These BBQ food ideas don't skimp on flavour. Browse through our healthy BBQ foods the whole family can enjoy together.
From bean burgers packed with protein to griddled halloumi with courgette and asparagus, all our BBQ food ideas are light, and delicious and include some of our favourite summer Sunday dinner ideas too.
"When it comes to putting on a BBQ, look no further than how the South Africans do it – they know a thing or two when it comes to preparing a well-balanced healthy BBQ," says chef Saima Duhare, the founder of non-subscription recipe boxes It's Halal.
"It’s a wonderful way to explore diverse cuisines and get inspired with meat, veggies, fish, and carbs. Take flavours worldwide – including France, India, Portugal, and West Africa – to create an imaginative and delightful experience. Don’t be afraid to let your creativity run wild and experiment with different spice blends."
Saima says veggies that are cooked on the BBQ are the best veggies. "Embrace asparagus, courgettes, mushrooms, corn on the cob, peppers, and onions, and the possibilities are endless. Charring and grilling foods on a BBQ enhances the taste and induces the smoky flavour through caramelisation and retains moisture, making them tender and juicy with a slight crunch," she says.
Healthy BBQ food ideas
1. Mushroom burgers
Makes: 8 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins
Mushrooms make a wonderful alternative to fatty beef patties, and the juice will soak into the bread for extra taste points. Choose a large, meaty mushroom like a portobello and stuff it with goat's cheese (or blue cheese, if you prefer), pesto – we love the sun-dried tomato variety – and finely chopped rosemary for extra flavour. This recipe also uses bacon, but leave it out for meat-free folks, and it pairs brilliantly with a generous helping of sweet potato wedges.
"Elevate your burger experience by charring the mushrooms, tomatoes, and brioche buns on the BBQ. This combination results in a burst of flavour, with mushrooms developing a meaty taste and tomatoes adding a refreshing element. It's also packed with vitamins and antioxidants, making it a healthy and nutritious choice," says Saima.
How to make it even healthier: Ditch the bacon, or swap the streaky for lean-back bacon. Swap the cheese for feta, which has a lower saturated fat content. Add tomatoes for a superfood hit too, and swap the ciabatta or white crusty rolls for wholemeal pitta bread.
Get the recipe: Stuffed mushroom burgers
2. Avocado couscous salad
Serves: 6 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 35 mins
No more lame lettuce-based salads, it's time to make the side dishes center stage. This salad goes fabulously with the leanest protein done on the BBQ – grilled halloumi, griddled steak or salmon, or bbq-ed tofu work brilliantly. It's packed with superfoods – from pomegranate to red peppers and avocados – and the leftovers are just the ticket for a work lunch the next day.
How to make it even healthier: Honestly, we're not sure we can – it's the ultimate eat-the-rainbow dish. If we were being picky, we'd say it could have more of a protein hit – alongside the chickpeas and pine nuts, you could add some extra nuts to up your healthy fats, but full marks all around.
Get the recipe: Avocado and couscous side salad
3. Lime and coriander chicken burgers
Serves: 6 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins
Made with lean chicken breast, these burgers are marinated in lime, honey, and coriander for flavour without all the fat. You could also use this marinade on halloumi (fabulous with honey) or tofu. Make your own garlic mayo (and don't be shy with the garlic – it's a superfood, after all) or switch it out for a fresh tzatziki. Use watercress or rocket to add another flavour and nutrient hit.
How to make it even healthier: Pile in a more colourful salad – think radishes, grated carrot, avocado, tomatoes – and choose your bread wisely. Opt for wholemeal or sourdough, or serve minus the bun to lower your carb quota
Get the recipe: Lime and coriander chicken burgers
4. Aubergine sliders
Serves: 4-6 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins
Traditionally an oven-cooked dish, these meaty (not literally) aubergine sliders go great on a barbecue. An excellent low-carb side dish (aubergines are fabulous with lamb), or even the main attraction served on a slice of ciabatta or a bread roll. This recipe uses gruyère cheese but that could be switched to mozzarella, feta, or goat's cheese, and adding finely sliced tomato with basil and olive oil (think like a bruschetta) after cooking is a great touch.
How to make it even healthier: Omit the cheese (though the kids won't thank you for it) and go big on the tomato. And definitely serve with protein, such as lean chicken kebabs or lamb steaks.
Get the recipe: Aubergine sliders
5. Bean burgers
Makes: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins
If you can't quite convince your kids about the joys of a mushroom burger, they could be more receptive to a bean burger (they love beans, right? so why not a bean burger?). Of course, this is more butter beans and kidney beans than Heinz types on toast, but they'll love the texture and they're far more wholesome than those made with mince. Adding in a spoonful of harissa is a great move for those who can take the spice, and will elevate your burger immeasurably.
How to make it even healthier: Cram in the veggies – cucumber ribbons, thinly sliced radishes, tomatoes, and perhaps some salsa, plus guacamole for the good fats as well as the flavour punch. Jalapenos or gherkins do great things too. Oh, and choose a wholemeal bun.
Get the recipe: Bean burgers
6. Rainbow cabbage salad
Serves: 6-8 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins
Like a coleslaw with bells on, this vibrant salad is packed with bright veggies like fennel, cabbage, and red onion, and is wonderful served with grilled chicken, steak, or fish. The fennel gives it a delicious taste twist, and the pumpkin seeds give a wonderful super crunchy texture. Honestly, we could eat bowls of this solo, but it can also be added to burger buns, stuffed into wraps, or served with foil-wrapped jacket potatoes.
How to make it even healthier: Add more seeds – sunflower, for example – and nuts like pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts, which would pretty much make it a meal in itself. But it's right up there as it is for a nutrient hit – they say eat the rainbow, after all.
Get the recipe: Rainbow cabbage salad
7. Griddled halloumi, courgette and asparagus
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 15 mins
Give the veg in this dish an extra burst of flavour with a spot of smoky barbecue charring. Asparagus and courgettes both lend themselves well to a good griddling, as does halloumi, of course, and it's all wonderfully tied together with a soy, lemon, and honey dressing, with the secret ingredient of caraway seeds to add a unique flavour. Perfect solo, or with some crusty bread to mop up the dressing. Delicious.
How to make it even healthier: Throw some extra green veg in there – griddle some peppers and add spinach or fresh peas after grilling. Nuts like sliced almonds work well too next to the sweet cheese.
Get the recipe: Griddled halloumi, courgette and asparagus
8. Butterflied balsamic chicken
Serves: 2| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 40 mins
"Chicken is a staple for any BBQ, its versatility allows for a wide range of delicious flavour combinations. It is one of the most versatile and popular meats for its ability to absorb and enhance different flavours," says Saima.
This recipe butterflies the meat (ie slices the chicken breast down the middle for quicker, more even cooking and a juicier chargrilled taste) and the chicken is sticky and sweet, and completely delicious. Serve with roasted tomatoes and a simple rocket salad with Parmesan.
How to make it even healthier: This is pretty much the leanest cut of meat you could find, but you might want to add some 'good' fats – sliced avocado or guacamole would pair well, plus some sliced black olives and sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil.
Get the recipe: Butterflied balsamic chicken
9. Chicken, tomato and peach couscous
Serves: 2| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 15 mins
Peaches are in season in the summer, and there are more inventive things to do with them than just desserts, they're wonderful in savoury dishes too. Here, they are chopped with tomatoes, spring onions, and peppers and mixed with couscous flavoured with lemon and coriander. And, while this recipe used pre-cooked chicken, this is a BBQ, so we suggest chargrilling the chicken and popping it on top of the salad. Lamb chops work well too, as does halloumi for veggies or cheese obsessives.
How to make it even healthier: Drizzle some olive oil over the couscous before you fluff it up to get your omega 3s, or serve with a fillet of salmon or trout.
Get the recipe: Chicken, tomato and peach couscous
10. Barbecued salmon with creamy cucumber, sour cream and chive salad
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 17 mins
This recipe jazzes up a shop-bought sour cream dip with some fresh chives and thinly sliced cucumber, making it a simple and speedy one. Barbecue the salmon steaks, then squeeze over some fresh lemon and serve with a watercress salad. You might also want to add that BBQ staple, a potato salad, a surefire crowd-pleaser for the kids as well as the grown-ups.
How to make it even healthier: Pile on some more veggies. Avocado pairs beautifully with salmon, as does asparagus, nicely griddled with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of oil.
11. Thai-style chicken skewers
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 40 mins
These lean chicken kebabs are marinated in Thai flavours, with lemongrass and chilli in the mix (the chilli flavour will be pretty mild for the kids though). You could also add lime leaves (buy a big bag from the Asian supermarket and keep them in the freezer, they add so much flavour and can be thrown into curries, ramen, and stir-fries) as well as shallots. These skewers are packed with different veggies from across the rainbow spectrum, so that's essential vitamins covered. Tick.
How to make it even healthier: How about serving it with a Thai-style mango or papaya salad? A noodle salad with peanuts and shredded carrots works wonderfully, too.
Get the recipe: Thai style chicken skewers
12. Lamb kebab pittas
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins
"Lamb kebab pittas are a must addition to any BBQ, offering ease of preparation and a healthy protein option. Marinating the lamb infuses the flavour when charred. Served with warm pitta and a side salad makes it a wholesome combo," says Saima.
Flavoured with cumin and served with a minty yogurt, these pittas are a family-friendly winner. You could also play around with spices, using a cajun mix, or going more North African with a ras-el-Hanout. Serve with some potato wedges too for the kids (and yes, they are definitely healthier than their deep-fried friends).
How to make it even healthier: Lamb goes well with Middle Eastern flavours, so why not add some protein and good fats-rich hummus to the pittas? A smoky aubergine-based baba ganoush is a wonderful accompaniment too. And stick more veggies in there – shredded carrot, watercress, thinly sliced radishes…
Get the recipe: Lamb kebab pittas
13. Honey and soy glazed tuna with mango salsa
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins
This seared tuna is marinated in honey and soy for a balanced sweet and sour flavour, and served with a sharp, tangy mango salsa. Keep a good eye on the tuna steaks on the BBQ – just like respectable beef steaks, they should quite rightly never be well done and kept a little pink in the middle. A lean, healthy balanced meal – and the kids will love the sweet mango side dish.
How to make it even healthier: Add some healthy carbs, like a tabbouleh salad made with bulgar wheat. Garlicky green beans would be great too, and, for an extra protein hit, some sliced boiled eggs, for a nod to a niçoise.
Get the recipe: Honey and soy-glazed tuna
14. Chicken shashlik
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 35 mins
Juicy chicken flavoured with Asian spices, yogurt, garlic and ginger, and tons of veggies on a kebab makes for a family winner of a BBQ dinner. Serve with rice, flatbread, and lots of lovely dips, like raita, and maybe some hummus or tahini, depending on whether you want to go middle eastern or Indian in your flavour direction (or do both, for there are no rules).
How to make it even healthier: Make a range of salads on the side, like tabbouleh, a Levantine salad packed with herbs, tomatoes, and bulgar wheat, or how about an Asian slaw with ginger and peanuts?
Get the recipe: Chicken shashlik
15. Tofu burgers with Sriracha sauce
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins
These 'meaty' tofu burgers are packed with flavour from the Sriracha, mint, and shallots and are made crispy with a panko breadcrumb coating. Leave out the chilli sauce if the kids can't take their spice – just make sure there's a bottle on the table for the adults. Serve in vegan burger buns, or go bread free and do stacks of different salads.
How to make it even healthier: Pile on the salad – shredded carrot, radishes, watercress, some pickles, and maybe jalapenos, too. Add homemade coleslaw made with vegan mayo. Without the bread, tofu burgers could even be served as the protein element in a tasty Buddha bowl.
Get the recipe: Tofu burgers with Sriracha sauce
16. Grilled sea bass with Greek dressing
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 32 mins
A whole grilled fish is a delight on a BBQ, and the kids love the fresh flavours as much as the adults. It's best kept simple, and this recipe does so beautifully, with a Mediterranean-inspired dressing of fresh oregano with garlic, lemon, and olive oil. Serve with rice or potato wedges (sprinkled with oregano to keep up the Greek theme) and lots of grilled veggies – aubergines and courgettes and peppers are your friends here.
How to make it even healthier: Add a Greek salad. Piles of juicy tomatoes, fresh cucumber, black olives, and a chunk of good quality feta – for extra protein and calcium, but with less fat than goat or cow's milk cheeses.
Get the recipe: Grilled sea bass with Greek dressing
17. BBQ prawn skewers with lime and sea salt
Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 15 mins
This recipe serves these juicy grilled king prawns with a tangy nam pla prik style Thai dipping sauce made from fish sauce, sweet chilli, ginger, sugar, and vinegar. Though you could mix that up depending on your tastes – garlic butter is not a good idea, or they're perfect just as they are with a sprinkle of sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lime. Kids go mad for fresh prawns and will feel all grown up and capable of learning to peel them themselves. Don't skimp on napkins, though.
How to make it even healthier: Serve with a green salad – rocket or watercress, with some toasted pine nuts, fresh cucumber, and slices of avocado.
Get the recipe: BBQ prawn skewers with lime and sea salt
Looking for more light and healthy summer recipes? Check out this one for summer soup recipes, offering plenty of cold and hot options for soup.
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Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.
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