For some reason, the phrase "grilled vegetables" tends to evoke only a few specific items in most people's minds: skewered chunks of zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, and onions; big portobello mushrooms; slabs of eggplant; ears of corn. And, indeed, if you order a dish that includes grilled vegetables at a restaurant, it's highly likely that some combination of the above is what you'll get. There's nothing wrong with any of them, of course, but it's unclear to us why the category of produce considered appropriate for grilling is so narrow. Once you start experimenting with more outside-the-box options (cabbage, leeks, and cauliflower, to name a few), and taste for yourself what a little smoke infusion can do for vegetables, you'll want to try grilling every kind of veggie that you'd normally roast in the oven or cook on the stovetop.
A Memorial Day cookout is the perfect opportunity to try out a surprisingly delicious salad of grilled kale, or a dish of soy-glazed grilled carrots. No reason to neglect the classics, though—we've also got multiple recipes incorporating grilled corn (from good old-fashioned whole ears to a salad of grilled corn, feta, and tomatoes), eggplant, and mushrooms. Whether you're in the mood to stick with tradition this year or go a little nuts with your crisper drawer, the 17 recipes below will guide you to a lineup of grilled vegetables that's anything but the same ol'.
The Best Basic Grilled Corn
Though we recommend a few different ways to grill corn, our favorite is to simply roast the shucked ears over hot coals, giving the corn a beautiful char. You can stay simple and serve the corn with butter, or try out more offbeat flavors, like spicy Korean miso sauce; harissa and mint; or hot chili mayo, coconut, and fish sauce.
Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)
Yes, we have a soft spot for humble, American-style grilled corn on the cob, but you know what? The simplest route isn't always the best route. The absolute best way to serve grilled corn is elotes, or Mexican street corn, a creamy, salty, sweet, and nutty snack made by slathering corn with a sauce of Cotija cheese, crema (or sour cream), mayonnaise, garlic, cilantro, and chili powder. A sprinkle of extra Cotija and fresh lime juice make this side dish a highlight of summer.
Grilled Corn, Tomato, Feta, and Herb Salad
For a neater and easier-to-eat version of grilled corn, cut it off the cob and into this summery salad, along with ripe tomatoes, briny feta, and fresh parsley, basil, and mint. With so many flavorful ingredients at work, we like to keep the dressing basic—nothing more than good olive oil, spiked with a little lemon juice.
Grilled Foil-Wrapped Potatoes With Shallots, Lemon, and Thyme
One of the quickest and simplest ways to grill potatoes is to wrap them in foil packets—the foil traps steam, allowing the potatoes to cook twice as fast as they would otherwise. We prefer new potatoes for this recipe for their high ratio of tasty skin to creamy interior. Although this recipe calls for seasoning the potatoes with lemon juice, shallots, and thyme, you can change up those ingredients as needed to complement your main course.
Simple Grilled-Potato Salad With Grilled-Lemon Vinaigrette
Try grilled-potato salad instead of the standard boiled version, and you may never go back. Here, we parboil the potatoes first, then crisp them up directly on the grill grate. Roughing up the potatoes a bit before grilling by tossing them vigorously with olive oil and seasonings forms a layer of starch on their exteriors, which helps get them extra crispy. Since the grill is already hot, you may as well char the lemons for the vinaigrette, too, mellowing their acidity and deepening their flavor.
Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges
Sweet potatoes are generally thought of as a cool-weather root vegetable, but they deserve a place at your summer cookout—especially with this recipe, which highlights their rich natural sweetness. It's a two-stage process, starting the potatoes over indirect heat to cook them almost through, then moving them right over the fire to get them crisp and a bit charred. They're wonderful completely unseasoned, but a spicy-and-earthy contrast from a mix of paprika, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne is a great addition.
Grilled Hasselback Sweet Potatoes With Rosemary and Garlic
Hasselback potatoes—whole potatoes, thinly sliced nearly all the way through, then baked—were quite the internet sensation a few years back due to their abundance of crispy edges and pretty presentation. The recipe's 15 minutes of fame are long past, but it's still a fun side dish to whip out at parties. We love the smokiness you get from grilling Hasselback potatoes rather than baking them, and, since that treatment works so well with regular spuds, we adapted the recipe for sweet potatoes, too. One piece of advice: Microwave the potatoes before grilling to jump-start the cooking process.
This party-friendly Caprese variation starts with the traditional fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, but sandwiches those ingredients between grilled eggplant slices and adds balsamic vinegar for a little sharp tang. Grilled on each side until well browned, the creamy eggplant slices add a smokiness that complements the dish's fresh flavors nicely.
Eggplant Spirals With Greek Yogurt, Tomatoes, and Cucumber
The charred notes imparted by grilling help shore up the mildness of eggplant, but for even more of a flavor boost, try rolling contrasting ingredients up inside it. In this version (we have a few), we slice the eggplant a quarter inch thick, then brown it on the grate and layer in cooling chopped cucumber and yogurt, fresh tomato, and lots of herbs. Roll it up into a spiral shape for a delightful Greek-inspired appetizer.
Grilled Cabbage With Blue Cheese Dressing
If cabbage makes a showing at your Memorial Day barbecue, it'll most likely be in the form of coleslaw. But if you've never tried putting it on the grill, this should be the year. Grilled cabbage takes on a nutty sweetness, with charred outer leaves and a tender interior. While you can eat it on its own, it's particularly delicious when served like an iceberg wedge salad, with blue cheese dressing, cherry tomatoes, and bacon bits.
Grilled Cabbage Wedges With Ginger-Miso Dressing
This recipe puts an Asian twist on smoky, charred, tender-crisp grilled cabbage, using a sweet-and-salty ginger-miso dressing. For a little extra freshness, garnish the cabbage with sliced scallion.
Grilled-Kale Salad With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Grilling kale leaves it smoky and just a little crispy around the edges, making it a base for an unusual but seriously tasty deviation from the standard kale salad. We use hearty lacinato and double down on the smoke by dressing the leaves with a vinaigrette made with bacon, shallots, and apple cider vinegar.
Grilled Trevisano or Radicchio With Gorgonzola, Olive Oil, and Saba
Trevisano and radicchio are sturdy, bitter lettuces that take remarkably well to the grill—like cabbage, they turn sweet and nutty when charred over an open flame. For topping, we use sweet gorgonzola, good olive oil, and saba, an Italian syrup that's somewhat similar to balsamic vinegar.
Grill-Roasted Carrots With Sweet Soy Glaze
Slowly grilling carrots intensifies their natural sweetness and gives them a nicely caramelized crust. Here, we both emphasize and contrast that sweetness with a glaze of honey mixed with soy sauce, plus garlic and ginger for a little bite. To keep your carrots from falling through the grilling grate, choose ones that are on the larger side and cut them on a bias into three-quarter-inch slices.
Grilled Spiced Cauliflower
A spice rub based on turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and red pepper, inspired by Chicken Keema, turns cauliflower complex and earthy, and grilling makes it crisp and tender. For best results, cut a head of cauliflower vertically into steaks instead of individual florets, which you're likely to lose on the grill.
Grilled Mixed Mushrooms With Sesame Dressing
Meaty mushrooms are delicious grilled, but they have an unfortunate tendency to dry out if cooked improperly. The secret to keeping them juicy is marinating them in oil and basting them with butter and soy sauce as they cook. Here, after pulling the mushrooms off the fire, we cut them into bite-size pieces and toss them in a dressing of roasted sesame seeds, mirin, and soy sauce.
Grilled Leeks With Romesco Sauce
In this classic Spanish dish, mildly sweet, oniony leeks are set off nicely by rich Romesco sauce, a spread made with roasted red peppers and almonds. Cooking the leeks completely on the grill is time-consuming, so parboil them first to speed up the process.