6 Vegetarian Options to Grill for Your Memorial Day Guests

Where there’s good weather and a holiday weekend, there’s a cookout. Folks across the country will fire up the grill and excitedly cook hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, and more. But where there’s a grill and a vegetarian, people start getting nervous. What do you cook for someone who doesn’t eat meat when you’re standing at the grill? We’re here to help.

In general, most vegetarians don’t expect much at a cookout. There’s bound to be a salad and a few sides, perhaps even a roll they can munch on. That’s good news for meat-eating hosts, because the bar isn’t set too high. Sure, it’s easy enough to throw a veggie burger on the grill and assimilate your meatless guests into the fray — and we’ll include a great recipe for a black bean burger here — but if you’re going to be making something from scratch, it can be even easier. Here are 6 vegetarian recipes for the grill that even the hot dog and hamburger crowd would love to eat.

Source: iStock

1. Grilled Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich with Halloumi

Halloumi is a firm Greek cheese that, believe it or not, is great straight on the grill. Much like Indian paneer cheese, it gets hot and gooey without getting melty, which makes it perfect for the grill. Toss a few slices of halloumi on the grill with a couple slices of eggplant and a bell pepper, put it all between slices of bread warmed on the grill, and you’re the reigning champion of vegetarian grilling. Really, that’s all it takes. Closet Cooking breaks down the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 8 slices bread
  • 8 ounces halloumi, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 cups salad greens
  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons basil pesto
  • ½ lemon, juice

Directions: To roast the peppers, cut in half and remove the seeds. Place skin-side down on a hot grill and char the skin completely. When cooked and blackened, place in a zip-top bag or sealable container and let steam until cool enough to handle. Peel the skins off. Cut into strips.

Lightly brush the eggplant and bread with oil and season the eggplant with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant over medium high heat until tender, about 4 minutes per side. Lightly grill the bread and haloumi on both sides and then hit the halloumi with the lemon juice. Assemble the sandwiches.

Grilled vegetables

Source: iStock

2. Spicy Jerk Vegetables With Yogurt Scallion Sauce

Grilling well-seasoned vegetables is a safe bet even if you’re not sure you’ll have a vegetarian in attendance. You have a side for anyone or, offering some good bread and this delicious yogurt-scallion sauce, a main course for those who live meatless. The vegetables listed here by Food & Wine are guidelines, so feel free to mix and match as necessary. You can easily make more of the rub to grill chicken, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dried powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne or ground dried habanero
  • 1½ tablespoons dried thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1¾ cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large portobello mushrooms, gills scraped out with a spoon, mushrooms thickly
  • sliced
  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced ¼ inch thick through the core
  • 2 red bell peppers, quartered
  • 1½ pounds thin eggplant, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 1 pound medium asparagus
  • 8 whole scallions, plus ½ cup minced scallions
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 2 cups plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • Grilled bread, for serving

Directions: Mix the spices, herbs, and 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper with 1½ cups of the oil. In a very large bowl, combine the mushrooms, fennel, red peppers, eggplant, asparagus, and whole scallions and gently toss with most of the seasoned oil. Brush the onion slabs with the remaining seasoned oil.

Light a grill and oil the grate. Working in batches, grill the vegetables over moderately high heat, turning, until tender and charred, 10 minutes per batch. Arrange the vegetables on a platter and keep warm.

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the minced scallions, lime juice and remaining ¼ cup of oil. Serve the vegetables with the yogurt sauce and grilled bread.

raw tofu

Source: iStock

3. Grilled Buffalo Tofu Steaks

Buffalo sauce is easy to make — it’s just hot sauce mixed with melted butter. If you soak some tofu in it, grill the tofu, and slide that grilled tofu in a split sub roll with lettuce, tomato, and perhaps some cheese or blue cheese dressing, you’ve got yourself a killer buffalo tofu sandwich. If blue cheese isn’t a favorite, make Fueled By Vegetables’ garlicky-lime aioli instead. It’s healthier than the usual deep fried buffalo suspects, and so delicious.

Ingredients:

Tofu

  • 1 (16-ounce) block extra-firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
  • ⅛ cup butter or vegan butter, melted

Aioli 

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

Directions: In a bowl, combine the oil, salt, paprika, hot sauce, and melted butter. Cut the tofu into steaks and gently toss to coat with the mixture. Let the steaks sit in the mixture for 20 minutes before grilling.

Place each tofu steak in a single layer on the grill. Grill for 5 minutes on each side. To make the aioli, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix and serve.

Source: iStock

4. Balsamic BBQ Tempeh Ribs

If you’re throwing ribs on the grill, don’t leave out your vegetarian friends. Tempeh is a soy protein more toothsome and nutty than tofu. It’s great for applications when you just wish you had a vegetarian protein you can really sink your teeth into — like “ribs.” In this recipe from One Green Planet, strips of tempeh are rubbed down with a flavorful spice mix, grilled, and then coated in a sticky, sweet balsamic barbecue sauce.

Ingredients:

Spice Rub

  • ¼ cup raw turbinado sugar
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

Barbecue Sauce

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 1½ cups ketchup
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • Package of tempeh

Directions: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, ketchup, red onion, garlic, and chile. Stir and let simmer, uncovered, for about an hour. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 15 more minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir it often. If it seems too thick, add some water.

Slice tempeh into 6 or 8 rectangles. Steam for 10 minutes to soften and cook it through. Coat the tempeh with the spice rub. Cook the tempeh ribs in the oven or in a skillet until browned on both sides. This should take about 8 minutes per side. Brush the BBQ sauce on the tempeh and cook for another few minutes until slightly charred.

Cauliflower and Broccoli

Source: iStock

5. Tandoori Grilled Broccoli and Cauliflower Kebabs

Kebabs are easy to grab and eat while standing around at a barbecue, though perhaps not the most graceful food to eat while having a conversation. These kebabs from Veggie Belly are coated in a spiced curry-style marinade and make a great vegetarian option at any cookout. Blanching the veggies before skewering them helps them cook faster, and it’s easier to get the florets onto the skewers themselves. Don’t skip this step!

Ingredients:

  • 4 bamboo skewers, about 10 inches long
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • ½ small head of cauliflower
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 4 wedges
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • Salt

Directions: Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent them from burning on the grill. Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into large florets. You should have 6 florets each, about 2 cups, of broccoli and cauliflower.

Bring water to boil in a medium pot. Add plenty of salt. Add the broccoli and cauliflower florets. Bring back to a boil. Cook for 20 seconds. Then turn off heat and drain the broccoli and cauliflower. Rinse under very cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry with a towel.

Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Add the broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, and onion pieces to the marinade. Mix gently so the marinade coats all the vegetables. Cover and refridgerate for about 30 minutes.

Heat the grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Skewer the broccoli, cauliflower, onion, and tomato pieces. Place on grill and cook till one side of the vegetables is slightly charred. Then using tongs, flip the skewers and cook the other side.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

6. Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers

Of course, you could always go the burger route. Most black bean burgers suffer from three afflictions: They’re too mushy, they fall apart, and they’re too bland. These burgers from Serious Eats, though, are the shining beacon of the perfect black bean burger. The secret, it turns out, is baking your beans and cooking the burger patties over a medium heat so they firm and cook all the way through. And, of course, season heavily. If you’re a black bean fanatic, try seeking out Black Turtle or Black Coco beans.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1½ cups dried beans, cooked
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large poblano pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 1 teaspoon sauce
  • ¾ cup roasted cashews
  • ½ cup finely crumbled feta or cotija cheese
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 whole egg
  • ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 to 8 hearty hamburger buns, toasted

Optional but Suggested Toppings

  • Cheese as desired, such as pepper jack, cheddar, muenster, or Swiss
  • Condiments as desired, such as chipotle mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise
  • Toppings as desired, such as shredded lettuce, sliced onions, and pickles

Directions: Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread black beans in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and roast until beans are mostly split open and outer skins are beginning to get crunchy, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

While beans roast, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and poblano and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chipotle chili and sauce and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Place cashews in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped into pieces no larger than ⅓-inch, about 12 short pulses. Add to bowl with onions and peppers.

When beans are slightly cooled, transfer to food processor. Add cheese. Pulse until beans are roughly chopped. Transfer to bowl with onion/pepper mixture. Add mayonnaise, egg, and bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper. Fold together gently but thoroughly with hands.

Form bean mixture into 6 to 8 patties as wide as your burger buns. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add 4 patties and cook until well-browned and crisp on first side, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until second side is browned, about 5 minutes longer.

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