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How To Host A Vegetarian BBQ

Posted by katenealecooper
May 21, 2014
Featured in: Guest Posts
How To Host A Vegetarian BBQ


Hi there! My name’s Gin, and I’m the recipe developer, photographer and resident chowhound at Eat Healthy.

I was thrilled when Healthy Aperture asked me to share a vegetarian barbecue menu. What an awesome opportunity to celebrate how exciting vegetarian food can be — even at a traditionally meat-centered meal! At this southwestern barbecue, the flavors are bold, the food is fun and inviting, and you can help yourself to everything and know it’s healthy. The focus is on fresh fruits and vegetables, so it’s low fat, low sodium, and vegetarian. And every recipe is packed with vitamins, nutrients, and fiber to help you feel great as you party on!

Barbecues are about relaxing and sharing great food; it’s not a time when you want to go all Julia Child with a complicated menu or stuff that’s difficult to prepare. Most of the ingredients for this barbecue are right in the produce section of the market, and almost everything can be prepped in advance so you’re spending time with your guests instead of toiling in the kitchen. And if you get rained out or you don’t have the space to actually fire up a grill, you can still make everything here inside.

These recipes serve about six people and are vegan friendly; check the labels on your ingredients to make sure they work for you. And don’t forget to pick up some extra limes to squeeze over everything! To make juicing easier, briefly roll the limes on the counter under your palms while applying light pressure.


When I lived in the Southwest, my favorite food discovery was pico de gallo, sometimes called salsa fresca. Salsa fresca really sums it up — it’s all about fresh ingredients playing off of each other. It’s tangy, savory, and has a nice kick of heat, all with an overtone of mellow earthiness. In other words, a perfect summer salsa.

Make your salsa fresca at least a day in advance to let the flavors marry. Make it two days in advance if possible. Refrigerate in an airtight container and stir well before serving.

How To Host A Vegetarian BBQ


8 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 medium purple onion, diced
2 green onions, chopped
1-3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
1 green chile, seeded and chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-3/4 cup fresh cilantro stems and leaves, chopped
1-2 limes, juiced
pinch salt

1. Chop all the ingredients and stir them together in a large non-metal bowl. Cover and refrigerate.


What could go better with a gorgeous salsa fresca than fresh, crisp tortilla chips? They’re super crunchy and full of flavor, and have far less fat and sodium than most chips from a bag. You can cut and season them however you like, and baking them in batches lets you change up the flavors if you like.

You can make the chips up to three days before serving. Store them in a covered bowl or paper bag.

8 corn tortillas
olive oil cooking spray
sprinklings of lime juice
your choice of seasonings, including a salt-free seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash, or mix up a Southwestern seasoning blend using these ingredients:
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
¼ tsp oregano

Heat the oven to 350, and place two racks near the middle of the oven. To make the Southwest blend, stir the seasonings together in a small bowl and spoon the mix into an empty salt shaker. Cut a few tortillas into chip-size wedges and arrange them in a single layer on two cookie sheets. Spritz them with olive oil spray, sprinkle them with lime juice, and dust them with seasonings. Turn them over and repeat.
Bake for 7-8 minutes, then switch rack positions and bake another 7-8 minutes. The chips will curl slightly as they bake. You can tell the chips are done when the edges turn a very light golden brown. I toss my baked chips into a serving bowl right out of the oven while I prepare the next batch.


Corn on the cob is my all-time favorite food to barbecue. I don’t think there’s a more classic summer food, and once you’ve had it grilled, no other way will do! Roasting brings out the natural sweetness and flavor, and I like to take that a step further by brushing on some olive oil and seasonings before it hits the grill. I wanted this corn to have proper southwestern flair, so I roasted it in a combination of smoky spices and fresh garlic, jalapeño, cilantro and lime. Feel free to use more or less of anything to taste.

If your barbecue gets rained out or you don’t have access to a grill, you can roast corn right in your kitchen. Just pop it into a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes and it comes out sweet, tender, and delicious.

You can prepare the corn to grill up to a day before serving. Keep it wrapped in foil in the fridge until you’re ready.

How To Host A Vegetarian BBQ


9 ears corn, husked
½ c olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1-2 tsp chipotle or cayenne pepper flakes
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp smoked paprika (regular paprika works, too)
¼ cup cilantro leaves and stems, minced
1-2 limes, juiced

1. Husk the corn, leaving the knobby ends on to use as handles. Place the corn in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let the corn soak for about 30 minutes while you prepare the marinade. (Soaking beforehand ensures the corn kernels will stay plump and moist as they grill.)

2. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl. When the corn’s done soaking, dry it off with a paper towel and place each ear on a generous piece of foil. Make sure the foil is big enough to go around the corn two or three times and close tightly. Brush each ear with the marinade. You might need to use a spoon to get the garlic and jalapeño on each ear. Wrap the corn up tightly and place it on a hot grill for 15-20 minutes, turning every five minutes or so. Remove the foil carefully to avoid steam burns.


And now for the main event: thick, juicy strips of savory portobello and tender-crisp peppers and onion in a bold southwestern marinade, grilled and loaded on tortillas with creamy avocado sauce to finish. The neighbors grilling burgers and franks are going to get jealous! I’m in love with these portobello fajitas because they’re so easy to make and they taste out of this world (plus they’re light and jam-packed with fiber, vitamins and nutrients).

If your barbecue gets rained out or you don’t have access to a grill, you can still make these. Instead of wrapping the veggies in foil and grilling, stir-fry them for about 10 minutes.

You can prepare the fajita packets for grilling up to a day before serving. Keep them in the fridge until you’re ready. Make the creamy avocado about half an hour before serving.

How To Host A Vegetarian BBQ


6 portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed (gently scrape them off with a spoon) and cut into ½-inch strips
3 poblano peppers, seeded and cut into ½-inch strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½-inch strips
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½-inch strips
1 purple onion, cut into ½-inch strips
1-3 green chiles, seeded and sliced (optional)

⅓ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
about ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
¼ tsp smoked paprika (regular paprika works, too)
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp chili powder
few drops liquid smoke (optional)
⅓ - ½ cup cilantro leaves and stems, chopped

1. Combine the mushrooms, peppers, onion, and chiles in a large bowl. Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl, then pour over the veggies. Toss to coat and set aside for about half an hour.

2. Tear off six or more large pieces of heavy duty foil and place equal amounts of marinated veggies on them. Wrap them up into square packets and make sure the sides are securely sealed, then wrap the packets in another piece of foil. Place the foil packets on a hot grill for about 10 minutes. Be careful of steam when opening the packets. Serve with your choice of tortillas, salsa fresca, and avocado sauce.


3 avocados
1-2 limes, juiced
½-1 tsp chipotle or cayenne pepper flakes
1-2 Tbs cilantro leaves and stems, minced
pinch salt to taste (optional)

1. Cut each avocado in half, remove the pits and scrape the flesh out into a medium bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mash everything together with a fork to desired consistency. Store covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.


Sweet, mellow mango with hint of orange and a bite of tangy lime in a cold, refreshing popsicle makes a great barbecue finale. To keep these really easy, I blended whole mango chunks with fresh lime and orange juice. No need to strain the fruit and lose all that great fiber! I also added some light coconut milk to keep them creamy and bite-able.

My favorite thing about these pops is how natural and fresh they taste. There’s no added sugar or sweetener, just whole fruit and coconut milk frozen on a stick. I also like how convenient they are for entertaining. You can make them days ahead and just leave them in the freezer until you’re ready to serve. And there’s no day-of cleanup: all you have to do is throw away a stick!

You can make the popsicles a week or more before serving.

How To Host A Vegetarian BBQ

2 ripe mangoes (the ripe ones feel slightly soft when squeezed)
½ cup light coconut milk
zest of 1 orange
2 large oranges, juiced (about 1 cup)
zest of 1 lime
½ lime, juiced
8 popsicle sticks
8 ½-cup capacity popsicle molds (small paper drink cups work fine)

To cut up the mangoes, start by placing one of them on a flat surface like a dinner plate which will catch any juice. Hold it vertically and cut lengthwise, just off-center to avoid the large, flat stone in the middle. Repeat on the other side. Hold the “half” without the pit flesh-side up and cut a criss-cross pattern into the flesh, taking care not to cut through the skin. Turn the skin inside-out and cut away the cubes of mango. Use a sharp knife to take the skin off of the remaining “half” and cut away as much flesh from the stone as possible. Repeat with the other mango.
Combine the mango pieces, coconut milk, orange juice, orange zest, lime juice, and lime zest in a food processor or blender and puree until you have a smooth liquid.
Divide the liquid among your molds and pop them into the freezer for about half an hour. Take them out, add the sticks and put them back into the freezer until you’re ready to serve. Letting them set slightly before adding the sticks helps you get the sticksin the center of the ice pop.

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