Vegan Al Fresco

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Meat-free Recipes for Picnics, Barbecues and Outdoor Dining

(The following is an excerpt from Carla Kelly’s new book entitled Vegan al Fresco, Arsenal Pulp Press; 2014, adapted for publication in Vitality magazine).

Once the tarps have been pulled back off the patio furniture and the barbecue uncovered and cleaned, there is nothing better than to utilize any outdoor space at home for dining as often as possible, and as weather allows!

Dining outdoors, even if the cooking has been completed inside, makes you feel more connected both to nature and to your neighbourhood and wider community. The sounds of birdsong in the morning, the wind in the trees, the summer sun on your face, and the squeals of laughter from the kids playing outside – all these things make me feel more connected to the food I’m eating, and more mindful of my place in the world.

However, for vegetarians, vegans and those with food intolerances and allergies, the change of seasons, along with the invitations to patio parties, cook-outs, barbecues, and picnics sometimes brings a whole new set of dining challenges. In my latest book, Vegan al Fresco, I have tried to address these challenges with a range of recipes which will suit all outdoor dining occasions, and appeal to a wide range of tastes.

As the understanding and acceptance of the need for meat-free options increases, it has become easier to find a range of processed vegetarian and vegan options in health food and grocery stores. These products are a wonderful starting point, and a life-saver when there are short-notice events.

In my opinion however, nothing beats the taste and texture of home-made, produce-packed offerings. Making things yourself allows you to control the quality of ingredients, and to adjust spices and seasonings to personal preference. It also gives a huge feeling of satisfaction and pride when you are able to create something totally delicious to feed your loved ones and share with friends and neighbours. It also doesn’t hurt when your animal-free, cruelty-free offering is the hit of the pot-luck!

What follows is a selection of recipes designed to tempt even the most ardent of meat-eaters, and to provide those who already eschew animal products with some tasty options to enjoy the next time the great outdoors beckons.

View the full printable recipe

(Makes 2–4 servings)
These zucchini sticks are a little lighter and healthier than the traditional ones encased in batter and deep-fried. The flavour of the zucchini really shines, enhanced by wine, mustard, and tarragon.


  • 2 Tbsp white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp mild grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp agave syrup *
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 medium zucchinis, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3-inch sticks

View the full printable recipe

(Makes 6 servings)
If you’ve got leftover brown rice from last night’s dinner, and some barley in the cupboard, here’s a hearty salad to the rescue! Chewy grains, crunchy vegetables, and a hint of raspberries, this is a perfect picnic salad on a hot summer’s day.


  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1/3 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
  • 3 Tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 cup cooked, cooled long-grain brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked, cooled barley, rinsed well
  • 1 cup cooked, cooled spelt or wheat berries

View the full printable recipe

(Makes 4–6 servings)
This mayo-free potato salad bursts with flavours: sweet and sour pickles, fresh and bright asparagus, and creamy smooth potatoes. After tasting it, you may never go back to mayo-based potato salads again!


  • 3 cups cubed firm yellow organic potatoes, such as Yukon gold (peeling optional)
  • 3 cups chopped asparagus spears, hard ends removed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp pickle juice or brining liquid
  • ½ tsp smooth Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp agave syrup
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped dill pickles
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped bread-and-butter pickles
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

View the full printable recipe

(Makes 6 servings)
Beets, especially if they are roasted to bring out their natural sweetness, always add an earthy touch to a dish. In this salad, they are paired with nutty quinoa and lifted by the slight bitterness of the greens. If you can’t find beets with greens attached, use another lightly bitter green such as arugula.


  • 3 medium beets, any colour, with greens attached
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar **
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup white wine or vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ cup finely chopped red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onions
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled white or red quinoa

Carla Kelly’s new cookbook, Vegan al Fresco, is a bright, flavourful, and accessible guide to outdoor dining and entertaining without the use of any animal products. Kelly offers over 200 fresh and creative recipes for entrées, salads, brunch features, desserts, and finger foods that are perfect for your next picnic in the park, backyard barbecue, or cottage cookout! The author of two previous vegan cookbooks: Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking and Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale, Carla Kelly also runs a food blog called The Year of the Vegan.

Write a Comment

view all comments