10 Healthy BBQ Recipes to Make This Labor Day

As master of the grill, your guests always count on you to serve up the best of the best when it comes to barbecue. But if you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet, classic BBQ recipes could beef you up in more ways than one (and I’m not talking about the muscular kind). For some alternative options to your usual fare, try out one of these healthy BBQ recipes this Labor Day (it’ll save you some extra labor at the gym the next day).

1. Zesty Barbeque Ribs

barbecue beef ribs

Source: iStock

Would it really be a summer barbeque without some ribs? For a healthier alternative to this classic dish, cut the rack in half lengthwise to create more manageable portions. Trim off the excess fat and use this recipe from Sunset Magazine for a zesty seasoning that is as low in calories as it is high in flavor.


  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon hot dry mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 rack pork back ribs (2¼ to 2½ pounds), fat trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 limes, quartered

Directions: In a bowl, mix chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, mustard, salt, pepper, and cloves. Rinse ribs and pat dry. Rub ribs all over with spice mixture. Wrap airtight and chill 8 hours or overnight. If using charcoal briquets, mound and ignite 50 briquets on the firegrate of a barbecue with a lid. When briquets are dotted with gray ash, in 15 to 20 minutes, push equal amounts to opposite sides of firegrate. Set a drip pan on firegrate between coals. If using a gas barbecue, turn all burners to high and close lid for 10 minutes.

Adjust burners for indirect cooking and lower side burners to medium heat. Lay ribs along center of the grill. Cover the barbecue and cook, turning once midway through cooking time, until meat is browned, about 15 minutes. Wrap ribs in foil and return to grill. Cook until meat is tender when pierced, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer ribs to a platter and cut apart between bones. Garnish with lime wedges to squeeze over portions to taste.

2. California Turkey Burgers

Grilled turkey burgers

Source: iStock

Swap out beef burgers for Fitness’ healthier alternative: turkey! These tasty burgers are packed with so many delicious condiments, including blue cheese and avocados, that you won’t even miss their beefy counterparts. Just make sure you opt for a whole-wheat bun to really seal the deal on a healthy BBQ burger.



2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ cup minced scallions
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ pounds lean ground turkey

Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

6 whole-wheat hamburger buns, split
  • 2 firm, ripe tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 just-ripe avocado, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced


: In a small skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the scallions until just softened, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, season with the salt and black pepper and let cool. Stir in the sour cream and Worcestershire sauce; add the turkey and mix gently until just combined. Form into 6 patties.

Heat a grill to medium-high. Mist grill with cooking spray and cook burgers 5 minutes. Turn and grill until almost cooked through, about 3 minutes more. Top each burger with some of the blue cheese; cook 1 to 2 minutes more or until burgers are just cooked through and cheese is melted.

 Arrange burgers on buns and top with sliced tomato, avocado, and red onion.

3. BBQ Pulled Chicken

Source: iStock

For another healthy meat change-up, try this Eating Well recipe for barbecued pulled chicken at your next cookout. While passing on the pork may seem like a sacrifice, this dish does anything but compromise on taste. Try topping it with sliced jalapenos and red onions for an extra kick.


  • 1 (8-ounce) can reduced-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions: Stir tomato sauce, chiles, vinegar, honey, paprika, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ground chipotle and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker until smooth. Add chicken, onion and garlic; stir to combine. Put the lid on and cook on low until the chicken can be pulled apart, about 5 hours. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Return the chicken to the sauce, stir well and serve.

4. Barbecued Lime Shrimp and Corn

Peeled shrimp

Source: iStock

Originally meant for the campfire, this recipe from Cooking Light can easily be transferred to the grill for a flavor-bursting dish. Seasonings like lime, soy sauce, honey, and coriander give this foil-wrapped meal tons of taste, without major calories. After just 10 minutes on the grill, these BBQ packets are ready to serve.


  • ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 ears corn, each cut crosswise into 4 pieces
  • 1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 cups cooked couscous

Directions: At home, combine the first 9 ingredients in a heavy-duty, zip-top plastic bag, and seal. Place the corn, shrimp, and couscous in separate heavy-duty zip-top plastic bags, and seal bags. Place the shrimp in cooler. Place lime mixture, corn, and shrimp in foil oven bag. Place directly on hot coals or in a 450 degree oven; cook 10 minutes. Serve over couscous.

5. Herb-Marinated Chicken Skewers with Harissa

Source: iStock

For an easy way to serve up a main BBQ course, skewers are the way to go. Not only are these healthy chicken breast pieces delicious on their own, but this recipe from Food & Wine also dials them up a notch with two dipping options: a cool chickpea puree and a fiery harissa. Your tastebuds won’t even know what hit them!



  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1½-inch cubes
  • Salt


  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red Thai chile, with seeds, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt

Directions: In a large bowl, mix the olive oil with the rosemary, thyme, oregano, and ground cumin. Add the chicken and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. In a small skillet, toast the cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds over moderately high heat, shaking the skillet a few times, until the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool completely. Grind to a powder. In a blender, combine the roasted peppers with the chile, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and ground spices and puree. Season the harissa with salt. Light a grill. Thread the chicken pieces onto 8 metal skewers. Season with salt and grill over moderately high heat, turning, until nicely charred and just cooked, about 14 minutes. Serve the skewers with the harissa and hummus.

6. Grilled Corn with Mango-Habanero Butter

Grilled corn

Source: iStock

For a spicy take on a classic side, go for this mango-habanero corn from Food & Wine. Not only is corn a comfort classic, but each kernel is also bursting with antioxidants and other nutritional benefits. Expert tip from Bobby Flay: soak the bundle of corn in water before tossing them on the grill. This will help steam the kernels and make them more tender as a result.


  • 1 mango, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup mango nectar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ habanero chile, seeded
  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ears of corn

Directions: In a small saucepan, combine the chopped mango with the mango nectar, honey, and habanero chile. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the mango is very soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the mango puree into a small bowl and let cool, about 30 minutes. Wipe out the food processor. Add the cooled mango puree along with the butter, cilantro leaves and salt and puree until smooth.

Scrape the mango butter into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Pull the corn husks down to the base of the stalks, leaving the husks attached. Discard the corn silk. Using butcher string, tie back the husks. Fill a large bowl with cold, salted water and submerge the corn for 10 minutes. Drain the corn but don’t pat dry. Grill the corn over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until tender and browned in spots, about 8 minutes. Transfer the corn to plates, spread with the mango-habanero butter and serve.

7. Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Source: iStock

You hated them as a kid, but now you’ve learned to love these nutrient-filled sprouts. However, have you ever tried tossing them on the grill? Try Alton Brown’s recipe for brussel sprouts even your kids will go crazy over.


  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, as uniform in size as possible
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Heat a grill to medium. Cut off the stem end of the Brussels sprouts and remove any yellowing outer leaves. Place the Brussels sprouts into a large, microwave safe mixing bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Add the olive oil, garlic, mustard, paprika, and salt and toss to combine. Allow the sprouts to cool until you can handle them.

Skewer 4 to 5 Brussels sprouts onto each metal skewer with the stem ends facing in the same direction, leaving at least ½-inch in between each sprout. Place the skewers onto the grill with stem end closest to the flame. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the skewers over and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Serve as is or for additional flavor, remove the sprouts from the skewers, return them to the original mixing bowl and toss with any of the remaining oil and garlic mixture before serving.

8. Grilled Grouper with Basil-Lemon Pistou

grouper, fish

Source: iStock

To get your omega-3 fix at your next BBQ, toss a few groupers on the grill. This type of fish is a great option because it’s sturdy and wont fall apart as easily as other fish varieties. Upgrade the standard grilled fish option by adding this pistou (French pesto), recipe courtesy of Cooking Light.



  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped


  • 4 (6-ounce) grouper fillets (about ½-inch thick)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions: To prepare pistou, combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Let stand 10 minutes. Prepare grill. To prepare grouper, sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Place fish on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with pistou.

9. Grilled Mango with Lime, Salt, and Ancho Powder

Peeled, sliced mango

Source: iStock

For a healthy dessert, grill up some seasoned fruit. Even if you don’t have a major sweet tooth, this grilled mango recipe, courtesy of Bobby Flay, is sure to please all your senses.


  • Grated zest of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 4 ripe mangoes, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Juice of 1 lime

Directions: Heat your grill to medium for direct grilling. Combine the lime zest, salt, and ancho powder in a small bowl. Brush the mangoes on both sides with the oil and grill, cut side down, until slightly charred, about 1 minute. Flip over the mangoes and continue grilling until slightly charred, about 1 minute longer. Remove the mangoes from the grill.

Using a sharp paring knife, evenly score the flesh of each half lengthwise 3 times and then crosswise 3 or 4 times; do not cut all the way through the peel. Turn the flesh inside out so that the mango cubes stick out. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the lime juice and sprinkle with the ancho mixture.

10. Dark Chocolate Banana S’more

Source: Thinkstock

For an even sweeter (but still healthy) option for dessert, try Fitness’ twist on a classic. Substitute your usual Hershey’s bar with antioxidant-packed dark chocolate squares, and swap out bananas for marshmallows. While it may not be the same campfire treat from your childhood, we guarantee after you try them, you’ll still be asking for s’more.


  • Nonstick cooking spray

2 just-ripe bananas, peels on, halved lengthwise and stems trimmed

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 graham cracker squares

1 (3-ounce) bar dark chocolate, broken into 6 squares

Directions: Heat a grill to medium and mist with cooking spray. Place the bananas cut side down and grill until lightly marked, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip bananas and brush tops with the melted butter. Grill cut side up 3 minutes more. Transfer bananas to a plate, remove peels and cut into ⅓-inch slices.

 While bananas are grilling, place 6 of the graham cracker squares on top of 6 squares of aluminum foil. Top each graham cracker with a square of dark chocolate. Arrange 4 to 5 banana slices on top of each chocolate square and cover with remaining graham crackers.

 Wrap each s’more in foil and grill 1 to 2 minutes or until chocolate is melted.

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