The Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue & Grilling Guide for All

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No need to forgo those spring and summer barbecue favorites. A few modifications and some quick product or recipe swaps will make your cookouts memorable for all dairy-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, vegan, and food allergic patrons. This post includes my homemade and store-bought recommendations for delicious summer barbecue food from meats and vegan alternatives to salads to desserts.

If you’re grilling solo or for a small household, I’ve still got you covered. Since gatherings aren’t always possible, this year I’ve added some “Grilling for One or Two Tips.”

Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue Guide - with tons of options and recipes for gluten-free, food allergic and vegan patrons too! Includes Grilling Tips for Just One or Two people.

The Dairy-Free Summer Barbecue & Grilling Guide for All

I’ve broken this post into sections by food type. You can jump ahead to any section by clicking one of the links below:

Please note that this is a guide for informational purposes only, and should not replace your own due diligence. Ingredients and processes are subject to change at any time, and only you can assess if a food or product is safe for your needs.

Burgers and Hot Dogs

You might think meat is your last allergen concern, but meat products do not fall under the FDA’s food allergen labeling law. Manufacturers of processed meat, including hot dogs, sausages, and seasoned patties, do not have to clearly disclose top allergens (like milk) on the label. So always contact the company if you see any potentially dairy ingredients listed, or any ingredients that look risky for your dietary needs.

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

Dairy-Free Hot Dogs

Hot dogs can contain just about any added ingredients, including top allergens. 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. Lactates are rarely dairy ingredients, and some manufacturers will even note “dairy-free” or “non-dairy” next to that ingredient. But always verify the ingredients and allergens with the company before purchasing.

Here are a few hot dogs that are touted as dairy-free and gluten-free:

Many of the above brands also offer dairy-free sausages. 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. Most of these brands do make a cheese variety or two.

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. But again, check the label, and if cross-contamination is a concern, contact the company!

Dairy-Free Burgers

I recommend making your own patties from fresh ground meat or seafood with no additives. Seasoned patties sometimes contain dairy ingredients, and can be at higher risk for cross contamination in manufacturing since they go through another layer of processing. Here are some great recipes to mix things up:

Vegan Burgers and Brats

You really can’t go wrong with a simple marinated Portobello thrown on the grill. It’s meaty, delicious, and you don’t have to worry about the ingredients. We like to jazz up our “portobello burgers” with some homemade barbecue sauce.

Another great option is vegan veggie burgers. For store-bought, these are some of our favorites:

  • Amy’s – Seven varieties with gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options
  • Hilary’s Eat Well – Top allergen-free millet-based burgers that are firm enough to grill
  • Trader Joe’s – Varieties rotate, and some contain milk, so read packaging carefully
  • Dr. Praeger’s – Over a dozen dairy-free varieties, many vegan, gluten-free, and/or soy-free

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

If you’re craving a hot dog, try one of these popular vegan brands:

Can’t Live without Cheese?

If you must have a slice on your burger, then I have a few recommendations. We like the dairy-free slices from Follow Your Heart (NOT their Vegan Gourmet slices), which are also top allergen free. Chao Cheese from Field Roast is similar, but it contains just a wee bit of soy for “umami” flavor. Both brands do melt! I’ve also heard raves about Violife and Miyoko’s Vegan Mozz. Or, you can make your own burger-topping slices with this recipe for Vegan Sharp Cheddar Cheese.

Grilling for One or Two Tips

  • Pre-shape hamburger patties and individually freeze them. You can defrost or grill them from frozen when cravings strike.
  • If you are worried about hot dogs or sausages going bad (vegan or not), you can cut them, cook, and freeze. Use the cut, cooked meat or meat alternative to make quick lunches.
  • Cheese alternatives don’t freeze particularly well, so don’t purchase larger packages.

Buns and Bread

Surprisingly, many store-bought brands of bread have dairy, and most have other allergens like eggs, soy, or wheat. So this seemingly easy menu item is a touch more complex than you might think. My solution? I bake 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, and they are ready in less than an hour – from start to finish! Both recipes include egg-free and vegan options. 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’re a dairy-free brand with organic vegan wheat-based buns and gluten-free buns (contain eggs).
  • Silver Hills Bakery – This is a dairy-free bakery that makes sprouted wheat breads and buns.
  • Dave’s Killer Bread – Dave is an ex-con with a passion for vegan baking, and his hearty hamburger buns have become very popular.
  • Oroweat / Arnold / Brownberry – They often use additives, but this easier to find company of brands offers several dairy-free and vegan bun options.
  • Canyon Bakehouse – Everything they make is dairy-free and gluten-free, but they do use eggs.
  • Udi’s Bakery – This is a purely gluten-free company, and they have some popular dairy-free hot dog and hamburger buns. However, they do use eggs.
  • Ener-G – For extreme free-from needs, this brand comes to the rescue, running a facility free of the top allergens and beyond.

Grilling for One or Two Tips

  • Bags of store-bought buns can be thrown in the freezer right after you buy them, but make sure they aren’t attached to one another before freezing. Pull them out individually as needed.
  • You can bake smaller batches, but homemade buns also freeze well. Pre-slice them, flash-freeze and individually wrap them. Pull one out, break apart, and toast in the toaster or on the grill to heat.

Salads

What would a summer barbecue be without some fantastic salads? Well, I have some good news, regular mayonnaise is actually dairy-free! (If you confuse eggs with dairy, don’t worry, you’re not alone. See this 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 some great dairy-free salad recipes broken into categories.

Pasta Salads

Potato Salads

Grain & Legume Salads

Green Salads

And don’t forget about the wonder of grilled vegetables. They’re the ultimate dairy-free summer barbecue side. Marinate some mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, summer squash, etc. in a favorite vinaigrette, skewer them, and grill away!

Grilling for One or Two Tips

  • Pasta salads and most grain salads keep very well in the refrigerator for several days and make easy lunches, so go ahead and make the whole recipe. But some gluten-free pasta brands don’t hold up well in the refrigerator. You might need to test a few if you’re gluten-free.
  • Potato salads usually keep for a few days in the refrigerator, but aren’t quite as resilient. If the recipe makes a big batch, consider halving or quartering it.
  • Make the full amount of dressing called for in the recipe. You can usually safely store it in a bottle in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Prepare only as much salad as you need right now (the fresh ingredients) and add salad dressing as needed.

More Grilled Mains

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.

And always contact the company if you see any potentially dairy ingredients on the label. As mentioned above, meat products do not fall under the FDA’s food allergen labeling law, so top allergens (like milk) do not have to be clearly disclosed.

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

Here are some great main dishes for the grill, including plant-based options:

Grilling for One or Two Tips

  • Pulled meats will last for up to a few days in the refrigerator (and can also be frozen). It makes great bowls, salads, wraps, and more for quick meals, so don’t be afraid to make extra.
  • Cooked fish doesn’t hold up well in the freezer, so if possible, stick to single fillets and cook only as much as needed. If you have more than you need right now, marinate the leftover uncooked fish. It will keep for a day in the refrigerator. Cooked fish will keep for a day in the refrigerator and usually tastes good on salads or tossed in pasta.
  • Chop any leftover cooked chicken and portion it into plastic freezer bags. Freeze to keep on hand for quick meals like pasta or rice dishes.
  • Tofu and some meat alternatives don’t freeze very well. Fortunately, most of them come in smaller packages.

Condiments

As mentioned, mayo is usually dairy-free, and vegan mayo is a great option for egg-free needs. However, loads of other condiments tend to be dairy-free, including ketchup, mustard, salsa, hot sauce, and of course, barbecue sauce. But keep an eye on the labels – milk may sneak in. I’ve found it in mustard and BBQ sauces. If you have other food concerns, take note that gluten, corn, and soy are used more often in condiments.

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

I like brands like Organicville for their clarity, but you can also make your own condiments at home. Try one of these this weekend:

Grilling for One or Two Tips

  • Most of these condiments will keep for up to two weeks in a container in the refrigerator, so go ahead and make the whole batch.

Dessert

What would a summer barbecue 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. Many fruit pies in grocery store bakeries are dairy-free (though not gluten- or soy-free). Just read the ingredients and you may find some surprise gems.

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

But if you prefer treats straight from the kitchen, try out any of the following recipes:

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.

Grilling for One or Two Tips

  • Single serve desserts like bars or cookies are always a good option. You can freeze any leftovers and pull out one whenever cravings strike.
  • If you must have that cake for your mini dairy-free summer barbecue, consider baking it as cupcakes – they freeze very well.
  • Crumbles are one of the few baked dessert recipes that can be halved easily. Just put the filling and crumble in a dish half the size of what the recipe calls for. The baking time and temperature can remain the same.

For More Recipes & Guidance, Get Go Dairy Free!

Go Dairy Free - The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance and Casein-Free Living

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food 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, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

80 Comments

  1. We love chicken breasts marinated in coconut milk, fresh garlic, salt and pepper, and a splash of olive oil. With sides of grilled asparagus and basmati rice seasoned with lime and fresh cilantro. Season with your favorite spices!

  2. Love all these resources and recipies! Cant wait for some cook outs this summer! And to keep them safe for my Little one with Mill allergy! And i’d love to win some wondeful spices to go with these cookouts! 🙂

  3. We love to grille summer squash! Green and yellow ones! Maybe throw on some corn on the cob inside their husks for a slow roast! Mmmh!

  4. I love to grill HeartBurgers and would like a chance to win the giveaway to seasons them this summer!

  5. My favorite to this day is organic corn-on-the-cob. Then I slather it with Earth Balance. The best!

  6. Grilling makes everything better! Hamburgers, steaks, veggies, even fruit (pineapple or peach) for dessert! If I had to choose only one, it would definitely be a hamburger.

  7. Linda Claussen on

    My favorite bbq item is still potato salad. Now as a vegan, I adapt my dad’s recipe using Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo and add Yee-Haw Pickles No Frills Dills, finely chopped, because they contain no garlic. It’s easy to adapt traditional recipes to non-dairy with all the great substitute choices we have today!

  8. My sister was the one who introduced me to the vegan way of life and ever since I have always been looking for ways to not just imitate the old family favorite (meat and dairy) dishes, but recreate them in a super healthy and guilt free way. Thank you for sharing all these great ideas! I think my first summer as a vegan is going to be a piece of cake! 😉

  9. I love Applegate Farms hot dogs with Canyon Bakehouse hot dog buns add a great garden salad and some strawberry shortcake with Katz Gluten Free Sponge Cake and I’m a happy summer party host/guest.

  10. I live for bbq season. My current favorite is a black bean and quinoa burger with a skewer of mushrooms

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