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Whether you’re cooking for vegetarians or flexitarians or just looking to expand your meatless grilling repertoire, there are so many vegetarian grill options to whet your appetite. The smoky flavor of the grill enhances all kinds of vegetarian recipes, from appetizers to side dishes and vegetarian mains. Let’s start with the basics and then we’ll explore from there. Whatever you choose, happy grilling!
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How to grill vegetables: The basics
Vegetarian cookout options naturally feature vegetables, so we asked an expert for her tips on basic grilled vegetables. Chef Lisa Schroeder of Mother’s Bistro in Portland, Oregon, learned to grill vegetables at Le Cirque in New York City. Among her top recommendations are zucchini and eggplant. Read her simple steps for perfect grilled veggies:
Slice: Schroeder starts by cutting the zucchini and eggplant lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices.
Season: Next she coats the slices with olive oil and chopped garlic for outstanding flavor.
Grill: To get perfect grill marks, Schroeder places the vegetables on the grill over medium-high heat (about 450° F) on the diagonal at 10 o’clock and sprinkles the slices with salt and pepper. She grills the veggies until marked, then rotates the slices to 1 o’clock. Once they pick up those beautiful cross-hatched grill marks, she turns the vegetables over and repeats on the other side.
Serve: You can serve Schroeder’s basic grilled vegetables warm or at room temperature.
For a fun twist, try veggie tacos: While the vegetables are great on their own, you can also chop them up and pile them into tortillas with sliced avocado, Fresh Salsa, or Cilantro Cream (or all three!), and you have veggie tacos.
Grilled veggie appetizers
What makes a good vegetarian appetizer vs. a main dish depends a bit on portion size, but these three recipes are a great place to start when you want a snack to keep everyone happy while you finish making dinner.
Add some cheese and a dab of pesto to the basic grilled veggies concept, pop it into tortillas, and you’ve got an appetizer. The recipe has you brown the quesadillas on the stovetop, but you could totally make them on your grill in a cast-iron skillet.
Here’s a dish that’s as beautiful as it is delicious. Grilling the watermelon brings out an extra dimension of flavor — that smokiness and bit of char complement the sweetness nicely. Pro tip: To keep the fruit’s texture, don’t let it sit on the grill too long.
An easy vegetarian appetizer, with Mediterranean flair: Turn a tube of store-bought prepared polenta into this dazzling dish that combines the classic trio of tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil.
Grilled vegetarian side dishes
When you’re cooking for a group that includes both vegetarians and omnivores, offering a couple of veggie side dishes gives diners flexibility for creating a whole meal if they want to.
Kebabs are a classic vegetarian grill option, and the special Moroccan sauce called charmoula is pure magic with them. In the food processor you’ll buzz together a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, spices, and fresh cilantro and parsley. Marinate the veggies about 4 hours, skewer them for easy turning, and grill until tender.
If there’s one cookout dish that both meat-eaters and meat-abstainers can rally around, it might be grilled corn. For this easy vegetarian grilling recipe, you grill corn, cut off the kernels, then toss them with store-bought pesto sauce. A little chopped fresh cilantro adds freshness.
In cities in Mexico and the U.S., food trucks sell smoky corn on the cob grilled to order and coated with salty, spicy toppings. This salad recipe skips the usual hand-held messiness and opts for healthier Greek yogurt instead of the usual mayo.
How about a portobello that’s spent some time in a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette marinade before being plopped on the grill? Yes, please! This is also a great option for gluten-free and/or vegan munching.
A grilled potato salad zested up with tangy capers, a sherry vinaigrette, and spicy arugula will definitely make you happy. But so will two very useful cooking tips: Use a grill pan to keep the little potatoes from falling through the grates, and consider pre-boiling the potatoes before grilling to guarantee they’ll be cooked to the center.
Vegetarian main dishes from the grill
While tofu is outstanding on the grill in terms of dishes that are more substantial, there are plenty of other inventive ways to go as well. Explore several below.
This flavorful grilled tofu will have everyone lined up at the grill, and it couldn’t be easier to make. Marinate extra-firm tofu for at least an hour or overnight in soy sauce, maple syrup, a splash of Worcestershire (vegan if you like), some olive oil, fresh lime juice, and a few dry seasonings. Then drain and grill for about 5 minutes.
This strikingly gorgeous grilled veggie recipe combines barbecued sweet potatoes with a quick chimichurri sauce made from olive oil and herbs. The sweetness of the vegetable contrasts beautifully with the creaminess of the sauce and the herbaceous chimichurri.
Take gluten-free pizza crust, creamy goat cheese, tangy feta, sweet corn, and spicy arugula to create a delicious seasonal pizza. Grilling the corn first creates an extra layer of flavor, while the mixture of cheeses adds another level of tastiness. And the red of the tomatoes, green of the arugula, and yellow of the corn make a festive, colorful meal.
These spicy slabs of cauliflower are served with a spiced yogurt-based sauce that gives them extra flair. Recipe Girl explains that cauliflower benefits from some char and can take the heat, so crank up the grill!
Have you tried halloumi, the firm, eminently grillable Greek-style cheese? The slabs of cheese keep their shape even after searing so you can add them to creative main-dish salads like this one. Scallions, fresh mint, parsley, and red pepper flakes keep the flavors fresh and exciting, and quinoa along with the lettuce makes it plenty substantial.
Grilled veggie burgers can get a bum rap, either for being dry and dull or crumbly and structurally challenging. Here are the veggie burgers of your dreams. The substantial patties keep their shape and are made with a delicious combination of black beans, brown rice, and walnuts, plus chili powder, cumin powder, and smoked paprika.
Lots more vegetarian cooking
If we’ve gotten you in the mood for the delicious world of vegetarian cooking, there’s so much more to explore on Yummly.