3 Tips to Surviving Summer Barbecues: Raw Vegan Style

Guac_and_chipsIt’s time to slip on those flip flops, don those cool shades, throw on some (all natural) sunscreen, and pull out that grill! Ah, the grill: a raw vegan’s worst nightmare. Barbecues are a staple of summer in America, but for those of us who don’t enjoy charred animals, or don’t want to torch our vegetables, they can also be somewhat nerve-wracking.

Barbecues tend to be one of the unhealthiest rituals mainstream society glorifies. Grilled, fatty burgers or hot dogs, white flour buns, goopy egg salad, lots of chips, soda and beer, and plenty of desserts. If you’ve been vegan for a while, you’re probably used to bringing veggie burgers to barbecues so you can have something off the grill too, but it gets a little tricky when you want to stay raw vegan. It can be frustrating, and often upsetting, when you’re in a situation like this, especially if you’re the only one. You feel singled out and silly; you may even have family members trying to coerce you into just one hotdog, or a handful of chips.

We know how you feel! Most of us have been in that very same situation many times, and so, here at the Duck office we put our heads together to come up with a Summer Barbecue Survival Guide – raw vegan style! The good news is, with bit of preparation, you can totally enjoy summer barbecues without anyone being the wiser. Here are some tips to help you relax and have fun, worry (and cruelty!) free.


1. Bring food that everyone can enjoy!

It’s customary to contribute your own food when going to barbecues, so make sure you bring something not only that you can eat, but one that everyone will enjoy. Many picnic dishes are already (almost) raw and vegan, so it won’t be hard. Here are some recipe ideas:

  • Fruit salad or a big watermelon

Sooo simple, yet also staples of the summer barbecue! Plus, if you bring the fruit, you can make sure it’s organic and that there’s no weird preservative-filled bottled lemon juice or citric acid on it.

  • Veggies and dip

This is also super easy. Chop-up some organic veggies, then make a simple dip based out of soaked cashews or sunflower seeds blended with lots of herbs. You can create your own, or use some of the nut-based creamy fillings’ recipes featured in Raw Food Real World or Living Raw Food. Some good ones to try are the Pignoli Ricotta from the Lasagna recipe on p. 174 of Raw Food Real World (add herbs for flavor and more lemon to make it smoother), and in Living Raw Food, the Pimenton-Cashew “Cheese” from the Squash Blossoms recipe on p. 189, the Herbed Cashew Cream from the Black Trumpet Mushroom Napoleon recipe on p. 165, and the Macadamia Cream and Ravioli Filling in the recipe for Chanterelle and Kalamata Olive Ravioli on p. 196.

  • Pre-made snacks

Keep a bag or two of our snacks on hand to bring to a party. Our Quackers are perfect snacking food, and go great with dip. Our Macaroons appeal to most everyone, and will be a nice sweet treat for a picnic. Spicy Cashews and Macadamia Cheddar Crunch also make great party snacks.

Pictured: (left to right) S&M Salad, Guacamole and Quackers.
  • Guacamole 

Guacamole is already raw, so there’s nothing special you have to do to it! It’s easy, always a party favorite, and can go great with vegetables, or even regular chips, so everyone at the barbecue can enjoy. SIDE NOTE: Many of the guacamole packets that some people buy at the store contain dairy and other not-so-healthy things, so be aware if you don’t make it yourself. For a great guacamole recipe, try the Herbal Guacamole and Spicy Jicama in Romaine Leaves on p. 114 in Living Raw Food.

  • Coleslaw

Coleslaw is another barbecue classic, but it’s often made with mayo, making it both not vegan and not great for the heat. Swap out the mayo with a homemade vinaigrette instead, or just mix up some organic cold-pressed oil (olive, hemp, macadamia, etc) with some lemon, ginger or garlic, hemp seeds, and Himalayan salt.

  • Salads

It’s always a bummer getting to a party and looking at the salad – presumably one of the only things you can eat – to see it filled with iceberg lettuce (from a bag), croutons, and cheese, all topped with some mystery dressing. Instead, bring a traditional salad with greens and fresh vegetables from the season (like the Greenmarket Salad on p. 96 of Living Raw Food), or make something a little special. Some cool, summery ones to try are the Watermelon, Heirloom Tomato, Cucumber, and Herb Salad on p. 100, and the “potato salad” from the Lapsang Souchong Smoky Portobellos recipe on p. 228, both in Living Raw Food.

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  • BBQ Inspired Dishes

There are some awesome raw vegan recipes out there for classic, barbecue style food! The best part about these is that you can enjoy the same flavors and dishes as your Standard American Diet picnic-mates (while knowing that yours is way healthier and more satisfying). A perfect recipe to try is the BBQ Skewers on p. 214 of Living Raw Food. This meal also has some great components that can be used individually to bring to the party, like BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and veggie chips, or, the Lapsang Souchong Smoky Portobellos recipe on p. 228.


2. B.Y.O.K. (Bring Your Own Kombucha…or other beverages)

You’d be hard pressed to find a barbecue that wasn’t packed with beer, soda, and mixed drinks. If you don’t want to drink these, try the following:

  • Bring Kombucha

Whether you make your own, or buy your favorite brand from your local store, kombucha is the perfect drink for summer parties. It’s mildly alcoholic, so you may still feel a bit of a buzz, it’s fizzy, like soda or beer, and it’s delicious and healthy. Upcycle a cardboard six pack holder to carry your kombucha or bring a big growler (which you can fill up at some Whole Foods) and you’ll be all set! Another upside – you won’t spend the night with your head in the bushes.

  • Organic Wine and Make Your Own Wine Coolers 

Wine is actually raw, and there are several vegan varieties out there (use an app like Barnivore to check). Red wine is high in antioxidants and has been shown to have positive health benefits (in moderation). Find a couple of bottles of organic or biodynamic wine to bring! Remember when wine coolers were cool? Add a bit of sparkling water and squeeze in some citrus, and you totally have your own wine cooler.

  • Natural Mixers

Most drink mixes have artificial flavors and colors, high fructose corn syrup, and a whole slew of scary sounding chemicals. Bring your own drink mixers with fresh juice and maybe a bit of agave. Check out Sarma’s books for some cocktail recipes, including the Pure Mojito recipe on p. 322 of Raw Food Real World or bring a jug of sangria (recipe also in Raw Food Real World)! Try out an Owl’s Brew mixer, like we feature at Pure Food and Wine. It’s made from brewed organic teas, and makes the most awesome cocktails.

  • Beer (Seriously!)

There are definite down sides to beer, but we are also fans of it. Remember, not all beer is created equal; pick a high quality, organic beer. There are some studies out there that say that one or two glasses of beer actually have positive health effects! Most beer contains gluten, so you’ll want to stay away if you have sensitivities or celiac, or try to find gluten free beer like the one we serve at Pure Food and Wine (Green’s Dubbel Dark Gluten Free Belgian Ale), or if you just don’t like beer, there are some amazing organic ciders out there that are perfect on a hot summer day!

3. Eat Before You Go

You’ll still want to bring snacks with you, but if you’re unsure about whether or not there will be food for you, eating beforehand really helps. You can make whatever you want (make sure it’s filling) and won’t have to worry about pleasing everyone or explaining why you’re eating something different.

Eat before you go suggestion: Zucchini and Heirloom Tomato Lasagna

Most importantly…relax and have fun!
Remember that parties, picnics, and barbecues are opportunities to enjoy your family and friends. The people there care about spending time with you, not about what you’re eating. Often times, when you make a major lifestyle switch like eating raw vegan food, it can be stressful to make sure you’re always eating what you’re “supposed to be eating.” Relax - it’s all good! If you have some cooked vegetables or a handful of chips at a barbecue, it’s not the end of the world. Stress and anxiety over food is also not healthy.
Rather than worry, remember it’s more fun to laugh, and enjoy each moment!
Happy summer!

  • Crissy Thomas-Christian

    Such an appropriate topic to discuss and such logical and practical tips to follow. Thank you!!!