The Best Vegetables for Grilling
It’s summer, the sun is shining, and that means there’s no better time to get out of the kitchen and light off the grill.
And remember—meat isn’t the only masterpiece you can produce on the barbecue! Today, I want to talk about spreading your culinary wings by adding vegetables and fruits to your grilling repertoire. This makes it a cinch to cook an entire meal—an entrée, a veggie side dish, and a fruit dessert—over one batch of coals.
Here’s how to max out the power of a grilling session by adding veggie and fruit courses:
- Divide your grill into zones—hot for meat, and medium-hot for your other courses. Grill your meat first, and then, when it’s nearly done (or it’s done and resting), toss on your fruits and veggies.
- Prep everything before you start and have plenty of grilling tools and platters ready to go, so your courses will go like clockwork.
- Cook veggies directly on a clean grill or put them in a grill basket to make sure they don’t fall through the grill. If you use a grill basket, preheat the basket before putting in the veggies.
- You can also skewer fruits and veggies. Threading them onto two parallel skewers will make it easier to turn them.
- After seasoning veggies, let them sit for a few minutes. Otherwise, the seasoning will fall off when you grill them.
Ready to plan a whole meal on the grill? Then pick your meat course—I’ll leave that part up to you—and choose from these quick, delicious vegetable sides and fruit desserts.
Veggies for Grilling
Many non-starchy veggies are tailor-made for grilling. They cook quickly, and the grill gives them a deep, smoky flavor. Here are seven of the quickest and easiest recipes to try if you’re a newbie:
Remove the tips from the zucchini and cut it into thin planks. Brush with olive oil or vinaigrette (see recipe below) and sprinkle with salt and pepper or Montreal seasoning. Grill over direct heat with the lid closed for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, checking occasionally.
Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard. If desired, peel the bottoms of the asparagus with a carrot peeler. Brush the asparagus with vinaigrette (see recipe below) and season with salt. Grill over direct heat with the lid closed for 6 to 8 minutes, checking occasionally.
Remove the seeds and cut into quarters. Drizzle with vinaigrette (see recipe below) and season with salt. Grill over direct heat with the lid closed for about 8 minutes, checking occasionally.
These take a bit longer, but they’re worth it. Plan on starting them while your meat is cooking—or start them even earlier, if you’re doing a quick entrée like burgers.
Peel each onion, remove the ends, and cut the onion into four thick slices. Place two slices on a sheet of tin foil, spreading butter between the slices and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Repeat with the other two slices. Wrap the foil tightly around the onion slices. Set the foil packets on a low grill or directly on top of the coals, and cook for about half an hour.
Cut romaine heads in half the long way, keeping the core intact so most of the leaves remain connected to the core. Melt two teaspoons of coconut oil and brush the cut half of the romaine with the oil. Place the romaine halves on the grill, cut-side down. Grill until charred and slightly wilted, 2 to 3 minutes, checking frequently. Brush the uncut sides with coconut oil, turn, and repeat the grilling process. Serve with a creamy dressing.
(Want something a little fancier? Try my Grilled Romaine Salad with Lemon Anchovy Dressing here.)
These make a fantastic “bun” for a burger. To prepare them, clean them and remove the gills and stems. Brush generously with vinaigrette (see recipe below) and let stand for one hour. Grill over direct heat with the lid closed for about 5 minutes per side, checking occasionally.
Marinate mushrooms, chunks of red bell pepper, slices of zucchini, and pieces of red onion in a vinaigrette dressing (see recipe below). Thread on skewers, and grill over direct heat with the lid closed for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
These simple recipes will get you started, but don’t stop there! You can also grill eggplant, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and a host of other veggies. (And if you want to add a few carbs, try carrots and sweet potatoes). You’ll find tons of recipes online—everything from simple to gourmet—so be creative.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive-oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
1/8 teaspoon Celtic or pink Himalayan salt
Whisk all ingredients together.
Your sweet finale
We all love a little taste of sweetness at the end of a meal—and fruit is the healthiest way to satisfy that craving. The heat from the grill caramelizes the sugars in the fruit, making it even sweeter.
You can grill just about any fruit you can cut into big chunks or slices—papaya, pineapple, peaches, apricots, apples, pears, watermelon, even avocados. (To grill smaller fruits like strawberries, you can use skewers or a grill pan.)
Choose fruits that are ripe, but not too ripe. (Over-ripe fruit will get mushy as it grills.) Leave peels on soft fruits like peaches and apricots, and leave the rind on watermelon.
To grill fruit, make sure your grill is clean and oil it with coconut oil. (For added protection against sticking, you can brush the fruit itself lightly with coconut oil.) Grill the fruit over direct heat with the lid shut for about three minutes on each side; dense fruits like pineapple will take longer. Don’t move the fruit for the first few minutes—you want to get those beautiful grill marks.
Serve your fruit “as is” or fancy it up with some of my sin-free whipped topping. (Scroll down the page here to find the recipe.)
Bonus: A healthy treat the next day!
When you’re grilling veggies or fruits, toss on a few extra servings. You can use these the next day as a delicious layer in sandwiches, a tasty addition to soup, or a snack all on their own.
And here’s another idea: Add leftover grilled veggies to a batch of bone broth as you’re simmering it. It’ll create a new depth of flavor that will take your taste buds to the next level.
Each time you light off that grill this summer, think big. Don’t just create a main course—create an entire meal. That’s a lot of heat you have to play with … so take advantage of all that firepower!