Mastering Meatless Grilling With 19 Grilled Vegetarian Entrees
Check out the best vegetarian grilling recipes for meat-free burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and more. Hello, grilled meatless entrees!
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Hawaiian Jackfruit Pineapple Kebabs from The Veg Life
There’s something special about cooking outdoors. Heck, we’re even suckers for grill marks that come from an indoor grill. But if you casually mention that you’re thinking about your next cookout, for most folks you’re going to conjure images of beef, chicken, or fish cooking over charcoal.
Sure, vegetarians and produce lovers alike know veggies belong on the grill. (Savvy types make room on the BBQ for breads and fruit, too). But if it's a juicy burger or smoky dog you're craving, we've got your back on the (meatless) meat front. Here's the lowdown on the most grill-worthy vegetarian meat alternatives, with tips for success and lots of vegetarian grilling recipes.
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Meatless grilling FAQs
Hot takes on your burning questions about meatless grilling, right here
How do I know if my veggie meat substitute will cook well on an outdoor grill?
Some veggie meat substitute brands work great on the grill, others not so much. The best bet is to check the cooking instructions on the package, which usually include a preferred method. If “grill” isn’t listed at all, odds are good the product can’t handle being cooked directly on the grill grates. Another clue: Check for recipes on the brand’s website, which are designed to show off the products in the best light possible. If you see some that involve grilling, you’re generally good to go.
One work-around is to place your veggie meats in a cast iron skillet, a stainless steel grilling basket, or on a (soaked) cedar plank before putting them on the grill. (Avoid cooking on foil, which may have undesirable health impacts.)
Incidentally, if you’re cooking for both omnivores and strict vegetarians, using pans or cedar planks are a thoughtful way to keep your veggie meats from picking up actual meat residue from the grill.
Can I make these recipes if I don’t have an outdoor grill?
Sure! Inclement or cold weather, city dwelling, expense, available space, grill maintenance, safety concerns — there are lots of reasons folks opt for indoor grilling. You can use an indoor electric grill — a flameless, smokeless option that’s safe for indoor cooking. If you’re used to cooking outdoors on a gas grill, you may find the results comparable, but if you typically use charcoal outdoors, you’ll lose the smoky flavors when you take the cooking inside. (Adding a little smoked paprika to your recipe helps!)
Electric grills come in two styles: contact grills, which have heated grill plates that sandwich the food you’re cooking, or open grills, which feature a flat grill surface that looks more like the thick grate on an outdoor gas grill. Both types usually have nonstick surfaces to ensure easy clean-up. If you don’t have room for a small appliance but want a nice sear and just-like-outdoor grill marks, a cast-iron grill pan is a great choice for stovetop cooking. Lodge and Victoria are two solid, affordable brands that make pre-seasoned cast iron pans.
Keep in mind that unlike outdoor grills, indoor grills and grill pans are designed to have direct contact with the food; using a pan on them isn’t recommended. Still, between their non-stick grates and gentler heat, you may have success using them to cook veggie meat brands that don’t stand up well to outdoor grilling.
So, does tofu count as a meat substitute or not?
I’d usually argue that tofu should be respected for its own unique culinary qualities, instead of being forced to understudy for animal protein in recipes that hinge on the texture and flavor of meat (think burgers, roasts, Bolognese, etc.). But grilling is magic, and grilled tofu is too delicious to ignore, so you’ll find recipes for it here.
Grilled veggie burger recipes
When it comes to classic American cookouts, burgers rule. Luckily, there are lots of veggie burgers that can stand up to the grill. Whether you want bean and grain-based burgers with a distinctly vegetarian vibe, or you crave red meat doppelgangers, we’ve got choices.
These brown rice- and black bean-based vegan burgers are sturdy enough to stand up to the grill, and the recipe includes lots of ingredient substitution suggestions in case you need to customize the blend for nut-free or gluten-free burgers.
Burgers (even ridiculously delicious guacamole-topped ones) need fries, so while you’re grilling up your patties, throw some parboiled sweet potato wedges on the fire, too.
This deliciously messy, cheese-filled burger capitalizes on the juicy, meat-like texture of the newer ground beef stand-ins like Impossible or Beyond Burger. A Sriracha-spiked, relish-studded, creamy sauce tops it off.
Grilled ground faux-beef veggie burgers get topped with melted cheese and piled with lush sauteed onions and mushrooms. Feel free to swap brands if you can’t find Beyond Meat, or to shape your own burgers from the ground version if patties aren’t available.
Impossible and Beyond may be fierce competitors, but that doesn’t mean they’re not better together. These burgers are a literal mash-up of meat-free sausage and vegetarian beef that vegans and carnivorous types alike will savor.
Grilled vegetarian sausage recipes
Hot dogs and smoky grilled sausages are cookout classics. And since the meat is spiced, seasoned, and — let’s face it — heavily processed, the vegetarian versions often nail the flavor, look, and feel of the real deal versions. If you’re ready to up your veggie dog game with awesome toppings too, check out these recipes.
If you’re feeling ambitious, try these DIY vegan sausages. Don’t fancy making your own seitan? Try a ready-made vegan sausage or hot dog like Field Roast or Upton’s Naturals.
Grilled veggie dogs get dressed up with avocado, lettuce, cilantro, salsa, and a homemade cashew queso. Add some jalapeños if you like a little heat.
Meatless kebab recipes
Kebabs are crowd-pleasers that work as appetizers or main dishes. They’re colorful, fun to eat, and a great way to sample vegetarian meat substitutes. If you’re using bamboo or wood skewers, be sure to soak them before you thread on your veggies and meatless protein of choice to keep them from kindling!
A zesty, herby chimichurri is used to marinate tofu skewered with a rainbow of fresh veggies including bell peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. We suggest making extra sauce to serve alongside the grilled kebabs.
Jackfruit often gets the pulled BBQ treatment. Here, it’s threaded kebab-style with tempeh “bacon,” bell peppers, pineapple, and red onion before its stint on the grill.
Use a meatless ground beef replacer to make these lemongrass, ginger, and herb-accented skewers. One Yummly reviewer tried them with tzatziki instead of peanut sauce, and gave the combo a thumbs up.
Instead of paneer or chicken, this recipe treats tofu, red peppers, and onions to an easy-to-prepare spiced yogurt marinade.
Seitan, aka “wheat meat,” has a sturdy texture and satisfyingly chewy texture that makes it a great stand-in for steak in these kebabs.
Grilled plant protein salads & bowls
Top a salad with grilled protein, and suddenly you’ve elevated it from simple side to utterly craveable meal. These recipes prove you can keep things entirely plant-based, and still enjoy an enviable entrée salad.
Cumin, lime juice, agave, and soy sauce combine to make a flavorful marinade for the tofu, which then gets a quick turn on the grill. Homemade fresh papaya salsa provides the perfect accompaniment for a vegan entrée with tropical beach vacation vibes.
This recipe uses an indoor grill or grill pan to cook the pineapple and tempeh, but you can also use an outdoor grill to add a little smokiness before tossing them with a homemade teriyaki sauce. (No food processor? It’s just as simple to prep your veggies with a knife!)
Classic Greek salad gets a vegan makeover in this entrée salad featuring grilled tempeh marinated in a lemon, oregano, and shallot vinaigrette. A creamy, caper-spiked dressing is the perfect accent to the salad’s crisp romaine base, juicy cherry tomatoes, and chickpeas. Pro-tip: Warm the pita on the grill. And if you eat dairy, try swapping the vegan cheese for feta.
Grilled tempeh proves its versatility in another salad favorite. A garlicky tahini dressing contributes delectable umami notes, replacing the anchovies and Parmesan found in a traditional Caesar salad.
Stand-alone grilled meat substitutes
You’ve got the BBQ side dishes handled, down to grilled corn on the cob and potato salad. When you just want a meat-free main to put on the grill, these recipes will serve you well.
Here, tofu is marinated in hoisin sauce for an hour, then plopped on the grill at medium temperature for 10 minutes per side. A little basting of leftover hoisin sauce wakes up the tofu as it grills.
This recipe is admittedly a bit of a project. But if you’re looking for a large hunk of something meaty to put on the grill, this homemade vegan brisket is just the ticket. The secret? The recipe capitalizes on the meat substitution powers of mushrooms, vital wheat gluten, tofu, and jackfruit. Enriched with spices, ale, and umami-rich seasonings, it gets slathered with BBQ sauce during its stint on the grill.
An easy homemade spice blend gets whisked into a savory balsamic marinade that turns saucy on the grill. If you usually find tempeh bitter, follow the suggestion to steam it before you marinate and grill it.
More vegetarian cooking inspo
From more vegetarian grilling, to cooking veggies indoors, check out these related Yummly articles.