8 Yummy Plant-Based Summer Cookout Recipes
I can always tell summer is coming when the soft breeze carries the smoky smell of charcoal to my nose. Cookout season is my favorite time of the year. The days are long and warm, and the nights come alive with the sounds of frogs and the twinkling of fireflies. And of course, the food is delicious!
Side-heavy meals are a signature of a Southern cookout, which lends itself to being easily reverse-engineered into some plant-based deliciousness. I’ve also added a few of my favorite secret ingredients (like kala namak black salt, lactic acid, and liquid smoke) to punch up the flavor and knock the socks off your favorite carnivores.
I hope you enjoy bringing some of my cookout favorites to your next family barbecue!
White Bean Ranch Dip
This dip is delicious and nutritious! I often use white bean purée as a blank canvas for flavor, for simple sauces and dips, and as a whole-food substitute for mayonnaise. The plant-derived lactic acid in this recipe is optional, but adds a pleasant, acidic tang that’s reminiscent of cheese or fermented foods. You can find some at your local beer-making store or online. This dip will thicken in the refrigerator, so don’t be worried if the consistency seems too thin at first. Make it extra tangy by using a plant-based yogurt or cream cheese instead of milk!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 pint (2 cups)
- 2 15-oz cans of white beans (navy, great northern, cannellini), drained and rinsed in a colander
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp of lemon juice OR ½ tbsp lactic acid (88%) + 1½ tbsp vegetable stock
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1½ tsp salt, or to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh dill (or 1 tsp dried)
- 2 tsp chives, plus more to garnish
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup of neutral-flavored plant-based milk (rice, flax, soy, or pea milk)
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.
2. Garnish with chives and serve with veggies, crackers, or pita chips.
Roasted Beet Hummus
In North Carolina, May and June are harvesting season for beets! Chock full of nutrients like folate, manganese, iron, and vitamins C and B6, they’re a beautiful addition to any plate. This vibrant hummus uses traditional ingredients like chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice, and toasting the cumin before processing adds a smoky, complex punch of flavor. Roasting the beets coaxes even more sweetness out of the vegetable, and all of the savory-sweet notes are kept light and bright with the addition of lemon zest. Try this beet hummus on toast with avocado — it’s delicious!
Prep Time: 55 minutes
Yield: 1 pint
- 3 small beets
- 1 15-oz can of chickpeas (or 2 cups of cooked chickpeas)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 small lemon’s worth of zest
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the stems from your beets, then wash and peel.
2. Wrap beets in aluminum foil packet, place on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
3. While waiting for beets to roast, toast 2 tsp of cumin seeds in a skillet on medium heat for 2 minutes and set aside. Pulverize in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle if desired (cumin can also be left whole to be blended later with the rest of the ingredients).
4. Remove beets from oven and open foil. Let stand until cool, then cut each beet into quarters.
5. In a food processor or blender, pulse quartered beets until only small pieces remain.
6. Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. Process until smooth.
7. Serve with veggies and pita, and enjoy!
Elote-Style Corn Fritters
Corn on the cob is an iconic staple at any American cookout, but I thought I’d try something a little different inspired by my time in Los Angeles. These poppable Southern corn fritters take on a Mexican twist with chili powder, cayenne, cilantro, and lime. Nutritional yeast, pine nuts, and optional lactic acid create a buttery-cheesiness in place of cotija cheese. You might want to make a double batch — they’ll be gone before you know it!
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 1 dozen
Servings: 6 (2 each)
- 3 cups fresh corn kernels
- ½ tsp salt, divided in half
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp lactic acid (88%) (optional)
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp chili powder (or ½ tsp each of chili powder and smoked paprika)
- A pinch of cayenne powder
- 1 tbsp flax seed*
- 2½ tbsp aquafaba*
- 2½ tbsp fresh chives, minced
- 1½ tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
- ¼ cup oil grapeseed oil, for frying
- Lime quarters, for garnish
1. In a food processor or blender, combine half of the corn kernels and all of the pine nuts. Pulse until it forms a uniform purée. Scrape down sides intermittently through processing. Set aside.
2. In a separate small bowl, combine flax seed and aquafaba to form one plant-based “egg.” Set aside for later.
3. Heat 1 tsp of grapeseed oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add remaining (whole) corn kernels and ¼ tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently until light golden (about 3 to 4 minutes). Transfer to a medium bowl.
4. Return the skillet to medium heat, add corn and pine nut purée, and cook. Stir frequently with a heatproof spatula until puree clings to the spatula rather than dripping off. Transfer the corn puree to bowl with the corn kernels and stir to combine. Clean cast iron and dry with paper towels.
5. Add flour, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, chili powder/smoked paprika, cayenne, chives, and ciliantro to the medium bowl, stirring to combine until mixture is uniform.
6. Gently incorporate the plant “egg.” Then let rest in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
7. Heat ¼ cup of oil until shimmering in skillet. Drop 2-tbsp balls of the batter into pan and flatten with a spatula. Fry until crispy, about 2 minutes each side. Place on paper towel to drain. Serve with lime quarters and squeeze on fresh lime juice, if desired.
*The flax egg in the recipe is equivalent to one egg. You can use a powdered egg replacement, but be mindful that most of these products are made with baking soda, which will react with the lactic acid. The bubbling is harmless, but it might make the corn batter more difficult to work with.
* Aquafaba is the liquid from cooked chickpeas — usually from the can. It’s a stand-in used to thicken recipes or as an alternative egg binder.
Classic Potato Salad
A cookout classic, revisited. The soft, starchy texture of Russet potatoes soaks up flavor like a sponge, but you can also use red or Yukon Gold potatoes for a firmer bite. Contrast between the sharp red onion and sweet relish create a flavorful balance, while the addition of kala namak (Himalayan black salt) will fool anyone into thinking there are eggs in this 100% plant-based potato salad! Check your local international supermarket or Indian grocer for the salt. If an eggy flavor isn’t your jam or if you don’t have access to kala namak, regular sea salt works just fine.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 6 cups
Servings: 12 servings
- 6 cups Russet potatoes, cooked, peeled, and diced into large chunks
- 1 cup plant-based mayo (I use Hampton Creek)
- ¼ cup yellow mustard
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup celery, diced
- ½ cup red onion, diced
- ¾ cup sweet relish, drained
- 1 tsp kala namak (Himalayan black salt) or regular sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Cook potatoes by boiling or roasting. Remove peels after cooking, and dice into large chunks.
2. In a large bowl, combine the plant-based mayo, mustard, vinegar, celery, onion, relish, kala namak, and ground pepper. Stir until mixture is uniform.
3. Add potatoes and stir until combined. The potatoes will break apart into smaller pieces as you stir. Garnish with chives or parsley and serve or chill until needed.
Watermelon Salad with Tofu Feta
It’s not quite watermelon season yet in North Carolina, but that’s a-ok for this refreshing watermelon salad. Under ripe watermelons have a firm texture and slight sweetness that stands up to cucumber, mock feta, dijon, and mint. Before you make your mock feta, try freezing and thawing your tofu before pressing — the water will practically squeeze itself out! This salad is best made right before serving and with dressing served on the side.
Prep Time: 30 mins
Yield: 6 heaping cups
For the Tofu Feta:
- 400g (14 oz) extra firm tofu
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lactic acid (88%), optional
- 2 tbsp white miso paste
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 4 tbsp thin plant-based milk (rice, flax, soy)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ cup fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, etc.), roughly chopped
- ½ tsp sea/kosher salt
For Dijon-Lime Vinaigrette:
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 4 tsp rice vinegar or white vinegar
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- Sea/kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups watermelon, cubed
- 2 English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and sliced
- ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1. Begin your tofu feta prep a day before serving. Place tofu package in freezer until completely frozen, then place in a warm water bath until mostly thawed. Remove tofu from package and press water out with something heavy for at least 30 minutes. Once pressed, cut into small, feta-like cubes and place into a small container with a lid.
2. In a blender, combine lemon juice, lactic acid (if using), miso paste, nutritional yeast, plant-based milk, olive oil, onion powder, herbs, and a generous pinch of salt. Process until smooth and pour over tofu cubes. Let marinate in fridge overnight.
3. In a blender, combine garlic, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and store dressing in fridge.
4. In a large bowl, add watermelon cubes, cucumber, basil, and mint. Toss until combined.
5. Gently mix in the tofu feta (it will crumble). Serve with dressing on the side to be poured on right before eating.
Bourbon Baked Beans
Although college brought me to North Carolina, I was born in Kentucky. So, naturally, bourbon whiskey is near and dear to my heart. After coming across a local North Carolina bourbon from GIA Distillery, I was inspired to add a boozy twist to this classic recipe for baked beans. In lieu of traditional flavor-boosters like bacon, the combination of bourbon, liquid smoke, maple syrup, molasses, and smoked paprika add richness and depth of flavor — no meat needed! You can also substitute an Irish whiskey or cognac if you prefer.
Prep Time: 60 mins
Yield: 5 cups
- 3 15 oz. cans of navy beans, drained (or 5 ½ cups of cooked navy beans)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 3 tbsp yellow mustard
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
- 1 tbsp bourbon, or up to a shot
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- Sea/kosher salt, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a dutch oven, heat coconut oil on medium-high heat until shimmering. Add diced onions and a generous pinch of salt, and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the bourbon. (If using a gas stove, avoid pouring the bourbon into the pan directly from the bottle.)
2. Add tomato paste, maple syrup, mustard, sugar, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, molasses, and liquid smoke. Stir until uniformly mixed.
3. Add beans to pot and stir, covering all of the beans with the sauce. Secure the top of the dutch oven and bake for 40 minutes. Serve hot.
Pulled Veggie (Spaghetti Squash & Lentil) “Pork” Sliders
For this plant-based spin on a pulled “pork” sandwich, I chose to use spaghetti squash for a light base that soaks up pure barbeque-y flavor. The lentils boost the protein content while being flavor-neutral enough to meld with the other ingredients. This recipe is meant to be a light main course, but it’s versatile enough to add other types of veggies (like jackfruit or mushrooms) as desired!
Prep Time: 1 hr 30 minutes
Yield: 4 cups
- 8 slider buns
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 2 cups + 3 tbsp veggie stock
- 1 small spaghetti squash
- Grapeseed or olive oill, for roasting
- Sea/kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup of your favorite plant-based barbeque sauce
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the spaghetti squash in half, and remove seeds with a spoon or ice cream scoop. Rub each half with a bit of grapeseed or olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven when tender and let cool.
2. While waiting for the squash to roast, combine lentils with 2 cups of veggie stock in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender.
3. Blend lentils with 2-3 tbsp of veggie stock until smooth.
4. In a 12-inch skillet, add lentil purée, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and barbecue sauce. Taste for flavor and adjust as needed.
5. With a fork, scrape the squash strands into the pan and combine with the rest of ingredients. Stir to incorporate. If you’re adding other shreddable veggies, add them now. Taste again and adjust as desired.
6. Sandwich the filling between buns with toppings like red onion, caramelized onion, pickles, or slaw.
Mushroom Ribs (GF Friendly!)
I adapted this recipe from Korenn Rachelle, the master of gluten-free mock meats! Seasoned from the inside out, these plant-based ribs use naturally occurring glutamates (Glutamates are compounds that enhance savory, umami flavors, lending a “meatiness” to recipes. Aside from synthetic MSG, many fermented, aged, and plant-based ingredients have naturally occurring glutamates) from tomato paste and miso (or bouillon) for delicious flavor all the way through. Any type of mushroom can be used, but my recommendation is king oyster mushrooms, followed by portobello and shiitake. Wrapping the ribs in re-hydrated rice paper and chopping the rice paper into small pieces give these ribs a pleasantly toothy “skin” and bite. This recipe uses chickpea flour as a binder, but an alternate version incorporates vital wheat gluten.
Prep Time: 3 hrs
Yield: 2 racks of “ribs” (6-8 each)
- 3 pounds mushrooms
- 2 tbsp vegetable stock
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 tbsp red miso or Garden Vegetable Better than Boullion
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
- ½ tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp garlic, finely minced or paste
- 1 cup of your favorite plant-based barbecue sauce, plus more if desired
- Rice paper wrappers
- 2 cups chickpea flour, OR 1 cup chickpea flour + 1 cup buckwheat flour
Vital Wheat Gluten version:
- ¾ cup + 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
- 3 tbsp chickpea flour
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If needed, clean mushrooms by wiping away dirt with a damp paper towel (washing them under a sink with make them waterlogged and harder to roast properly). If using king oyster mushrooms, cut off the tops and slice the stems in half. Dress all exposed surfaces with a bit of oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle with veggie stock and roast in the oven (rack should be placed in the center position) for 35-40 minutes, until stock is evaporated and the mushrooms are browned in some spots. Take them out of the oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
2. When the mushrooms are cool enough to handle, shred each stem with two forks until they resemble a pulled pork texture. Make sure you have 4 cups worth of roasted mushrooms!
3. In a large bowl, combine mushrooms, tamari, miso or bouillon, coconut oil, liquid smoke, onion powder, steak seasoning, smoked paprika, and garlic.
4. If you are making the gluten-free version, add chickpea flour and buckwheat flour (if using) to the bowl and stir until it forms a cohesive dough, adding more vegetable stock by the tablespoon if needed.
5. If you are making the vital wheat gluten version, combine with chickpea flour to the bowl until it forms a cohesive dough, adding vegetable stock by the tbsp if needed. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until it springs back when poked. Let rest for 5-10 minutes to let gluten relax.
6. Divide dough into halves and shape each to be approximately the size of a rack of ribs. Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
7. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove ribs from the refrigerator and unwrap. Rehydrate rice paper one sheet at a time, and carefully wrap each “rack” of ribs until completely sealed. Sear in a large cast-iron pan or skillet over medium-high heat with a bit of oil to secure the seams (this adds a pleasant crunchy-chewy bite, as well as a surface for the sauce to stick to).
8. With a sharp knife, cut “racks” into individual ribs and place on a cookie sheet for 30-40 minutes until firm and set. Glaze with your favorite sauce and broil the ribs on low for 3-5 minutes, brushing with sauce to build up a bark. Remove from oven and serve hot.