBQ cookout, I know that others prefer to load their plate with plenty of appetizers coated in toppings. These loaded smashed potatoes are just that. You can set them out as an appetizer or serve them alongside burgers in lieu of fries or chips.
These potatoes require about 30 minutes in the oven. While they’re cooking, you can prepare the toppings and the guacamole. But don’t jump the gun too early, or the guac will brown!
Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the grill! If you need another recipe as evidence, let me introduce you to these BBQ tofu kebobs. They’re so simple to make and will surely become a hit at the BBQ. Pair it with succotash, and you have a meal ready for summer nights.
To get the most out of the tofu, you’ll need to marinate it at least 30 minutes ahead of grilling. While it marinates, you can put together the succotash.
I know you were waiting for a burger recipe! Completely gluten-free, this vegan burger requires no breadcrumbs and holds itself together on the grill next to hamburgers quite well. This is by far my go-to veggie burger and the one I’m carrying with me to any cookout.
One of the best things about this veggie burger is that you can make it fresh or plop it in the freezer to bring it out whenever the BBQ calls your name. I like to make these burgers in batches, freeze a bunch, and use them whenever I want a quick dinner.
The second I see a colorful salad, I want to take a big bite. This farro salad is filled with fresh flavors from herbs, chewy farro, peanuts, crunchable vegetables, and topped with a spicy peanut sauce. So gather up the fresh produce and whip together this salad for a simple vegan BBQ side dish.
Cook the farro beforehand to save time. Then, simply chop the veggies and cover them with the homemade peanut sauce. Feel free to play with ratio size and whatever vegetables are currently in season.
In addition to the vegan take on traditional potato salad, I wanted to include a variation that was made just for the grill. Grilled potatoes, poblano peppers, and corn goes straight from the BBQ and gets tossed together in a delectably creamy basil dressing.
Trust me – this dish tastes best when you grill everything beforehand and then combine it together in the bowl. No opting for canned or frozen corn!
While you could pull out the canned beans, heat them, and call it a day, these instant pot baked beans are so much healthier and take less than an hour to make. Rather than relying on sugar for flavor, I added a ton of spices to this recipe to intensify the smoky-sweet flavor.
When you’re getting ready for dinner, start off with these beans. By the time everything else is ready to go, the beans can be served.
Guacamole may just be my deserted island dish. I can’t go without it! For every cookout, I’m sure to make a huge platter of guacamole to kick things off. This recipe has an Italian flair, infused with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs.
Guacamole must be made fresh, or you will experience browning. If you really want to get ahead with this recipe, you can roast the cherry tomatoes beforehand as they need to fully cool before they can be added to the guacamole.
If I have a crowd coming over on a summer night, you betcha I’m making these southwest sliders. Sometimes making full-size plant-based patties can be difficult, but these bite-sized patties are pretty well foolproof. Made with beans, quinoa, and walnuts, I then top them off with guacamole, chopped peppers, and tomatoes. Talk about yummy!
Once again, feel free to make these patties ahead of time and freeze them until you’re ready for cooking. Then all you have to do is customize your toppings to make delicious sliders!
Will you be serving anything vegetarian or vegan at your next BBQ?
As a bonus, I wanted to share with you some vegan-friendly desserts that the kids will love:
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