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22 of the Best Vegan Hawaiian BBQ Recipes: Local's Guide

As a lover of all things BBQ, I've searched high and low for the best local eats.

The best barbecue starts with the perfect homemade sauce...

The best barbecue starts with the perfect homemade sauce...

22 Unique Vegan Recipes for a Hawai’i BBQ

Whether you’re an O.G. vegan or just looking for a delicious reason to fight climate change by reducing commercial meat consumption . . . this article is for you!

As a serious BBQ-lover myself, I’m certain you’ll enjoy shaking up your next outdoor meal with these tasty gourmet ideas for desserts, mains, and sides. Read on—and don’t forget to click your tongs three times.

In This Article

  • Zesty Corn "Ribs"
  • Miso-Glazed Eggplant
  • Ginger-Tahini Cauliflower Steaks
  • Garlic Mojo Yuca Fries
  • Kalua "Pork" Plate Lunch
  • Caramelized Ginger Papaya Rings
  • BBQ’d Banana Splits
  • And more!

Not only that, but I've included grilling tips and tricks, how to make the perfect sauce, and five special recipes for sourcing local produce in Hawai’i.

BBQ'd Vegan Mains

It takes around 2,000 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef. Making plant-based mains, on the other hand, results in 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, 99% less impact on water scarcity, and 93% less impact on the land. Yeeooww!

  • Kabocha Crescent Moons: Kabocha is a notoriously creamy and tasty squash. Cut in half, slice into C shapes, marinate for 30 minutes with fresh herbs, pureed onion, garlic, and freshly cracked black pepper, and grill until golden brown.
  • Miso Glazed Eggplant: Admittedly, BBQ flavors can get a little repetitive sometimes . . . but not this time. The smoky, caramelized depth of flavor of this Japanese favorite (nasu no dengaku) will knock your socks off! Cut your eggplants in half, smother with glaze, grill over medium heat, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Zesty Corn "Ribs": A Mexican street corn twist to an already super fun recipe! (Just be really careful when you cut your corn cobs.) Pro tips: Boil cobs for a few minutes before cutting so they’re a little softer—and absorb more flavor—and swap the mayonnaise and crumbly cheese for vegan alternatives.
  • Crispy, Double-Cooked Tofu: This might just be the best barbecued tofu recipe out there! A few suggestions: bake the tofu slices for 15 minutes first, substitute egg white for aquafaba (possibly the coolest egg substitute of all time?!), and, of course, throw it on the grill instead of the broiler.
  • Mighty Meaty Jackfruit Burger: Jackfruit is an amazing, affordable meat alternative. Trader Joe’s sells it ($1.99 for 20 ounces in 2022), as do most health food stores. Boil until tender, then blend with spices, oil, and flour and form patties. Bake until firm, then BBQ right before eating. The patty texture is perfect, soaking up all of that spicy, smoky flavor!
  • Ginger-Tahini Cauliflower Steaks: A tangy, delicious sauce makes this recipe: coconut aminos, tahini, chili paste, and ginger drizzled on top of lightly charred and tender cauliflower “steaks”. Pro tip: if you’re using a grill pan, cut steaks a little thicker so they’re sturdier.
  • Carrot "Hot Dogs": Ok, this sounds pretty weird, I know . . . but just give it a try and you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Cut carrots into hotdog-shaped sizes and boil until tender but still firm. Marinate them as long as you can, then grill and enjoy with all the usual toppings: ketchup, mustard, vegan mayo, chopped onions, and relish.

Grilled Vegan Sides

I don't know about you, but I'm never satisfied with one thing on my plate. Especially when grilling. All of these sides deserve a huge space at the table!

  1. Garlic Mojo Yuca Fries: Promise me you’ll try this recipe! Once you’ve tried a yuca fry, there’s no going back. First, whip up tangy, garlicky mojo sauce (a Cuban version of chimichurri). Boil, peel, and slice yuca (found in the fresh or freezer section of many major supermarkets and health food stores). Smother slices in mojo, grill until crispy, and dip in extra mojo.
  2. Citrus BBQ’d Avocado: Everyone’s favorite . . . fruit? Yep, avocados are a fruit, and so are eggplants, cucumber, olives, squash, and pumpkins! Click your tongs a few extra times as you regale people at your BBQ with these fun facts. Slice avocado in half, brush with a mixture of citrus juice (lime, lemon, or orange) and olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill.
  3. Grilled Belgian Endives With Oregano: Welcome to a slightly exotic twist on barbecuing romaine lettuce! Brush halved endives with a mixture of oil and freshly chopped oregano, grill until edges are golden brown, and serve with a drizzle of balsamic.
  4. Chargrilled Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Honeydew Melon: Slice melons, drizzle with any vinegar (balsamic, white wine, apple cider), and grill those babies till they have light scorch marks. Eat as is, or pair with chopped pistachios and basil for one of the best salads you never knew you needed in your life.
  5. Balsamic Barbecued Beets: Never put a beet on a grill, did ya? This calls for a little bit of prep, but the meld of earthy and tangy flavor is so worth it. Wrap sliced beets in foil with a drizzle of balsamic and a handful of fresh herbs. Once soft, pop on the grill for beautiful char marks and caramelization. Pro tip: Top with vegan goat’s cheese.

Vegan Desserts on the Barbecue

I admit, I often forget to remember dessert when I'm cooking outside. Not anymore! These sweet after-meal dishes are so simple it's crazy not to include one. You can even make them on their own while you enjoy a drink out in the sun.

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Read More From Delishably

  1. Magical Mesquite Peaches: “Movin’ to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches…” That’s you! This recipe is super simple: cut peaches in half, slather with a mixture of melted coconut oil, sweet mesquite seasoning, and coconut sugar, and then grill until charred, salty, sweet, and spicy.
  2. Grilled Pineapple With Cinnamon Coconut Cream: Ohhh yeah, you can already tell this is amazing, right?! Grilling pineapple results in a delicious caramelization of the fruit (as if you needed more reasons to eat pineapple). Pair it with fluffy coconut whipped cream and enter heaven.
  3. BBQ’d Banana Splits: You can either buy non-dairy ice cream, or you can refrigerate a can of coconut cream and pre-whip the solid part with a sprinkle of vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Slice banana lengthways (leaving the skin on), insert chocolate chips, wrap in foil, and place near the coals until soft. Pro tip: Top with chopped nuts, toasted coconut, and vegan chocolate sauce (Santa Cruz or even Hershey’s).

Bonus: 5 Vegan Hawaiian BBQ Recipes

If you're on the Hawaiian Islands (or are visiting someplace tropical), check your farmer’s market and try some of these local favorites.

  1. Grilled Kula Onions With Butter and Lime: Slice a sweet Kula onion in half, remove tiny bulb at the center, and replace with a pat of vegan butter. Wrap tightly in foil and place near the coals until soft. Sprinkle with sea salt and a squeeze of lime. So ono!
  2. Vegan Kalua "Pork" Plate Lunch. Use jackfruit to create one of Hawai’i’s favorite dishes: kalua pork. As a bonus, this recipe is a trio of dishes for a traditional Hawaiian plate lunch: kalua pork, tofu musubi, and mac salad.
  3. ‘Ulu Burger Patties: Boil your ‘ulu (breadfruit) until soft, then combine with fresh herbs, panko, garlic, and onion, then pre-fry or bake your patties before barbecuing.
  4. Sweet Thai Taro Dessert: Also called puek thip. Blend boiled taro with sweet corn, coconut cream, sugar, and vegan butter. Form small balls and grill, then serve with a fresh coconut sauce.
  5. Caramelized Ginger Papaya Rings: Peel and de-seed your papaya, then cut into half-inch rings. Brush with a mixture of honey, fresh ginger, and lime juice, and grill lightly. Optional: Top with coconut ice cream or whip!
Pro tip: Get the freshest produce at your local farmer's market for the best BBQ taste.

Pro tip: Get the freshest produce at your local farmer's market for the best BBQ taste.

Cooking Outdoors in Hawai'i 101

If you’re serious about this upcoming grilled feast, there are a few important things to consider. Where will you buy your vegetables and fruits? Are you using charcoal or gas? Do you know how to get the grill nonstick, or make the best sauce?

1. Get your produce at the local farmer’s market.

There’s no doubt about it: everything tastes better when you purchase your crisp, fresh produce at the local farmer’s market. That’s because when you buy what’s in season and it comes straight from the farmer, your produce skips long transportation rides and periods of refrigeration and it tends to taste wayyy better. Plus, you’re supporting sustainability and local agriculture. Win-win! Find your local farmer’s markets here.

2. Become a BBQ Master.

Personally, I love the size and versatility of my portable little Weber. No matter which grill you have, these tips just might take your outdoor cooking to the next level.

  • Avoid lighter fluid: If you’re using gas vs. charcoal, try a firestarter brick instead of using lighter fluid. Lighter fluid is not only dangerous, but too much can make your food taste bad.
  • Consider your charcoal: It's not always possible, but using local charcoal always tastes better! On the Hawaiian Islands, guava, lychee, and kiawe (mesquite) woods add great flavor—you can find plentiful kiawe wood right at the beach. Kingsford brand produces its charcoal out of wood waste from local sawmills (vs. cutting down trees).
  • Clean that grill regularly: I always joke around that a dirty grill “adds flavor," but in reality, that leftover gunk can also make your next meal taste bad. Before scrubbing, try spraying the grate with a mixture of vinegar and water—or even a beer.
  • Start smoking (the charcoal kind!): You can turn your grill into a smoker by banking coals on either side of the grill (making a large spot for indirect heat), placing your food in the center, and throwing the lid on. You can smoke nuts, peaches, tomatoes, corn, or even baked beans!
  • The nonstick potato trick: Cut a raw potato in half, spear it with a fork, and rub the inside of the potato against the grate. The starch in the potato will bind and make it nonstick!

3. Make your own vegan Hawaiian sweet bread and BBQ sauce.

If you have the time, it’s super satisfying (and extra healthy) to make your own basics at home before you lay down your feast.

  • Hawaiian sweet bread: Check out this incredible recipe or this drool-worthy recipe for fluffy, sweet Hawaiian bread that will make you sigh with happiness.
  • Perfect BBQ sauce: Mainstream brands like A1 and Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Recipe are actually vegan, but A1 is made by Kraft Foods (who are notorious for animal cruelty with their other products), and anyway, it’s super fun to make the perfect sauce at home. You can even bottle it up and gift it to other charcoal-lovin' friends. Make it your new power move! If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick recipe.
Vegan Hawaiian sweet bread. YUM!

Vegan Hawaiian sweet bread. YUM!


© 2022 Jasmine Hanner

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