12 Best Plant-Based Foods For Grilling Kabobs

If you decided to eat a more plant-based diet and gave up your grill because of it, you've made a mistake. Gone are the days of grill-outs being dominated by ribs, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Modern grills are loaded to the brim with corn, onions, pineapple, red pepper, zucchini, portobello caps, and meat alternatives. Perhaps the biggest hiccup comes with trying to keep sliced fruits and veggies from falling through the grates to their fiery doom, but grill masters are innovative, and we've come up with ways to prevent such a disaster. From wood plank grilling to flat-top grilling, the options are endless, but we have a method you've likely used for both meat and vegetables before; toss them all on a skewer and enjoy kabobs. However, you may notice that veggies can be trickier to keep on those little wooden sticks than meat, so we've listed the best plant-based foods for grilling kabobs to help keep the good times rolling, sans frustration and lost soldiers.

In addition to using the right produce for kabobs, it's important to know your tips for grilling and barbecuing summer vegetables. Soaking your skewers will prevent them from charing, and using oil and keeping your grill clean can prevent sticking. Once you've got the tips down, it's time to fire up the grill for the best plant-based foods for grilling kebobs.

Cross sections of corn

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone out there who doesn't like corn. It's sweet, tender, juicy, and flavorful, and even adults can admit it's fun to eat. Classically, corn may not come to mind when considering vegetables to add to your skewers, but they certainly deserve a spot on the skewer. In order to accomplish this, it's going to take a sharp knife and a little elbow grease.

Cut your corn into inch-thick cross sections, cob and all. Use your skewer to pierce through the center of the cob, so that the kernels are facing outward from the skewer in a circle for easy noshing. This may take a moment of patience, and you may even have to make a small "X" in the center with a knife to get things started, but rest assured it's worth the trouble. Although the cob shouldn't be eaten, your guests will be able to enjoy that sweet, juicy ring of kernels. The best part about this plant-based addition to grilling kabobs is that the corn disks will help to keep everything else tightly on the skewer because that cob isn't going anywhere. It's not only aesthetically pleasing, and structurally practical, but no barbecue is complete without corn on the cob. If you so desire, season your corn on the cob before you slice it up and add it to your kabobs. Corn is flavorful in itself, but those nooks and crannies also hold onto sauces well.

Steamed mushrooms

Now, if you're a seasoned kabob maker and grill master, then you're well aware that baby 'bella mushrooms taste fantastic when grilled but are frustrating to pierce with a skewer. On paper, they are the perfect size and shape, so why do they make us want to rip our hair out? Well, uncooked mushrooms are stiff yet delicate, and split easily when pierced. So, even if you're piercing through the stem or the side, you will likely end up with a pile of broken mushrooms. Mushroom lovers, don't fret. There is a solution, and it just happens to be the unexpected way to get perfectly grilled mushrooms, every time.

Start by steaming them. That's right, simply steam them in a steamer basket on the stovetop, in the microwave, or place them in a hot, covered pan with water for a few minutes. Take this opportunity to add some tamari, seasoning, or butter to flavor the mushrooms. Even a little red wine, vinegar, or watered-down barbecue sauce can add a tangy punch. This steaming method will help break down their structure and make them much softer and malleable, almost the texture of raw meat, which is perfect for skewering. In addition, it will produce the juiciest most mouth-watering mushrooms around after they are exposed to the grill fire.

Cherry or grape tomatoes

It's like both cherry and grape tomatoes were meant to be made into kabobs. They are bite-sized, easy to skewer, and packed with flavor. They are naturally juicy, which adds a variance of texture, and are incredibly aesthetically pleasing when layered with other brightly colored vegetables. When selecting the variety of tomatoes you'd like to use, try to keep them small, which is why cherry and grape work best.

But what is the difference between cherry and grape tomatoes? At a glance, cherry tomatoes are very round like cherries, while grape tomatoes are oblong like grapes. Cherry tomatoes are incredibly juicy and pleasantly sweet. These are the variety that explodes in your mouth once you've pierced the skin with your teeth. Grape tomatoes tend to be meatier and denser, similar to plum tomatoes. Both carry a pleasing umami flavor, a slight sweetness, and are juicy and delicious, so the decision about which to use is entirely up to the master chef themselves. However, grape tomatoes might cling to the skewer ever-so-slightly better because of their density. Either way, be sure that the tomatoes are fresh and firm. Both varieties come in a rainbow of colors, so choose multi-colored tomatoes for an exceptionally beautiful kabob.

Pineapple wedges

When it comes to the grill, this isn't pineapple's first rodeo. The fruit is notorious for its relationship with the world of barbecue, whether it be the sweet addition to a barbecue sauce, a grilled layer on a loaded barbecue burger, or a sweet and juicy grilled dessert. Most fruits can be eaten both hot or cold, but pineapple tends to hold up particularly well in both categories, along with stone fruits and citrus which just seem to love the heat. However, there are some tips and tricks for grilling fruit, and pineapple in particular requires certain techniques when making its way onto a skewer.

When slicing your pineapple, cut it into thick chunks. Don't use a pineapple spiralizer, as those layers are just too thin and may split in half when pierced with a skewer. Try to layer your pineapple between red peppers, onions, shallots, and other sweet vegetables that could benefit from its syrupy juices. Use a maximum of two pineapple wedges per skewer, as their flavor is quite dominating, and risks muting the more subtle flavors around it, especially if there is other fruit in the mix. Feel free to slather the fruit up with barbecue sauce, marinade, or dry rub. Whatever is good for the veggies, is good for the pineapple, so don't be shy and lay it on thick.

Bell peppers

Roasted bell peppers are arguably the best addition to any skewer. Not only are they incredibly easy to work with, but they are also jam-packed with flavor and surprisingly sweet when roasted. Bell peppers typically come in four colors, which are technically different stages of development. Green peppers are the earliest harvested and are the least sweet and mild. As they progress from yellow to orange to red, they get sweeter and more flavorful along the way. Choose a variety of colors for beautiful kabobs, or stick to the most flavorful version to tantalize your tastebuds.

One of the most essential tips for grilling kabobs is to keep all of your cuts of produce uniform. The more consistent they are in shape and size, the less likely they will be to burn. Luckily, peppers are pretty easy to keep uniform, and because of their slight curve, they make for a great layer to help keep everything in place. Just be sure all of your curves are facing the top of the skewer, to keep your hand safe from drips, and to better ensure your layers can be tightly packed. Use them to keep juicier produce from dripping, like pineapple or marinated mushrooms. They can be packed tightly against sweet onions, which also have a curve to them as well, and even layer with other varying colored bell peppers for an eye-catching appeal.

Extra firm tofu

Most plant-based folks are familiar with tofu and know the key to its success is how it's flavored. Much like the chicken and other mild white meats, it's all about the sauce as the protein itself is a vehicle for flavor. So, if you find tofu to be bland, the issue may not be with the soy product itself, but with the preparation technique. Before it's marinated, tofu should be pressed. You can do this by freezing and thawing it, stacking books on top of it, or using a tofu press. The goal is to squeeze excess moisture out so it can act as a sponge to soak up the marinade. Let your tofu marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes, or up to a full 24 hours in the refrigerator before grilling to ensure it's fully saturated.

Tofu is more crumbly than meat, so it's important to layer it in between sturdy ingredients like peppers and onions, which will help to keep it in place. If you know quite a bit about vegetarian grilling, then you're aware that, like meat, tofu has a tendency to stick to the grill. To prevent this, be sure that your grill is cleaned properly before use, and that your marinade contains at least a little bit of oil. Use a standard barbecue sauce to flavor your tofu, or go simple with tamari and olive oil.

Sweet onion

Onions are elite when it comes to plant-based foods for grilling kabobs. However, there are many types of onions that carry unique flavors, so it's important to select the right variety for grilling. Your onions may end up with slightly raw centers, so it's important to select a sweeter variety that can be enjoyed raw. Choose vidalia onions that have a slight yellow tone to them, or red onions, because these two varieties contain quite a bit of sugar. Even just a little bit of roasting will help their sugars shine, but they will likely remain fairly crunchy, which adds a nice texture to the kabob.

After peeling your onion, cut it into quarters. The outer layers will be much larger than the inner layers, so feel free to cut those in half so that your sizes are fairly consistent. If the onion slices are slightly larger than the tofu chunks or cherry tomatoes, that's okay because they are curved and can help to cradle softer ingredients. Mash those ingredients closely together on the skewers to help infuse other ingredients with onions' unique sweet and tangy flavors.

Beyond Sausage

When it comes to vegan meats, there are some that just hit the nail on the head, while others just don't quite have what it takes to roll with the big boys. And when it comes to the grill, some just can't take the heat without crumbling apart or falling through the grates. However, there are a few types that work well on skewers, so if you're missing that meaty flavor and texture, but rather not buy or consume meat, you're in luck.

Give Beyond Sausages a try. Use a sharp knife to slice them into disks at least one inch thick. Instead of piercing through the center of the sausage, pierce through the two layers of skin. This technique will help to keep the vegan sausage on the skewer and help to keep the skin on the sausage. Because it's made from alternative ingredients, it won't be quite the texture you're used to but will act similarly on the grill. The juices from the Beyond Sausage are likely to drip down and mingle with the vegetables which makes for a pleasing flavor and mouthfeel. When cooking with plant-based meat, it's never a bad idea to load up on the fat, so feel free to add even more oil or an oily marinade to your vegan sausage. This can help to keep it juicy. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't overcook to prevent drying as well.

Fresh figs

Fruit is often very soft, and unless kept whole or halved has a tendency to fall apart on the grill. Now, there are tricks to grilling fruit, like using slightly underripe stone fruits to preserve their shapes or layering softer fruits between stiffer ingredients like peppers or onions. However, there are some fruits that just hold their own and don't require any special attention when layered into a kabob, and fresh figs hit the mark.

You may have only indulged in dried figs, which can be recognized by their light brown leathery, and shriveled exterior. However, fresh figs are deep purple or green, with a pink seedy interior. In fact, the absolute best way to enjoy figs is fresh. Load them up whole on your skewers for a juicy mouthful, or slice them in half from stem to base and skewer them through both sides of the skin to ensure a sturdy grip. Figs taste particularly delicious with robust vegetables like mushrooms and tend to pair beautifully with balsamic glaze, or sweet dressings. They are a cross between honey-sweet and berry-sweet and have a crunchy texture because of their seeds. Consider them for unique, artisanal plant-based grilling kabobs, or load them up with other fresh fruits.


Like small, delicate, sweet, garlicky onions, shallots are a fantastic option for grilling kabobs. In fact, they pair particularly well with other plant-based ingredients like grapes, figs, and mushrooms. Although it may be tempting to peel and pierce a whole shallot, you may end up with too much of a raw center which can be quite overwhelming in flavor. Instead, peel and cut your shallot, leaving a few layers stacked together before you pierce it with a skewer.

Load your shallots up on skewers with fruits and vegetables that need a little longer cooking time. There are many tips you need when cooking with shallots, but it's important to note that they are quite pungent when consumed raw. While raw shallots are quite delicious and make an appearance in salad dressings and sauces, they are often minced finely so that the consumer doesn't get a full mouthful of raw onion, which can be intense. Lather them up with oil before loading shallots onto the skewers to ensure the outsides don't burn, and that they can cook for quite a while before need to be removed. These cooked shallots are juicy and sweet and can add a pop of intensity to your plant-based grilling kabobs.


As summer hits, the zucchini come out to play. And there's a reason that these summer squash are so popular when it comes to grilling. When cooked, they become instantly tender and sweet, and they have a tendency to absorb and carry sauce particularly well. However, because zucchini has such a high water content and become soft when cooked, it's important to use the proper techniques for prepping and piercing zucchini. Start by slicing the veggie into inch-thick rings. The smaller pieces can be pierced through two layers of skin, top to bottom of the ring, and the larger pieces can be cut into half-moons. The half-moons should also be pierced through the skin. Attempting to pierce through the spongy center may result in some lost sections of squash through the grates of the grill.

Smaller zucchini have the most intense, and sweetest flavoring, so choose your produce wisely. In addition, for a sweeter zucchini flavor break the salting status quo. That doesn't mean you can't load up on other seasonings like pepper, herbs, and spices. However, if you miss that salty flavor you can always salt them after the fact, which will help it keep its firm texture and sweet undertones. Choose between green summer squash and the mildly sweeter yellow zucchini. However, both are buttery, tender, and delicately delicious and can add a soft texture to your skewers, which provides a nice variety, especially when loaded up with crunchy vegetables.


Recently, grilled watermelon has become all the rage in both the plant-based community and has even caught some attention amongst meat-eaters. It can be pressed and marinated to create an almost fish-like texture, or seasoned with sugar or balsamic to be ultra-sweet. In fact, grilled watermelon is quite delicious on its own without any assistance from the seasoning department. And although it carries a mild sweetness, grilled watermelon brings a unique texture to kabobs. Most vegetables are crunchy, or dense, along with plant-based meats and soy alternatives that are chewy. Watermelon has its own texture that's intensely juicy and tender.

You should leave the rind on watermelon when grilling, especially when it comes to kabobs. If you can include a small section of the rind with each chunk, this can ensure that it won't fall off the kabob, as you can skewer it right through the green and white portion. In addition, grilled rind can be consumed, which you can leave up to the discretion of your guests. However, if you'd prefer not to include the rind, simply be sure to layer your watermelon tightly between sturdy ingredients to help ensure that it won't shift and break apart. This juicy addition will for sure get your fingers sticky, so if folks are enjoying their kabobs right off the skewer, include a large boat-shaped onion or pepper on the bottom of the skewer to help protect your guest's hands from inevitable drips.