8 Ways to Go Meat-Free with Plant-Based Burgers, BBQ and Burritos - Virtua Article

Make These Plant-Based Foods the Stars of Your Next Summer Party

By , Registered Dietitian
Virtua Plant-Based Lifestyle Program

So many of us love summertime! The heat waves, beach days, fireflies, and picnics with the constant offering of burgers, franks and barbecued chicken. And there, for your vegetarian friend, is the obligatory frozen veggie burger sadly dangling off the corner of the grill.

Satisfy everyone at your next picnic with a plant-based twist. Try some of these meat-free options to add creativity to your barbecue without sacrificing the flavor—or the protein.

Soy contains the same amino acids as animal protein and is the only true protein “equivalent” to meat. Extra-firm tofu is the most similar in consistency to meat and is a blank canvas for any flavor and spice you add to it. To prepare it, drain it well, place it between lint-free tea towels or paper towels on a dish, and place a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan on it for 10-20 minutes to press the liquid out of it. Cut it into “steaks” and marinate or brush it with your favorite sauce, then grill it. Or, cut it into cubes, skewer and grill it with your favorite summer vegetables and herbs.

Seitan is a pure wheat-gluten product that contains 100% protein. Typically used in Asian cuisine in baked and grilled dishes, it has a surprisingly meaty taste and texture. When it’s brushed with buffalo sauce, it tastes a lot like buffalo chicken.

Jackfruit (pictured in the BBQ sandwich above) is found in the canned or frozen foods section of your grocery store. It’s actually treated as a savory ingredient in recipes and has a texture that resembles shredded pork or chicken. Try pairing it with your favorite barbecue sauce and serving it on a hearty roll. Or, try this BBQ jackfruit sandwich with avocado slaw.

Brush portobello mushrooms with salad dressing or marinade and grill. Or, stuff them with veggies and cheese and roast them. For a flavorful Philly cheesesteak-like sandwich, chop and sauté portobello mushrooms with onions and top the sandwich with provolone cheese.

Eggplant is a versatile veggie you can stack with mozzarella and tomato, stuff with seasoned rice or quinoa, or dice into stews. Or, make eggplant meatballs for an innovative twist.

Beans and lentils are a great way to maintain high protein while also reducing fats and adding fiber. Use pureed chickpeas, edamame and black beans to prepare a variety of hummus-style dips/spreads. Cannellini bean spread seasoned with oregano is a great combination. Or, make a taco or burrito filling with cooked and mashed lentils.  

Slice a head of cauliflower into “steaks” and roast or grill it. Although cauliflower doesn’t absorb flavor the way some of the other ingredients on this list would, it comes alive if you season it well like this grilled chipotle lime cauliflower steak.

Finally, keep veggie burgers on your barbecue menu, but make them yourself so they’re more nutritious and delicious than most frozen patties. Just be sure to use a binding ingredient that keeps the burger together when grilling, or cook it in a pan instead. Find a recipe online that appeals to you and get creative with your toppings.

For help exploring a plant-based diet and lifestyle, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 to schedule an appointment with a Virtua registered dietitian. 

Updated May 24, 2018

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Choosing a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables may help reduce or eliminate chronic diseases and shed unwanted pounds. Join Virtua's Plant-Based Wellness Program today. 

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