A Meat Lover’s Guide to a Vegan Braai
September 23, 2021
Although we live in a seriously meat-loving country, there’s a very good chance that you have at least one friend who is trying out the ‘vegan’ thing, or at least trying to cut back on meat for health, environmental or ethical reasons. With so many compelling reasons to shift towards more plant-based food, there’s a good chance you might even be considering giving it a go. But, with Heritage Day coming up, and being celebrated as Braai Day across South Africa, you might be asking yourself what a meat-free braai would even look like.
To help answer this question, and to throw a lifeline to the braai hosts who have no idea what to offer their plant-based guests, we spoke to the most qualified person we could find; a self described meat lover who has been vegan of over 7 years, and whose full-time job is literally to make it easier for South Africans to cut back on meat. Donovan Will is the director of local plant-based food awareness organisation ProVeg South Africa, and you are unlikely to find anyone who has hosted more meat-free braais for non-vegans.
“I was a typical meat and potatoes kind of guy, so when I first thought about ditching meat, my biggest concern was ‘what on earth am I going to do when I’m invited to a braai’, but these days there’s nothing I look forward to more!”
Donovan Will, Director, ProVeg South Africa
To Will, the key to a great braai is loading the menu with the familiar favourites that many of us grew up with; burgers, chicken kebabs, schnitzels, boeries, and drumsticks. Served with potato salad, coleslaw, braaibroodjies and mielies. Followed by a generous spread of desserts; milk tart, malva pudding, ice-cream and peppermint crisp tart. “And don’t forget the roasted marshmallows!”.
At this point you may be thinking that this sounds like an ‘ordinary’, non-vegan braai. Will explains that while there are still some animal products that don’t have great vegan alternatives, advances in plant-based food options in the last decade have been so revolutionary that he believes even the most serious meat connoisseur would battle to tell that some of these vegan products are meat-free; “In taste tests of category-leading products like the Beyond Burger, or On The Greenside ‘Chicken-Style’ Fillets, we have found that meat eaters often can’t tell them apart from the ‘real thing’, and in many cases actually rate the taste of the plant-based options higher!”.
Donovan does issue a warning though; there are a lot of products on the market, and some are less likely to hit the spot than others. To give you the best chance of impressing your plant-based guests, and maybe even inspire you to try a fully plant-based braai, we asked him to guide us through his top tips and menu choices for a vegan braai that even the meat lovers are sure to enjoy. His provided us with top meat replacement recommendations, recipes and ideas for braai’ed veggies, braai-brootjies, salads, and some classic South African desserts made vegan. Plus he shared where to shop, some culinary tips and a few short-cuts for those pushed for time.
A Meat Lover’s Guide to a Vegan Braai
The easiest way to have a meat free braai is simply to replace the meat options with the closest plant-based alternative. Here are some of Donovan’s top recommendations, including links to where you can buy them:
Beef Burger: Beyond Meat Burger (Woolworths), Chicken Kebabs: On The Greenside (you’ll have to skewer them yourself – but it’ll be worth it! Multiple retailers, Schnitzel: Fry’s Crumbed Schnitzel Pick n Pay, Checkers, many Spars, Ribs: Urban Vegan (Wellness Warehouse), Boerewors: Urban Vegan (Wellness Warehouse) or Fry’s Boerie Pick n Pay, Checkers, many spars, Drumsticks (yes – vegan ‘chicken’ legs): Romeo and Vero, Bite sized snacks (especially good for sharing with skeptics!): Fry’s Chicken-Style Nuggets (Pick n Pay, Checkers, many spar stores).
DIY Meat replacement recipes:
Download ProVeg’s free braai recipe book and try the Pepper Crusted Seitan Steaks and the Pulled ‘Pork” Jackfruit burger with BBQ Sauce.
Meat replacement tips
– If you’d usually marinate your meat, do the same with your meat replacements (see below).
– Meat replacements generally do not need to be cooked for as long as meat, and many can be cooked frozen, so be careful not to overcook them.
– Most of the alternatives have a long freezer life, so don’t be caught off-guard- always keep a pack of burgers in the freezer to throw on the fire.
Veggies & Veggie Patties
You are probably already used to the idea of a braai’ed mielie, but the list of veggies that do well on the braai is probably longer than you thought. Here are Donovan’s favourites:
Mielies (with myokos cashew butter), Mushrooms, Potatoes, Onions, Butternut, Cauliflower, Aubergine. Food Lover’s Market is a great place to pick up good deals on quality veggies – and they stock a range of meat and dairy replacements.
If you’re not sure how to prepare these options for the braai, there are thousands of vegan braai recipes online for these, and many other veggies.
Veganising the traditional salads you’ll usually find at a braai is surprisingly easy; options that call for mayonnaise, like Potato Salad and Coleslaw can simply be made with egg-free mayo like B-Well, and a Greek Salad just needs you to switch out the feta for a vegan feta alternative, like the Woolworths Dairy Free White Salad Cheese). Options like Bean Salads (or just plain old baked beans) and pickled Beetroot Pick n Pay Sliced Beetroot in Vinegar are almost always vegan to start with.
For those looking for ready-made options, Wooworhts has a great range of ready made salads: Lentil and Bulgar Wheat Smokey Four Bean Salad Crunchy Asian Style Slaw
Broodjies, garlic loaf and a braai pie
Another option that is surprisingly easy to veganise, to make vegan Braaibroodjies just switch the cheese with vegan cheese, like Violife from Pick n Pay, or Woolies Dairy Free Cheddar Flavoured Cheese and use a plant-based butter or margarine. A vegan garlic loaf is very simple to make, and options like Spar’s Garlic Roosterkoek are made with margarine instead of butter. If you want to go all out and really wow your guests, Donovan suggests buying a copy of The South African Vegan Cookbook and trying the Braai Pie recipe.
There are so many options here; there are many potato chip options, like Sweet Chilli Doritos, Lays; Lightly Salted, Salt and Vinegar, Caribbean Onion & Balsamic Vinegar, Simba Salt and Vinegar, Chutney, Tomato. Popcorn (just don’t use butter!). Peanuts & raisins (and other nuts), Mushroom biltong (Woolies), Fry’s Nuggets (worth repeating!), Fry’s Mini Chipolatas Sausages, SaltiCrax with vegan cheese.
Dips, sauces and Spreads
Finding vegan dips and sauces is not difficult. Popular options that are usually vegan include Hummus, Guacamole (very easy to make at home), Tomato Sauce Sauce and Mustard. There are also many vegan options for Pesto,(like the dairy free pesto from Pesto Princess), Mayo (B-Well, Helmans, Woolies Vegan Burger Mayo), BBQ Sauce, and basting sauces like Spur Grill Basting and Jimmy’s Steakhouse Sauce.
An increasing number of ready made vegan dessert options are becoming available. Donovan recommends trying the Herbivore cheesecake range, Urban Vegan Gelato or Woolworth’s Sorbet or Coconut Milk Icecream. For a quick and easy option to make at home try Simply Delish Gelatin free jelly or instant pudding, but if you are going all out, there are some great recipes to veganaise family favourites like Malva Pudding on the Braai, Vegan Milk tart and Peppermint Crisp Tart.
And lastly, what’s a braai without some roasted marshmallows? They are a little harder to find, but there are a few options out there, like Sweegan’s.
Donovan’s last tip is to ask guests how they feel about cooking the plant-based options with the meat; many vegans don’t mind this, but many will simply not eat anything that has come in contact with animal products, so it’s worth checking before the braaing starts.