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The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Our Guide to Grilling Sides

Updated May 2, 2017

Sure, we all feel comfortable around a grill and a hot dog/bun/chicken breast, but even the best of us starts doubting our skills when we start talking potatoes and romaine.

This summer, we’re thinking about grilling all our meals from brunch and lunch to dinner and dessert, so let’s calm your nerves and cover how to do side dishes.

Marinated Summer Squash Grilling PacksGrilled Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro-Lime Dressing

Equipment to Have on Hand

  • For more delicate side options (tomatoes, green onions, lettuces, etc.) a fine grill grate tray or grill basket is a lifesaver.
  • Skewers are handy for wrangling smaller items like tomatoes and grapes.
  • Long handled tongs are great for the frequent turning you’ll need to do.
  • If grill marks aren’t a requirement, consider making a cooking packet with parchment paper and aluminum foil.

Techniques to Master

  • Many items will need to be precooked before heading to the grill in order to ensure they reach tender perfection before they burn. Potatoes, beets and carrots all fit into this category. 
  • Though veggies such as summer squash, mushrooms and onions don’t need to be precooked, cutting them down to roughly equal sizes will help with even cooking.
  • Try grilling ears of corn with the husks on to gently steam the kernels, then remove the husk and quickly toss the corn on the fire to achieve a few grill marks.
  • For the most part, side dishes will cook more quickly than protein items, so keep a close eye on the grill and maintain a medium (about 350°F) to medium-hot (about 400°F) grill temperature.

Grilled Potato SaladGrilled Tomato and Romaine Salad

Recipe Ideas to Try

We dare you to keep that flame hot and explore all these fun options. Grill your salad, bread and sandwiches.

  • Shape premade pizza dough into flatbread and throw it on the grill. We love this simple Cherry Focaccia.
  • Grill several different veggies, plus a slice of bread then assemble a super easy and impressive salad like this Grilled Tomato and Broccoli Rabe Salad with Sourdough Breadcrumbs.
  • Use the direct heat of the grill to add color to bread and the indirect heat to warm up any toppings on open-faced sandwiches like these Grilled Goat Cheese and Artichoke Toasties.
  • Big hunks of romaine lettuce or cabbage are excellent when grilled. The time on the grill enhances the natural sweetness of the lettuces while adding a fun smokiness. Serve these as a wedge or chop up the grilled item for easy toppings or sandwich stuffers.

Mexican-Style Grilled Corn Grilled Goat Cheese and Artichoke Toasties

Do you have any tips for grilling side dishes? Share your suggestions for grilling your sides and any recipe ideas in the comments section below.

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Jason says …

If you grill Romaine, do you chill it in the fridge after before serving? I can't imagine eating a warm salad.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JASON - I would highly suggest trying it straight off the grill! If you chill it afterwards I would worry about it becoming really soggy since the lettuce will release liquid once it's cooked. You could always let it get to room temp instead of warm if that's a better way to transition. Just think of it like a warm Brussels sprout salad! :)

Patricia says …

Can you grill brussel sprouts if they are in a grill basket? And if you did would you recommend cooking them before hand and then putting them in the grill basket to crisp up a little?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PATRICIA - I have grilled them in foil from a raw state and they have tasted great but you can also blanch them beforehand to make sure they don't get too crispy on the outside and undercooked inside. Here is a great recipe that calls for blanching before: https://food52.com/recipes/1299-grilled-brussels-sprouts. Let us know how they turn out!

Gm. says …

Wondering what makes that cob of corn above look so delicious. Please tell me! Thank you. Gm.

Minette says …

Yes! What is the recipe for the YUMMY looking corn-on-the-cobb pictured in the article?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MINETTE - You can click on the photos to be taken straight to the recipe. The corn is Mexican-Style Grilled Corn. You can find the recipe at https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/mexican-style-grilled-corn.