Are you ready to dust off your sundresses and smear on the sunblock? It’s getting hotter out there, folks! And in some parts of the country, people are already experiencing summer-like temps—meaning there’s no better time than now to bring on the barbecues!
But wait… something’s different. You’ve changed a lot since the new year started. You’ve gone vegan! That’s OK! Stay. Vegan. You can still throw an epic barbecue bash and rock your omnivorous friends’ and family’s taste buds with meatless foods.
Whether you’re hosting a spectacular, plant-based summer soiree, or you’re a guest at someone else’s, follow these five tips to make sure the menu is a hit.
1. Create a plan
Proper planning determines whether you’re cookout will go off without a hitch—or if you’ll be stressing the entire time. Make a list of ideas well ahead of time to nail down the menu.
When it comes to choosing the right dishes, break down your menu into sections: appetizers, sides, entrees and beverages.
It’s a good idea to test out any first-time recipes before the party. This way, you’ll know it tastes good, plus, you’ll already be a pro when it comes to preparing it on the big day (that means you’ll have more quality time to spend with guests).
- Beverage: watermelon juice
- Appetizers: buffalo or BBQ cauliflower wings
- Sides: potato salad
- Entrees: black bean burgers, mushroom steaks, veggie hot dogs
Make the sides and apps beforehand and when they start to run low, fire up the barbie and finish up the entrees.
Having a plan is also essential for making sure you can tell your guests what to bring when they inevitably ask. Which leads to the second tip on the list.
2. Don’t be shy
Ask for help if you need it. Once you have a plan in place, be sure to delegate tasks to guests who offer.
Have a friend who loves to cook show up early to help prep the entrees. For your friend that burns toast, have him or her bring the ice. Be open to accepting help from others.
Also, if you’re not plant-based yourself but have a few guests that are, ask them if there’s anything you need to keep in mind. Will they mind if the grill being used for cheeseburgers is used for meatless patties, too? Or are they OK with dairy in the macaroni and cheese? If not, suggest they bring a serving for themselves.
Decide how much you can handle and then ask others to share responsibilities for a little extra support.
3. Focus on taste
When throwing a meatless, food-based event, it’s important to put an emphasis on a well-rounded menu. This, of course, includes taste!
Barbecues are a great way to introduce plant-based dishes to individuals that wouldn’t choose these foods themselves—so make them count!
Serve options that include natural foods and packaged fare, like carrot dogs and your favorite store-bought hot dog alternatives. Offer black bean burgers, but also go the extra mile and have a brand name vegan burger patty.
Don’t forget the toppings bar: relish, sauerkraut, ketchup, dijon mustard and of course a vegan-friendly mayo.
4. Keep the conversation light
When it comes to diet and nutrition, everyone thinks they’re an expert. If someone asks you a question about why you choose to follow a plant-based lifestyle, of course feel free to answer as deeply as you’d like. But be mindful of sharing unsolicited advice.
When responding to questions, keep in mind that many aren’t aware of the effects of animal agriculture in regards to the environment, health and even the cruelty involved in the food industry. Strive to make sure your answers are delivered with patience and kindness.
Many people yearn for more information after they begin to learn the facts. And it’d be great for you to be considered as a resource for someone that’s looking for more answers.
5. Avoid overthinking
This one might be the most difficult for any host, but in all honesty, don’t stress the small stuff. Once you create a plan, ask guests for help and address any of their special considerations, then you’re free to take a bulk of the load off!
Remember, it’s probably not often that you’re able to throw or attend a barbecue. Between work, school, maintaining the house and caring for kids, there’s a finite amount of time for social gatherings.
Make sure you take the time to savor your barbecue by doing what you need to ahead of time.