The Plant-Forward Grill

Grilling season is upon us, which means it’s time to freshen up those barbecue skills before your next big cookout (or just your quick weeknight dinner). While burgers, hotdogs, and chicken may be the first things that come to mind when planning a grilling menu, there’s nothing trendier right now than plant-forward barbecue picks.

Whether it’s blending vegetables with ground beef or going full veg, there are many creative ways to add more plants without giving up your favorite summertime standbys. Here are some of our favorite chef-approved ways to bring more plants to your summer grill.

The Blended Burger
Blended burgers are similar to traditional burgers, but a portion of the patty is replaced with typically vegetables, beans, or grains. Reducing the meat and adding plants means a healthier burger for you — and the planet. Follow these simple steps to a delicious blended burger: 

  1. Choose your plant. Cooked lentils, beans, and mushrooms are some of the more common plants to blend (and are a good place to start), but our chefs encourage you to get even more creative with things like beets, quinoa, or even broccoli! A simple 75 percent meat, 25 percent plants is a good place to start, then you can adjust the ratio to your taste. 
  2. Stir in spices, herbs, and seasonings. Salt, pepper, and fresh herbs are all you need. But we also like to experiment with bolder flavors like turmeric or smoked paprika.
  3. Consider combining ingredients with a binder. Reducing the amount of meat and adding plants may mean that the blended burger patty does not stick together as easily as a traditional burger — and no one wants a crumbling patty that falls apart on the grill.  Although foods such as mushrooms and mashed lentils or beans should be sticky enough, if your blend is looking a little wet or crumbly, consider adding an egg (or a flax egg made with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water), or fine breadcrumbs to help it hold its shape.

Go full-on veg
Dense, hearty vegetables such as eggplant and portobello mushrooms can star on a “burger” for a plant-forward sandwich or taco filling. Or try grilling a cauliflower steak, tofu steak, or barbecued tempeh. 

Swap your sides and desserts
Instead of the traditional mayonnaise-based pasta and potato salads, try using a whole grain such as farro or quinoa mixed with fresh or grilled vegetables and herbs. Dress up your typical green salad with grilled fruit, or offer grilled fruit and vegetable kebabs — a fun twist for all ages. Finish your meal with grilled fruit salad for dessert. 

Plant-forward dishes are not only a hot social media trend right now, they’re also a great way to up the nutritional impact of your grill game while still appeasing the plant-burger naysayers. Try throwing in plant-forward party picks at your next cookout!