I Eat Plants: Surviving a Cookout Vegan-Style


Cookouts can be tricky for a plant-based eater, so how do you survive one, vegan-style?

With Memorial Day coming up, cookouts have been on my mind. Cookouts as a vegan don’t have to be tricky, though. If you’re going to someone else’s cookout, you can bring something fairly easily. Veggies can be easily grilled, you can make your own veggie burgers, or you can buy the frozen kind. You can grill tofu, tempeh or seitan. There’s a number of mock meat products that will make you look like you are eating like the omnivores, from fake chicken to hot dogs to ribs to those veggie burgers (a side note- most all of those will stick pretty badly to a grill because they don’t contain much fat. You might want to use an oiled piece of aluminum foil or a grill basket sprayed with cooking oil on the grill, and just put them on the grates at the very end for the grill marks, if you’re using a grill that has a dedicated space where there’s no meat or you don’t mind potential cross contamination).

Many vegans are happy making a meal out of sides and avoiding the meat analogue. That’s totally okay, if it works for you! However, when you’re invited somewhere, that can be tricky. Sometimes there will be a garden salad/vegetable plate/fruit salad, and sometimes not. Potato salad and pasta salads, popular at cookouts are often made with mayonnaise-based dressings, making them not suitable for someone who avoids eating eggs.

If you want to contribute a dish or two to the cookout, you can easily veganize your favorite pasta or potato salad by subbing vegan mayo for the regular kind, and leaving out any other non-plant based ingredients, or subbing them with meat/dairy analogues. You can also create any number of grain-based salads without using any type of substitute, and just letting the grains, veggies and beans shine through with a simple dressing.

My favorite way to do this is with a black bean and quinoa salad.

This has typically been a crowd-pleaser even with non-veg groups, though I have had the occasional flop with groups of people not willing to try anything other than their standard backyard barbecue fare. But you know what? When that happens, it just means more for me! More often than not, this salad usually gets gobbled up. This dish is not only great for a party, but it’s nice to have at home and just scoop out a dish when you’re hungry and don’t feel like making anything else for dinner! And between the quinoa and the black beans, it packs plenty of protein, for anyone who might be worried about their protein intake.

This is also flexible. You can really use any kind of grain or bean or veggies in a dish like this- feel free to make this to your own taste preferences. I use corn in mine; when corn is in season, I love to use the fresh kind, either grilled or smoked first. When I’m using the frozen variety, I prefer the Trader Joe’s fire roasted corn variety.

So don’t sweat it if you’re going to a cookout this holiday weekend or any time throughout the summer. Just make sure to ask your host if it’s okay if you bring a dish to share (and maybe a veggie burger for yourself or to share), and you’ll be fine! Relax and enjoy the good times!

You can find the recipe here.


About Author

I Eat Plants columnist Jodie Deignan went vegetarian in 2004 and fully committed to veganism in 2007. By day she’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner and by night she spends a lot of time cooking delicious vegan food for herself and her friends. She’s a bit of a picky eater, with a special distaste for mushrooms, seaweed, raw tomatoes, and eggplant, though she’s discovered along the way she’s a little more open-minded than she once thought. She blogs at The Picky Vegan.

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