Most grill enthusiasts can appreciate staples like burgers, hot dogs, sweet corn, and potatoes. While these may be tasty choices, you might be neglecting some of the more unusual and healthy options. The foods Americans typically grill aren’t always the most nutritious, but there are plenty of alternatives to your favorite cookout foods. Some foods you never even considered putting on the grill could turn out to be your new favorites. Here are 10 unique and vegetarian-friendly foods to cook on the grill this summer.
An avocado may not be the first food you think of grilling, or even cooking for that matter, but grilled avocados make for a scrumptious side dish at a cookout or a healthy summer snack. In this easy recipe for grilled avocados, you simply cut your avocado in half, remove the seed, drizzle lemon or lime juice and olive oil, and place each half face down on the grill, where it should cook for two to three minutes. Then remove and season with salt and pepper or fill with fresh salsa, and this treat is ready to eat.
Beets, like many other vegetables, are great to roast on the grill in foil pouches, as in New York Magazine’s recipe. With this method, the vibrant root vegetable is cut up and seasoned with spices, oil, and vinegar prior to cooking. For a more charred taste and appearance, you can remove the beets from their pouch and place them directly on the grill for a few minutes just before they are done.
A refreshing treat at most cookouts, watermelon is also delightful when cooked right on the grate. Eat it hot off the grill or top with yogurt and mint, as Kitchen Daily suggests. “Grill a watermelon slice, and it dries out and sobers up, losing its sloppy sweetness, and it takes surprisingly well to savory accompaniments,” Mark Bittman writes in the New York Times. Bittman even suggests “watermelon burgers” complete with melted cheese, lettuce, and pickles on a hard roll.
Grilled tofu steaks have a wonderful crispiness and can be prepared fairly quickly. Prior to grilling, cut your tofu into ½-inch slices and rub with olive oil, curry powder, salt, and pepper for a subtle but spicy flavor. These tofu steaks can be topped with tamarind chutney, as in Kitchen Daily’s recipe, or simply served with rice and a side of grilled veggies. You could also soak tofu in your favorite marinade prior to grilling. PopSugar’s marinade combines lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.
This won’t come as a surprise to experienced grill masters, but eggplant is one of the best vegetables to grill. Cut long, thick slices, and it won’t take much time or seasoning before you have a delicious treat. Martha Stewart outlines how to salt and drain the excess water from your eggplant slices prior to brushing them with olive oil and pepper and laying them on the grate. Eat your grilled eggplant plain to enjoy its pure, smoky flavor, or use it in Kitchen Daily’s recipe for lean eggplant Parmesan.
Hot salad sound too weird? Don’t knock it ’til you try it. Romaine hearts work amazingly well for grilling because they are fairly sturdy (cabbage is great on the grill too). Simply brush your romaine hearts or heads with a vinaigrette and grill away, keeping the root intact to hold everything together. The lettuce head can also be cut in half lengthwise, creating a bowl-like shape for a warm, crispy salad. Try PopSugar’s recipe for grilled romaine salad, complete with grilled zucchini and eggplant.
Like nectarines, apples, apricots, and other fruits, peaches are tremendous hot off the grill — no seasoning required. When this juicy fruit is fresh and in season, it’s hard to improve on it, but a smoky grilled peach is pretty special. Make your treat even more decadent by brushing the peach halves with melted butter before placing them on the grill, as Marta Stewart suggests. You can also use grilled peaches to make killer peach salsa. See Kitchen Daily’s recipe, which features Vidalia onions, jalapeños, lime juice, cilantro, and mint.
Polenta slices can be grilled plain and charred to your liking. This Italian cornmeal dish turns pleasantly crispy on the grill and can then be a savory and delicious feature of all sorts of meals. In a recipe from Food & Wine, grilled polenta is served with radicchio and a balsamic drizzle. Kitchen Daily’s recipe pairs it with shrimp and escarole.
Grilling artichokes adds a smokiness to their flavor that’s hard to beat. You’ll need to boil them first, so the preparation time will be longer than with most grilled vegetables, but it’s worth the wait. Eating Well has a detailed recipe recommending first-of-the-season baby artichokes if you can get them because they will be extra tender and reduce cooking time. Once the artichokes come off the grill, a squeeze of lemon is a nice finishing touch.
You may have heard of broiled grapefruit, but this citrus fruit cooks well on the grill too. Simply cut in half and grill both sides to bring out the sour fruit’s sweetness. Honey and cinnamon can be brushed on ahead of grilling, or they can be served as a more elaborate dessert topped with crème fraiche or yogurt, pistachios, and mint. And while we’re talking citrus, grilled lemons will be yummy alongside nearly any dish at your next summer cookout.