- More people are embracing plant-based meat alternatives and eating less meat overall.
- The plant-based food industry in the United States is worth 7 billion dollars alone.
- From veggie burgers and dogs to grilled summer vegetables, these plant-based menu options are tasty (and healthy) alternatives to traditional barbecue favorites.
Each year, more people in the United States incorporate plant-based eating into their meal planning, choosing either to consume fewer animal products or avoid them entirely.
A 2021 survey from Food Insight found that 65% of people in the United States consumed plant-based meat alternatives in the past year, with 2 in 5 people consuming these options daily or weekly.
Moreover, the global market value of meat substitutes will reach more than 35 billion dollars by 2027. The U.S. market for plant-based foods is worth 7 billion dollars alone. Plant-based meat alternatives are also the second most valuable plant-based product.
As more people embrace plant-based eating, ideas around traditional barbecue fare are shifting. Summertime brings many opportunities to light or gas up the grill, and many people are replacing hamburgers and hotdogs with plant-based options.
“We know that eating more plant-based [food] is good for us and the environment,” said Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian in New York City.
“Tofu, lentils, [and] Impossible Burgers are all great alternatives to meat that are tasty — and not just brown rice and steamed vegetables. Also, more plants mean more fiber, which is good for your gut health and helps with feeling full,” Rissetto added.
If you’re aiming to eat more plants — or you’re cooking for someone who is — these plant-based foods will help inspire your next summer cookout.
You don’t have to fuss with making your own meat-free burger mixture. Many brands have mastered the best texture and flavor for spectacular sandwiches, and you can buy them frozen or fresh right at your grocery store.
“With burgers, there are amazing options, from those that mimic a classic beef patty, such as Beyond Meat’s widely available Beyond Burger, to legume-based burgers such as the classic — and crowd-pleasing — Spicy Black Bean burger from Morningstar Farms,” said Ann Taylor Pittman, recipe developer and author of “Everyday Whole Grains: 175 New Recipes from Amaranth to Wild Rice.”
Just be aware that some veggie burgers contain more sodium than traditional beef patties. Cut back on high sodium toppings like extra cheese and opt for a low sodium side like slaw or corn salad instead of fries.
There are almost as many veggie dogs on the market as veggie burgers, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Beyond Meat also makes a Beyond Sausage that some might argue is just as good — or better — than the real thing.
But fake meat isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for unprocessed plant-based options made from whole foods, roasted carrots are the next best thing to hot dogs, and if they’re cooked right, they can taste and feel like one, too.
“A roasted carrot spiced with cumin is excellent in a whole-wheat hot dog bun topped with well-seasoned cabbage,” said Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and founder of Maya Feller Nutrition.
Remember: Low and slow is the key to the carrot-turned-hot dog. This temperature setting for roasting allows the veggie to become tender and toothsome, and it infuses the vegetable with any spices or rubs you’ve applied.
Carrots are also a low calorie food, so you may still feel hungry if you only eat one. Try boosting satiety with a hearty salad made with grans instead of potato chips.
With proper handling, tofu tastes and cooks a lot like chicken or pork.
“Extra-firm tofu grills really well,” Feller said. “I like to marinate it in ginger, garlic, and coconut aminos with a dash of red pepper flakes.”
Not everyone may find tofu steaks as visually appealing as regular steaks, however, so you may have to get more creative.
“You can go a little unexpected by grilling slabs of extra-firm tofu and building your menu around tofu banh mi, with a build-your-own sandwich bar with all the fixings — pickled carrots and radishes, sliced jalapeños, cilantro, hoisin sauce, mayo,” Pittman said.
Alternatively, you could also try marinating and grilling tempeh, which is made with fermented soybeans and has a slightly different texture.
Potato fritters are a wonderful year-round alternative to meat and fish patties.
Feller said she enjoys potato and broccoli fritters. Pan-fried in some oil, fritters can be rich, so try balancing them with fresh tomato salsa or dressing them up with a no-cook sauce like Chimichurri or pesto.
Jackfruit has made a name for itself in vegan and vegetarian circles as a dense and chewy meat alternative that’s so good it frequently convinces carnivores they are eating the real thing. The fleshy interior of the Southeast Asian fruit handles a bit like meat.
“You can make a wonderfully messy pulled jackfruit sandwich instead of the usual pulled pork. Upton’s Naturals makes a tasty, not-too-sweet version that’s great on a soft bun with a scoop of coleslaw,” Pittman said.
Marinate it with barbecue sauce and sauté it on a skillet on the grill for a fast meat-free option.
Like other plant alternatives, jackfruit can have a great deal of sodium. Cut back with low- and no-sodium sauces to keep the numbers manageable.
Of course, you don’t have to try to hide the fact you’re eating veggies in place of meat.
“Flip the script by doing something a little unexpected: a grilled veggie and hummus platter as the centerpiece of your barbecue,” Pittman said.
“Grill bell pepper strips, zucchini and yellow squash slices, asparagus spears, blanched Brussels sprouts, baby artichokes, broccoli spears, blanched carrots, fennel wedges, or any other veggies that would go well with hummus.”
You don’t even have to grill the veggies to please a crowd. A simple, colorful crudité platter of raw veggies and a homemade dip makes for an eye-catching appetizer before the main course.
More people are embracing a plant-based lifestyle and eating less meat.
If you’re hosting a cookout this summer, you could serve plant-based alternatives instead of meat options or offer a mix of each to give your guests the option.
Remember, all you need is a few ideas to complement your menu.
“Don’t make a big deal out of it; just have meatless burgers and dogs alongside the traditional versions,” Pitman said.
“There might be meat-eaters who are excited to try some plant-based options, too.”