The Best Vegetarian Dishes To Take To A Cookout

Looking to bring something light, healthy, and veggie-filled to your next summer cookout? We've got a round-up for you here of the best and the brightest vegetarian dishes that are sure to shine at your next get together. So leave the pre-cut crudite platter at the grocery store, and show up with a vegetarian dish that you and your friends will love.

Unique potato salads

If you're going to arrive at your next cookout with a potato salad in tow, it best not be a quart of that mushy, overcooked, bland white potato salad available in your supermarket deli case. With a little bit of effort on your part, you can bring a potato salad that becomes the meal's star attraction.

There's no shortage of pesto potato salads on the internet, but this one at Serious Eats strikes my taste buds as something truly special. The aioli and pesto coat tender fingerling potatoes in a homemade garlicky sauce before topping it generously with fried shallots and freshly grated pecorino cheese.

My very own celeb-chef-crush, Jamie Oliver, shows us three different ways to make a fantastic potato salad, whether you like one with an acidic lemon and olive oil dressing, a creamy yogurt and mustard dressing, or a more decadent version with fried pancetta (serve it on the side!) and crispy breadcrumbs.

Interesting pasta salads

With over 300 types of pasta in existence, and a myriad of sauces, dressings, and add-ins to choose from, there is absolutely no reason that a pasta salad should ever be boring.

Taste of Home rounds up their top ten faves for pasta salads that are perfect for your next cookout, and plenty of them can be tweaked slightly for your vegetarian needs. Try an Italian basil pasta salad, a California pasta salad, and a veggie spiral salad.

I have one pasta salad that I take to almost every potluck or cookout I go to, and I am always asked for the recipe. It's the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for orzo with roasted vegetables, and it's dynamite whether chilled or room temperature. Orzo pasta is tossed with chunks of feta cheese, pine nuts, scallions, basil, and oven-caramelized veggies. The salad is dressed with good olive oil and plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice. It's great for lunches the rest of the week... if you have any leftover. Do what I do, and make a double batch.

Perfect coleslaw

I take cole slaw seriously. Very seriously. And there are certain rules that, in my book, a good coleslaw should follow. It should be colorful, and tangy. Not too sweet, not too soggy, but it should have been dressed long enough that you aren't suffering through a mouthful of unrelenting raw veggie-ness. My go-to recipe is one that I made on my blog years ago, which you can dust off yourself here. Thinly sliced fennel, red cabbage, carrots, and red onion are dressed with a combo of mayo, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, a pinch of sugar, and my not-so-secret ingredient — celery seeds.

I am happy to see that bon appetit also takes coleslaw seriously, as evidenced in their slideshow of 17 coleslaw recipes, including tamarind-cabbage slaw with crispy onions, a creamy broccoli summer slaw, pineapple and celery slaw, and a collard green with radish slaw. If you bring any of these to your next cookout, I promise you, I will be the girl coming back for seconds and thirds.

knockout dips

Chances are, if they're serving a knockout dip at a party, that's right about where you'll find me parked, cocktail in hand. Dips are also something that I like to offer to bring to a cookout, starting with my summertime specialty, guacamole.

If I'm going classic, I combine freshly mashed avocado with lime juice, chopped tomatoes, fresh cilantro, red onion, and diced jalapeno peppers, with a large pinch of salt, or Goya adobo seasoning (do NOT forget to season!) If I wanted to go down a different kind of guacamole path, I might add pineapple and cumin, like found in this guacamole at Gimme Some Oven. Whichever type of guacamole you choose to make, make sure to pack it airtight so it doesn't oxidize before you get to your cookout.

For a smooth and satisfying bean dip, I love the white bean dip from Giada de Laurentiis, made with canned cannellini beans, garlic, lemon juice, and parsley, served with homemade pita chips. For a veggie-based dip that's even simpler, try this two-ingredient broccoli dip from Real Simple. If you want to flex your dip-making muscles a little more, consider a smoky baba ganoush dip, like this one at the Mediterranean Dish, made with roasted eggplant, olive oil, tahini, yogurt, and spiced with cayenne pepper and sumac.

Amazing bean dishes

If you're a vegetarian, you likely already have a strong collection of bean recipes in your arsenal. Protein-packed and wallet-friendly, beans can be the topper or the star of many a dish that can accompany you to your next summer cookout.

Let's start our bean journey with a stop at Serious Eats, and their collection of twelve bean salad recipes that they promise will please a hungry crowd. Try the carrot and chickpea salad with dill and pumpkin seeds, a grilled green bean salad with red peppers and radishes, a black bean salad with corn and cilantro-lime vinaigrette, and a Greek butter bean salad with tomatoes and dill.

And who can forget that perennial cookout favorite, baked beans? While many baked bean recipes include pork, there are plenty of versions out there that don't rely on meat for their flavor. At California Roots, Raquel makes her vegetarian baked beans with dried navy beans and a combination of both homemade and store bought BBQ sauces. At Oh She Glows, vegan baked beans are made with blackstrap molasses, and topped with dried cranberries and real maple syrup.

Fun finger foods

Let's face it, nobody looks particularly cool trying to juggle a beverage and a plate of food at the same time while standing around at a party. That's why I would like to give a big old smooch to the clever person who invented finger foods... a party-goer's dream.

One clever solution in transforming a dish into a finger food? Skewer it! I adore these Greek salad skewers from My Baking Addiction with feta cheese, cucumbers, and kalamata olives. Spanish Recipes by Nuria offers us these too-pretty-to-eat Roquefort lollipops with grapes and pistachios. And what could possibly be more adorable than these grilled cheese and tomato skewers from Brit & Co?

Moving beyond the skewer, I have always loved a good crostini, which I like to top with a fresh, homemade tomato and basil bruschetta, or a smear of goat cheese and dollop of caramelized onions. To keep it even lighter, top cucumber slices with some creamy, store-bought Boursin cheese, or a mix of Greek yogurt and dill.

Green salads

Have you been tasked with bringing a green salad to your next cookout? Well never fear, it does not have to be boring!

Delish has assembled a near-Bible of summer salads, with a staggering 129 choices to elevate your salad beyond iceburg lettuce with a carafe of Hidden Valley Ranch (but that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing...).

Some of their choices are tres simple, like a cucumber and onion salad dressed with sour cream and dill or a veggie-filled quinoa salad. More scrumptious sounding vegetarian choices include a summer panzanella, grilled romaine caesar wedges, caprese zucchini zoodle salad, a southwestern chopped salad, and an avocado spinach salad with raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries.

Of course, even the simplest of salads is dressed for action when you make a homemade dressing, like the ode to fresh summer herbs, green goddess. At Simply Recipes, they whip up a creamy green goddess dressing with chives, parsley, and tarragon.

Get creative with fruit

What could be more refreshing on a hot, balmy day than a delicious burst of fresh, juicy fruit?

If you're interested in doing something a little jazzier than the typical bowl of cut up berries and melon chunks, try adding a zippy dressing to your fruit, like Bree did here with her citrus mint fruit salad. The combo of berries and oranges are dressed with a mixture of honey, fresh mint, and lemon, lime, and orange juices. If you're in need of something colder, check out the above video for Everyday Food's gorgeous-yet-simple fruit salad Popsicle, which can be made in a base of white grape juice, lemonade, or even coconut water. If you're seeking a way to enjoy summertime favorite, watermelon, with a little less mess than normal, do what they do at Nutrition Stripped. Simply stick watermelon triangles onto a Popsicle stick, then freeze, for an easy and healthful all-natural Popsicle.

Vegan desserts

While it's true that most desserts are vegetarian by nature, so many of them are loaded with milk, cream, and eggs that they may not work for our vegan friends. So why not be the vegetarian rock star of your next cookout, and show up with some sweet vegan treats that the whole party can enjoy?

Eluxe Magazine features 20 vegan desserts that are sure to be a hit at the cookout. Try a vegan tiramisu, a vegan and gluten-free banana cream pie, no-bake lemon dream bars, mini berry cheesecakes, or raspberry rose macarons. Ooh la la.