9 Creative Summer Grilling Ideas That Don’t Require Meat

This article was originally published by Catherine Winter on www.morningchores.com

The hotter months aren’t just ideal for beach parties: the abundance of fresh summer produce makes summer grilling an absolute delight. There are so many gorgeous ingredients to work with that you can get super creative in the kitchen with them!

Since many of us get stuck in cooking ruts, we often end up making the same dishes over and over again.

While this is great for ease and comfort food, it can also make mealtime a bit boring over time. Instead of the same old thing, try some of the creative summer grilling ideas mentioned below. They can be adapted to suit different diets and are great for using homegrown or farmer’s market finds in scrumptious new ways.

Fruit-Based Snacks

Although many of us have many different greens growing abundantly in our gardens, fruits really can be the stars of the show. Remember that tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, and peppers are all considered fruits, so we’re not limited to berries here!

When grilling fruit, aim for either stainless steel or soaked bamboo kebab skewers. These are less likely to break the fruits apart when pushed through them.

Grilled Strawberry Compote

If you have an abundant strawberry crop, you’ll probably use them in almost everything. Grilled strawberry compote, however, is an absolute must for any summer grilling plans.

Hull and halve two pounds of ripe strawberries and pour them into a greased grilling pan. Toss them with one cup of granulated white sugar, two teaspoons of vanilla extract, one tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt.

Place the grill pan on medium heat, and stir every 15-20 minutes until the fruit has softened and released its liquids. At this point, transfer this scrumptious strawberry slurry into a saucepan.

Heat on medium-high until it starts to bubble, then mix a tablespoon of corn or tapioca starch with some of the strawberry juice in a small cup or bowl, and once mixed, add that to the saucepan as well.

Stir constantly on med-high until the mixture thickens, and remove from the heat. Serve hot or cold on cake, spread on toast, poured over ice cream, pancakes, waffles, or granola, or eat it with a spoon. This will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Cherry Tomato Soup

I had this soup in San Francisco years ago, and it was so amazing that I had to ask how it was made. The chef told me that it’s rather like roasted tomato soup, only you grill the cherry tomatoes on skewers like kebabs instead of oven-roasting it.

Skewer tomatoes and onion slices, drizzle them with olive oil, and season with salt, garlic powder, basil, and oregano, and grill until the tomato skins start to blacken and the onions soften.

Allow to cool slightly, then release the tomatoes from their skins into a pot, add your choice of stock and a bit of minced garlic, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, use an immersion blender to puree thoroughly, and serve either hot or cold. Garnish as desired, such as with cream (dairy, coconut, or oat), fried basil leaves, pine nuts, pesto, or whatever you like.

If you’re working with very small tomatoes such as grape or currant, add everything to a grill pan instead. Better to do that than to potentially waste a single morsel of deliciousness.

Grilled Cherries

These are incredibly versatile because you can combine them with other ingredients to make either sweet or savory dishes, depending on your personal preferences.

Use a chopstick to pit your cherries, and then pop them into a grill pan. They’re generally too small to grill on sticks, as they can fall between the grates if they slide off skewers. Brush them with a bit of neutral-flavored oil such as sunflower or coconut, and grill for 3-5 minutes, turning regularly.

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At this point, you can use them as they are or transform them into works of staggering deliciousness. For example:

  • Slice a wheel of brie cheese in half horizontally, pour the grilled cherries over the open bottom half, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with thyme and pepper, and close with the other half while the fruit is still hot
  • Let the grilled cherries cool a bit, and then add them to a salad of mixed mesclun greens, sunflower sprouts, toasted nuts of choice, and grilled chicken, with either a lemony vinaigrette or creamy tahini or green goddess-type dressing.
  • Transform the cherries into a stunning barbecue sauce and use that for pulled pork, chicken, duck, or tofu.
  • Indulge your sweet tooth by making no-churn grilled cherry ice cream (which is absolutely stunning, I can’t even tell you, especially if you add dark chocolate chips to it too).


Peaches are the ideal fruits to work with as far as summer grilling recipes go. They can withstand a lot of heat and don’t fall apart on the grill, and the heat enhances their sweetness like you would not believe.

While grilled peaches make excellent accompaniments to chicken and fish and are lovely in salads and desserts, my favorite way to use them is in salsa. This is also a great way to use up scraps from other recipes, and you can add or swap out whatever ingredients you prefer.

Using locally grown produce is always best, so this can be altered to suit your region. For example, I made this with avocado and tomatillos when I lived in California, but I use pawpaws and corn here in Quebec.

Heat your gas grill to medium, or wait until your coals have cooled after cooking your main dish. Ensure that the grill is clean, and oil it well.

Brush halved and pitted peaches with a bit of oil or butter, and place face-down on the grill for 3-5 minutes. Turn, and grill the backs for another two minutes before removing them. Allow to cool.

Then dice the peaches and toss them with diced sweet red or orange peppers, minced onion, and whatever other salsa ingredients you enjoy. These work particularly well with tomatoes, tomatillos, black beans, corn, green onions, and jicama.

Drizzle with your choice of oil, a bit of lime juice, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Feel free to add whatever seasonings you like! Add minced pickled jalapenos for extra heat, maybe fresh cilantro if you like the flavor.

Serve with fish in shredded tofu tacos, or simply scoop it up with tortilla chips and enjoy.


Remember how eggplant is a nightshade fruit rather than a vegetable? Well, it’s extraordinarily versatile and is one of the best items on this list for summer grilling.

The key is to have an idea beforehand as to how you’d like to use it. This is because you’ll need to choose between slicing it lengthwise, horizontally, or grilling it in cubes.

The basic grilling technique is the same regardless of whether you slice it or cube it, but you’ll need to skewer the cubed chunks rather than simply laying them atop a greased grill. Heat your grill to medium, and toss your eggplant slices or chunks with:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 crushed garlic cloves
  • One tablespoon za’atar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Grill on medium for 5-7 minutes on each side or until they’re softened and golden. At this point, you can either serve them as is or transform them. Some ideas include:

You can also use these slices as sandwich fillings, especially in panini or pitas, dressed with hummus, tzatziki, cucumber slices, fresh tomato, and feta or halloumi cheese.

Zucchini and Other Summer Squash

Yes, summer squash are considered fruits too, and are rather spectacular for summer grilling because they maintain their structural integrity when introduced to grill heat rather than crumbling apart.

Furthermore, since anyone who grows them gets spectacularly tired of zucchini muffins, bread, and “zoodles,” grilling is another great option for using up the bounty without having to freeze it or give it away.

My favorite way to use grilled zucchini is to stuff it. To do this, you must cut your zukes (or pattypan squash) in half lengthwise. Then use a melon baller or sharp spoon to hollow out each side, leaving about 1/2 inch flesh all around.

Heat your grill to medium-high, brush it with oil, and slap those zucchini halves face-up onto it. While their backsides are broiling (for 4-5 minutes), brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher or Himalayan pink salt, some pepper, and some garlic powder. Then flip them face-side down and grill for another 5 minutes or so.

Remove from the heat, and stuff those little squash boats with whatever your heart desires. I like to stuff them with quinoa tabbouleh and plenty of crumbled feta, but they’re also lovely with chicken salad, Cajun spiced shrimp, lemony risotto, or sloppy Joe ground beef filling.

Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of land to become completely self-sufficient. In fact, 1/4 acre is enough, if you follow this comprehensive guide.


Much like with fruits, vegetables’ flavors are often enhanced when they’re introduced to flames. Consider some of these summer grilling ideas to use up fresh produce, as they go beyond standard salad, stir-fry, or stew fare.


You’re in for a glorious surprise if you’ve never had grilled cabbage steaks. Although cabbage may not be at the top of your list as far as summer grilling goes, this vegetable turns out surprisingly delicious, and can be used as a tasty side dish or as a featured part of your summer grilling menu.

Cut a head of cabbage into eight wedges. Then melt half a cup of butter, and mix in two tablespoons of chopped onion, a teaspoon of garlic salt, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, a pinch of black pepper, and some freshly chopped parsley. Place each cabbage wedge on a square of aluminum foil and brush generously with the butter mixture.

Seal the foil around each wedge and place them on a grill on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove with tongs and open the packets to allow steam to escape. Then sear each wedge directly on the grill for a couple of minutes, and serve hot.

Romaine Hearts

I had only ever eaten romaine lettuce in Caesar salad, so the experience of eating freshly grilled lettuce hearts was downright epiphanic.

Slice your lettuce heads in half vertically (e.g. lengthwise), ensuring that the leaves remain attached to the stem core. Heat your grill to medium-high, and brush it with oil. Then brush your lettuce halves with olive oil on both front and back, and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Grill cut-side down for four minutes, then use tongs to flip them over and grill another two or three minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of lemon juice, and sprinkle liberally with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

If you’re vegan, sprinkle with some nutritional yeast instead.


My Mexican relatives make this grilled corn every summer, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate such gorgeous summertime sweetness.

Soak ears of corn in their husks in warm water for at least an hour. Then peel the husks and silk off, and place the ears on a greased grill heated to medium-high heat.

Check the kernels after about five minutes to see if they’ve started to blacken, then quarter-turn them with your tongs. Repeat this process until every side is lightly charred and the kernels are tender.

At this point, you need to get saucy.

Mix together 4-5 tablespoons of mayonnaise with a dollop of crema (or sour cream), a squirt of freshly squeezed lime juice, a splash of your hot sauce of choice (aim for Cholula if possible), salt, a bit of black pepper, and a pinch of chili powder.

Coat each ear with this sauce, then sprinkle on crumbled Cotija cheese before serving. If you can’t get Cotija locally, you can substitute it with mild feta.

The summer grilling recipes mentioned above are a great way to use up ripening crops, while also adding some new flavors, colors, and textures to your table. As with all other recipes, the ideas mentioned above can easily be adapted to suit any individual diet or preference.

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