22 Surprising Foods You Didn't Know You Could Grill

Try something new on the grill! Expand your outdoor dining menu with these genius grilled food ideas.

The thought of grill season brings visions of burgers and brats, salmon and steaks, pineapple and pound cake. Wait... what? Yes, and there are carrots and cauliflower, stuffed peppers and sweet potatoes, and more!

You expect a bit of deep char on your chicken breasts or corn on the cob, but you'll be surprised and delighted when you find out what grilling does for sweet fruit, delicate salad greens, and hearty slices of bread. Next time you're craving something new off the grill, try one of our 22 surprising grilled food ideas along with recipes to try.

01 of 22


Grilled Skirt Steak With Squash Ratatouille
Greg DuPree

Kebabs threaded with onions and peppers are essential grilling fare, but you can turn whole summer squash or zucchini into a quick and tender side with just a few minutes on a hot grill. Cut each squash in half lengthwise, lightly coat each with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then grill over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes per side or until tender throughout.

For a special finish, top with a mixture of shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped thyme, and set them out of the grill's flames until the cheese melts. For another idea, toss grilled zucchini rounds with scallions and a simple vinaigrette.

02 of 22

Sweet Potato Wedges

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries
Regarding BBQ Inc.

Yes, you can wrap whole sweet potatoes in foil and set them on the grill, but to speed up your grill time, slice them into thin wedges. Toss them in oil so they don't stick to the grates and then grill, 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.

If they develop a bit of char, that's fine, because the flavor pairs perfectly with the potato's natural sweetness. Serve with ketchup, or drizzle with melted butter and brown sugar for a sweet treat.

03 of 22

Stuffed Peppers

grilled vegetarian stuffed peppers
Armando Rafael

If you're craving spiced-up romesco sauce on chicken, or want a few charred peppers for a homemade panzanella, you can grill whole peppers for unparalleled flavor. The pepper's delicate skin picks up the hint of smoke in just a matter of minutes.

Take that one step further by grilling stuffed peppers! Stuff each pepper half with a mixture of cream cheese, shredded cheese, green onions, and perhaps bacon. Let the peppers cook over medium heat until the cheese mixture is gooey and peppers are tender. This makes for an easy appetizer your guests can enjoy straight from the grill while you cook the main course.

04 of 22


carrots on the grill

The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Roasting allows carrots' intense natural sweetness to really shine. Now imagine what the combination of that caramelization and a heaping dose of smoke tastes like. That's the beauty of grilled carrots.

For best results, peel the carrots and then grill over medium heat, 8 to 10 minutes. Before serving, brush carrots with a nutty oil, like walnut oil, or melted butter. Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs like thyme or oregano, which partner well with grilled carrots.

05 of 22


Grilled-Eggplant Salad
Andre Baranowski

On its face, there's nothing about delicate salad greens that suggests they should ever be subjected to the heat and flames of a grill, but wait until you try grilled romaine. These leafy bunches develop crispy, slightly charred edges that stand up beautifully to creamy, tart salad dressings like buttermilk or Caesar.

For best results, cut romaine or butter lettuce heads in half, brush with oil, and grill, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper, and then drizzle with a vinaigrette or salad dressing and toppings. Enjoy right off the grill for the best texture.

06 of 22


Grilled Cauliflower Steaks With Romesco and Manchego Recipe
Victor Protasio

Grills are ideal for steaks—even the kinds made from vegetables. Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables—like cabbage and Brussels sprouts—have a density and thickness that make them ideal for grilling. Cauliflower is exceptionally great on the grill thanks to its ability to wick up smokiness and quickly tenderize without falling apart.

With a large chef's knife, slice through the whole cauliflower head, top to bottom, to create 1-inch "steaks." Oil both sides of the cauliflower, season, and then grill over medium heat, 8 to 10 minutes per side or until tender.

You can baste cauliflower steaks the way you would beef steaks. The cauliflower won't absorb the marinade per se, but it'll stick to the outside, adding an all-new flavor to the dish.

07 of 22


Balsamic Steak with Radicchio and Pears
Antonis Achilleos

You'd be forgiven if you had written this leaf chicory off your list of favorite vegetables. These white-veined ruby-red leaves are often bitter and spicy when eaten raw but, on a grill, they mellow out and turn almost silky and supple.

To grill, cut each radicchio head in half lengthwise, coat with oil, and grill, 2 to 3 minutes per side or until tender. For the best flavor, pair grilled radicchio with tangy or creamy ingredients like gorgonzola, balsamic vinaigrette, and a sprinkle of pine nuts.

08 of 22


Avocados on a grill with grill marks

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

This creamy fruit may seem too delicate for the heat of a grill, but it won't fall apart on you. Use grilled avocado halves to elevate classic summer BBQ foods like egg salad, chicken salad, or bruschetta.

To grill, cut each avocado in half, and remove the pit. Gently brush each half with oil, and grill, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

If you want to use the grilled avocado in another dish like guacamole, let the avocado cool slightly before scooping out the grilled flesh. The char and smoke flavor is subtle, but it's enough to make you wonder why you never thought to grill this beloved food before.

09 of 22


Grilled Halloumi Salad
Greg DuPree

Not all cheese melts into a puddle. Halloumi is a semi-hard brined cheese that doesn't melt like most other cheeses, but turns tender and soft when heated on a grill.

For an unbeatable grilled appetizer, serve grilled halloumi with a topping of fresh diced tomato and basil, or a bit of pesto. It's also great alongside BBQ, grilled corn, and a helping of beans.

It doesn't take long to get halloumi ready to eat. Thinner slabs (¼- to ½-inch thick) are best for the grill. Brush each side of the cheese with a bit of oil and then grill, 2 to 3 minutes per side or until the cheese is lightly browned on the outside and tender in the middle.

Brie is another cheese you can grill using a similar method. The key is to make sure the brie is fully surrounded by the rind to keep it from melting all over the grill. Serve softened brie with crusty bread or crackers with some summer jam.

10 of 22


Chicken and Peach Pizza Recipe
Andrew Purcell

Summer peaches are a fruity dream, with a natural sweetness that invigorates every type of peach recipe, from a salad to cocktails. Grilled peaches open up a whole new realm of flavor possibilities, as the fruit's natural sugars caramelize on the hot grates as its tender flesh develops a hint of char.

To grill, cut peaches in half or into wedges, and remove the pit. Gently brush with oil or butter, and grill each side, 1 to 2 minutes or until grill marks show.

Use a grilled peach as the base of a simple summer dessert—with a scoop of ice cream on top—or muddle the wedges with bourbon and mint for a summery cocktail you won't find anywhere else.

11 of 22

Pound Cake

Grilled Pound Cake and Peaches Video

Unlike layer cakes, which often have too much crumb or are too delicate, pound cake and angel food cake are dense enough to withstand a turn on the grill grates. What's more, the cake develops an irresistible kiss of smoke that matches its delicate sweetness.

For best results, cut the cake into 1-inch slices. Place the slices in an area without direct flames, and cook, 2 to 3 minutes per side or until grill marks appear. Complete this grilled dessert with a topping of fresh fruit and maybe a dollop of whipped cream.

12 of 22


grilled watermelon
Getty Images

You'll surprise yourself and your dinner guests when you taste how good grilled watermelon is by itself, in salads, or even as the base of a summer dessert. Cut 1-inch rounds into wedges and grill, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from the grill, and season immediately.

For a savory meal like a salad, consider salting the watermelon for a uniquely special treat. The smoke of the grill combines with salt to give watermelon a tang you can't easily replicate. For dessert, sprinkle each wedge with a bit of lime zest to bring out its natural sweetness.

13 of 22


Glazed Chicken and Pineapple Recipe
Victor Protasio

If your grill is going, you should have pineapple on it. Once you slice this vibrant yellow fruit into rounds, you need only grill it for 1 minute per side to create a truly special treat.

To take it a step further, serve grilled pineapple with a scoop of coconut sorbet and a sprinkle of macadamia nuts. You'll impress your guests and kick back knowing this was the simplest dessert you ever made. Use grilled pineapple to give a flavor boost to lemonade, cocktails, and pineapple granitas.

14 of 22


Grilled Lamb Flatbrad
Caitlin Bensel

Panzanella is a go-to summer dinner, thanks to its light and refreshing combination of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and stale bread. But before you rip your leftover baguette into chunks for this meal, slice it into half-inch rounds and grill it. A turn over the grill's coals gives bread a hint of smokiness that balances the tang of the summer vegetables and tart vinaigrette.

You can also grill bread rounds for croutons, or for appetizers like bruschetta or cheesy garlic bread. Grilled breads are also delicious with your favorite sandwich fixings. It takes just a minute or two to grill them, but the boost of flavor is worth the wait.

15 of 22


Polenta on the Grill
Regarding BBQ Inc.

You may think of polenta as a soft puddle of tender cornmeal that rests under your shrimp or ragu, but polenta can also be cooked into a thick slab that's easy to slice, grill, and enjoy as a side dish with your other grilled favorites.

You can also buy polenta in tubes. The texture of the loaf is thick, but the polenta is tender. Grilling it boosts flavor and adds a depth you can't easily get from pan-searing in a skillet.

To grill polenta, whether you make your own or use the tube kind, lightly brush it with oil. Grill over medium-high heat, 2 to 3 minutes or until the exterior is golden and crispy with strong sear marks.

16 of 22


Tofu Asada with Caramelized Refried Beans
Victor Protasio

Tofu acts like a sponge, soaking up the flavors of a marinade or the hint of char from a grill. Plus, tofu edges can develop a gentle crispness from the flicker of the flames.

For grilling, use firm or extra-firm tofu only. Other forms are too soft to hold up against the grill's heat. Before grilling, be sure to brush each piece of tofu with oil so it doesn't stick to the grill. Cook for at least 5 minutes per side or until the tofu is warmed through.

17 of 22

Mussels and Clams

Barbecue mussels and clams with pesto
Lisa Hubbard / Getty Images

As an appetizer or a main course, it doesn't get much easier than grilled mussels and clams. Just wash the mollusks and then pop them over the hot coals, 5 to 10 minutes or until they pop open. Remove them as they loosen their seal, and then season with parsley, pepper, and a dose of melted butter.

18 of 22


Grilled Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas
Alex Farnum

Grilling quesadillas goes quickly so, before starting, make sure the ingredients that go inside the tortilla are cooked and tender. With all your fillings assembled, you can churn out delicious grilled quesadillas for a crowd in minutes.

While tortillas are unlikely to stick to the grill grates, go ahead and lightly oil them to be safe. If nothing else, this helps the tortillas get extra crispy and may invite even more delicious char.

Grill filled quesadillas on each side, 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. Slice into wedges, and enjoy with sour cream, homemade salsa, or guacamole (perhaps one made with grilled avocado).

19 of 22


Grilled Pizza
Greg DuPree

You don't need a custom outdoor pizza oven to make a really delicious pizza outdoors. Your grill has all the components you need—dry, hot fire with lots of circulating air.

For best results, coat grill grates with oil, grill the pizza crust without toppings, 2 to 3 minutes, and then flip. Add your sauce, toppings, and cheese but don't overdo it: Heavy ingredients can rip the crust, leaving you with a big mess. A thin layer is all you need for the best flavor and best results.

20 of 22


Grilled Eggplant and Smoked Mozzarella Melts
Charles Masters

Grilling makes eggplant deliciously caramelized on the edges and soft in the middle, and it's quick and easy. Small to medium eggplants aren't usually bitter, but medium to large ones can be. To overcome bitterness, sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Wipe the salt and excess moisture with paper towels, and they're ready for the grill.

Slice the eggplant crosswise into ½-inch rounds. (You can also cut lengthwise, but it stays together better and is easier to flip if you cut crosswise.) Brush with oil, season both sides, and then cook over indirect heat, 3 to 5 minutes per side or until charred on the outside, and the middle is tender and yellow.

Serve grilled eggplant slices plain, or spread them on a platter topped with feta, fresh herbs, freshly squeezed lemon, or red pepper flakes. Swapping grilled eggplant for roasted in a variety of eggplant recipes gives dishes a distinctive deeper, smoky flavor.

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Grilled Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Skewers
Victor Protasio

When experimenting with fruit on the grill, don't overlook cantaloupe. Grilling gives this melon a deeper flavor and adds a lovely char. It makes for an easy dessert or appetizer for a summer BBQ and is light enough to enjoy as a refreshing treat on a warm day.

You have options when it comes to grilling cantaloupe. If using thin slices, leaving the rind intact helps the slices keep their shape. If your slices are more like wedges, you can leave the rind off for grilling. Alternatively, thread cubes or balls of melon on pre-soaked skewers.

For a savory take, brush melon with olive oil before grilling. For a sweet and spicy dessert, skip the oil and sprinkle with paprika before grilling, and then drizzle with honey just before serving. Grill over indirect heat, 3 to 7 minutes per side (depending on thickness) or until charred.

22 of 22


Grilled Cornbread and Peaches
Daniel Agee

To revive day-old cornbread that's lost its luster, give it the grill treatment. Place 1-inch slices on the grill away from direct flames and cook, 2 to 3 minutes per side or until grill marks appear.

Once off the grill, a quick brush of butter and honey adds all the sweetness you need for a hearty BBQ side. For a decadent grilled dessert, top it with seasonal fruit at its prime, grilled or fresh, and a dollop of whipped cream.

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