Catering for Vegetarians and Vegans at Barbecues
You've got a vegetarian or vegan coming to your barbecue. It happens; after all they're about 3-5%
of the population. You might see this as a major pain in the chef's hat, or maybe as a culinary
challenge. You might just see it as a direct challenge to the fact that you like to eat meat (unless
you're a vegetarian as well, in which case why are you reading this?) Because you want your veggie
guests to have a good time and enjoy their food as much as anybody else, you need to know a bit
about the subject.
Step One: Know What is a Vegetarian or Vegan?
The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as: "Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses,
nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian
does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter.”
The Vegan Society defines a vegan as "someone who eats a plant-based diet, with nothing coming
from animals” - so no meat, milk, eggs, cheese or even honey.
However... lots of people have their own personal definition, so just because you know they're
veggie or vegan doesn't mean you know the specifics of what they can eat. The easy answer is to
ask them; they'll appreciate the thought. Some vegetarians will say "I don't eat anything with a
face" but as you can see the Vegetarian Society definition goes beyond this to include slaughter by-
products, e.g. not all cheese is vegetarian (if it contains rennet, it isn't), also there's, whey powder,
some food colourings, additives or products in alcohol.
Some vegetarians or vegans will offer to bring their own dishes to ensure their strict code is met,
don't be offended by this, just check out what else you can provide, for example they may bring
their own burgers or kebabs and you provide the salads and desserts.
Step Two: Plan Ahead
Advance preparation is the key to any great BBQ but is doubly important when you've got a mix of
meat-eaters and veggies. As well as checking with the vegetarians what to get in (for example, not
all vegetarians like Quorn, tofu or substitutes like seitan, designed to feel and taste like meat) plan
your quantities to take into account the fact that many carnivores are actually omnivores and will
try the veggie options too. A lot of the standard barbecue side dishes are perfectly vegetarian and
vegan: salads, jacket potatoes, corn on the cob; it's all good. Likewise, the chances are that your
desserts are all meat-free – just double-check the label for some of the additives.
Step Three: Separate Barbecues
If you grill the nice, freshly-prepared veggie burger or kebab right next to a big, fat juicy steak then
a vegetarian or vegan won't be able to eat it; which rather defeats the point. Make you sure have a
separate grill for veggie food and also separate utensils – yes, this means you will need at least two
Step Four: Cooking Times
Generally veggie barbeque food takes less time to cook than meat or fish. Vegetarian foods don’t
generally need to be cooked to a certain temperature like meats do, but other than that the usual
rules for avoiding contamination and food poisoning are the same.
What to Cook
Once you have found out what your guests prefer, your options are only limited by your
imagination, and of course your barbecue skills. Whilst vegetarians and vegans will be used to
enjoying salads and grilled vegetables, remember to cook something filling and hearty for too. If
you decide to opt for pre-prepared veggie/vegan burgers check they have either: the Vegetarian
Society, Vegan Society or supermarket's "Veggie friendly" logo on them as appropriate (and don't
forget the vegetarian cheese; not for vegans, though).
Here are some more suggestions for things to rustle up at BBQs:
Marinated halloumi cheese kebabs with Mediterranean vegetables
Mexican baked tortilla
Baked potato stuffed with melted cheese and/or refried beans
Pizza or other breads with toppings (garlic bread with cheese, bruschetta, flatbread, etc.)
Meat substitutes (veggie burgers, hot dogs, sausages, faux chicken cutlets, bean patties,
fake bacon, etc.)
Grilled eggplant stacks with portabello mushrooms and ricotta cheese
For vegans (all of these are vegetarian as well, obviously)
Spiced sweet potato slices
Warm avocado salad with roasted red pepper dressing
Falafel or chickpea patties (homemade or shop-bought)
Marinated, thickly sliced tofu (marinate at least one hour and use firm or extra-firm tofu
Stuffed peppers, courgettes or tomatoes
Spicy Quorn tortilla wrap
Roast vegetables: sweet potato, potato, carrots, parsnip, mushrooms, aubergine, courgette,