No disrespect to salad, but if you want to get the most delicious vegetables possible then grilled is the way to go. Grilling caramelizes veggies by bringing out their natural sugars, which gives you sweetness, smokiness, and a nice crispy exterior with a tender inside. Gorgeous summertime weather is ideal for charring your favorite veggies outdoors (ideally with a cool beer in hand), and proper grilling tools are essential. John’s go-to spatula and tongs have extra-long handles to make sure you don’t get too close to the flames and burn yourself!
And when it’s no longer hot enough to grill outside—or you just want to hang out in the air conditioning—you can also use our Grill-Any-Season Grill Pan. It’s cast iron for even heating and nice charring, but it has a nonstick enameled coating that will maximize caramelization without worrying about anything sticking. Wherever you’re cooking, you can use this guide to the best vegetables for grilling and tips for how to cook them right every time.
Zucchini & Summer Squash
Like eggplant, zucchini has a lot of water content, so in order to make sure you get tender-but-not-mushy zucchini (or summer squash), pre-salting is a great hack. It caramelizes beautifully and can become almost jammy in texture, and is great with cheeses like goat, burrata, Boursin, or even a softer feta.
How to grill: Cut zucchini into ½ inch-thick slices and sprinkle each side with salt, then set on a paper towel-lined plate or sheet pan for 15 minutes. This will help draw out the moisture. Pat dry and brush with oil to prevent sticking on the grill, and then grill over medium heat for about 3 minutes per side (or until tender).
Tender and relatively thin, asparagus cooks quickly and gets nice and charred on the grill. It can be cut up into a salad, served as a brunch entrée with eggs, or as a side dish for any meal.
How to grill: This simple yet delicious grilled asparagus with a perfect sunny egg makes a filling breakfast or mid-day snack! To make it, coat asparagus in olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add to the grill over medium heat and immediately cover (either with a lid that covers the asparagus or by closing an outdoor grill). Keep covered for 3 minutes, then uncover, flip the asparagus, and grill for 2 more minutes. If you like it a little softer, grill for an additional minute.
Fresh summer corn is incredible, but even out-of-season corn can taste pretty good when it’s grilled—juicy, sweet kernels with an undeniably crispy, smoky exterior. You can coat them in butter and eat on the cob, or better yet, cut off the kernels, add some oyster and soy sauce, garlic, and chiles for out-of-this-world Corn Krapow, inspired by the classic Thai dish.
How to grill: Peel off the husks and remove silks from corn, and then grill over medium heat, turning on each side every 3–4 minutes until kernels are tender and charred, about 10-12 minutes, or 12–15 minutes total if using an indoor grill. You can either eat it directly on the cob, or remove the kernels.
While probably not the first veggie that comes to mind, grilled lettuce brings a whole new level of flavor to an ordinary salad. The lettuce holds its shape and crunchiness while wilting just slightly on the outside, and gives a burst of smokiness to every bite! Try pairing with a savory dressing, like Caesar.
How to grill: Take a head of lettuce, preferably romaine or radicchio, and cut in half lengthwise. Brush each half with olive oil and then grill over medium heat, cut side down, for 2–3 minutes. Flip for another 1–2 minutes or until sufficiently charred.
Grilled onions are a great way to add a punch of flavor without the bite of raw onion overpowering the entire dish. Put them in a salad, on top of burgers, or chop them up for a salsa. You can even grill green onions (aka scallions!) and eat them plain, or try blending them into a sauce. Just remember, they are smaller so they take less time than regular-sized onions.
How to grill: Peel and cut your onions either in half, in wedges, or cut into ¾ inch-thick slices. Place onions on the grill over medium heat for 5–7 minutes each side, or until rings are charred and tender. For green onions, it will only take about 1–2 minutes per side—keep an eye on them so they char but don't burn.
Grilling broccoli not only gives the stalks a bright color and florets a crunchy texture, but also imparts a nice nutty flavor. Cook alongside grilled steak, or better yet, pair with ranch and you’ll forget chips and raw crudités were ever a thing. This also works great for broccolini, aka baby broccoli.
How to grill: Cut broccoli into steaks or small bunches of florets. (Single florets may burn!) Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl then add to grill over medium heat, turning once, until charred and stalks are tender, 5–7 minutes.
We all have come to know and love eggplant cooked in lasagnas and pasta dishes, but have you ever tried grilling it on its own? The inside becomes creamy and velvety, and the skin gets a beautiful char to contrast with the smooth, almost puréed-textured inside. Serve with chimichurri or another herby sauce as a side or vegetarian main. By the way, you can even grill a whole eggplant—it will just take longer to cook.
How to grill: Cut eggplant into ¾ inch-thick slices and sprinkle each side with salt, and then set on a paper towel-lined plate or sheet pan for 15 minutes. This will help draw out the moisture. Pat dry and brush with oil to prevent sticking onto the grill, and then grill over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side (or until tender).
When carrots caramelize—and they do because of all that natural sugar—great things happen. The exterior gets slightly crisp, the inside is tender, and they taste almost candied. Try this delicious thyme-roasted recipe, but grilled instead for a delicious side dish.
How to grill: Peel the carrots and slice in half lengthwise. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add to the grill, cut side down, over medium heat, turning once until golden and caramelized, 10–12 minutes.
Okay, we know that tomatoes are technically fruit, but you can grill them like vegetables! They make an excellent side dish to beef or chicken, or better yet, on skewers or tossed into pasta. Small cherry tomatoes get nice and blistered and incredibly sweet on the grill, but fair warning: they tend to fall through the grates outside, so make sure you wrap in foil first.
How to grill: If using whole tomatoes, such as Roma, cut them in half and remove the pulp and seeds. If using cherry tomatoes, keep whole. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add to the grill, cut side down, and cook over medium heat until tender and skin blisters, about 6–8 minutes.
Potatoes require a little more TLC prior to grilling, but it’s well worth it. To ensure the potatoes cook evenly and don’t dry out on the grill, boil them first, and then finish on the grill! This is an easy side dish, or you can dress them up like a loaded baked potato with bacon, scallions, lots of cheddar cheese, and sour cream.
How to grill: Once potatoes are almost cooked, slice in half and grill over medium heat for a few minutes per side to get those beautiful grill marks and flavor. You can also slice into coins and grill for the loaded potato “chips” vibe.
For a filling vegetarian dish, grilled mushrooms are the way to go. You can opt for larger mushrooms like portobellos and oyster for meaty burger vibes, but if you're using a grill pan, try grilling smaller mushrooms like criminis and shiitakes. Since there are no grates to fall through, you can easily slice these 'shrooms up and use for fajitas and tacos.
How to grill: For portobellos, brush each side with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add to the grill over medium heat, turning once, until the exterior is charred and crispy, 5–7 minutes. For smaller mushrooms, cut into ½ inch-thick slices and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl before adding to the grill pan over medium heat, turning once until lightly charred and tender, 2–4 minutes. If you’re using a regular grill, place in foil so they don’t fall through the grates.
Grilling peppers is one of the easiest ways to add color and texture to a dish. Like zucchini, bell peppers both tenderize and caramelize by releasing juices, creating ultra-sweet bites that pair well in salads, tacos, or fajitas. Smaller and spicier peppers, like shishitos, tend to blister and slightly tenderize but mostly keep their shape and crunch. They also lose some of their heat in the process, making them a nice crispy dipper—try them with our Caesar dip!
How to grill: Toss the peppers in olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl then add to grill over medium heat, turning once, until the skin is charred but not mushy, 5–7 minutes.