Grilled Desserts: Not Just For Pineapple Anymore
Caramelized pineapple, check. Nutella pizza and doughnut sundaes? Your summer dessert repertoire is about to get a lot more exciting.
You’re hanging out with friends in the backyard, the last crumbs from the burgers have been cleared away, and you casually drop the surprise. “Oh, I thought we’d grill dessert tonight.”
Now that you have everyone’s attention, the evening’s entertainment can begin.
Sure, grilling your summer dessert might sound a little out-there, but in reality it can be as straightforward and delicious as searing some fruit on the warm grates and serving it with a pouf of whipped cream. Or you can expand the concept and grill-bake dessert nachos, say, or a juicy fruit crisp. (Bonus: no heating up the kitchen).
Hot and sweet, with a possible touch of char. What’s not to love? Once you get your tongs around these five riffable concepts and 16 crazy-goood recipes, you can even dream up your own creations. Just be sure to invite your guests to join in the fun.
Note: Aim for medium heat to caramelize grilled desserts without instantly carbonizing them (go for about 350°F; you can hold your hand 5 inches above the cooking grate about 7 seconds).
1. Grill some sturdy fruit
Beginners, start here. If you've ever had a bite of sweet, golden-brown grilled pineapple, you know why it’s a classic. But any somewhat sturdy summer fruit such as stone fruit or pears works beautifully. Of course you want to be sure dessert doesn’t taste like dinner, so give the hot grates a good scrub with a wire brush before you get started. After the fruit comes off the grill, you’ve got some tasty options for toppings.
Grilled Peaches With Honey and Yogurt
Only four ingredients (cinnamon, in addition to the fruit, honey, and vanilla Greek yogurt) add up to a nearly instant grilled dessert.
Grilled Pineapple Kebabs with Honey & Lime
Skewering fruit chunks doesn’t take a lot of time and the results look impressive. Cookin’ Canuck brushes these with olive oil, citrus, and honey and adds fresh mint for serving.
Grilled Peaches and Cream
Take the concept of warm-fruit-plus-topping a little further with a balsamic-honey glaze that doubles as a final drizzle. Then combine cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk and layer the components for parfaits.
Grilled Doughnut and Pear Sundae
Yes, you can grill doughnuts! And pears coated in cinnamon-sugar. And then you can top the works with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and plenty of caramel sauce. You’re welcome.
2. Let them eat cake
Here's another popular category of grilled desserts, ones based on pound cake or angel food cake. A quick turn over the heat creates handsome grill marks that spell caramelization and flavor. For different effects, change up the way you cut the cake.
Grilled Pound Cake Strawberry Shortcake
Just toast thick slices of pound cake and top with whipped cream and fresh fruit for a warm version of strawberry shortcake. That's it. (Vanilla ice cream would be amazing here, too.)
Pound Cake and Berry Campfire Skillet Dessert
If you haven’t taken your cast-iron skillet from the kitchen to the grill, you’ll want to so you can toast cubes of cake in butter, add berries and chocolate candies, and let the works soften off the heat under a tent of foil.
3. Make a sweet pizza
Talk about a crowd-pleasing concept. Roll out some store-bought pizza dough, set it in a pizza pan (or right on the grill), and add creative toppings. Chocolate and fruit, Nutella and bananas, blueberries and cream cheese—you might need to try them all.
Grilled Dessert Pizza
You know how chocolate and oranges were made for each other? Or was it chocolate and raspberries (or mixed berries) that were made for each other? In this recipe you can choose the "both" combination. For nice even coverage, scatter chocolate chips over the warm dough to melt.
The name doesn't quite say it all. Myrecipes cooks the pizza dough over indirect heat, a smart move you'll want to remember if you’re concerned about possible scorching (get more tips for two-zone cooking here). Dreaming about a scoop of ice cream? Go for it.
Grilled Blueberry Dessert Pizza
If you took the flavors of a blueberry danish, turned them into pizza, and cooked the “pastry” on the grill, you’d have this recipe.
4. Reconsider the s’more
Nothing wrong with toasting marshmallows on skewers over the grill and turning them into the usual s’more. Consider, though, using doughnuts instead of graham crackers. Or layering the works for "nachos." Or tucking in bacon (I mean, yeah, right?).
Grilled S’mores Doughnuts
Instead of adding the standard squares of chocolate, dunk gooey, marshmallow-filled grilled doughnuts in warm chocolate sauce.
The kids will want to help layer graham crackers with two sizes of marshmallows and caramels as well as chocolate. (Keep this in mind for Father's Day and other occasions.) A disposable aluminum pan makes clean-up easy.
Salty sweet dessert fans, meet your new obsession. Framed Cooks bakes the bacon in a regular oven so it's ready to tuck into the s'mores, but you could also use a cast-iron skillet right on the grill.
5. Grill as oven: fruit crisps and more
While it may not be standard practice, there’s no reason you can’t use your grill like an oven to bake dessert. The only trick to keep in mind is that a super-smoky charcoal fire can make buttery dessert toppings well, super-smoky. Go for a gas grill if you have the option, or be sure your charcoal grill has burned down somewhat.
Grilled Skillet Raspberry Crisp
Here’s more delicious proof that you need a cast-iron skillet as part of your grilling-tools arsenal. Be sure to cover the grill when you make this or any grill-baked recipe so the topping cooks through.
Grilled Pineapple Crisp
My Heart Beets takes a worth-it extra step for her dessert, grilling the pineapple slices on their own to develop some deeper flavors, then piling the fruit in a skillet with a crumbly topping to grill-bake.
Grilled Apricot Puffs
Ready to show off your grilled dessert chops? While you caramelize fresh apricots in lavender sugar in a cast-iron skillet, grill-bake mini Dutch baby pancakes in a muffin pan. (Yes, you can use a muffin pan on the grill.) Plate the puffs with sweetened crème fraîche and the apricots, and take a bow.