Vegan grilling makes my heart sing. Grilling vegetables on the barbecue is all part of the delicious fun of summertime. As a kid, our family enjoyed cookouts at least once or twice a week. But in those days, meat was about the only thing that went on the fire. As I grew older, we learned more about the art of grilling and best preps for veggies on the grill. Vegan grilling to perfection over a fire is part of a rite of passage for any cook in my book. In this post I am going to show you the a few of my favorite vegan grilling tips and how to prepare them.
How to prep your favorite veggies for the grill
The 11 vegetables featured below for vegan grilling are my favorites to throw on the barbecue outside, or grill ahead of time for a picnic. Each vegetable has a different texture, so they will take different lengths of time to cook. Some chefs say certain vegetables taste better if you soak them in a brine, add oil, or parboil. I feel a lot of that depends on your own preference. If you can forego the salt or use some spice blends as substitutes, like as we think in our diets, and other spices can provide just as much fun in your mouth.
Remember to clean and grease up the grill. Ideally, vegan grilling is on a separate frill than the carnivores. Do your best to keep the sections separate when sharing a grill, so you don't worry about animal grease.
Personally, I prefer little or no oil in my cooking. Yet I don't want the veggies to stick, in case I didn't brush enough oil on the food, so I always prep the grill.
To oil or not to oil in vegan cooking
Using a brush or a spray to oil your vegetables can save a lot of needless extra oil in your dishes. I've seen many cooks pour oil straight onto the vegetables and let it sit there, soaking it all up. For me, the lighter the better. I like to taste the fresh produce, not the oil. If you want to go completely oil-free, try a grill mat for non-stick veggies.
Another way to keep your veggies from sticking to the grill is to season them well. Some people add extra pepper or rubbing blends, for example. You've got all summer to experiment! The preps below are basics, and you can add your own seasoning choices.
Eggplant - Aubergine
Eggplant has a rich taste off the grill. Cut off and discard the stem end of the eggplant. Leave the skin on for grilling so the eggplant slices keep their shape on the grill and makes them easier to handle. You don’t have to eat it, but it's tasty and loaded with nutrients.
Cut either slice lengthwise about 0.2 inches / ½ cm thick or into 3/4 inch / 2 cm thick diagonal, crosswise, or lengthwise slices. Eggplant is one of the few vegetables that I brine. At this point soaking the slices in salted water for a half hour and no longer than an hour helps the eggplant hold its shape. You can skip the brine if you're going to make a dip from it, or want the mushy texture for another recipe.
Brush with a little oil if you like and sprinkle with salt or your choice of spices. Squeeze lemon juice over it. Then grill until tender and grill marks appear, about 4-5 minutes on each side. If you love your olive oil, drizzle it on at the end, and even another squeeze of lemon for good measure, before serving.
Zucchini - Courgettes
Zucchini is a fun, easy vegetable to grill. Trim the ends, and always leave the nutrient-rich skin on.
Cut the squashes it in half lengthwise or into lengthwise slices for thicker ones. If you prefer medallions, I suggest you put them in foil or use a grill basket. The small rounds easily fall through the grates.
Brush with a little oil (or not, as long as you have non-stick options) and sprinkle with salt or herbs. Squeeze lemon juice over the slices. Then grill until they get crispy lines and a tender juicy middle, just a few minutes on each side.
These babies are easy and fun on the fire. I simply throw them on the grill, either with or without oil, and keep turning until they're charred. Alternatively, you can slice off the stem. Cut into halves or quarters depending on the size.
These first three vegetables are also delicious when cubed, grilled, and tossed together into a ratatouille recipe. Cook them separately, though, to be sure you don't overcook or undercook any of them. You may want to add grilled onions or garlic, too.
Vegan Grilling: 11 Perfect Vegetables to Use.
Corn on the cob
Grilled corn on the cob is a staple of summer. And it can't be easier. Soak the ears, husk and all, in a big pot of water with about a quarter of a cup of salt (the salt's not important if you're watching your intake). Soak them for about 10-15 minutes. Then put them on the grill over a medium heat.
Turn every five minutes for about 25-30 minutes. The water in the husk will provide steam so the corn stays tender, not dried and charred. I don't know about you, but I love unwrapping a corn on the cob fresh off the grill!
Asparagus is one of my favorite foods to make and eat in the spring and summer because nothing beats their flavor when sprinkled with salt and quickly grilled. These yummy stalks are tender, but still with a little crunch. complete with smoky flavor and char marks. Seriously wicked good! I can eat them like French fries.
Prep by simply brushing with a little oil and salt. Squeeze lemon or lime over the stalks. Put on the grill until they start to char and get grill marks. I like to put asparagus in tin foil on the grill. The steam created inside the foil keeps them nice and moist.
Cherry Vine Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes come in red, orange, yellow and even "black," and they're equally sweet and delicious when they ripen on the vine.
Put a whole vine on the grill and leave until the tomatoes start to pop.
Potatoes are the perfect summer side. We like the sturdiness and of a russet potato, but if you prefer to use a thin-skinned variety feel free! You just have to be extra careful not to boil them too much, or else they might be too tender and fall apart on the grill.
Parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes.
Cut into slices about ¾ inch / 2 cm thick or wedges same size or slightly bigger.
Brush with a little oil and salt until they start to look crisp and brown.
Sweet potatoes are my favorite because they have so many wonderful nutrients. Give them a good scrub and cut the sweet potatoes into 3/4-inch / 2 cm slices. Bring 2 or 3 quarts / 2 or 3 litres of water to a boil, depending on how many potatoes you use. Add salt and potatoes. Boil until potatoes are just starting to soften, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool and remove peels (or don't, some people like me eat the skins).
Brush with oil and salt, grill until they start to char nicely. They get crispy outside and tender soft inside. Try them with lime and cilantro, too, for added magic.
Squash - Pumpkins
Towards the end of the summer and into the fall, squash varieties are everywhere. Grill roasted pumpkin is fun to grill and a delicious surprise at the dinner table. Choose a “pumpkin pie” variety, like sugar pumpkins. Do not use the larger 'jack-o'-lantern' type as these carving pumpkins are less sweet and too stringy than the smaller varieties.
Wash the skins before cutting your veggies.
Use a super sharp chef’s knife to cut the pumpkin into two halves. Remove the seeds and strings from inside. Now add a bit of oil, sea salt and cracked pepper.
Cut into rounds about 0.5 inch / 1-½ cm and cook for 15-20 minutes.
String Beans, Flat Beans
Grilled beans are versatile, they can be paired with any meal and vegetable. Also one of our favorite vegetables to grill, they get this delicious, crispy outside while staying bright green and tender crisp.
You can try this with snow peas, snap peas, etc. Get creative!
Just toss the beans with some oil and salt and put them in your grilling basket or wrap in foil to steam. Be careful if you put them directly on the grill, as they easily fall through the cracks. They should be ready in 10 minutes or less.
Portobella mushrooms are great for vegan grilling. Remove the stems but don't discard - you can use them for soups or stews. Wipe the mushroom caps with damp paper towels and give them a quick rinse under cold running water. Pat dry and toss with a bit of oil and salt.
I like to add balsamic or seasoned rice vinegar, and sometimes soy sauce or vegan Worcestershire sauce as well, for a rich flavor. You can also use seasoning rubs, too.
Cut into slices or throw on the grill whole. Some people marinate, but I don't bother. You can use any mushrooms for vegan grilling. If you use the baby portabellas and they are big enough, try throw them winghole on the grill after seasoning.
Do you have vegan grilling tips you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks so much for sharing!