Memorial Day weekend signals the official start of summer, and what better way to celebrate than with a sizzling BBQ? But fear not, plant-based eaters! Plant-based grilling is a fantastic way to create delicious and satisfying meals that are completely meat-free.

Why Plant-Based Grilling?

Plant-based grilling offers a unique method of cooking vegetables and plant-based proteins. The open flame infuses food with a smoky depth of flavor that can’t be replicated indoors. Grilling also locks in moisture, keeping vegetables tender-crisp and searing a beautiful crust on plant-based proteins.

What to Throw on the Plant-Powered Grill?

Here are 10 fantastic plant-based grilling options to get you grilling like a pro:

Portobello Mushrooms: These large, meaty mushrooms are perfect for grilling whole. Marinate them in a flavorful mixture of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and herbs, then grill until tender. Serve them:

    • Plant-Powered Portobello Burgers: Pile your marinated masterpiece onto a toasted bun and load it up with your favorite burger fixings like lettuce, tomato, vegan cheese, and avocado.
    • Portobello Fajitas: Slice the grilled mushroom and toss it with fajita-marinated red bell pepper and onion. Heat tortillas for a quick and flavorful plant-based fajita fiesta!
    • Southwest Quinoa Stuffed Portobellos: Fill the portobellos with cooked quinoa with black beans, kernels of corn, seeded jalapenos, spices, and grill for a southwest take on a filling meal.

    Tofu and Tempeh: These versatile soy products can be marinated in a variety of sauces and grilled until firm and slightly crispy.  Try chipotle marinade for a smoky twist or a classic teriyaki for a crowd-pleaser.

    • Power Bowl: Quick seared cubed tofu/tempeh for a power bowl filled with marinated grilled veggies. 
    • Farmers Sandwich:  Grilled slab of tofu to create the meaty base of a grilled sandwich, filled with grilled eggplant, onion, red pepper, and zucchini. All topped with vegan mayo on a hearty bun. 
    • Plant-Based “Burger” Patties: Mix tofu crumbles with a binder of seasoned Italian breadcrumbs and mashed white beans, and add seasonings of choice.  Form into patties and grill. 


    • Thread colorful bell peppers, onions, baby bella mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and tofu cubes onto skewers for a vibrant and flavorful side dish.  Marinate them in Italian dressing for extra zest. Mix and match your favorite veggies and proteins (like mock sausage slices) to add variety to this perfect weekly meal.

    Eggplant Steaks: 

    • Thick slices of eggplant can be grilled to create hearty “steaks.” Brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and grill until tender. Pair with a simple yellow rice and mixed veggie side and you have the perfect refreshing dinner that won’t weigh you down.

    Zucchini and Summer Squash:  

    • These mild-flavored squashes grill beautifully.  Cut them into thick slices or rounds, or slice them in half and grill them face down. Toss with olive oil and herbs, and grill until tender-crisp. Fill with a mix of seasoned tender black beans and top with a tahini sauce for a filling meal.

    Corn on the Cob: 

    • A summer BBQ staple! Simply dehusk until only the silk and last layer of husk remain.  Soak in water for 15 minutes, then grill for about 10 minutes until the remaining husk is charred and the kernels are plump and juicy. Remove remaining husk and top with vegan butter and salt or create a simple vegan elote using vegan mayo, vegan parm or feta, chili powder, and lime juice.

    Grilled Asparagus: 

    • Toss asparagus spears in olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Grill for a few minutes per side until tender-crisp. Serve this side dish with any vegan protein for a complete meal in only minutes.

    Grilled Pineapple:

    • A sweet and refreshing addition to the grill.  Cut pineapple slices into rings or wedges and grill until slightly caramelized. Add these to the top of vegan ice cream for a sweet dessert treat.

    Plant-Based Mock Meats:

    • Many store-bought PLANT BASED SWAPS for pre-made plant-based burgers, brats, sausages, and hot dogs are available in your local market.  Follow the package instructions for grilling and enjoy them on buns with your favorite toppings.

    Grilled Vegan Cheese:

    • A few popular vegan cheese brands offer a “grilling cheeze” to mimic Greek Halloumi cheese. This brined cheese holds up well to grilling and adds a salty depth to your meal. Slice it thick, brush with olive oil, and grill for a minute or two per side.

    Charcoal vs. Gas vs. Electric: Choosing the Right Grill for You

    Deciding between a charcoal or gas grill depends on your preferences. Charcoal grills offer a smoky flavor and the satisfaction of traditional grilling, but require lighting and managing coals. Gas grills are quicker to heat up and offer precise temperature control, making them ideal for beginners. Electric grills are another option, offering smokeless convenience but with a less intense flavor.

    This GOOD HOUSEKEEPING 8 BEST OUTDOOR GRILLS article offers a look into some highly rated grills. Consider your budget, desired level of involvement in the cooking process, and the types of flavors you prefer when making your choice.

    Grilling Like a Pro: Choosing the Right Grill and Pan

    While many plant-based grilling ingredients can be cooked directly on the grates, using a grill pan, basket, or griddle topper can offer additional versatility and convenience. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the perfect tool:

    • Grates: Perfect for vegetables like corn on the cob, portobello mushrooms (halved or whole), and tofu steaks. Just be sure to preheat the grates for even cooking and sear marks.
    • Grill Basket: Ideal for smaller, more delicate items that might fall through the grates, like veggie burgers, tempeh crumbles, or sliced vegetables. A basket allows for easy flipping and keeps your food contained.
    • Griddle Topper: This flat pan is ideal for creating restaurant-style griddle marks on veggie burgers, fajitas, or quesadillas. It’s also perfect for cooking soft ingredients like tofu scrambles or pancakes to extend grilling beyond typical lunch and dinner meals.

    Plant-based Grilling Clean-Up and Maintenance:

    • Pre-Heat for Easy Cleaning: Before grilling, preheat your grill to high for 10-15 minutes. This will burn off any leftover food particles, making them easier to scrape away.
    • Grill Brush: Once the grill is hot, use a grill brush to remove any remaining debris.
    • Post-Grill Cleaning: If needed, while the grill is still warm, but not too hot to touch, use soapy water and a grill brush to scrub the grates.
    • Deep Clean Occasionally: For a more thorough cleaning, you can remove the grates and soak them in hot, soapy water.

    With a little planning and these tips, you can create a delicious and satisfying plant-based grilling BBQ spread that will be the envy of your Memorial Day gathering, and keep the grill fired up all summer long!