- Most vegetables are great for grilling, from corn and cauliflower to mushrooms and avocados.
- Keep your grill clean and toss your veggies in oil before cooking to keep them from sticking.
- Most veggies can be added right to the grill, but a grill basket or foil packet helps for smaller foods.
- It’s Grill Week at Insider! Check out all of our grilling content here.
When prepping for a cookout, many home cooks pick up plenty of meat – from hamburgers to steaks to sausage – and maybe an ear of corn or two. Marco Jovanovich, director of product management at Char-Broil, is here to open your mind about grilling vegetables. “You don’t have to limit yourself to corn, onions, and peppers when it comes to grilling vegetables. There are plenty of other options and flavors to explore,” he said.
In fact, you can grill just about any vegetable out there with delicious results. Just follow a few simple guidelines to ensure your veggies are perfectly cooked and seasoned.
How to prep your grill
To help keep vegetables from sticking, make sure the grill grates are nice and clean. Let your grill preheat for 10 to 15 minutes to burn up any food stuck to the grates, then use a long-handled wire brush to clean. Fold up a paper towel into a small square, saturate with oil, and apply a thin layer to the grates using a pair of metal tongs. Use a high-heat oil like canola, vegetable, or peanut oil.
The flavorful fungus has a meaty texture that naturally lends itself to grilling. Small mushrooms should just be tossed in a little oil or marinade and either skewered, added to a grill basket, or placed in a foil packet to avoid any falling through the grates. Large mushrooms like portobellos can be grilled whole – flipping as needed – or sliced. Grill over medium to medium-high heat for eight to 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and tender (less time for smaller mushrooms, more time for large mushrooms and foil packets).
“Grilling cauliflower is a great way to turn a bland vegetable into a rich, sweet dish that’s satisfying and keto-friendly,” says Jovanovich. Cut the head into thick slices and lightly coat in oil or an oil-based marinade and season. Cook directly on the grill over medium-high heat for about five minutes per side, or until tender with nice grill marks. Try topping with a salsa verde, blue cheese sauce, or even barbecue sauce.
The thin, green stalks take well to high-heat cooking and emerge from the grill smokey and crisp-tender. Toss asparagus in oil and add directly to medium or medium-high heat, placing them perpendicular to the grates so they don’t fall through. Jovanovich suggests rotating them once or twice and keeping a close watch since the vegetable “cooks within minutes.” The cooked stalks should be bright green with crispy tops. Finish them off with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon.
Another meaty vegetable, eggplant readily soaks up the smokiness of the grill. Slice into thick, long slices or wedges and, if you have time, soak in a saltwater brine or salty marinade for up to an hour. Dry well and brush with oil before grilling over medium-high heat for about eight to 10 minutes, flipping halfway. They should have nice grill marks and be easily pierced through with a knife.
A grilling classic, freshly grilled corn on the cob can’t be beat. Leave the ears in their husks, peeling away any loose outer husk and cutting off the silk sticking out of the top with scissors. Grill over high heat, rotating every five minutes or so until the husks are charred all the way around and the corn inside is brightly colored – about 15 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before peeling off the husk and silk. If desired, return to the grill for a few minutes, rotating to get a light char.
6. Romaine lettuce
While lettuce might not be the first veggie you think to throw on the grill, it makes a killer salad, says Jovanovich. “Cut a head of romaine lettuce in half lengthwise, grill [on high] for two minutes per side, and top with your favorite salad ingredients and dressing.” The edges of the lettuce will get charred and smoky, leaving the interior leaves still crisp. Try pairing grilled lettuce with grilled chicken to make a stand-out Caesar salad.
Grilling gives peppers a lightly sweet flavor and crisp-tender texture. Seed and quarter, or slice into thick rings to place directly on the grill, or slice into strips and add to a grill basket or foil packet. Cook over medium-high heat for five to 10 minutes until lightly charred and crisp-tender. Use to top sausages, in a salad, or as a simple side dish.
8. Brussels sprouts
“Brussels sprouts tend to be more polarizing than other vegetables, especially when cooked incorrectly,” says Jovanovich. He suggests grilling as a way to win over sprout skeptics. Slice the Brussels in half through the stem and toss with a little oil. Add to a grill basket or thread onto metal skewers and grill over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway. The outsides should be lightly charred and bright green.
“While technically a fruit, avocados are very versatile and only have to be grilled for two to three minutes,” explains Jovanovich. Slice them in half, remove the pit, and brush with oil. Grill over high heat, cut-side down, until grill marks form. Use to make stuffed avocados or serve next to carne asada.
For a beautiful side dish for steak, pasta, and more, buy small tomatoes still on the vine. Brush them with oil and grill over medium-high to high heat for about five to six minutes, or until blistered. Use the vine to keep the tomatoes in a cluster and help you remove them from the grill.
Tips for the best grilled vegetables
- Don’t let them stick. The most common problem that arises when grilling is food sticking to the grates. To avoid a headache, keep your grill nice and clean. Coat the veggies in a little oil and preheat the grill completely before adding the food. If you find your veggies sticking, it’s likely a sign they need more time to cook. They should release more easily with a bit more time.
- Use the poke test for doneness. If you’re unsure when your vegetables are done cooking, give them a poke with a fork or skewer. “If it goes in without much resistance, they’re done,” says Jovanovich. And don’t be afraid of char – dark brown edges and crispy skin add tons of delicious flavor to the dish.
- Try a marinade. Treat vegetables as if they’re meat and soak them in a flavorful marinade. Softer veggies like tomatoes should only be marinated for 10 to 15 minutes, while hardier vegetables like Brussels sprouts can be marinated for an hour or more. Jovanovich recommends “avoiding [marinades] that are high in sugar or waiting until the very end to apply,” since the sugar can cause the vegetables to burn.
- Add some seasoning. “Seasoning veggies doesn’t have to be just sprinkling salt and pepper on top,” explains Jovanovich. Try adding dried or fresh herbs, a squeeze of citrus, or a toss in a bright vinaigrette or marinade as soon as they come off the grill. “Vegetables can absorb the flavor more effectively once they’re heated up and softened.”
- Don’t let them slip through the grates. While most vegetables can be added directly to the grill, smaller or chopped veggies will fall right through the grates. Try a grill basket, which allows heat through but will keep the food in one place. Metal skewers are handy for grilling vegetables and meat-small tomatoes, mushrooms, chunks of summer squash, and onion are great for adding to skewers.
Though they’re often an afterthought, vegetables can and should be the star of the grill. A clean grill and a little oil are key to keep them from sticking to the grates. Most veggies can be cooked directly on the grill, while smaller foods should be placed in a grill basket, foil packet, or secured on skewers.