Looking for Fun Things to Grill? Try These 12 Unexpected Foods This Summer

I remember some of the best — and strangest — foods I‘ve eaten. Do you? Those delicious and unusual meals have a way of staying with me.

Last summer, I made an avocado pie that was the talk of a party. Every single person asked me for the recipe, and now I’m expected to bring it to all gatherings.

Whether you’re a foodie or just getting tired of boring old hot dogs, we’ve assembled a list with some expert help of unexpected nibbles you can totally grill that will give your guests something to talk about.

Warning: Side effects may include never wanting to cook on the stove again.

12 Fun Things to Grill This Summer

Grilling these 12 foods will take your cookouts to a new level this summer.

1. Pineapple

This tropical treat doesn’t need any dressing up before grilling, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore all the mouthwatering options. Sprinkle it with brown sugar and cinnamon, or brush it with olive oil, honey or teriyaki sauce.

You can cut the pineapple into big chunks or use canned rings; both come packed with flavor. Toss them on a burger or salad, roast them on a skewer, or serve them as a summertime side dish.


2. Greens

Take your greens game to the next level by grilling them. Think heads of lettuce, bok choy, Swiss chard, romaine, kale and collard greens.

“Greens are a huge surprise the first time you try them,” said Mark Bittman, author of “How to Grill Everything.”

Keep the greens and core attached rather than breaking them apart individually, and cut bigger heads in half. Baste and add seasonings of your taste. This gives the outer layers a nice, caramelized char that cuts through the cruciferous bitterness while keeping the inner leaves crisp.

Make them into an open-faced salad, or add them to another dish. Whatever you do, don’t take your eyes off them while cooking, as they go from delicious to depressingly wilted in a matter of seconds.

3. Watermelon

Watermelon sits next to grill outside in a person's backyard.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

Go spicy, sweet or sour with cayenne pepper, honey or lime zest. Or you can keep it simple and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on your wedges.

Toss wedges with feta and mint, or dress them with a balsamic glaze or cilantro. Just make sure you get a seedless watermelon to work with.

Beware: Your guests will expect it every year.

4. Cakes/Donuts

Why not? Donuts have served as the buffer for burgers, breakfast sandwiches and even ice cream. Toast them on the grill. You can add berries, give them a brulee take or add a French toast twist.

The same concept applies to pound or short cake. Brush premade pieces with butter and top with ice cream, whipped cream, berries or the glaze of your heart’s desire. Bittman has explored on-the-grill cakes and breads, which he said can either be cooked in advance or while you eat the main dish.

5. Beef Tongue

Bittman suggests this offal cut. Like other organ meats and entrails, it’s usually a bargain and helps prevent food waste. He described it as “shockingly good cooked slowly on the grill.”

It can be seasoned with onion, garlic and olive oil, or cooked with a chimichurri sauce. It’ll definitely give your guests something to talk about for months to come.

6. Artichokes 

Artichokes were meant to be grilled. Steam them before grilling, and then season the fleshy leaves with salt, pepper, lemon or garlic. There’s nothing like the smoky taste their bite-sized leaves soak up. Serve them with hollandaise or an aioli. In the end, you’re rewarded with the heart of it all.

7. Avocados

Avocado: the fruit that keeps on giving. Turn the grilled pods into handheld bowls, and stuff them with tomatoes, salsa, quinoa or shrimp. Or skip the bowls, and drizzle them with a cream sauce, lime, Sriracha sauce or cheese.

Add grilled avocado to nachos, tacos or a sandwich. Pair them with grilled watermelon for a mouth explosion of yummy. Or simply elevate that avocado toast game and have your life forever changed.

8. Peaches

Peaches lie cut on a brown cutting board.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

Just thinking of the warm peaches with dollops of ice cream on top has me salivating. Slice these summertime treats, and grill them for five minutes on each side.

Season with brown sugar, cinnamon and/or butter, or confuse your taste buds and add pepper, basil or prosciutto to the mix. You can’t go wrong with this seasonal favorite.

9. Eggplant

No need to drench and bake eggplants with cheese and sauce. Peel and slice up this purple bad boy in either direction, and give it a new crispy life on the grill. Keep it simple and season it with butter, salt, pepper and garlic. Or take it up a notch and add Cajun seasoning, top with bruschetta or turn it into a Parmesan boat.

Fun fact: Eggplant is one of Bittman’s favorite vegetables to grill, whole or sliced.

10. Bananas

This breakfast and pre-workout staple evolves into a must-have dessert on the grill. Turn a whole one into a banana boat filled with marshmallows, chocolate and nuts, and then wrap it in foil and grill. Or slice it lengthwise with the peel on and grill it.

Serve it with maple syrup, toffee, honey and cinnamon or transform it into bananas Foster. Warmth so good, it tastes like home.

11. Oysters/Clams

Get a few dozen oysters, scrub ’em down and heat them up until they open. Pry the rest of the way, and drizzle them with lemon butter or hot sauce. Or shuck them and roast them open, face up. Top with a cream or barbecue sauce, basil, cheese or garlic.

You can do the same with clams. Cook them your preferred way over the grill. Toss them with garlic, tomatoes and white wine or a lemon-cayenne mixture. Careful, they’re hot — and cook in no time at all.

12. Grapefruit

No longer bound by juice or as a breakfast side, grapefruit can become dessert when paired with the grill. Cut it in half and sprinkle the inside with cinnamon, sugar and a little butter, or drizzle with honey. Caramelize it on the grill. Serve it with mint leaves, coconut, nuts or creme fraiche.

4 Grilling Tips to Remember

A plate of grilled veggies sit on a plate as a woman grills in her backyard.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

Follow these four tips to make sure your summer grilling goes as well as possible.

  1. Always make sure your grill grate is clean and free of remnants before cooking new items. This avoids cross-contamination (and hot dog-flavored bananas).

  2. Keep a close eye on the heat and the food you’re cooking. Nothing is worse than investing time and money into a dish that burns in 30 seconds.

  3. Watch for food thieves. They’re lurking and will swipe bites left and right until there’s none left for you. Store a backup plate for you to enjoy later.

  4. Have no waste. Grill everything. Believe Bittman when he says, “I can’t think of a vegetable that can’t be grilled.”

Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer for The Penny Hoarder.