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Grilling Vegetables Can Bring Out Flavor

asparagus, tomatoes, onion and squash grilled in dressing
Marinating vegetables in an oil-based salad dressing or marinade can make them easier to handle and not as likely to stick.


If you haven’t gotten out the grill and cleaned it, now is the time. Fresh produce will soon be appearing in local farmers markets, gardens and roadside stands, and grilling is a great way to bring out the flavor of fresh vegetables.

Grilling vegetables brings their flavor to a whole new level. Many vegetables grill well, but avoid those with high water content, such as cucumbers, celery, lettuce, or most leafy greens.  Asparagus, eggplant,  squash, onions and even cabbage are a great choice, as are peppers, whether you choose bell peppers or any of the other varieties.

Grilling vegetables isn’t rocket science. Start with a clean grill and wash the vegetables well. If grilling harder root vegetables such as potatoes or carrots, you might want to cut the veggies into smaller pieces.

If you are using larger vegetables such as zucchini or eggplant slices, corn on the cob, or sliced tomatoes, start by spraying the grill with cooking spray. This will make the vegetables easier to turn. Never spray a lit grill.

Marinating vegetables in an oil-based salad dressing or marinade can also make them easier to handle and not so likely to stick. For food safety purposes, reserve marinades for that purpose and do not reuse them for marinating meat or other foods. My favorite way to season vegetables for grilling is with herbs. There is something special about going to the garden and picking oregano and rosemary, then mixing with olive oil to brush on the vegetables.

Since not all vegetables cook at the same rate, lightly steam root vegetables  in the microwave before adding them to a summer vegetable mixture or to kebobs.

Using skewers to make kebobs allows you to try a variety of vegetables at one time.  Kebobs can be difficult to turn, but may be easier to manage when foods are similar in size and skewered in the center, or when vegetables are ran through two skewers placed parallel to each other. If you do not have metal skewers, you can use inexpensive bamboo skewers available at the supermarket. Care should be taken to keep bamboo from burning, by soaking skewer sticks in water for an hour before cooking.   

Grilled vegetables, like summer squash, often retain more texture than steamed vegetables. Grilling also can enhance flavor, it highlights the sweetness and natural flavor of peppers, as an example.

Start vegetables over medium heat (medium coals glow through a layer of gray ash) to sear their skins. Turn every one to two minutes, and then move them to the side of the grill over indirect heat to finish cooking. The easiest way to tell if the vegetables are done is to poke them with a fork or skewer. They should be fork tender.

Remember, cooking times will vary according to your choice of vegetable. Keep a close watch, as veggies are generally more delicate than meats. A touch of smoke greatly enhances vegetables, but no one wants charred lumps.

For your free vegetable handout with recipes, contact me at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Miller County Extension office, Room 215 of the Miller County courthouse. E-mail or call 870-779-3609. You can also get great tips on facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, and  twitter at @MillerCountyFCS or visiting us at

Grilled fresh squash is my favorite grilled vegetable. Although this recipe calls for fresh oregano and rosemary, you can substitute thyme, dill or tarragon. You can substitute zucchini for the squash if you prefer.

Grilled Yellow Squash

4 medium yellow squash

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

1 tablespoon rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the grill for medium heat. Cut off the ends of your squash horizontally into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick slices so that you have nice long strips that won't fall through the grill. In a small bowl combine olive oil, oregano and rosemary. Brush the slices of squash with the herb oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill squash slices for 5 to 10 minutes per side, until they reach the desired tenderness. Brush with additional herb oil, and turn occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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