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 for a quick weeknight dinner). While burgers, steaks, chicken, and hotdogs 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, skewering kebabs with a little bit of chicken, or going full on with vegetables, 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 meat is replaced with vegetables, beans, or grains. Reducing the meat and adding plants means a flavor-filled burger that helps nourish you — while protecting the planet. Follow these simple steps to make a delicious, blended burger: 

  1. Choose your plant. Cooked lentils, beans, and mushrooms are some of the more common plants to blend, but our chefs also encourage you to get creative with things like beets, quinoa, or even broccoli! A simple 75 percent meat, 25 percent plant mix then you adjust the ratio to push your boundaries while honoring your taste preferences. 
  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 by mixing 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water), or fine breadcrumbs to help it hold its shape.

Go full-on with vegetables
Hardy vegetables such as eggplant and portobello mushrooms can be the star of a plant-forward “burger”. and your steak can be swapped for a grilled cauliflower or lion’s mane mushroom “steak.” There are even plants that can mimic even something as coveted grilled chicken — try marinated tofu or tempeh slathered with barbecue sauce. 

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 peaches or apples sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey (if desired).

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!