Skip to main content

How to grill vegetables: Your complete guide

It's easier than you think

Grilled vegetables
Natasha Breen/Adobe Stock / Adobe Stock

When contemplating all of the delicious ingredients to grill this summer, things like burgers, steaks, brats, and ribs may be the juicy, meaty images floating through your mind – and for good reason. There’s something absolutely magical about charred, smokey meats straight off the coals. But that savory grilled flavor doesn’t begin and end with meat. In fact, your entire meal can (and should) be made all together on the grill, proteins, sides, and all. And one of our favorite smokey sides is grilled vegetables. Grilled vegetables are truly something special and very easy to prepare if you follow a few simple guidelines.

So, when stocking up on your favorite barbecue fare this weekend, don’t forget to make a stop in the produce section. Because grilled vegetables are about to become your new favorite side dish.

How to prepare vegetables for grilling

Vegetables on grill

With most foods, an even surface is required for even cooking. Vegetables are no exception to this rule, though, due to their varying and sometimes quirky shapes, an even surface can be tricky to achieve. While not all vegetables require cutting before grilling (such as corn), for those that do, large, even pieces are best. To prepare your vegetables for the grill, cut them into large, even pieces big enough to sit on the grill grates without falling through.

Something else to be mindful of when grilling vegetables is that they cook at different rates. A wedge of tomato, for example, will take far less time to cook than a sturdier vegetable like an onion or bell pepper. When placing your ingredients on the grill, be sure to give the more hearty ingredients a bit more time, adding the more delicate vegetables later in the cooking process.

To ensure even cooking for your vegetables, skewering them is both a great way to cook and a fun way to serve them. Just be sure to group like vegetables together that will cook at the same rate to avoid over or undercooking ingredients. While this version of a kabob is admittedly not as Insta-worthy as others that are packed full of varying colors and ingredients, it’s the best way to ensure your ingredients are cooked evenly.

After your vegetables have been cut and/or skewered, brush them with a neutral oil such as vegetable or canola, season, and grill.

Best cuts for grilling vegetables

Bell peppers: Seeded and cut into halves or quarters

Onions: Peeled and cut into halves or quarters

Yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant: Sliced lengthwise into rectangles at least 1/2-inch thick

Large mushrooms: Stemmed and halved

Asparagus: Trimmed of ends and grilled whole

Tomatoes: Whole, on the vine

How to grill vegetables

Vegetables on grill

One of the fun parts of grilling anything is using both direct and indirect heat, expertly maneuvering your ingredients between the two. To properly grill vegetables, it’s important to understand the difference between these two forms of heat and how you can use them to make deliciously grilled vegetables.

Cooking over direct heat means cooking the ingredient directly over the grill’s flame, allowing it to come in contact with the fire.

Cooking over indirect heat means cooking the ingredient away from the flames, either by way of space or something coming between the ingredient and the fire, such as aluminum foil.

For vegetable grilling, a combination of both direct and indirect heat is best. We like to start vegetables over direct heat, developing a good sear or char on the ingredient, and then move it to indirect heat so that it can cook through.

The time it takes to cook your vegetable will depend on its size and shape, but we’ve created a general guideline to help you get started. For each of these ingredients, begin cooking over direct heat for the first half of the cooking time and then switch to indirect heat for the last half.

Cooking times for grilled vegetables

Bell peppers: 8-10 minutes

Onions: 8-10 minutes

Yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant: 6-8 minutes

Large mushrooms: 6-8 minutes

Asparagus: 4-6 minutes

Tomatoes: 4-6 minutes

How to serve grilled vegetables

Grilled vegetables
George Dolgikh/Adobe Stock

Because of the deliciously smokey flavor provided by the grilling process itself, grilled vegetables rarely need more than a bit of salt and a spritz of citrus after their trip through the flames. However, we absolutely love to serve grilled vegetables with an earthy homemade pesto or zippy chimichurri for a fresh, green bite. Alternatively, a cooling, creamy dipping sauce like tzatziki or homemade ranch is also delicious.

Serve your grilled vegetables alongside any of these dips, or simply piled atop your favorite grilled protein for an unforgettable barbecue.

Editors' Recommendations

Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
How to make clam chowder, the ultimate recipe for those who love this seafood favorite
Plus a version with mussels!
New England-style Clam chowder

Clam chowder is royalty in the bowl and easily one of the best soups out there, no matter what time of year. There are a few worthwhile canned versions around, but the best stuff tends to be from your favorite seafood eatery or the batch you whip up at home.

On planet soup, clam chowder is an especially compelling type because it doesn't have to stay on the rails. Like chili or barbecue sauce, a good version can veer in any number of directions, whether it's changing up the base or adding a less-expected vegetable or type of shellfish. Plus, it's a fun thing to dip into, whether it's ladled into a bread bowl or topped with crumbled salt crackers. Below, we'll tell you how to make clam chowder and give you the mussel chowder recipe you didn't know you needed.
Mussel chowder recipe

Read more
This is how Bobby Flay makes store-bought barbecue sauce taste amazing
Make your sauce taste homemade with this easy trick
Person grilling

Love him or hate him, Bobby Flay is admittedly one of the more talented and famous chefs of our time. Between his countless television shows and cookbooks, the popular chef has amassed quite a dedicated fan following, looking to him for culinary inspiration in just about any dish. This time of year, the grilling expert is well-loved and sought after for his delicious barbecue tips, tricks, and recipes, and we've stumbled across one that we can't wait to try this summer.

In a YouTube video posted by The Food Network, Flay admits that while making homemade barbecue sauce is certainly a great option, not everyone has the time or desire to do so. He then goes on to explain that by simply adding a few key ingredients to a high-quality store-bought sauce, everyone's favorite summertime condiment can be elevated to whole new levels of finger-licking deliciousness.
The secret ingredients

Read more
How to smoke a brisket: A complete guide
Sure, it takes a while, but the result is so worth it
how to smoke meat brisket

Smoked brisket is truly the holy grail of barbecued foods. Learning how to smoke a deliciously tender, melt-in-your-mouth, sinfully delectable brisket is one of the most impressive skills one can master, and one that will make you tremendously popular come grill season. While this impressive culinary ability isn't exactly difficult, it is time-consuming and requires a lot of patience and willpower. So, if you're ready to embark on this delicious day-long endeavor, read on to learn how to smoke a perfect brisket.

Trimming a brisket before it's smoked is a crucial step to ensure a great bark and even cooking. Start by removing the brisket's packaging and give the piece a good inspection. You'll notice that the meat is most likely covered in lots of fat and silver skin. Using a large, sharp knife, carefully slice away the large, moon-shaped piece of fat at the point of the brisket. The goal here is not to remove this piece of fat entirely but to create a uniform shape to your meat for more even cooking. Continue to trim away the excess fat until the brisket is relatively uniform, taking care to not leave any excess pieces hanging around that will burn in the cooking process.

Read more