Grilling Veggies & Fruits 101: From Marinated Mushrooms to Charred Berries

Try a variety of fruits and vegetables on the grill or in a flexible grilling basket to keep small or soft produce from falling through.
Try a variety of fruits and vegetables on the grill or in a flexible grilling basket to keep small or soft produce from falling through.
Photo by Wendy Rhodes

It’s grilling season, so fire up that barbecue, crank up the tunes, and whip out some fruit and veggies

Whether you're a die-hard meat-eater looking to shake things up with the perfect burger or steak accompaniment or a vegan or vegetarian looking to branch out from meat substitutes, here are some tips for coaxing succulent, natural flavors from fresh, seasonal produce.

Everything tastes better grilled. There is no vegetable that cannot be seared to perfection by even a novice grill master. Grilled veggies can be served antipasto-style, on a sandwich, mixed into pasta, or tossed with fresh lettuce for a healthy summer salad.

Choose vegetables that are ripe and ready to eat. Dry veggies thoroughly after washing and marinate in a store-bought marinade or a simple mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices like garlic, rosemary, or basil.

Most veggies grill in about ten minutes over medium-high heat, while firmer veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower need more times at a lower temperature to ensure that they are thoroughly cooked. The key is to keep the vegetables moist, so have plenty of marinade on-hand to brush throughout the grilling process.

1. Cut broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts in half lengthwise and brush with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any combination of lime juice, paprika, cilantro, chipotle powder, or garlic.

2. Corn can be roasted on the cob after being rubbed with olive oil and any combination of salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, or cayenne. Try roasted sweet corn rubbed with Earth Balance roasted garlic and herb spread for a flavor-packed punch.

3. Zucchini and summer squash can be cut lengthwise or into half-inch slices and skewered with other vegetables.

4. Asparagus, green beans, and cherry tomatoes can be skewered or cooked in a flexible grilling basket.

5. Mushrooms are best skewered but dry out quickly, so be certain to marinate in advance and watch them closely.

6. Peppers should be cut in half lengthwise and placed face down directly on the grill, then flipped once.

7. Onions can be sliced and skewered, but the best way to create a mild onion bursting with a flavor your guests will never forget is to peel and core a large onion, leaving the bottom intact. Make the center hole about one inch wide. Pour in a few drops of olive oil, then stuff in a vegetarian bouillon cube and fill the rest of the hole with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil, keeping onion upright, and grill for about 40 minutes over medium heat.

Grilled veggie salad and pan-fried vegan cake topped with grilled fruit and coconut milk whipped topping.
Grilled veggie salad and pan-fried vegan cake topped with grilled fruit and coconut milk whipped topping.
Photo by Wendy Rhodes

Maybe the thought of fruit on the grill might seem odd at first, but just think of all those sugars caramelizing over the coals for a minute... You back?

Berries, melons, apples, bananas, pears, and nectarines can be grilled to juicy, caramelized perfection. Gobble them up straight or use them to dress a veggie burger, grilled salad, or dessert. Try blending grilled fruit with ice cream and milk (coconut or nut varieties for the vegans) for a decadent shake.

Choose fruits that are ripe but not too soft. Rubbing with brown sugar will bring out the sweetness and help caramelize the natural sugars. For a more grown-up twist, marinate fruit with a mixture of olive oil and fruit zest, or dark, spiced rum.

1. Pineapple’s firm texture and sweet, tangy goodness make it perfect for grilling. Brush with melted butter (or vegan margarine) and any combination of brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, or even hot sauce.

2. Melons such as watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe can be either sliced into one-inch slices, keeping the rind intact, or cut into chunks and skewered. Brush with any combination of olive oil, balsamic reduction, salt, pepper, lime juice, basil, or even jalapenos.

3. Slice bananas in half lengthwise and cook face-down in the peel. Try brushing with maple syrup, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

4. Berries are best skewered or grilled in a flexible grilling basket. Dip in fresh lime juice or balsamic reduction and then roll in granulated sugar.

5. Apples can be sliced ¼-inch thick or grilled whole, peeled or unpeeled. To grill whole, core the apple, leaving the bottom intact, so the bore does not go all the way through. Stuff with any combination of butter (or vegan substitute), maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, clove, or nutmeg.

Grilling times and temperatures vary. In general, cook over medium-high heat, keeping flames away from fruit. The firmer the fruit, the longer it will need to cook. Soft fruits such as berries will cook in about eight to ten minutes. Flip once, and adjust the temperature so it's high enough to sear them before they turn mushy.

Note from the Vegan Police: While grilled fruits and veggies can be enjoyed by anyone, a strict vegan will not eat from a grill where meat has ever been cooked, and there is no way to clean a grill enough to avoid cross-contamination. An inexpensive, dedicated grill works well, as does cooking fruit and veggies on a baking sheet in your oven set to broil. In this case, cut them a little thinner and do not flip them. 

Wendy Rhodes is a freelance writer and award-winning author. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @WendyRhodesFL.

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