No need to forgo those summer barbecue favorites, a few modifications and some quick product or recipe swaps can make your spring and summer cookouts events to remember for all dairy-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, vegan, and food allergic patrons. The following are some of my recipe and store-bought recommendations for some delicious summer barbecue food from salads to desserts (cookies, bars, and pies, oh my!) …
Barbecue Meat or Vegan Meat Alternatives
Those packages of ground beef and ribs are typically free of added food allergens, but read the labels closely on all meats slated for the grill. Chicken may have solution added or the meat may come pre-seasoned, and occasionally this introduces an unwanted ingredient or two to your summer barbecue. Not often, but it does happen.
But one of the most popular summer barbecue foods is a little more tricky, hot dogs. Processed meats can contain just about any added ingredients, so you never know what might be in there. Read the label carefully. Gluten may be used as a binder, soy for flavoring, and ingredients like lactic acid starter culture (unless it specifically states non-dairy) may be dairy derived. Caseinates (milk protein) may also be present, but most manufacturers will tell you that the lactate (potassium, calcium, or sodium) in their product is dairy-free. Always check where severe milk allergies are a concern though! See my dairy ingredient list for more details.
A few processed meat products that tout themselves as dairy-free (and typically gluten-free and free of some of the other top allergens) include:
- Applegate Farms Hot Dogs (also hormone/antibiotic free) – several varieties
- Coleman or Hans Natural Hot Dogs – Beef and Beef/Pork varieties
- Wellshire Farms Franks and Hot Dogs – several varieties
- Hebrew National Franks – kosher, dairy-free and gluten-free
Many of the above brands also offer sausages plus chicken or turkey products. For other sausage options, look to brands like Al Fresco and Aidells (both offer gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free options and are sold in most grocers), but read the ingredients carefully for flavors added, such as cheese.
Also, look for kosher options when buying packaged meat products. Kosher dietary laws prohibit the mixture of meat and milk, so in theory, kosher meat products should always be dairy-free (again, check the label and if cross-contamination is a concern, contact the company!)
For vegans, the choices have grown extensively. You really can’t go wrong with a simple marinated Portobello (pictured above) thrown on the Q (meaty and delicious), but feel free to jazz up that shroom with some homemade barbecue sauce fixings.
Another great option is veggie burgers, whether homemade or store-bought. For store-bought, look to the following great brands:
- Amy’s – The best variety of vegan veggie burgers with gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options, too!
- Trader Joe’s – If you happen to be near a TJ’s, check out their frozen selection, which is often flavor packed.
- Dr. Praeger’s – I haven’t trialed this brand, but hear good things from veggie burger lovers.
- Gardenburger – A consistent brand, but they usually only offer a couple of dairy-free / vegan varieties, so read the labels carefully.
For many more meat and meat alternative options, see the No Dairy Product Lists.
Buns and Bread
Surprisingly, many store-bought brands of bread have dairy, and most have other allergens like eggs, soy, wheat, etc. So this seemingly easy menu item is a touch more complex than you might think. My solution? I make my own:
If you aren’t a baker, packaged varieties are available:
- Rudi’s Bakery (also sold as Vermont and The Baker brands) – They run a dairy-free bakery, and offer organic wheat-based buns that are also vegan in addition to gluten-free buns (that aren’t vegan – they contain eggs).
- Udi’s Bakery – This is a purely gluten-free company, and they have some popular dairy-free breads, too.
- Oroweat / Arnold / Brownberry – They often use additives, but this easier to find company of brands offers several dairy-free / egg-free / vegan bun options.
- Ener-G – For extreme free-from needs, this brand comes to the rescue, running a facility free of the top allergens and beyond.
Many more brands are listed in the No Dairy Product Lists – too many to list here!
What would a summer barbecue be without some fantastic salads? Well, I have some good news, mayonnaise is actually dairy-free! (If you confuse eggs with dairy, don’t worry, you’re not alone. See t his post: Are Eggs Dairy?). Sure, there may be some weird flavored varieties that contain milk, but a true mayo is made with just oil and eggs. If you need egg-free, too, don’t be afraid of trialing vegan mayo. We actually prefer Vegenaise to regular mayonnaise! And when mixed into a potato salad, pasta salad, or coleslaw, the swap will typically go unnoticed.
Just remember to skip the parmesan topper – it likely isn’t needed. If you think a pop of flavor is in order, turn to chopped olives or artichoke hearts instead. Here are a few great salad and salad topper recipes to inspire:
- Patriotic Potato Salad (pictured above) – Red, white, and blue and completely mayo-free.
- Alisa’s Creamy Roasted Potato Salad – Roasting the potatoes increases the depth of flavor in this iconic salad. My recipe is naturally dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free and allergy-friendly.
- Star-Spangled Salad – 4th of July or not, this salad will dress up any barbecue and add some greens.
- Whole-Grain Summer Salad – If you prefer gluten-free, use quinoa, brown, or wild rice for the grains.
- Cuban Potato Salad – This is a flavorful twist on tradition. If you want the flavor without the eggs, use vegan mayonnaise and simply omit the eggs. For vegan, follow this egg-free option and use a vegan bacon alternative, bacon bits (artificial ones are usually vegan), or simply omit and add some chopped olives for that salty flavor punch!
- Sweet Potato and Poblano Salad with Honey and Rosemary - My friend Cara described this Bon Appetit recipe as positively delish! The flavors of this naturally dairy-free dish are somewhat surprising. For vegan and gluten-free, choose your worcestershire sauce wisely.
- Crunchy Cabbage Delight – You can find ample coleslaw recipes that are dairy-free (vegan and egg-free if you use vegan mayo), but skip the white stuff once in a while and enjoy cabbage with some fresh flavors.
- Pesto Pasta Salad – Another mayo-free option that is packed with flavor. It is naturally vegan, and you can use your favorite gluten-free pasta (we like Trader Joe’s) to make it wheat-free.
- Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad – When an idea is this good, there really should be more than one recipe variation listed, don’t you think?
- Southwest Pasta Salad w/ Black Beans and Avocado – Spice this one up or down by using a mild or hot chili powder. This is a naturally vegan recipe that was also tested gluten-free with brown rice pasta.
- Kim’s Amazing Chopped Salad – Impress with the presentation, and wow with the taste. Kim includes a myriad of options to help this colorful salad suit just about any diet.
Also, don’t forget about the wonder of grilled vegetables. Marinate some mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, summer squash, etc. in a favorite vinaigrette, skewer them, and grill away!
As mentioned, mayo is usually dairy-free, and vegan mayo is a great option for those who want egg-free, too. However, loads of other condiments tend to be dairy-free, including ketchup, mustard, salsa, hot sauce, and of course, barbecue sauce. Keep an eye on those labels though, as milk may sneak in (I’ve found it in mustards and BBQ sauces), and for those with other food concerns, these condiments can disguise gluten, corn, and/or soy quite often. I admit that I often purchase these condiments (I like brands like Organicville for their clarity), but you can easily make them at home:
- Katie’s Guide to Homemade Mustards – A basic recipe that can be jazzed up however you like!
- Chipotle BBQ Sauce – Two variations – this is my go to sauce with a quick and easy original recipe and an “instant” recipe that’s even quicker!
What would a gathering be without a sweet ending? If you aren’t a baker, you can look for a pie at the store. Wholly Wholesome offers some good options for those who prefer all-natural and allergen-free, but many store-bought fruit pies will be dairy-free (though not gluten- or soy-free) – just read the ingredients and you may find some surprise gems. However, if you are like me, and prefer treats straight from the kitchen, try out any of the following recipes:
Pies, pies, and more pies! – This is my giant dairy-free pie round-up (with ample gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, and nut-free options too) that even includes recipe for homemade vegan whipped creams. If you haven’t seen this post before, don’t miss it. If you have, refer to it often for homemade goodness at your next summer barbecue or any gathering.
- Lime Bars – Lemon is so yesterday. This is a limey twist on an old favorite that is completely dairy-free.
- Marshmallow-Free Coconut Crispy Treats – Dip them in chocolate or enjoy as is!
- Maple Crème Tartlets – Easy, portable, no bake, vegan, gluten-free, sweet and delicious – what more could you want?
- Strawberry Shortbread Bars – More portable than shortcake and a wee bit more decadent, these bars are best when assembled on the spot.
- Easy Fudge Crispies – If you say “Marshmallows? Yes please!” Just 4 ingredients, and it also works well with vegan marshmallow creme.
- Vegan Cookie Peach Crisp (pictured above) – This shortcut crisp recipe is great with any in-season fruit.
- Apricot-Raspberry Crumble Bars – A perfectly indulgent finger-food dessert for picnic-style eating.
- Blueberry Oat Crumble Bars – This is a slightly healthier dessert bar for those lighter days.
- Virtuous Vegan Butter Berry Cake Bars – Don’t worry, there isn’t an ounce of dairy butter (or even margarine) in this low sugar treat. These bars are also gluten-free and packed with some healthy ingredients.
- Chocolate Explosion Oatmeal Cookies – Still one of my all-time favorites. They are vegan, but shhh, no one will guess.
- Bakery-Style Oatmeal Cookies – This is one of my gluten-free recipe gems – everyone seems to love them whether gluten-free or not! If you don’t have need for gluten-free, simply replace the brown rice flour with all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour.
- Oatmeal Cookie Dip – Vegan and practically healthy, who wouldn’t love dipping fruit and pretzels in this sweet low sugar dip.
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream – Insanely rich and indulgent, not unlike my Vegan Peanut Butter Ice Cream recipe, but spiked with jelly for a kid-friendly twist. For peanut allergies, swap sunflower seed butter.
Also, fresh fruit makes an amazing everyone-friendly and healthy dessert! Serve up wedges of watermelon, grapes (frozen ones on hot days!), fresh berries, sliced kiwi, or fill a bowl with a variety of chopped fruits and drizzle with a touch of raw honey or agave (for vegan) to heighten the sweetness.
Other Great Resources
No Dairy Product Lists – You won’t believe how many products are in these, thousands and thousands – ranging from everyday “in any old store” brands to organic options – whatever I could find!
My Recipes – This is my personal collection of online recipes. See the recipe index for a full listing (all of my recipes are always dairy-free!) and the gluten-free recipe index for recipes that are both dairy-free and gluten-free.
Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook – Don’t forget, my book has a food allergen index in the back to quickly reference vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free recipes too. You’ll find pies, puddings, salads, and all the creamy goodness you can handle within.
More Dairy Free Recipes – We’ve got a big collection (and growing) here on Go Dairy Free, many from my kitchen, but many contributed from other authors and readers.