Barbecuing for Vegetarians

Broaden your culinary horizons with a diverse and delicious selection of vegetarian barbecue dishes

In the meat-orientated world of barbecues, vegetarians can sometimes get short-changed when it comes to menu options.

This needn’t be the case as there are just as many delicious and enticing vegetarian barbecue dishes as there are meat-based ones. Barbecue vegetarian dishes are not just healthier than your standard barbecue fare such as sausages and burgers; they’re also more innovative and adventurous.

If you’re new to vegetarian barbecuing and are not sure where to begin, a good starting point is to use the fruit and vegetables that are currently in season.

Vibrant and colourful seasonal vegetables

A blend of different coloured vegetables can bring a fresh, bold look to your barbecue table and bring originality and vibrancy to your menu.

One of the best vegetables to grill is the aubergine as its soft flesh absorbs that wonderful smoky barbecue flavour. Aubergines are also simple to prepare. All you need to do is to brush your aubergine slices with oil and season to taste – and then place on the griddle for 2-3 minutes on each side.

The creamy golden-brown slices of aubergine are delicious on their own or with a yoghurt dip. Other roasted vegetable favourites such as tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, red onions and mushrooms can also be lined up alongside the aubergines on the grill. Just brush with oil, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and scatter with fresh herbs to make them even more enticing.

Corn on the cob, a traditional barbecue favourite, will add a splash of yellow to your line-up of dishes. Cobs usually take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook and should be turned every five minutes until the kernels are tender when pierced with a knife. Serve dripping with melted butter – delicious!

Fruity barbecue dishes

It’s not just vegetables that are great on the barbecue. Fruits such as avocado and pineapples can also be grilled. Avocados make perfect barbecue food as they’re thick and firm. Slice your avocados in half lengthwise and coat the flesh with a little olive oil, then place flesh down on the barbecue. Lightly brown the avocado before removing and topping with a mix of chopped tomatoes and chillies.

For something more elaborate, this recipe for grilled avocado halves with harissa hummus and tahini yogurt from Olive magazine is full of flavour and perfect for a summer barbecue.

If you prefer your fruit to be a little sweeter, try whisking brown sugar and cinnamon together and then using it to coat wedges of pineapple. The pineapple wedges can then be heated for 3 to 5 minutes on the gas barbecue. The result is a sweet, sticky treat that’s loved by children. Pineapple is a great barbecue staple as it can be added to pizzas and kebabs.

Make way for meaty mushrooms

As well as fruit and vegetables, don’t forget to throw in a few mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms are ideal for grilling on the barbecue as they’re a meaty mushroom that can be stuffed or topped with a layer of cheese.

A simple method is to mix oil, onion, garlic and vinegar in a bowl, pour over the mushrooms and let them stand for an hour. Then barbecue the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, turning frequently to make sure they’re cooked evenly.

Alternatively, you can turn your mushrooms into a burger and serve them in a bun. This recipe for mushroom burgers includes oyster sauce, which gives the mushrooms a full, rich flavour – it’s a method that can be used to make moist mushroom burgers or smaller mushroom cakes.

And if you’ve ever wondered what mushrooms coated in tequila taste like, you could try this recipe for barbecued tequila portobello mushrooms that uses lime juice, tequila and garlic to bring a Latin American kick to the humble mushroom.

All kinds of kebabs

If you have a glut of vegetables one of the best ways to use them up is to cut them into cubes, slide onto a skewer and stick them on the barbecue. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs and you have a delicious and healthy meal.

But when it comes to vegetarian kebabs, you don’t just need to use vegetables. Halloumi cheese is always popular with its soft texture and salty taste. Slide the cubes of cheese onto skewers and intersperse with cherry tomatoes and button mushrooms. Halloumi cheese has a high melting point, so you can grill it on a hot barbecue without it melting away.

Brush the halloumi with olive oil as this will prevent it from sticking to the grill. Then sprinkle the kebabs with dried herbs and cook on a gas barbecue for around 4-5 minutes turning frequently, so they’re evenly browned.

Other cheeses that will stand up to the high heat of gas barbecues include feta and paneer. Why not create Indian-style kebabs by coating cubed vegetables and paneer in a spicy, tikka marinade?

Tofu can also be used in kebabs but you need to press is it to squeeze out excess liquid so that it’s firm enough to stay on the skewer.

A practical tip to prevent wooden skewers from charring on the barbecue is to soak them in water for 20 minutes before use.

Spicy barbecue sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are ideal for barbecues as they can be cooked in a number of different ways. One of the easiest methods is to cube a sweet potato and wrap it in a foil parcel with butter, sugar, cumin and cayenne pepper. The parcel can be cooked on the barbecue in about 20 to 30 minutes, although you should move it every 10 minutes to ensure the potatoes are cooked through.

Sweet potatoes also make great chips, and the addition of spices gives you a tasty sweet and spicy snack. This recipe for spicy sweet potato chips uses chilli powder, garlic and cumin to pack a spicy punch – and they only need 15 to 20 minutes on a gas barbecue to make them crisp around the edges and tender in the middle.

Tempting toppings for BBQ pizzas

The beauty of making pizzas is that once you’ve prepared the dough, which you can do in advance, the rest is plain sailing. You can use all sorts of toppings to make any kind of pizza you want. Chopped onions, tomatoes and mozzarella make a simple but delicious margherita. From this base, you can add on any other vegetables that take your fancy such as peppers, aubergine, courgette or mushrooms.

The trick is to barbecue one side of the pizza base first before you add the toppings. And if you want a real barbecue taste, use a tangy BBQ sauce instead of a tomato one to enhance the smoky flavour.

For a more traditional pizza, this recipe for pizza on the barbecue uses roasted red peppers, black olives, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil for an authentic Italian taste.

Grilled polenta with blue cheese

Still on a Mediterranean theme, polenta is considered a comfort food in Italy and is frequently served as a hot porridge or cooled into a firm loaf that can be baked, fried or grilled.

On the barbecue, it can be sliced into squares, brushed lightly with oil and then cooked on each side for one or two minutes until warm and slightly charred. If you’re using pre-made polenta that’s available in blocks, you should check the cooking instructions on the packet.

This recipe for polenta squares with blue cheese makes a tasty and original barbecue dish and only takes a few minutes to prepare.

Stuffed pitta and flatbreads

An ideal way to serve warm halloumi cheese is to stuff it inside a grilled pitta bread.

As halloumi has a strong tangy and salty flavour that makes it stand out, you can safely add tomatoes, red onions and lettuce to your pitta without smothering the taste of the cheese.

To grill your pittas, place them on the barbecue and cook for about 30 seconds on each side. Warm pittas can then be stuffed with grilled vegetables, salads or mushrooms. If you’re going for a Greek theme, you could fill them with feta cheese or tzatziki and serve with dishes of green and black olives.

Barbecued pittas should be crispy on the outside and filled with a mix of soft, delicious flavours on the inside.

If you really want to impress your guests, you could try making your own flatbreads. This recipe for naan bread can be cooked on the barbecue in just 2 to 3 minutes and is delicious served with all kinds of food, not just Indian dishes.

Who needs meat?

When you’ve got all these mouth-watering vegetarian barbecue dishes to tempt you, why wait till the weekend to get the barbecue out?

These recipes show that barbecuing needn’t just be about ribs and burgers. Barbecued food can be healthy, nutritional and diverse. From pittas and pizzas to corn and kebabs, there’s a dish here for everyone whether they’re vegetarian or not.

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