Lemon zest on grilled green beans/Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

For Friday’s weekly grill post I want to feature green beans.  These are awesome on the grill.  Strictly speaking, you don’t need a grilling basket, but they do make the work much easier.  (I offer these at OpenSky for those who follow.)  Baskets are fairly common these days and they do make all kinds of grilling of stuff that might fall through.  If you don’t have a basket, this same technique and recipe will work with asparagus as well.

I like to toss the green veg in olive oil to which I’ve added smashed or minced garlic, and put them over high direct heat, tossing or turning them every few minutes or so.  They cook in about 7-10 minutes. If you like heat, add some dried red chilli flakes. If you like seasoning that goes well with smoke, throw some whole or crushed cumin seeds in as well.  And grill away.

But in my opinion, what really transforms grilled vegetables is finishing them with lemon zest. It makes them sparkle on the tongue, lightens the char and caramelization from the high heat and smoke.

Grilled Green Beans with Garlic and Lemon Zest

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced to a paste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, whole or crushed in a mortar and pestle (optional)
  • 1 pound green beans, stem ends picked (if you don’t have a grill pan, substitute asparagus)
  • 1 lemon for zesting
  • Salt to taste
  1. Start a fire a half hour before cooking your beans (you may be cooking other stuff on the grill, so just know that you’ll need ten minutes of medium-high to high heat for the beans—more about multiple dishes on the same grill next week).
  2. Combine olive oil and garlic in a bowl (as well as the red pepper flakes and cumin if using). Swirl the oil around with your fingers to distribute the garlic (and other seasonings).  Add the green beans and toss by hand till they’re uniformly coated.  Put them in your hot grill basket or on the hot grate and cook till they’re gorgeous and tender.
  3. Remove to a serving dish, season with salt and finish with freshly grated lemon zest (I use a Microplane, which I love).


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© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.




15 Wonderful responses to “Grilled Green Beans”

  • Susan

    Lovely and simple. My garden is producing an abundance right now so I will definately try this. Thanks, Michael.

  • Phil

    I never thought of doing green beens on the grill, but it sounds great, will definitely give this a try. Just got a new grilling basket too.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Any food that is grilled or broiled in the oven or over an open fire is what life is all about when it comes to nourishing ourselves. Eating green beans or brussel sprouts or dare I say asparagus cooked this way is akin to eating candy or chips: it is impossible, if cooked correctly with caramelization in place, to eat just one.

    Imagine sitting your kids down to watch tv with a huge bowl of roasted asparagus

  • Kathy

    Sounds awesome! I can’t believe it’s never occurred to me to grill green beans. I grill every other damn thing (current favorite: grilled okra, which is very much in season here in central TX right now).

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    I am picking my first crop of green beans here in near-Cleveland Ohio this weekend and the grill will be on so there may be grilled green beans in my future.

  • Beth

    I’ve got everything except lemons; instead, I have a bag of limes (gin & tonics for the win…). Will lime zest give it the same pop?

    • allen

      gin and tonic, my favorite summer beverage. We have 12 Bridges gin from Oregon that shines through the tonic with floral notes – if you can find it.
      I like rice wine vinegar when I don’t have lemons, save them limes for gin and tonic – yum.

  • Maureen

    Oh yum. I’ve never grilled green beans before. I’ve done asparagus lots of time so I have no idea why I never thought of doing beans. What a great dish!

  • Julie Anne Rhodes

    This is exactly why summer is my favorite time of year – fresh, flavorful ingredients, simply, but deliciously prepared and I don’t have to feel guilty about stuffing my face full of them. How fortuitous, I just bought a new Weber grill.

  • GregK

    Charred asparagus is really excellent. Charred garlic is hit or miss; it can be really bitter. My approach is almost exactly as Ruhlman describes it. Don’t skimp on the olive oil or kosher salt!

    I suggest the following modification:

    Since my fire is usually pretty hot, I just do the saute on the grill.

    Saute garlic in a little olive oil (I usually do one or two medium cloves minced), pull from the heat and cool a bit. Add lemon or lime zest (as either is available). Adding the zest now really infuses the garlic and oil with citrously goodness.

    When the veg is done, I throw everything in a big bowl, squeeze a little lemon or lime juice (what you just zested) into the mix and toss everything to combine.

    If you add crumbled queso anejo or queso fresco, along with grilled peppers onions, or mushrooms, this makes killer tacos. These are just addictive.

  • Kyle Kopecky

    I bought green beans yesterday morning at the Farmer’s Market in Chagrin Falls and grilled them for dinner last night. Delicious! And washed my grill basket with my bamboo pot scrubber! Perfect!

  • jim budros

    michael, the micro plane u are shown using to zest lemon on the grilled beans is a great tool. it’s original use and one that continues is in woodworking. in wood working the micro plane is used like a rasp or file and moved across the wood surface to be planed. you are shown holding the micro plane steady or fixed and moving the lemon. i suggest using the tool as designed and moving it across the lemon rind. in this way, zesting is simpler (in my opinon) and easier to remove all the zest. i find cutting the ends from the lemon makes microplaning esier, too. happy days, jim

  • Kristen England

    I’ve come to canning some Mojo de ajo about twice a year. A good 4 liters worth each time. Using it on green beans from the grill is redonkulously good. Very similar to what you have here Ruhlman…kinda a aglio olio e peperoncino thing. Wonderful. My 2 and 4 year olds are addicted.

  • michael pardus

    Uh, haven’t we been doing this for years in a cast iron skillet on the grill? Just blanch the veg before hand, get the pan blazing hot over the grill, and toss them in. Flip like crazy for about 45 seconds, remove, open 2nd beer, eat.


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