vegan grilling tips

Vegan Grilling Tips from Sam Turnbull

Fun ways to turn the fruits and veggies of summer into crowd-pleasers at your next cookout.

By Rebecca Heaton

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Grilling is a summertime ritual that just makes food look and taste better—the smoky essence, the grill lines that form, the fun marinades and the fresh taste from cooking something quickly over a flame. And while the ritual is often associated with meat, there are many creative ways to grill fruit and vegetables for a vegan or vegetarian outdoor meal—grilled guacamole, anyone?

Grilling vegetables over high heat caramelizes their natural sugars, making them sweeter. The method also helps vegetables retain more nutrients, compared with boiling, and there’s practically no need for oil or fat, compared with sautéing or frying. 

We asked Sam Turnbull, vegan food blogger and author of Fuss-Free Vegan (Random House, 2017), for her favorite tips for vegan grilling. “I decided to go vegan about seven years ago, but I didn’t want to give up recipes that I grew up with, like burgers and tacos. So I worked on creating dishes for myself with ingredients you find at your regular grocery store, to prove to friends and family that veganism can be delicious and wonderful,” Turnbull says.

Fruits & Veggies

“If you’re trying to get away from the tofu vibe, try grilling peeled and sliced (½-inch) rounds of butternut squash,” Turnbull suggests. Lightly brush with oil before grilling, and serve with an easy-to-make chimichurri sauce:

5-Minute Chimichurri Sauce: In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup fresh cilantro, 1 cup fresh parsley, ¼ cup chopped red onion, ¼ cup olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp lime juice, ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp optional red pepper flakes.

Turnbull’s Other Go-To Grill Options

Cauliflower florets: Marinate (with one of the options at right) and skewer.

Eggplant: Slice into thick rounds, and marinate before grilling. Turnbull suggests the barbecue marinade. 

Avocado: Slice in half, remove pit, lightly coat with oil and grill. “Scoop out, sprinkle with salt, and you have instant guacamole!”

Strawberries and mushrooms: Marinate in a balsamic sauce; then skewer and grill. “It’s a sweet and savory option.”

Fruit: Combine strawberries and chunks of peaches and pineapple on skewers to grill. Serve over ice cream. “Delicious!”

Corn: Stick right on the grill out of the husk; cook until browned. “I like to slather mine with a vegan mayo or nutritional yeast.” Also, try sprinkling with fresh herbs, or drizzle with this Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce: 

In a high-speed blender, combine and blend until smooth: 

  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast 
  • ¼ cup lime juice 
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, 
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Don’t have skewers?  Use branches of rosemary, which will infuse a hint of flavor while the veggies cook—plus, they make for a beautiful presentation.

Alternative Meats

“If you want a meaty fill, grill a block of marinated tofu. Or get more adventurous and try grilling a marinated seitan steak or seitan tenders,” Turnbull recommends. Tempeh is also a great vegan grilling option.

Vegan Grillables

Lightlife Smart Sausages. Meat-free doesn’t have to mean no burgers or sausages. These soy-based sausages come in versatile flavors, including Italian and Chorizo, with 13 grams of protein.

Beyond Meat–The Beyond Burger. This plant-based burger—made with pea protein—looks and cooks like beef, with a satisfying flavor and 20 grams of protein. 

Daiya’s Deliciously Dairy-Free Cheddar Style Slices. Who doesn’t like melted cheese atop a burger (or sausage!). The slices are delicious and dairy-, gluten-, soy- and nut-free. 

Marinade options


  • 6 Tbsp barbecue sauce
  • ½ tsp liquid smoke


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper


  • 2 Tbsp light oil
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp agave
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp garlic powder


  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup or agave

Lemon Mustard

  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup or agave
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp garlic powder


  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice or water
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp powdered ginger

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