It’s almost summer, and there’s no better way to celebrate our favorite season than with our favorite barbecued dishes. But really, we’ll take a slab of barbecued seitan any day of the year. Despite the skepticism, plant-based pitmasters across the country have transformed this meat-heavy culture into one of inclusion and compassion. Whether you live in California, Idaho, or Colorado, you can find a satisfying vegan meatloaf that takes you back to your hometown roots (but without the animal cruelty). To get in the summer spirit, we’re ordering from these nine vegan eateries across the country.
What is vegetarian barbecue?
Generally, in the United States, barbecue refers to a variety of meats that are cooked over wood smoke, although the method, as well as seasonings and sauces, varies from state to state. In South Carolina, for example, you’re more likely to find whole hog barbecue served with a mustard-based sauce, notes the eaterwhile Kentucky is famous for its mutton barbecue, often served with a Worcestershire-based sauce.
Obviously, none of these options are vegetarian. But more than ever, restaurants and eateries are applying signature barbecue cooking techniques, seasonings and sauces to vegan meats instead. Plant-based meats like vegan chicken, burgers and sausages are popular options, as well as more whole food options like jackfruit or tofu.
Is vegetarian barbecue healthy?
Because it’s heavy on smoked meats, traditional barbecue is often not considered a healthy meal. Because this cooking method, which involves cooking food at high temperatures and producing lots of smoke, is associated with a higher risk of cancer. “Both smoking and high-temperature cooking of some meats are known to be carcinogenic,” notes Healthline. The ingredients themselves are linked to a higher risk of cancer. Processed meat, for example, is labeled as a Group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization, while red meat is Group 2.
When it comes to vegan barbecue, it’s important to recognize that it’s still not a health food, but research suggests it is.ier than the alternative. In 2021, for example, a study focusing on barbecue in the UK suggested that vegan barbecue food was 43 percent healthier than meat. This is mainly because ingredients that are often used, such as jackfruit and falafel, are generally low in calories.
Best Vegan BBQ Joints Across America
Let’s be honest, if you’re into barbecuing, you’re probably not looking to load up on nutrition, and that’s okay. After all, some food is about gathering with friends and indulging in great tasting ingredients. So if you’re after a delicious vegan barbecue meal in the US and don’t want to go out and cook it yourself, here are some of the best joints to try across the US.
Southern Fried Vegan
1 Southern Fried Vegan
This California-based pop-up travels across the country serving mouth-watering, plant-based barbecue to hungry vegetarians and omnivores alike. From San Diego to Sacramento and across the United States, Southern Fried Vegan serves classic fan favorites including slow-smoked barbecue pork, barbecue beans and brisket, fried chicken and savory mac-and-cheese. Stay tuned to this traveling food event page to find out when they’re coming to your city!
2 Native smoker
Portland is a vegan oasis and this plant-powered joint specializing in barbecue (and comfort food favorites!) proves it. From smoky barbecue burgers to chewy wings drenched in sauce, this mainstay has been churning out its vegetarian barbecue classics for over a decade.
This long-standing barbecue joint isn’t all vegan, but it makes a concerted effort to satisfy plant-based patrons. Since opening the first of seven Denver locations in 1998, the menu has expanded to include vegan dishes, from tofu to the Impossible Burger. Order a plate or two, crack open a cold one, and enjoy!
4 Compton Vegan
Los Angeles, CA
Get your fix for vegan ribs at this LA-based eatery, served alongside baked beans, collard greens and mac and cheese. While not exactly a raw kale salad, Compton Vegan’s meal is designed to provide the community with healthy alternatives to familiar foods. So dig into those barbecue jack ribs and save the smoothie for another day. Be sure to order first, they are known to sell out fast!
5 Sandwiches by BBQ4LIFE
Idaho may not be the first place to look for vegan eats, but this food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar has given us a reason to consider the state for its vegetarian-friendly options. Dig your teeth into a smoked tempeh sandwich slathered in barbecue sauce with a vegetarian potato salad. Whatever your pick, you can’t go wrong.
6 South V
This family restaurant is all about giving its customers the best Southern-style plant-based dining experience in Nashville, so it makes sense that there’s plenty of barbecue on the menu. Try the Cookout burger, loaded with dill pickles, barbecue sauce, and cheddar cheese, or the coleslaw-heavy BBQ jackfruit sammich.
7 Grass VBQ
Stone Mountain, GA
The clue is in the name, but this The The place to go for vegetarian barbecue in Stone Mountain, GA. All of its meats are prepared on site and smoked for about five hours before serving. Get a taste of the South by ordering menu items like the Clacker, which features smoked daring vegan chicken, or the Groveway, which is loaded with smoked organic jackfruit.
8 Monk’s flesh
City slickers can savor authentic (plant-based) barbecue at this vegetarian smokehouse. You’ll find a variety of prepared foods, including the eatery’s signature Maple Brown Butter Seitan Brisket. Order it for an epic, summery meal.
9 Pure grit
New York, NY
This brand new, all-vegan barbecue joint is bringing Texan flavor to the Big Apple. The woman-owned eatery offers vegan and gluten-free smoked barbecue mains like pulled eggplant and tofu and classic sides like baked beans, mac and cheese, and creamy potato salad. Come for the barbecue, stay for the impossible burger sandwiched between cornbread waffles—heavenly!