Warmer weather is upon us, and it’ll be grilling season in no time. Thankfully, not all of these stick-tastic recipes require grills; in fact some don’t require any cooking at all. While the word kebab may draw thoughts of chunks of chicken and beef, layering food on sticks goes far beyond meat. We’ve got skewers stacked with fruit, veggies, salad, sandwiches, and even pancakes. So grab an arsenal of bamboo skewers (or fancy wire ones like these), and let’s get skewering!
1. Caprese Sticks
Take the popular Italian salad to new cocktail-snack levels with these skewers. They couldn’t be simpler — fresh mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil leaves. No chopping, dicing, or slicing required. Drizzle with balsamic glaze for some extra flavor!
2. Healthier Corn Dogs
Corn dogs are known for being a naughty once-in-a-blue-moon (or carnival) snack. But this version uses whole-grain corn meal, whole-wheat pastry flour, honey to sweeten, and uncured turkey hot dogs — meaning they’re nitrate and nitrite free. So go ahead, pretend you’re at the fair.
3. Watermelon and Feta Skewers
Stack evenly-sized squares of feta cheese and watermelon for a sweet-and-salty treat. Plus, watermelon's known for its potential to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease) Determination of citrulline in watermelon rind. Romando, A.M., Perkins-Veaize, P.M. US Department of Agriculture, Mississippi. Journal of Chromatography 2005 June; 1078 (1-2): 196-200. Effects of watermelon supplementation on aortic blood pressure and wave reflection in individuals with prehypertension: a pilot study. Figueroa, A., Sanches-Gonzalez, M.A., Perkins-Veazie, P.M., et al. Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL. American Journal of Hypertension. 2011 Jan; 24(1): 40-44. . Serve in smaller bites on tooth picks, or larger portions on long skewers. Olive oil, black pepper, sea salt, and sliced basil amp up the light appetizer.
4. Cilantro-Lime Beef Satay
The word satay describes Southeast Asian inspired pieces of meat grilled on a skewer, usually dipped in a spicy sauce. This minimal meal focuses on the main ingredient: meat (but feel free to serve it on a bed of greens or other veggies). The meat is marinated in a lime-and-soy sauce-based mixture, then delicately weaved on the skewers before grilled.
5. Grilled Peach, Basil, Sausage, and Mozz Skewers
This variation on the classic Caprese calls on the traditional sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella, but adds the sweetness of grilled peaches and Italian chicken sausage. Enjoy as an appetizer or even for a light lunch.
6. Tuna and Avocado Skewers
Light, fresh, and effortless, these skewers highlight the two main ingredients: tuna and avocado. Lime gives the summery pair a citrusy kick, while herbs and red chili flakes add flavor and heat. It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with avocados at Greatist, and it’s for good reason: The creamy fruit is loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin E Monounsaturated fatty acids prevent the aversive effects of obesity on locomotion, brain activity, and sleep behavior. Sartorius, T., Ketterer, C., Kullmann, S., et al. Diabetes, 2012 Jul;61(7):1669-79. Vitamin E as an antioxidant/free radical scavenger against amyloid beta-peptide-induced oxidative stress in neocortical synaptosomal membranes and hippocampal neurons in culture: insights into Alzheimer's disease. Butterfield, DA, Koppal, T., Subramaniam, R., et al. Department of Chemistry and Center of Membrane Sciences, University of Kentucky, Kentucky. Reviews in Neurosciences, 1999;10(2);141-9. .
7. Tandoori-Grilled Broccoli and Cauliflower
The word tandoori stems from the word tandoor — a type of Indian clay oven. Tandoori refers to the marinated meet, cheese, or vegetables skewered and cooked in that oven. In this recipe, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, and tomato are coated in a traditional Tandoori spicy marinade made from yogurt, chickpea flour, lemon juice and tons of spices including turmeric, known for its ability to relieve pain, swelling, and redness Curcuma as a functional food in the control of cancer and inflammation. Schaffer, M., Schaffer, P.M., Zidan, J., et. al. Institute of Oncology, Ziv Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, Zefat, Israel. Journal of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 2011; 14(6): 588-97. .
Photo by Sommer Collier via A Spicy Perspective
8. Antipasto Skewers with Herb Vinaigrette
These guys have all the variety of an antipasto platter neatly joined on one little stick. They’re a great make ahead dish, with easy to assemble ingredients — mozzarella balls, hard salami, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, olives, and basil.
9. Grilled Eggplant Rolls
Reminiscent of eggplant parm (just without the tomato sauce), these skewers feature thinly sliced eggplant coated in breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan. Roll the slices before skewering and cooking either on the grill or in a skillet.
10. Scallop, Orange, and Cucumber Kebabs
For a protein, fruit, and veggie combo, these kebabs make for a well-balanced hors d’oeurve. Honey and orange juice sweeten, while ginger — known for its ability to quell tummy problems — adds a slightly spicy bite Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Ernst, E., Pittler, M.H. Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, UK. British Journal of Anaesthesia 2000 Mar;84(3):367-71. Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial. Vutyavanich, T., Kraisarin, T., Ruangsri, R. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Obstetrics and Gynecology 2001 Apr;97(4):577-82. .
11. Sandwich On a Stick
So this “on a stick” adaptation is completely silly, but fun nonetheless. Sandwich (very) small servings of lettuce, turkey, tomato, and cheese between small rounds of whole-wheat bread for an adorable snack. There’s no way one of these little guys would fill you up in the same fashion as a real sandwich, but pack up three or 4, and you have something more substantial! Add another skewer snack for a more balanced meal!
12. Salad On a Stick
Forks and knives are so overrated. Make a classic garden salad finger food by stacking hunks of carrot, cucumber, lettuce, and tomatoes (or whatever else you like on salads!). Dip into a healthy dressing of choice.
13. Marinated Greek Chicken Skewers
High in protein, these skewers consist mostly of marinated chicken alternated with green and red bell peppers and red onion. Olive oil and lemon juice provide the base for the easy Greek-inspired seasoning along with garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.
14. Grilled Mustardy Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts may be most kid’s very least favorite vegetable, but when cooked right, the nutritional superstar can be flavorful and void of their stereotypical bitterness. This recipe is really adaptable (just sprouts, whole grain mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper), and can be customized with honey or a touch of chili powder.
15. Cilantro Pesto Grilled Shrimp
A pretty green pesto can brighten up any meal. The shrimp on these skewers get their hue from spinach and cilantro rather than the usual basil. Allow the shrimp to marinate in the pesto to really soak up the flavor before they hit the grill. (Save some sauce for dipping, too!)
Photo by Bev via Bev Cooks
16. Chicken Caesar Salad Kebab
Another salad takes skewer form with this Caesar variation. Instead of layering each of the salad’s ingredients on the skewer, these hold just the meat. Plate the skewers on a bed of romaine, then top with freshly shaved Parmesan cheese and baked whole-wheat croutons.
17. Prosciutto and Papaya Skewers with Basil and Raspberries
These sweet and savory skewers are seriously beautiful. While the recipe uses toothpicks, feel free to layer the ingredients onto full-length bamboo skewers. There’s no cooking or marinating either, just basil prosciutto, papaya, and raspberry.
18. Grilled Coconut Sweet Potato Kebabs
Part veggie superfood, part dessert, these skewers have all the fixings of a sweet (but healthy) snack or side dish. Cubed sweet potato hits the stovetop for a quick boil, then it’s time for the grill. Top with unsweetened coconut flakes and dip in plain Greek yogurt (add honey if you’d like a little sweetness).
19. Duck and Apricot Brochettes
Brochettes, another fancy name for kebab, generally feature meat as the main ingredient. These brochettes line cubes of duck and fresh apricot halves (both drizzled in balsamic vinegar and olive oil). For leaner meat, be sure to trip some of the fat from the duck breast before seasoning and cooking.
20. Shrimp and Chorizo Bites
These bite-sized skewers are like yin and yang: Each shrimp hugs a small medallion of chorizo. The recipe instructs to sear the shrimp in oil, but feel free to bake or grill them to cut back on added fat.
21. Shrimp Boil On a Stick
This idea is simply genius. While the fun of a shrimp boil is usually a big mess of corn, seafood, and potatoes chucked onto the center a picnic table, the summer favorite gets a more refined makeover with this recipe. Boiled potatoes, grilled corn on the cob, andouille sausage, and shrimp make the meal on the stick. Don’t forget the Old Bay seasoning!
22. Hot Dog Skewers With Creamy Avocado Dip
For a more grown up (and healthier) hot dog appetizer, load up a skewer with slices of hot dog and squares of corn tortilla. The avocado-cilantro dip is a smoother, lighter version of guacamole. For a healthier take on the dip, use plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Make sure to check that hotdog label to weed out any less-than-desirable ingredients, and opt for an all-natural, nitrate-free variety.
23. Thai Grilled Shrimp Skewers
We’ve got one with shrimp, one with watermelon, and another with avocado. This skewer marries the three along with Thai flavors like coconut milk, lime juice, and heat from chili pepper and ginger for a protein-packed mini-meal.
Photo by Gina Homolka via Skinny Taste
24. Berry Yogurt Popsicles
We couldn’t make it through this list without including the classic treat on a stick — the popsicle! This version uses fat-free yogurt, and real fruit (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries).
25. Buckwheat Belini Breakfast Kebabs
This healthy, gluten-free breakfast is as cute as it is tasty. Layer tiny buckwheat blinis (basically mini pancakes) with fruit of choice. This recipe uses banana slices and halved apricots, but strawberries or peaches would be great too. For perfectly uniform blinis, use a melon baller to scoop batter into the pan.
26. Healthy Chocolate Cake Pops
Since cake pops were all the rage for a short stint, we knew there had to be a healthier variation out there. The cake itself is made mostly from almond flour, cocoa powder, applesauce, eggs, and stevia to sweeten. And instead of sticking the cake crumbs together with frosting like most cake pops call for, this recipe uses no-sugar-added raspberry fruit spread.
27. Frozen Grapes on a Stick
Believe us when we say this is actually the easiest item on the list. One ingredient only, the toughest part is waiting for the grapes to freeze. The tiny fruit is made up of hundreds of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, and vitamins C and K, known to prevent and repair cell damage in the body Phenolics and antioxidant capacity of table grapes (vitis vinifera l.) cultivars grown in Chile. Lutz, M., Jorquera, K., Cancino, B., et al. Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de Alimentos Funcionales, Univ de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile. Journal of Food Science, 2011 Sep; 76 (7), 1088-93. .
28. Lemon, Ginger, and Strawberry Pancake Skewers
These baby pancakes use whole-wheat flour, flax seeds (known for their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids) for a healthier sweet breakfast. Ginger, lemon zest, and strawberries flavor the skewer. You can even assemble the pancakes on the sticks like lollipops!
29. Berries With Yogurt Dip
Berries, known for their high antioxidant levels (like the anthocyanins in blueberries), are a sweet snack all on their own. Dip them in a mixture of Greek yogurt, cinnamon, and honey, and you’ve got yourself a superfood packed snack.
30. Mint-Chocolate Fudge Pops
Try these for a guilt-free, snack-size popsicle variation. You only need five ingredients to throw these treats together — yogurt, peppermint extract, vanilla extract, stevia, and a pinch of salt. As an optional ingredient, spinach adds a beautiful green color as well as a ton of vitamin A, which is a known immunity booster Spinach or carrots can supply significant amounts of vitamin A as assessed by feeding with intrinsically deuterated vegetables. Tang, G., Qin, J., Dolnikowski, G.g., Russell, R. M., Grusak, M. A. Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005; 82(4): 821-828. . Feel free to add in some dark chocolate chips too!
31. Melon Flower Pops
Fruit on a stick has become a go-to healthy gift to send to friends and family, but it usually comes with a hefty price tag. These little pops alternate melon balls with melon flowers. Both watermelon and cantaloupe are known for health benefits like large doses of vitamin A and C.
32. Mini Pumpkin Pie On a Stick
It’s no surprise these aren’t exactly the healthiest “on a stick” dessert, but they’re small and have built in portion control. Fill cut outs of whole-wheat pie shells with pumpkin pie filling (here’s a healthier version). Bake and enjoy (on a stick)!
Photo by Allen via LetsTalkFitness
33. Chocolate Bananas On a Stick
Make your own banana stand at home by freezing banana halves and topping them with healthy ingredients like dark chocolate, nuts, goji berries, and cinnamon. Bananas contain 3 grams of filling fiber, and high levels of potassium to help the body’s cells, tissues, and organs function properly The major electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and chloride. Terry, J. Journal of Intravenous Nursing: The Official Publication of the Intravenous Nurses Society, 1994 Sep-Oct;17(5):240-7. .
34. French Toast Kebabs
Mmm. This breakfast makes a normally sloppy meal a little classier. To make the French toast healthier, we suggest using whole-wheat bread instead. And feel free to sub plain yogurt for the buttermilk.
35. Almond Butter and Strawberry Jam French Toast Kebabs
Layered with almond butter and jam, this French toast on a stick variation is very reminiscent of a PB&J. To make this recipe a bit healthier, try whole-wheat bread and look for an all-fruit jam.
36. Sangria On a Stick
Ooo, an adult beverage made into dessert!? Yes, please. This healthier pop gets its flavor from ginger, lime, oranges, pineapple, rum, and wine. Good news: Red wine is rich in antioxidants called resveratrol and proanthocyanidin, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes Red wine: A drink to your heart. Saleem, T.S., Basha, S.D. Department of Pharmacology, Annamacharya College of Pharmacy, new Boyanapalli, Rajampet, Andhra Pradesh, India. Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research, 2010 Oct;1(4):171-6. Resveratrol protects against experimental stroke: putative neuroprotective role of heme oxygenase 1. Sakata, Y., Zhuang, H., Kwansa, H., et al. Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore , MD. Experimental Neurology, 2010 Jul;224(1):325-9. .
37. Iced Coffee Pops
Coffee, milk, and a sweetener of your choice dive into popsicle molds and take a trip to the freezer in this easy recipe. If you don’t have popsicle molds, try paper cups (let the mixture freeze halfway before inserting the sticks). Aside from a little caffeine boost, coffee delivers health benefits like a lowered risk of some cancers and increased endurance during a workout Caffeine and endurance performance. Tarnopolsky, M.A. Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Henderson General Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Sports Medicine. 1994 Aug;18(2):109-25. .
38. Cherry and Apple Whiskey Sour Poptails
These poptails (popsicle plus cocktail — genius!) mix sweet with sour for a delicious boozy dessert. Cherries and an apple provide the sweetness, while limejuice and sweet and sour mix bring on the sour. The antioxidants anthocyanins (which give cherries their color) have been shown to aid in muscle recovery after a tough workout, plus apples are a great source of vitamin C.