My Top 5 Vegan Summer Recipes

Michelle DarrisBy Michelle Darris '18
Journalism and New Media Studies Major 

With June 20 having been the first official day of summer, thus commenced the pinnacle of warm-weather dining: the picnic. In a city as hectic as New York, taking advantage of a pocket of nature and having a picnic in the park is the, although brief, perfect getaway for those who can’t get away. For those seeking a time-friendly, wallet-friendly and animal-friendly menu for their next summer picnic, the following (completely vegan!) recipes are for you.

1. Watermelonade

Kick your picnic off with this refreshing beverage! Abundant especially in the summer months, it’s only fit that we pair watermelon with a classic summertime beverage for a modern twist on lemonade. For this simple recipe (adapted from Food52), you will need the following:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 cups watermelon
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • Fresh mint for garnish (optional)
  1. Bring ½ a cup of water and ½ a cup of sugar to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve. Mix in 1 teaspoon of agave nectar for flavor, and set to the side to let cool.
  2. Blend 4 cups of watermelon and strain through a fine cheesecloth, saving the remaining juice.
  3. Mix ½ a cup of lemon juice with the remaining 3 cups of water. Add the syrup that had been previously set aside to the mixture and stir thoroughly.
  4. Measure approximately 3 tablespoons of the watermelon juice for every 1 glass of lemonade and stir in over ice.
  5. This step is optional, but add a sprig of mint for garnish to impress your fellow picnic-goers.

Black bean salad
2. Black Bean Salad

Gleaned from my grandmother’s go-to recipes, this dish is an homage to many summer dinners of my youth. This recipe brings back many fond memories and is the perfect accompaniment to a summer-themed meal. You will need the following:

  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups diced mango
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ chopped basil leaves (may substitute cilantro depending on preference)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 seeded jalapeno pepper, minced
  • Salt

This recipe is so easy that it requires only one step: toss ingredients and serve!

Smashed white bean sandwich
3. Smashed White Bean Sandwich

A common critique of a plant-based diet is that the meals simply aren’t filling enough, but this recipe goes to show the contrary. With the wheat in the bread combining with the white beans to create protein, this filling sandwich can convince even those with anti-vegan sentiments to give credit where credit is due. You will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ teaspoon ginger, minced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup white onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 2 whole wheat buns
  1. In a small frying pan, sauté ¼ cup red bell pepper, ½ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon garlic and ¼ cup white onion for a few minutes, until nicely browned. Set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 can of cannellini beans and 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Using a fork, mash the beans and olive oil until it reaches a consistency of being spreadable but chunky. Or if preferred, a blender may be used to break the cannellini beans down, but more olive oil may be required to blend properly.
  3. Once a desirable texture is reached, use a silicone spatula to gently fold the sautéed mixture into the bean spread.
  4. Next, fold ¼ cup freshly chopped basil leaves into the spread.
  5. This step is optional, but add 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast for an additional boost of vitamin B12.
  6. Using the salt, pepper, cumin, curry powder and chili powder, season according to personal taste preference. Set the finished bean spread aside.
  7. For bruschetta-style flavor, toast the inside of the whole wheat buns in a pan with olive oil until golden-brown. Or, opt for a toaster if ease is a priority.
  8. To prepare for assembling the sandwich, place the bottom bun on a flat surface. For the first layer, use a generous amount of the bean spread. Next, place a few slices of the avocado on top of the spread.  Place a piece of lettuce on top of the avocado slices. Use two slices of tomato to top the lettuce leaf. Lastly, top the tomato with alfalfa sprouts according to taste, and finish with the top bun.
  9. Repeat with the remaining bun for the second sandwich.

Yam fries
4. Yam Fries

This yummy recipe is a healthier alternative to the traditional method of, as its name would suggest, frying the fries. What it lacks in excess fat it makes up for in flavor, and for this simple recipe you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized yams
  • ¼ white onion, loosely chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Basil leaves to taste
  • Sage leaves to taste
  • Rosemary sprigs to taste
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Curry Powder
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash yams and peel if desired.
  2. Cut yams in half lengthwise. Cut the length of each of these halves into appropriately fry-sized portions (approximately ½ an inch in width). You will see that these pieces are wide when turned over, so cut each of them in half lengthwise again to mimic the dimensions of a traditional french fry.
  3. On a baking sheet lined with tin foil, spread 1 tablespoon of olive oil evenly over the surface to prevent the yam fries from sticking to the sheet. It’s easiest to use a silicone spatula for this step to prevent the foil from tearing.
  4. Place the cut yams onto the baking sheet, spacing them at equal distance to ensure even cooking.
  5. Place 8 whole garlic cloves evenly on the sheet with the fries. Baking them with the skin still intact locks the flavor in, making them tastier when later peeled.
  6. Spread the loosely-chopped onions over the yam fries.
  7. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the yams, onions and garlic cloves.
  8. Sprinkle desired amount of salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and curry powder over the yam fries.
  9. Finely chop basil, sage and rosemary, and sprinkle the herbs over the yam fries.
  10. Place the fries into the oven and bake for approximately 12 minutes. Depending on your altitude, the fries can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes to bake properly, so check them often!
  11. Once the yam fries are done cooking and have cooled enough to safely touch, peel the garlic cloves. The garlic will be soft, so use a fork to mash (or knife to chop, if you prefer) and spread the roasted garlic over the finished fries.

Granola Bites
5. Granola Bites

What better way to finish your picnic than with a sweet pick-me-up? The best part: no baking is required! Here’s what you will need:

  • 1 ¼ cup rolled oats
  • ¼  cup peanut butter
  • ⅓  cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or any nut of your choice)
  • Shredded coconut (optional)
  1. Blend figs in into a semi-smooth state (this will serve as the binding base of the granola bars). A small portion of water may be needed to aid the process.
  2. Heat ¼ cup peanut butter and ⅓ cup agave nectar in a saucepan, and stir until smooth.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the fig batter with the peanut butter agave mixture.
  4. Add 1 ¼ cup rolled oats, adding in small portions at a time to help ensure even mixing.
  5. Mix in 1 cup chopped pecans.
  6. Pack the granola bar mixture into a square cake pan lined with parchment paper, taking care to firmly press the mixture down.
  7. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for at least one hour.
  8. Once the bars are done setting, cut into bite-sized pieces (approximately 2 inches x 2 inches) and enjoy!