Say the word ‘barbecue’ and most people instantly think of burgers and sausages. However, barbecues are perfect for cooking a wide variety of foods and so it’s very easy to cater for vegetarians at a barbecue.

Why do people choose to be vegetarian?

There are many different reasons why people choose to be vegetarian. It may be due to religious beliefs, views on animal welfare, health reasons or just personal preference. Some people are much stricter vegetarians than others, for example some vegetarians might not be overly concerned if they accidentally eat a small piece of meat but for others it can be a very upsetting experience. Some vegetarians don’t mind eating food that’s been prepared at the same time as meat whilst others would not want to eat food that’s been touched with the same utensils used for cooking meat. When catering for vegetarians, it’s best to be cautious and assume that all of your vegetarian guests are the strict sort.

What can vegetarians eat?

Vegetarians traditionally don’t eat meat or fish but do eat animal by-products such as milk, cheese and eggs.

Vegans are much stricter than vegetarians and don’t eat meat or fish or any animal products.

How can I keep vegetarians at my barbecue happy?

There are just a few key things to remember when catering for vegetarians at a barbecue:

• Find out how many people attending the barbecue are vegetarian. If you assume that there will only be one or two but then you find that half your guests are vegetarians you are likely to have a lot of meat left over and several hungry guests.

• Designate different areas of the barbecue for the meat and non-meat dishes. If you are catering for large numbers and have the space, it might be practical to have two completely separate barbecues to keep the meat and vegetarian dishes apart.

• Remember to use different utensils for handling the meat products and vegetarian products.

• Inevitably when serving vegetarian dishes, the carnivores will help themselves to them too. Make more than you need so that there is plenty to go round.

• If putting burgers and sausages onto plates or platters for people to help themselves, make it clear which ones are vegetarian. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, so consider making labels or have different coloured plates to differentiate between the two.

What to cook for vegetarians

Look in most supermarkets and you’ll find a wide range of vegetarian alternatives to traditional meat products such as vegetarian burgers and sausages made from soya protein or from tofu. However, there’s a whole host of vegetarian dishes that work very well on a barbecue so why not be a bit more adventurous and try some of the following ideas.

Whether you provide these for your vegetarian guests or just to give the meat eaters a bit of variety, they are sure to be popular choices:

Kebabs

Make vegetarian kebabs by threading bite-sized vegetables such as pieces of pepper, courgette, red onion and mushrooms onto a wooden skewer (remember to soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes first so that they don’t catch light). You can add extra interest and protein by adding squares of halloumi cheese. Unlike most cheese, halloumi doesn’t melt when grilled which makes it perfect for barbecues.

Burgers with a difference

Cook falafel on the barbecue (you can either make your own, or buy it from the supermarket) and stuff into pitta breads along with salad and chilli-sauce to make a spicy alternative to burgers.

Grill large flat mushrooms and pop them in a burger bun instead of a beef burger. They are delicious with a slice of blue cheese or a drizzle of pesto dressing on top.

Salads

Salads are an obvious choice when catering for vegetarians but don’t just stick to green salads and potato salads. You can make a delicious cold pasta salad by draining freshly cooked pasta and running it under cold water to cool. Then mix with olives, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, rocket and a drizzle of olive oil.

Potatoes and squash

Cut butternut squash or sweet potatoes into large wedges, toss in olive oil and then grill on the barbecue until tender. These are delicious served with salad and mayonnaise, or spice them up with chilli flakes or salsa.

Alternatively, cook whole sweet potatoes on the barbecue by wrapping them in tinfoil and place amongst the hot coals for around 40 minutes. Sweet potatoes cook more quickly than normal baked potatoes and so they are a good choice for barbecues. Once cooked top with flavoured butters or cheese.

Corn on the cob

Parboil corn on the cob for five minutes, drain and then wrap in individual tinfoil parcels along with a knob of butter. Cook on the barbecue until tender. You can add interest by using flavoured butters such as chilli, garlic or herb butter.

Once you start experimenting with vegetarian foods you will quickly find that there are endless combinations that work well on the barbecue. Have fun experimenting and your vegetarian guests are bound to be impressed.