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Grill & Thrill: Vegan BBQ Ideas for Your Fourth of July Party

grilling out

When you think of summer, what comes to mind? Family cookouts, fireworks, refreshing drinks, and decadent ice cream, of course! Did you know that 88% of Americans grill meat on summer holidays like the 4th of July? But with rising rates of nutrition-related chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimers, swapping your meats this summer could help you celebrate for years to come!

Read on to get plant-based inspiration and vegan barbecue ideas for your next cookout!

A Cookout with No Meat?

Absolutely! A meatless cookout can be just as fun and filling. Plant-based proteins can be seasoned to taste savory and meat-like, thanks to the "umami" flavor found in mushrooms and spices like smoked paprika. Plus, using spices allows you to control your sodium intake, which is beneficial since high sodium consumption is linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.


Try making an "umami seasoning" blend.

5-Minute Umami Seasoning Blend

  • ¼ cup dried mushroom powder (like dried shiitake mushrooms)

  • 2 tbsp dried parsley

  • 2 tsp dried thyme

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp onion powder

  • 1 tsp paprika

Mix the above together to make your "meat-like" seasoning!

Or enhance the umami flavor of any dish by adding mushrooms and spices like smoked paprika, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard seed, fenugreek seed, basil, miso paste, or ginger.


Get Satiated Through Plant-Based Proteins

Worried about feeling full? Plant-based proteins provide comparable satiety to animal proteins, plus they offer fiber, which increases the feeling of fullness and aids in digestion. Great sources include black beans, lentils, tofu, and chickpeas. Try our lentil burgers, black bean burgers, or grilled beet burgers!

Add all of your favorite fixings to the plant burger just like you would to your meat burger.

If beans and legumes aren't your style, mushrooms and jackfruit offer meat-like textures. While not as high in protein, they provide lots of fiber and an abundance of nutrients. Mushrooms are excellent sources of B vitamins and the only non-animal source of vitamin D. Use large portobello mushrooms as burger buns for a nutritious twist!

For something new, try this "pulled pork" sandwich recipe featuring jackfruit, which is rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, helping to reduce blood pressure and lower cardiovascular risks.

BBQ Pulled Jackfruit

bbq jackfruit
photo credit: Nadine Primeau


  • 2 cans (20 oz each) young green jackfruit in water

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp onion powder

  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

  • ½ tsp pepper

  • ¾ cup homemade vegan barbecue sauce (or your favorite store-bought brand)


  1. Rinse, drain, and dry the jackfruit. Cut off the core and place the rest in a bowl. Shred the jackfruit with two forks for a meat-like texture.

  2. Mix brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and pepper in a small bowl.

  3. Coat the jackfruit with the seasoning mix.

  4. Cook the jackfruit for 2–3 minutes in a large stovetop pan over medium-high heat.

  5. Add BBQ sauce and a little water. Stir, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20–25 minutes.

  6. Cook on medium-high heat for 2–3 minutes to deepen the flavor.

  7. Serve on a bun with your favorite barbecue toppings like purple cabbage slaw.

Vegan BBQ Protection

grilled vegetables

Why consider plant-based proteins? They offer numerous health benefits. Grilling vegetables can be a heart-healthy choice. Did you know that eating a store-bought hot dog (~50g) daily increases your risk of colon cancer by 18%?

Processed meats also contain high levels of sodium and preservatives, increasing the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The Healthy People: Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Diabetes Association recommend limiting red and processed meats to reduce colon cancer and other chronic diseases.

You might think grilling your own meat is safer, but research shows that grilling or broiling meat at high temperatures forms carcinogens like heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs form when meat proteins react to high heat, and PAHs form when fat drips onto flames. Carnitine in animal products contributes to carcinogen formation, so grilling vegetables and plant-based proteins is a safer option. Red meats also contain heme iron, which promotes oxidative damage when cooked at high temperatures.

Red meats also contain heme iron, which promotes oxidative damage when cooked at high temperatures.

To reduce your risk of creating carcinogens while grilling, choose plant-based proteins and vegetables. Research suggests that green leafy vegetables can decrease HCA absorption and reduce cancer risk. Try grilling high antioxidant vegetables that combat carcinogens, like in this delicious tofu skewer recipe!

veggie burgers

Ready to make your 4th of July cookout deliciously different? Fire up the grill and enjoy the thrill of tasty, heart-healthy vegan BBQ!

Hi! I'm Erika, a Graduate Nutrition Student at Georgia State University. When I'm not enjoying delicious food or training for a marathon, I love spending time with my family and friends. As a future Latina dietitian, I am passionate about using media to share the values of community and heritage. My goal is to debunk prevalent nutrition myths and promote cultural awareness, particularly by highlighting the rich traditions and health practices of Latino communities. I hope that one day I am able to inspire others to embrace a holistic and informed approach to nutrition.


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