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No matter how you slice it, fruit always tastes great. It can be fresh or juiced; in baked goods or treats—the list goes on, but you're not going to find many people that would turn down an apple pie or strawberry shortcake. Preparation techniques are limitless, but did you know you can also put fruit to good use on the grill? Whip up a fruit kebab or a naturally-sweetened dessert that'll really hit the spot at those summertime barbecues.
Plus, grilled fruit is extremely versatile—add sliced, grilled pineapple to a burger, or make a grilled peaches a la mode dessert (or go with the Grilled Peaches with Vanilla Mascarpone pictured above). You can also use grilled fruit as a topper for salads and toast. Throw in a bit of cheese and balsamic vinegar and, wow... *chef's kiss.*
There are science-based reasons to grill your summer bounty, too. "Grilling helps to intensify the flavor, and because the fruit contains natural sugar, it caramelizes so it tastes extra sweet," says Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN. Peaches, melons, pineapples, pears, and bananas—as long as the fruit is firm and not overripe, you're in for a treat.
"Fruits that you are able to cut into larger pieces or cubes are great for the grill," says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. "Those that spoil quickly just from washing, such as berries, are fruits to keep enjoying in their fresh or frozen forms, or are great cooked on the stove so they don't fall through the grill grates or provide a mushy versus jam-like texture," Jones says.
You also want to grill your fruit flesh-side down. In most cases, you won't want to cut the fruit so that the inner flesh is exposed. "By placing a hearty piece of fruit flesh side down, you'll get that caramelization you want and be able to cook the fruit through more," Jones says.
If you place it skin side down, you'll miss the caramelized texture and the heat won't get through the rest of the fruit evenly.
You can also apply the following tip to avoid food waste. "Using a non-toxic grilling spray (a grill's version of cooking spray) or rubbing some olive or avocado oil on the grates before turning the grill on is also helpful to keep your fruit from sticking, leaving those delicious caramelized pieces on the grill versus on your plate," Jones says.
And feel free to keep an eye on your fruit. "Denser fruit takes longer to cook, so you can put the lid on the grill and check every five minutes," Schapiro says.
So, put down the popsicle and pick up that slice of grilled watermelon when you need a sweet and refreshing treat this summer! Here are a few fun ways to get started.
"Peaches are rich in vitamin C, which is great for immunity, and they're rich in fiber, which is great for digestion and can fill you up," Schapiro says. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Lightly brush each side of the peaches with olive oil and grill each side for 4-5 minutes until grill marks appear.
You can actually grill peaches a bit before they are ripe, too. They may even hold up better on the grill so you don't lose too much of the juice inside, Jones explains.
You can then slice or dice the peaches for a salad, or even go with a grilled peach salsa. "After getting a nice sear on the fruit, I sometimes like to grill for longer, flesh-side up in foil, before topping with granola and honey for a grilled peach crisp dessert," Jones says. Want to indulge your sweet tooth even more? Pair it with ice cream.
Try This: Spiced Chicken with Grilled Peach Salsa
"This melon is rich in vitamin A, which is great for eye and bone health as well as potassium, which keeps your heart healthy and blood pressure low," Schapiro says.
Cut the melon into 1-inch wedges, lightly brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill the melon over high heat, turning it until it's lightly charred. It'll be about five minutes. Serve it on toast or on a bed of greens with prosciutto and mozzarella. It makes for a great appetizer or light salad.
Pineapple is low in calories and rich in fiber. "It also helps with digestion, and the bromelain in pineapple helps to decrease inflammation in the body," Schapiro says. Plus, the manganese in pineapple is great for bone health.
Lightly coat the pineapple with brown sugar and let sit for 10 minutes. Spray with olive oil or canola oil and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, while then rotating to get the grill marks in the shape of a X. Flip and do the same on the other side.
As with watermelon, pineapple is best grilled in larger cubes and because of its natural sugar content, it should get some great caramelized notes. Its fiber content helps it hold up well on the grill, too.
"You can add to kabobs with watermelon or grill on its own before adding on top of a grilled protein or dicing and adding to a whole grain side dish for extra flavor," Jones says. It tastes especially great with meat. "Serve as a side dish with pork, or make some pineapple chicken," Schapiro says. Or enjoy a burger topped with avocado and a slice of grilled pineapple.
Pears are rich in fiber and contain antioxidants, which can decrease inflammation in the body. "Pears contain anthocyanins which may help to prevent diabetes," Schapiro says.
Cut the pears in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Brush or spray with olive or canola oil and place them cut side down on the grill on high heat. Cook for about ten minutes, or until heated through and tender. Flavor the pears with cinnamon and serve with a salad or ice cream for dessert.
Bananas are rich in potassium, which helps regulate fluid balance on warm summer days. Plus, they're a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth. "Ripe bananas are more rich in antioxidants, too, so don't be afraid of the natural sugars," Jones says.
You can leave the peel on the banana, but slice it lengthwise along the top. Wrap in foil and grill until it reaches your desired texture. Scoop directly out of the peel and top with some dark chocolate chips and yogurt—or whipped cream—for dessert.
"Alternatively, you can slice the banana lengthwise along the top. add a little honey or maple syrup to the flesh, and grill flesh side down just until caramelized," Jones suggests.
"Watermelon is a fluid rich that provides a good source of vitamin C, as well as the antioxidant citrulline, which has been associated with improved blood pressure and may aid those participating in endurance and strength training, Jones says.
You'll want to grill thicc (note the extra c) cubes of watermelon, and to leave them on the heat until you see some defined grill marks. "It offers a caramelized but smoky flavor, and is great on kabobs," Jones says. "I recommend topping with a sprinkle of feta, a drizzle of balsamic, and a little mint for a delicious side dish."