Grilling Extravaganza. Delicious Food and Joyful Celebrations in the Background

High-Protein Recipes for Your Summer Cookout

by JJ Virgin on July 2, 2024

Nothing like a good meal sizzling on the grill in the summer! Even better when it’s high in protein to support your health goals all season long.

Typical cookout foods like buns, chips, and sugary desserts are packed with unhealthy carbs and fats that can spike your blood sugar and cause energy crashes. But don’t worry—you’ve got plenty of great protein options! Protein keeps you feeling full longer and curbs hunger better than carbs or fats.1 It also burns more calories during digestion.2

Plus, your body prioritizes protein. If you don’t get enough, you might end up overeating to compensate.3 Eating protein first can help you avoid overindulging in things like potato salad or pecan pie.

With that in mind, these high-protein recipes are perfect for your next cookout. They’re satisfying, grill-friendly, and won’t leave you feeling deprived, all while giving your protein intake a boost.


Elevate your grilling game this season with these recipes that sidestep the gluten and empty carbs in typical white-bread buns. 

When it comes to meat, quality matters. For beef recipes below, always choose grass-fed and grass-finished meats, which are more nutritious and have higher amounts of antioxidants.4 These recipes ensure your summer cookouts are deliciously satisfying without compromising your health.

Three burgers with avocado spread and fresh greens, served with lime wedges, red chili peppers, and sliced onions, presented in a rustic wooden tray.

Tex-Mex Burgers With Avocado Salsa

Fire up your grill for these Tex-Mex Burgers with Avocado Salsa, a vibrant twist on your typical cookout fare that packs a powerful protein punch with 25 grams per serving. Add this portable, versatile Quinoa Tabouli Salad for another 5g of protein in every serving. Seal it in an airtight container and keep it cool till you serve it.

These burgers blend grass-fed lean ground beef with crisp, nitrate-free bacon, seasoned with cumin, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. It’s all topped with a fresh avocado salsa that combines creamy avocado, juicy plum tomatoes, crunchy red bell pepper, and a hint of heat from jalapeño, all brightened with lime juice and cilantro.

Close-up of a turkey burger topped with melted cheese, red onion slices, and a generous portion of avocado spread, served on a bed of fresh lettuce and tomato.

Cilantro Turkey Burger With Chipotle Ketchup

Spice up your cookout with these Cilantro Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Ketchup, which have a perfect blend of flavors for a lively fiesta. These burgers use lean ground turkey blended with detoxifying cilantro and a kick of chili and garlic and have 30 grams of protein per serving. 

Homemade chipotle ketchup—infused with smoked paprika, onion powder, and a splash of apple cider vinegar—adds a smoky depth that complements the juicy burgers wonderfully. We serve these burgers on brown rice tortillas with fresh spinach, sliced tomato, and creamy avocado.

A grilled grass-fed beef burger topped with roasted tomatoes and served on a portobello mushroom bun with fresh lettuce. The burger is presented on a white plate with a side of sauce and a salad in the background.

Grilled Portobello Burgers With Roasted Tomato-Churri Sauce

Indulge in the unique flavors of these Grilled Portobello Burgers with Roasted Tomato-Churri Sauce. This gourmet twist on traditional burgers uses portobello mushroom caps as a bun. 

The Roasted Tomato-Churri Sauce is a robust, tangy blend of roasted beefsteak tomatoes, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper, finished with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and a hint of allulose for sweetness. Every serving provides a whopping 41 grams of protein.


Steak is the quintessential protein powerhouse, a little indulgent but perfect for throwing on the grill at any summer cookout. Worth repeating: quality matters. Always choose grass-fed/ grass-finished meat

Some of the recipes below use a skillet or pan. You can easily convert these instructions to grilling. Here are some general tips to help you make the switch:

  • Preheat your grill: A good rule of thumb is to let it heat for at least 10-15 minutes. Use high heat for searing meat and medium-high for cooking through.
  • Adjust cooking times: Grilling usually involves higher temperatures than cooking in a skillet, so your cooking times might be shorter. Keep a close eye on your food to prevent burning.
  • Utilize indirect heat: Use indirect heat for foods that need to cook slowly or are prone to burning (like thick cuts of meat or delicate items). This means turning off one side of the grill, moving the coals to one side, or placing the food on the other side to cook via ambient heat rather than direct flame.
  • Prevent sticking: Grills can cause food to stick more than pans, so make sure your grill is clean and oiled. Brush a light oil coating on the grill grates or food itself before placing it on the grill.
  • Thin cuts work best: Thin cuts of meat and vegetables grill faster and more evenly. If your skillet recipe calls for thick cuts, consider slicing them thinner for better results on the grill.
  • Use a grill pan or basket: Use a pan or basket for small or finely chopped ingredients that might fall through the grill grates. This tool can also help replicate the even heating of a skillet.
  • Be mindful of liquids: Liquids and sauces can drip through the grates, which might cause flare-ups or dry out your food. If your recipe involves a sauce, consider applying it towards the end of the cooking process or cooking the food in a foil packet to retain moisture.
  • Check internal temperatures: Make sure you reach the safe internal temperatures for meat to avoid undercooking. A meat thermometer is handy for this purpose.
Two perfectly grilled grass-fed steaks garnished with rosemary and peppercorns, showcasing grill marks and juicy texture on a white background.

Grass-Fed Beef Tenderloin Steaks With Sauteed Shiitake

Beef tenderloin is prized for its unmatched tenderness, juiciness, and buttery texture, making it an indulgent, healthy choice for steak enthusiasts. These Grass-Fed Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Sauteed Shiitakes feature meltingly tender beef tenderloin that pairs flawlessly with a rich, flavorful sauce of sautéed shiitake mushrooms that support your immune and heart health. Every serving provides 20g of quality protein. Pair it with these Grilled Summer Vegetables with Green Goddess Hummus for an additional 13g of protein in every serving.

Grilled strip steak served on a wooden cutting board, sliced and topped with a fresh salsa, accompanied by a bowl of salsa. The steak is garnished with coarse sea salt and pepper.

Strip Steaks With Tomatoes, Olives, and Parsley

These Strip Steaks with Tomatoes, Olives, and Parsley are seasoned with basil, oregano, sea salt, and black pepper, bringing out the robust flavors of the meat. A vibrant topping of chopped plum tomatoes, rich Kalamata olives, and sharp shallots tossed with fresh parsley, and a splash of red wine vinegar complement these steaks, infusing them with savory Mediterranean flavors. Every delicious serving provides 36 grams of protein. 

Pesto-coated pork loin slices served with grilled vegetables, including red bell peppers, onions, and zucchini, in a wooden bowl, accompanied by a bowl of pesto. The dish is presented on a rustic wooden table with a checkered cloth in the background.

Pesto Pork Loin With Grilled Veggies

Pesto Pork Loin with Grilled Veggies requires just 10 minutes of prep time, so you’ve got more time to savor the outdoors. 

Pork loin is a tender, lean cut of meat with a mild flavor and juicy texture. It’s a versatile cut you can roast, grill, or sautée, pairing well with various seasonings and sauces. 

This recipe provides a powerful 64g of protein. And the summer-ready vegetable medley (onions, zucchini, yellow summer squash, and red bell pepper) pairs perfectly with an accompanying Basil Pesto Sauce recipe if you’ve got leftovers from your wraps!


Wild-caught fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids in addition to protein that supports heart health by reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering blood pressure. Wild-caught fish also reduces inflammation and improves brain function.5 

Vital Choice is where I get all my wild-caught fish and seafood, sourced from sustainable fisheries and delivered straight to your doorstep. With a commitment to quality and integrity, Vital Choice ensures that every bite is not only delicious but also responsibly sourced, allowing you to savor the flavors of the sea with peace of mind.*

Blackened salmon fillet served with fresh sugar snap peas, garnished with a slice of lemon and a sprig of parsley on a white plate. The salmon is seasoned with pepper and herbs.

Blackened Salmon

Don’t let the term “blackened” fool you—there’s no burning involved here! This Blackened Salmon recipe is all about bold flavors, not charred fish. It’s a quick, delicious dish that’s sure to be a hit at your cookout. Smoked and sweet paprika, ground cumin, coriander, a hint of dried thyme, and cayenne pepper give this salmon a unique flavor sure to earn raves at your cookout. Every serving has 40 grams of protein. 

Grilled shrimp skewers served on a bed of white rice with fresh cucumber, tomato, and red onion salad, garnished with a lime wedge, on a blue plate. The dish is set on a white table with additional condiments in the background.

Blackened Grilled Shrimp Skewers With Cilantro Cauliflower Rice

Blackened Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Cilantro Cauliflower Rice provides 40 grams of protein per serving. This combo of flavors is the ideal antidote to heavy cookout fare. Make the cauliflower rice ahead of time. If you’re using a grill, place a skillet on the grates, add the pre-cooked cauliflower rice, and heat it up.

Salmon with Zesty Mango, Strawberry, and Black Bean Salsa

Salsa brings a burst of fresh, vibrant flavors that complement the savory richness of seafood. This Salmon with Zesty Mango, Strawberry, and Black Bean Salsa combines protein-packed fish with zesty spices and tangy salsa to create a delightful contrast that makes each bite refreshing and satisfying. Ingredients like diced mango, strawberries, red onion, and cilantro capture the freshness of summer. We’ve added a boost of collagen peptides powder for glowing skin and a healthy gut. Altogether, every serving offers 32g of multitasking protein. 


These leaner but just-as-satisfying alternatives to red meat offer a delicious, health-conscious, protein-packed option for your summer gatherings. 

Plate of glazed BBQ chicken pieces garnished with fresh parsley, served on a white plate with a blue cloth napkin underneath. The chicken is perfectly cooked with a rich, shiny glaze.

Backyard BBQ Glazed Chicken

No summertime cookout is complete without this delicious, simple Backyard BBQ-glazed chicken, dry-rubbed with a spice blend and slathered with a tangy BBQ sauce. Most BBQ sauces are loaded with added sugar and other preservatives. Not this one: we’ve created an equally delicious recipe without the sugar. Plus, every serving packs 35 grams of protein. You’ll find accompanying recipes for the dry rub and my All-Purpose Finger-Lickin’-Good BBQ Sauce.

Barbecued Chicken Skewers

With minimal prep and maximum flavor, these smoky and spicy Barbecued Chicken Skewers are the perfect healthy meal. They’re quick to prepare and cook and great to throw on the grill for a quick bite. Serve them with a side salad or grilled vegetables for a complete and satisfying dish.

Close-up of a chicken pesto wrap filled with grilled chicken, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and a creamy pesto sauce, wrapped in a soft tortilla. The wrap is cut in half, showcasing the colorful and fresh ingredients inside.

Grilled Pesto Chicken Wraps

These Grilled Pesto Chicken Wraps combine fresh pesto, grilled chicken, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes that embody peak summer flavors! 

The result is a delicious, portable addition to any cookout, with 28 grams of protein in every serving.


While the grill sizzles with meats, toss a vibrant salad packed with leafy greens to add fiber and nutrients to your cookout. Fresh, colorful salads complement the rich flavors of grilled poultry, pork, fish, and meat, providing a refreshing balance to your cookout. 

If you’re heading to someone else’s cookout, use a big, lidded container to carry your salad. Layer heartier ingredients like cucumbers at the bottom, with delicate greens on top. Keep the dressing separate until serving to ensure everything stays fresh and crisp.

Sliced steak served on a bed of mixed greens with roasted vegetables, garnished with a lemon wedge. The steak is cooked to perfection, showcasing its tender and juicy texture.

Flank Steak Bistro Chopped Salad

This bistro-inspired Chopped Salad uses flank steak as the main protein—a flavorful, versatile cut of beef known for its long, flat shape and rich taste. This hearty salad packs freshness and savory goodness thanks to ingredients like crisp cucumber, red peppers, and a zesty Dijon mustard dressing. Plus, every serving offers 29 grams of protein.

A bowl of grilled chopped chicken over a gluten-free orzo salad, mixed with cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, and crumbled feta cheese, garnished with fresh basil. The dish is served on a rustic wooden table with a spoon on the side.

Grilled Chicken & Orzo Salad 

This vibrant Grilled Chicken & Orzo Salad is a symphony of textures and tastes—and 41g of protein in every serving! We’ve mixed grilled chicken marinated in olive oil, garlic, and sea salt with gluten-free orzo, crisp cucumbers, juicy cherry tomatoes, hearty chickpeas, tangy red onions, and kalamata olives. 

Top it with a simple, zesty dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, and garlic and finish with fragrant basil, creamy sheep’s milk feta, and crunchy pine nuts for a guaranteed hit at your cookout.

Grilled Chicken Over Cucumber & Green Papaya Salad

This Grilled Chicken over Cucumber and Green Papaya Salad captures the flavors of summer. It’s served atop a refreshing bed of shredded cucumber, crunchy green papaya, and shredded carrots. We’ve tossed this salad with minced garlic, halved cherry tomatoes, and slivered almonds for an added crunch. With a whopping 31 grams of protein per serving, this salad offers a hearty alternative to carb-heavy cookout fare.

Higher-Protein Meals Let You Make the Most Out of Summer

With cookouts in full swing, summer is the perfect time to focus on getting more protein into your diet. An eat-protein-first approach includes 30+g of protein at every meal. Don’t leave it to chance—know precisely how much protein you consume. My Protein Cheat Sheet makes it easy by listing foods containing 30-60 grams of protein, making it easy for you to ensure you’re meeting your protein goals. 

Enjoy the season while giving your body the protein it needs to thrive! Get your FREE Protein Cheat Sheet here.


  1. Healthline: How Protein Can Help You Lose Weight Naturally
  2. Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):373-85. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2004.10719381. PMID: 15466943.
  3. Gosby AK, Conigrave AD, Lau NS, Iglesias MA, Hall RM, Jebb SA, Brand-Miller J, Caterson ID, Raubenheimer D, Simpson SJ. Testing protein leverage in lean humans: a randomised controlled experimental study. PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25929. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025929. Epub 2011 Oct 12. PMID: 22022472; PMCID: PMC3192127.
  4. Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. 2010 Mar 10;9:10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-10. PMID: 20219103; PMCID: PMC2846864.
  5. National Institutes of Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.