The Pinoy Barbecue: Vegan Style

Posted on by Ashley Fruno

tofu skewer bbqBarbecues are a favorite summer pastime, not just in the Philippines but also around the world. The only problem is that many staple dishes of barbecues contain meat and dairy products from suffering animals raised on factory farms. Fear not, my friends! This post will show you how to transform some traditional Filipino barbecue dishes into much healthier vegan delights.


*Lumpia: I don’t think it’s possible to have a Filipino meal without lumpia. Even as a U.S. native, I love lumpia. The awesome thing about it is that it’s so versatile. All it takes to have vegan lumpia is to make sure that there’s no meat, such as pork or chicken, in the filling. Traditionally, this variety is known as lumpiang sariwa. Keep it simple with fresh vegetables and seasoning, or step it up a notch by adding fried or grilled tofu.

*Chicharon: Another favorite among Filipinos is chicharon, a dish made by frying the skin of a pig. I know what you are thinking: There is NO way to make this one vegan. Well, thanks to some clever minds here in the Philippines, vegan chicharon is available! And it’s as easy as a quick trip to your nearest convenience or sari-sari store! There are two brands that make this healthy alternative: Oishi Marty’s Chicharon and Jack n Jill’s Mang Juan Chicharron. Both come highly recommended by the PETA staff!

Soup and Salads

*Kare-kare: A hearty peanut stew that is often filled with various meats, kare-kare can be easily veganized with just a couple of tweaks. Substitute the traditional oxtail, beef tripe, and other meats with big chunks of tofu, or skip them altogether. Instead of beef broth, just use water to mix the sauce. Skip the bagoong (also known as shrimp paste), or buy jars of a vegan version from restaurants such as Pipino or Greens Vegetarian Restaurant and Café. It’s just as yummy as traditional kare-kare.

*Macaroni salad: Filipino macaroni salad is like a party in your mouth. With a sweet and tangy flavor, traditional macaroni salad can be vegan if you leave out a few ingredients. Omit chicken breast, ham, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. Get creative, and replace those ingredients with foods such as diced pineapple or apple, raisins, chickpeas, or mock meats (try items from Country Vegefoods, which are now available at Cherry Foodarama). For the dressing, vegan mayonnaise is available at your local supermarket—try Praise’s 99 percent fat-free variety or American Garden Eggless Mayonnaise.

Main Courses

*Fried chicken: That crunchy drumstick used to be attached to a lively chicken. But, feel guilty no more! There are some great vegan alternatives to fried chicken.

o   Try frying frozen tofu—it produces a very similar texture to meat. Just slice tofu and freeze it for 72 hours. When you’re ready to cook it, place the tofu in boiling water for 10 minutes to thaw. Once it’s thawed, prepare it with whatever vegan breading you like (many fried chicken breading mixes are vegan if you prepare them without eggs), and fry away!

o   Another option is to purchase mock chicken in the frozen foods section (try Country Vegefoods). Some vegetarian restaurants, including Happy Veggie Health Food and Quan Yin Chay Vegetarian in Binondo, also sell faux meat, and if you can’t find it anywhere else, pay a visit to Country Vegefoods’ branch in Mandaluyong, where you can buy mock meat by the can or the case. These fake-chicken options taste just like the real deal but don’t cause all the animal suffering.

*Skewered barbecued pork: Skewered barbecued pork is often the typical centerpiece of any Pinoy barbecue. Why not surprise your guests with a healthy vegan version of this Filipino favorite? You could make it simple and replace pork with tofu. Just make sure that the tofu is drained and that the extra moisture is removed before placing it on the skewer. But why stop there? Add some raw vegetables, such as onions, mushrooms, and peppers, to add intense flavor that will have your guests begging for more.

Side Dishes

*Filipino spaghetti: This dish is really popular, especially with the little kiddos. Making it vegan will actually save you time and money. Leave out the red hot dogs, ground pork, and minced ham—these products are filled with drugs and other toxins that the pigs are fed while on factory farms. If you know that party guests are looking forward to meaty spaghetti, just use faux hot dogs or sausages. (Country Vegefoods sells them canned or frozen.) Instead of beef broth, use water to give the tomato sauce a more authentic flavor, without all the extra sodium and preservatives, or buy a vegan packaged option. Finally, to reduce the calories, forget the melted cheese on top.

*Pancit bihon: Another staple in Filipino cuisine, pancit bihon is always a crowd-pleaser. The great thing about this dish is that it can be customized very easily. In this case, we’re going to veganize it. Don’t use any meat product—no chicken stock, pork flavoring, etc. Use oil, soy sauce, and water to cook any vegetables that you may need, along with mock meat or tofu. Be sure to add plenty of vegetables for all the nutritional benefits!


*Halo-halo: On a hot summer day, there is nothing quite as satisfying as halo-halo. This unique dish of the Philippines is a mixture of everything that’s sweet and delicious, and is very easy to veganize. In fact, most of the dish is already vegan. The fruit and shaved ice are vegan, so there’s no need to change that. On top of the shaved ice, add purple yam instead of leche flan. For the ice cream layer, either choose a soy-based ice cream or try a sherbet or sorbet for added variety. Instead of evaporated milk on top, use chilled coconut milk for an added twist.

*Leche flan: You simply cannot have a gathering without leche flan. The basics for this dessert are eggs and milk—impossible to veganize, right? Wrong. Here’s a vegan recipe for leche flan, created by Filipino chef Marie Gonzalez.

I hope you will seriously consider vegan food for your next gathering. This blog shows just how easy it is to create a healthy vegan barbecue without missing out on the Filipino classics.

Post written by former PETA intern Victoria Wall