Summer seems to have arrived and I could not be more excited to flex my vegan picnic muscles (and my dog, Nacho, thinks so too).
Let me give a quick shout out to my who dad used to make the best picnics for my family when I was little—a lot of these recipes are inspired by his. Without further ado, here are my 5 favourite vegan picnic staples to get you in a summery mood!
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s officially Pimm’s o’clock and—lucky you—I make a damn fine Pimm’s.
You will need to cut up an apple, some fresh mint, half a cucumber, and some strawberries and throw them in a pitcher. Then fill about 1/3 of the pitcher with Pimm’s, add lemonade nearly to the top, then (my secret ingredient) add some ginger beer (or ginger kombucha if you’re feeling particularly fancy) to top it off. The longer you leave the fruit soaking, the better the Pimm’s will taste— so make it a couple of hours early if you can.
Top tip: If you have time you can freeze some extra fruit before adding it to your Pimm’s, this will keep you drink cold but, unlike ice, it won’t water your drink down as it melts in the sun.
Smoked “salmon” and cream “cheese” bagels
These were a firm favourite before I went vegan—obviously we’ll have to adjust the ingredients here but it can be done! I refuse to have my vegan picnic without this classic.
For the cream “cheese” I just used a store bought one but you can make cashew cheese if you prefer. The exciting part is the smoked “salmon” or carrot lox as it is known.
First, pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
Then get yourself a couple of carrots and slice them down really thin (you can use a potato peeler for this or just a knife).
Steam the carrots for about 5 minutes to soften them, then place them in a dish with 3 tbsp olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon, 1 tsp smoked paprika, a couple of sprigs of fresh dill, and a bit of salt and pepper.
Roast this for about 15 minutes then leave to cool.
Once it’s cooled stick all the components in a bagel (or some gluten free pita)—be warned, it’s very delicious and I ended up eating 4 in one day.
This was another staple from my dad’s picnics. He used to make it with Tuna and Egg though so I’ve worked out a recipe that keeps the same textures and flavour palette without the animal product.
Cook your favourite pasta (or gluten-free pasta) and drain it. Add a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and soy sauce then leave it to cool. The lemon juice will keep things fresh, the oil will stop the pasta sticking as it cools, and the three together add a subtle, light, summery flavour to the dish.
Chop some veg (I chose tomato, celery, sweetcorn, and black pitted olives) and throw it in.
As a substitute for hard boiled egg: I just chopped up some firm tofu and threw it in raw (easy as that).
To substitute the tuna I made what has become know as chuna. To make this I put some celery, chickpeas, vegan mayo, salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of dill in a blender and blitzed it. If it comes out too smooth, add in some more chickpeas and just give it a really quick pulse in the blender.
I then put everything in a Tupperware and gave it a good shake–it tasted just like my dad used to make it.
Avocado dip with crudités
This is a really simple summery dip my boyfriend came up with that we’ve been making a lot recently.
Mash an avocado with some chili flakes, vegan mayo, lime juice, salt, pepper, and just a splash of olive oil. You can also add garlic and coriander but I chose not to because that’s not who I am.
Cut up whatever veg you like (carrot, cucumber, pepper, celery) and just dip it in. You can also dip in flat bread, tortilla chips, crisps—I’m sure you’re familiar with how dip works….
Top tip: If you get bored of eating carrots, feed some to your dog. It will distract him for long enough that you can give him kisses and cuddles and he won’t run away from you to play with his friends or bark at stuff.
Chocolate covered strawberries
Last but certainly not least, what vegan picnic is complete without chocolate covered strawberries? It’s a simple recipe but it’s a good one.
Get yourself some dark chocolate and melt it in a double boiler (or a bowl resting in boiling water) then dip strawberries in it and let them cool in the fridge.
Top tip: if you let them cool on a plate they are likely to get stuck to it as the chocolate hardens. Try leaving them to cool on something flexible (I recommend the plastic tub they come in) so they are easier to remove when you’re ready to eat them.
I made all this vegan picnic food for a picnic with my boyfriend this week and he (not a vegan) said it was the best picnic he’s ever had so I’m going to take that as a win.
Enjoy the sunshine folks, and may your meals be al fresco!
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Photo: Kitty Louise