The Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide (for food allergies, gluten-free and vegan, too!)


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 delicious summer barbecue food from salads to desserts (cookies, bars, and pies, oh my!) …

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too!

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.

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too!

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!

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:

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. For store-bought, these are some of our favorites:

  • Amy’s (pictured above) – They offer the  best variety of vegan veggie burgers with gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options, too!
  • Hilary’s Eat Well – This top allergen-free company makes several varieties of millet-based burgers that are firm enough to grill!
  • 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 – They have so many varieties to choose from and ALL are dairy-free! Many are vegan and/or gluten-free, too.
  • Gardenburger – A consistent brand, but they usually only offer a couple of dairy-free / vegan varieties, so read the labels carefully.

For MORE options, both store-bought and homemade, see my Ultimate Guide to Vegan Veggie Burgers!

Can’t live without cheese? We like the new dairy-free slices from Follow Your Heart (top allergen-free) and Field Roast’s Chao (contains just a wee bit of soy for “umami” flavor), and yes, they DO melt! But you can also make your own burger-topping slices with this recipe for Vegan Sharp Cheddar Cheese.

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!

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too!

My Speedy Wheat Hamburger Buns and Hot Dog Buns are crowd favorites. To make those buns egg-free / vegan, see the comments on that post for suggestions, or simply omit the egg and allow for an hour of rising time to let the yeast do it’s thing (not as fast, but allowing it to rise will help in the puffiness and in the binding). For a summer barbecue sans gluten, try my Skinny Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns (pictured above); they’re just like One Buns!

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.


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. Sometimes we actually prefer Vegenaise to regular mayonnaise. And when mixed into a potato salad, pasta salad, or coleslaw, the swap will typically go unnoticed.

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too!

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:

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!

More Grilled Mains

Beyond burgers, sausages and hot dogs, there are many great grilling options worthy of taking center stage. Here are some fantastic dairy-free recipes to star at your next summer barbecue:

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too!


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:

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too!


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:

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too!

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

My Recipes – This is my personal collection of online recipes. See the recipe index for a full listing (all of our 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.

Pin this Summer Barbecue Resource!

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too!

What’s Your Favorite Summer Barbecue Food? Comment Below!

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. Thanks for this great list! My son has allergies to sesame, egg, dairy and nuts. Sesame is a major issue for buying safe breads. I recently found 2 brands of bread that have no sesame in their facility: Angelic Bakehouse bread including hot dog and hamburger buns too! (in the freezer section), and Lancaster Food Co. bread – FRESH bread that’s off the shelf. Thought these other brands might be helpful to your other readers dealing with multiple food allergies!

  2. Leslie Hull on

    Can’t wait to try the Cookie Peach Crisp! I am new to dairy free and desserts are my biggest challenge.

  3. Grilled black bean and veggie burgers with grilled vegetables,especially grilled corn on the cob! So good!

  4. Definitely saving this to read back through all the gems you’ve posted about! I’m always looking for new ideas to accomodate my allergies & sensitivites 🙂 Thanks!
    It’s been rainy where I live lately (MD), otherwise my parents and I would grill out more! On Memorial Day we made kabobs with some marinated beef and turkey bacon, veggies, and pineapple — yumm! I also made some asparagus to grill. I’m allergic to dairy and lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, and I can’t have soy or some other assorted things. I’m forced to eat healthy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  5. Grilled veggie burgers are my current favorite but I am sucker for anything grilled, I’m gonna take a shot at a few grilled desserts this summer.

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