Summer Grilling Tips From the U.S.’ First Totally Vegan Butcher Shop
With warmer weather comes the urge to whip out the grill and have a barbecue—but the fun isn’t just reserved for meat-eaters. Vegan food can make for some great grilling, just ask Aubry and Kale Walch, the sibling duo behind the Minneapolis-based vegan butcher shop The Herbivorous Butcher.
Currently shipping to all 50 states and Puerto Rico, The Herbivorous Butcher sells a wide range of 100% vegan, cruelty-free meat and cheese alternatives, all made by hand in small batches.
“A hefty helping of meat shared by a family on a dinner table has a sort of primeval uniting quality for many people, and our products serve to continue that tradition in a more compassionate way,” says Kale. “The familiar flavors and textures help bridge the gap between the two communities and serve as a medium to create new traditions and memories.”
The popular vegan butcher shop all started with a joke. Aubry, a vegan now for about 26 years, and Kale, a vegan for close to 10 years, had been toying with the idea of opening a vegan restaurant with all the meats and cheeses they were making at home.
“After we did a little research and learned about the failure rate of restaurants, we decided against it but joked about opening a vegan butcher shop with all the recipes we had,” explains Aubry. “We laughed, made a few more jokes then stopped and looked at each other and thought, ‘Holy crap, that’s a great idea!’ And thus, The Herbivorous Butcher was born.”
Creating a butcher shop that doesn’t actually work with meat brought about some unique hurdles. Aubry says, “Initially the insurance companies said they couldn’t insure us because they didn’t know how to. Finally, our architect said, ‘They’re a savory bakery!’ And the rest is history. In the books, we’re a savory bakery.”
Continually growing in reach, The Herbivorous Butcher makes about 10 times the amount of food they did back when they first started. They also won the 2016 title of USA Today’s “Best Food & Drink Maker in the USA,” and recently they’ve been highlighted as pioneers in Upfield’s “A Better Plant-Based Future” mini-documentary series.
When coming up with meat and cheese alternatives in the beginning, the Walch siblings got a lot of inspiration from customer requests. “As far as guidance goes, there wasn’t anything like it out there so we had to wing it,” says Aubry. “We visited some meat butcher shops and watched ‘So I Married an Axe Murderer’ about five times.”
These days, The Herbivorous Butcher’s offerings continue to evolve thanks to their butchers’ innovations.
Kale calls their Korean Ribs “the king” of their meat case and says their Italian Sausage has always been hugely popular. The shop also sells a Summer Grill Pack, which they change up each year. This season it consists of jalapeño cheddar brats, garlic brats, flank steak, and baharat-spiced ribs. Aubry notes that they always like to put one ‘naked” item in the grill pack so customers can marinate or flavor it however they please.
Vegan Grilling 101
To anyone intimidated about vegan grilling, Aubry shares some advice: “Don’t be afraid of an open fire and vegan food! Most vegan meats go great on a grill; you just have to remember that they don’t typically have nearly as much oil in them as animal meat. You’ll want to use some oil to make sure they don’t burn.”
In terms of barbecuing technique, Kale says, “At the shop, we either implement a low-and-slow or hot-and-fast strategy; that is, either grill the meat slowly with ample marinade, or sear the meat very quickly to create char marks, basting with marinade just after.”
Sharing another way to take things up a notch, Kale adds, “A Guamanian secret—pop open a can of light beer and just pour it on any light meat (even tofu) that you’re grilling! It’ll keep it from drying out and establish a psychic connection to our humble island.”
Kale Walch’s Go-to Dry Rub
Makes a little over a cup (good for around 16 ounces of food)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Zest of 2 oranges
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Mix ingredients together and store in a jar.