How to Make Your Labor Day Barbecue Vegan-Friendly

Categories: Beet Reporter
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If you're grilling this Labor Day, stats from vegetarian research groups put the odds around 1 in 300 that you'll end up with a vegan at your party. Your chances of having to feed a vegetarian are higher: about 1 in 44. And if you live in Seattle, San Francisco, or Portland, Oregon -- the cities that vegans are most likely to call home -- you're practically guaranteed to have a slew of plant-eaters on your Labor Day guest list.

These herbivores might end up going hungry at your outdoor feast if you're not prepared. You'll want to stock up on veggie burgers, dogs, and other grillables that are cleared for vegan and vegetarian consumption, but that's not the end of it. Vegetarians probably won't want to eat Boca burgers that were cooked on top of the charred meat drippings left behind by the last round of cow burgers. And vegans, who don't eat any animal products, won't touch an ear of grilled corn that was soaking in smoke from the Oscar Mayer wieners sizzling downwind on the same grill grate. So how do you accommodate these carni-phobes, egg rejecters, and cheese shunners at your meat-and-mayo-centric celebration? Here are some steps you can take to make sure your veg-head friends are just as happy and stuffed as the meat-heads when the sun goes down on your Labor Day feast.

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1. Buy the Right Veggie Meats
Some vegans -- ethical vegans, who don't eat animal products simply out of concern for animal welfare -- will eat almost anything as long as it doesn't contain animal ingredients. Other vegans, who are in it for the health of the diet as much as they are for the animals, avoid even many products that were designed for vegan consumption because they contain artificial ingredients.

If your vegan friends fall into the first category, you're fine buying nearly any grill-ready veggie meats (read the cooking instructions to make sure they can be grilled), as long as you check that the fake burgers, dogs, or chicken patties don't contain eggs or dairy. (Many do! Read the ingredients labels carefully. If your guests are lacto-ovo vegetarian, though, they won't care.)

If your vegan guests fall into the latter category -- the "health vegan" category -- you're best off buying Sunshine Burgers, a brand of delicious, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free veggie burgers that contain whole organic ingredients such as brown rice, raw sunflower seeds, carrots, spices, sea salt, and nothing else. Find them in the freezer section at Whole Foods and other health-food stores. If you can't find them, grilled organic tofu will probably work even for picky health vegans. (I know, the term picky vegan may be redundant.)

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2. Designate and Prepare a Vegan Grill
It might seem like a pain in the ass, but if you're really interested in the comfort of your vegan guests, you'll want to set up a separate grill for fare that doesn't contain animal products. This will work even if you have only one vegan guest; you can use that separate grill for cooking vegetable skewers, corn on the cob, and other barbecued vegetables as well, all stuff your nonvegan guests will enjoy as well.

Because vegan foods don't contain the drippy animal fats that typical grilling foods do, spray your superclean grill with some nonstick cooking spray before you begin vegan grilling.

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