What makes food summery? Our top summer food picks are lighter than winter meals. They’re unfussy dishes that won’t have you standing inside for hours over a hot stove when you could be enjoying a summer evening. Better yet, some are foods that you can cook outside on a grill. Vital tips for summer recipes include using fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, incorporating more raw ingredients and trying some dishes that you eat at cooler temperatures. Dust off the patio furniture and get ready for summer dining!

a plate of greens with purple cabbage and green apple

Fresh and delicious summer salads

You can get endlessly creative with salads as a main course. Even if you ate salad every day for a week, you could vary the ingredients enough that you wouldn’t get bored. Start with fresh, crisp greens. Everyday Health ranked the five most nutritious: kale, spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard and dandelion greens. Each will give your salad a distinctive flavor. If you’re planning salad as a meal, you’ll want to include protein in the way of lentils, garbanzo beans, quinoa, black-eyed peas, nuts, seeds, chunks of tempeh or similar. Adding pasta, or whole grains like millet or brown rice, will provide energy and give that salad more staying power. Find your salad inspiration in these 25 recipes from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.

Related: Wonderful recipes for all the weird veggies in your CSA box

a falafel salad in a heart-shaped bowl

Gazpacho — the summer soup

This chilled Spanish soup has a long and intriguing history. You can find mentions of gazpacho all the way back in Greek and Roman literature. But the recipe must have been different then, as tomatoes and green peppers, two of the soup’s now standard ingredients, came from Central and South America. Gazpacho recipes vary regionally, but usually include tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, garlic, olive oil, onions and breadcrumbs. This gazpacho recipe from The Spruce Eats only takes 20 minutes to prepare and is perfect to eat outside on a summer evening. For an extra summery recipe, try basing your gazpacho on watermelon rather than tomatoes. This watermelon gazpacho recipe from Forks Over Knives spices things up with jalapeño, jicama and chili powder.

a vegan taco on a green plate

Endless taco variations

Tacos are another easy and highly adaptable dish. It all starts with the tortillas. Most store-bought tortillas seem to be vegan these days, but double-check to be sure you’re not buying ultra-traditional tortillas made with lard. Or buy a bag of masa harina and make fresh corn tortillas with this recipe from Mexican Please. It’s easy, if a little messy. For a balanced taco meal, choose a protein like tempeh, tofu or walnut taco meat like this recipe from Make it Dairy Free. Topping choices are endless. Add some sautéed fajita veggies like mushrooms, peppers and zucchini, or choose raw toppings like shredded red cabbage and diced tomatoes. Cauliflower is especially trendy this year. Brand New Vegan has a recipe for cauliflower-mushroom taco “meat.”

a loaded vegan taco with avocado

What vegans grill

Backyard dining often calls for the grill. Red peppers, zucchini strips and onions are grilling standbys. But you can get creative. The folks at Meatless Mondays have crazy tips for grilling cucumbers, kale, avocados, romaine lettuce, watermelon and grapes. Vegans also like veggie burgers. If you’re in a hurry, pick up frozen patties from the store. Otherwise, you can craft your own. This innovative mushroom-based veggie burger from Love and Lemons incorporates short-grained rice, paprika, walnuts, breadcrumbs and other good stuff for a thick burger that will put most frozen patties to shame.

a berry bush with purple and blue-colored berries

It’s berry time

Summer is time for fresh berries. If they’re perfectly ripe, they need no accompaniment. You can also mix your fruit and veggies by adding fresh raspberries to vinaigrette salad dressing. This recipe from The Spruce Eats adds the oomph of Dijon mustard. Of course, lots of us with a sweet tooth like berries even better when they’re in a pie. Feasting on Fruit meets all your blueberry needs with thirty recipes.

a person holding a pie

Homemade vegan ice cream

If you have an ice cream maker, you might have already dusted it off for your summer frozen treat needs. But even if you don’t want to acquire yet another appliance, you can still make vegan ice cream at home. For the lightest indulgence, try a two-ingredient ice cream made from frozen bananas and cocoa powder with this recipe from Bowl of Delicious. Those who crave something creamier can use coconut milk, coconut cream, avocados or nuts as a base. Once you get the hang of making homemade ice cream, it’s endlessly adaptable. You can add peanut butter, vegan chocolate chips, fresh fruit or spices.

Related: Easy vegan ice cream recipes to enjoy all summer long

a lemon bundt cake on a blue plate

Vegan lemon bundt cake

Citrus fruits are so summery. This vegan lemon bundt cake from Vegan Yumminess has been a huge hit at my house, already showing up for a birthday and an anniversary celebration. The key is the glaze, which goes on before the frosting. It moistens the cake so nicely. Use a combination of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and lemon extract, and all tasters will know this cake means serious citrus business.

Images via Teresa Bergen