How to Cook a Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo, and Kid-Friendly Barbecue Spread

Last Update: March 16, 2023

With Memorial Day and summer on the horizon, odds are good you’re planning an outdoor fête sometime soon. Before you send out the invites, remember, there are three types of barbecue go-ers out there.

First are those who come with growling stomachs and excited anticipation, ready to accept everything and anything that’s offered to them, without discretion.

Second are guests who BYOB—sweet!—who also tend to bring their own patties for the grill, assorted toppings, chips, and dessert. Basically, they’re having their own party, and just taking advantage of the fact that the grill is already smoking. They take care of themselves.

And the third group are those who politely attend, sipping on lemonade and mingling all day, but avoiding the smorgasbord of food altogether. What gives? Perhaps they’re dealing with a specific dietary restriction (e.g. a gluten allergy)—and instead of troubling you to cook up a secondary option just for them—they’d rather go hungry.

Now, you don’t necessarily need to slow your party-planning roll worrying about the guest list. But it is good host etiquette to make sure you have enough for everyone to eat until they’re full and happy, whether they’re gluten-free, vegan, or Paleo. Here’s a menu that’ll please the whole crowd.

For gluten-free friends

Make: BBQ Grilled Salmon Skewers
Buy: Coconut Aminos

Celiac is not a food intolerance you wanna play with—some are so sensitive to gluten cross-contamination that even using a butter knife that touched regular bread can cause a painful reaction. Make this the first dish you slap on the grill to avoid that scary scenario.

Even though it seems like BBQ sauce is pretty innocuous, it might still be off-limits for someone who has Celiac or a serious wheat allergy. Many marinades and dressings might have trace amounts of gluten because wheat protein is often used as a thickener.

This recipe calls for coconut aminos in lieu of soy sauce, which often contains wheat and gluten. Coconut aminos also makes an ideal salty, umami sauce for meat and fish. It’s made from coconut sap that’s been blended with sea salt and naturally aged, and tastes like a slightly sweeter version of soy. And because it’s vegan, gluten-free, and Paleo-approved, everyone at the party can partake.

For Paleo eaters

Make: Butter-Fried Sliders
Buy: Chipotle Lime Primal Mayo

Serve grass-fed beef sliders protein-style—no bun, no (Paleo) problems. Most barbecue fare is caveman-friendly in any case, as long as it’s not covered in melty cheese or wrapped in bread. But picking a proper condiment proves to be trickier. Most of the stuff that makes that burger taste oh-so-good isn’t on the Paleo-approved food list, which is why Mark Sisson, founder of the popular primal blog, created his own line of Paleo mayo, salad dressings, and marinades. The regular avocado mayo is perfect for chicken salad, but the Chipotle Lime flavor is the secret sauce you’ve been waiting for.

For clean-eating vegans

Make: Raw Vegan Eggplant Tacos
Buy: Organicville Sriracha

Usually, vegans are left to fend for themselves and fill up on watermelon, butter-less corn, and salad without dressing. Sort of sad, right? It doesn’t take a lot of extra time to whip up a hearty meal for meatless friends—in fact, with a few pulses of the food processor you’ll have enough veggie “taco meat” to feed a dozen hungry vegans. Throw sliced eggplant on the grill to make a smoky taco shell, and you’re done!

According to PETA, vegans love sriracha. Make ’em extra happy by offering the organic stuff—sans weird additives—to top their tacos.

For the 10-and-under set

Make: Sweet Potato Fries
Buy: Annie’s Ketchup

Kids are tricky. Sometimes they’ll wolf down an entire hotdog in five seconds, and sometimes they’ll refuse to even taste it. One thing that they’ll never say no to? French fries. These sweet potato fries are a little healthier than their McDonald’s counterparts, and can easily be tossed onto the grill. Bolder kiddos might be down to dip fries into Chipotle Lime mayo, but it’s probably smart to play it safe and go with old reliable: ketchup. Because let’s face it—kids will eat almost anything if there’s a squeeze of ketchup on top.

For the eat-everythings

Make: Mustard-Herb Grilled Chicken
Buy: Thrive Market Mustard

Gotta love attendees who are just happy to get invited, right? Treat them right with a plate of crispy grilled chicken that’s been quickly marinated in a tangy mustard sauce. As delish as this recipe is on its own, it makes a killer chicken sandwich, too. Serve on crusty rolls or biscuits with a little stone-ground mustard to really blow guests away.

And that’s it—with just a few recipes, you can make everyone happy. Now if only you could get those vegans and Paleos to sit on the same side of the picnic table.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

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Michelle Pellizzon

Certified health coach and endorphin enthusiast, Michelle is an expert in healthy living and eating. When she's not writing you can find her running trails, reading about nutrition, and eating lots of guacamole.

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