Summertime means barbecue season and we couldn't be more excited to fire up the grill. The best side dishes for a summer barbecue will add flavor and color to your perfectly grilled chicken, burgers, or steaks.
We've put together this article all about the most delicious side dishes to give you inspiration for your next family cookout. We've even broken it down by dishes that can be made ahead of time and dishes that are served hot so you can organize the perfect barbecue menu to give yourself more time to spend with friends and less time in the kitchen or at the grill.
25+ Best BBQ Side Dishes
There are a few classic side dishes that complement barbecue perfectly, but why limit yourself when there are so many creative side dish recipes to try? Here are some of the best BBQ side dishes and some tips for making them for your next family cookout.
Quick List: Side Dish Ideas
- Pasta Salad
- Potato Salad
- Corn Salad
- Cucumber Salad
- Garden Salad
- Caprese Salad
- Broccoli Salad
- Fruit Salad
- Vegetable Platter
- Charcuterie Board
- Macaroni Salad
- Baked Beans
- Rice Pilaf
- Deviled Eggs
- Corn on the Cob
- Roasted Potatoes
- Mac and Cheese
- Pigs in a Blanket
- Devils on Horseback
- Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers
- Onion Rings
- Grilled Zucchini
Sides to Make Ahead of Time
Cool and refreshing sides marry well with smoky and savory barbecue. Dishes like pasta salad, potato salad, and corn salad are great choices. These mixed-ingredient recipes can be made 24 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator until serving.
Basic Pasta Salad
Combine cooked and cooled pasta with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Then toss a light Italian dressing to coat everything. For an even better take on pasta salad, replace the dressing with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Potato Salad Variations
Potato salad is versatile and fun because you can simply use different flavor combinations and create different types of potato salad. For example, crispy bacon, our Original blend, and thin-sliced green onions will give your potato salad a savory flavor, while a potato salad made with fresh dill and a creamy dressing gives a garden-fresh flavor.
A top pick for MVP of the side dishes is traditional coleslaw, another great side that is better when made ahead of time. Try using thinly sliced napa cabbage, homemade ranch dressing, and fresh herbs to create a unique slaw.
Garden Salad Options
Refreshing garden salad recipes can be prepped the night before the barbecue, but you'll want to keep the lettuce and dressing separate until you are ready to serve. Adding salty feta cheese is a great way to elevate garden salads.
- Romaine and green leaf lettuce are common base ingredients, but adding red leaf, baby spinach, and arugula will add color and flavor.
- Broccoli salad is a popular non-leafy garden salad that combines fresh broccoli with dried cranberries, bacon, and dressing and can be made the night before. Broccoli salad tends to be more popular than you might expect at the summer cookout.
- Don't forget about fruit salad. The delightful blend of fresh fruit is a classic dish for a summer barbecue. Grapes, apples, pineapple, and fresh watermelon are easy additions that can be made the day before. Serve with fresh whipped cream or crème fraîche for an indulgent treat.
Crunchy vegetables can also be prepped ahead of time and served cold. Fresh cucumbers, slivered carrots, cauliflower, and juicy tomatoes make an attractive spread and go great with ranch dressing, creamy feta cheese, and other types of dipping sauces. Vegetable trays go great with charcuterie boards, which can also be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until it is time to serve.
The classic caprese salad is a fancy-looking side dish recipe that is easy to make. Simply thinly slice fresh summer tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and arrange on a platter alternating basil, cheese, and tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar when ready to serve. This one is best made the day of the BBQ to prevent the basil leaves from wilting.
One of our favorite sides at a barbecue is a big, bubbly pot of Southern-style baked beans. Even though this dish is served hot, it can be made beforehand.
If nothing else, at least give yourself time for the beans to soak. Soaking white beans overnight leaches out some of the sugars that cause gas formation.
You can sauté bacon, onions, and peppers in a pressure cooker, put drained white or navy beans in, then add brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, and ketchup.
In about an hour, you'll have a pot of beans that you can store in the fridge overnight, then heat up in the oven the next day. We've even heated baked beans up in a carbon steel skillet in the smoker.
Sides to Make Day-Of
These dishes are best made on the day you plan to barbecue. They are best fresh and hot, but that doesn't mean you can't do a lot of the prep work ahead of time.
Deviled eggs are a great side that is best made the day of. Get a jump on the recipe by boiling the eggs a day or two ahead of time. The trick to deviled eggs is to mix the egg yolks with mayo, Miracle Whip, and mustard, then pipe or spoon into the halved egg whites. You can sprinkle the tops with salt and paprika for a traditional side dish, or experiment with making them a little more unique – we like to sprinkle on some of our Cajun blend for a little kick.
One of our favorite sides is roasted baby potatoes. This simple recipe takes about an hour but results in delicious snacks. Look for small potatoes free of soft spots and bruising. Wash and pat dry the potatoes, then drizzle them with olive oil. Coat them in ground black pepper, coarse salt, and garlic powder. Use a fork to puncture the potatoes in several places, then bake at 400 degrees until you have fork-tender potatoes, 40 minutes to one hour.
If you'd rather grill them, check out this recipe.
Summertime is the best time for grilled vegetables because so many wonderful things are ripe and available. The choices are endless – whether it's okra that you are grilling, fresh corn on the cob, or plump green beans. One of our favorites is grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon. Nothing says summertime like a plate of delicious grilled vegetables fresh from the garden.
Speaking of corn on the cob, one of the fun ways to offer something different is to make Mexican street corn. Simply brush grilled corn on the cob with mayonnaise and sour cream, roll in cotija cheese or crumbled feta cheese, then sprinkle with chili powder and lime juice. Mexican street corn is an easy way to turn ho-hum corn on the cob into a memorable side dish your friends and family will rave about.
Cornbread is another easy side to whip up on the day of the barbecue. Did you know that you can even cook cornbread in the smoker? It gives the cornbread a delicate, smokey flavor that perfectly balances the sweetness of the corn.
Fan-Favorite Mac and Cheese
There are a few ways to make mac and cheese a standout side dish, but it really comes down to the creamy cheesy sauce. The secret to perfectly creamy stovetop mac and cheese is to use Velveeta, cream, and butter to create a silky smooth sauce. Then we like to sprinkle our Chipotle blend on top, but you can also use Butter or Original. This is another recipe that you can use gluten-free pasta to provide sides for friends and family with food allergies.
There are a few sides that are made in the oven that we simply love.
One is Pigs in a Blanket which you can make with cocktail wieners or hot dogs, then wrap in flaky pastry dough and bake.
Another great baked side is Devils on Horseback, a classic that is typically made with dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. Meatballs are another super simple side that you can toss together, pop in the oven, and serve cold or hot.
Pretty much anything wrapped in bacon is our favorite, and that is certainly true for Jalapeño Poppers. The easiest way to make them is to slice the peppers in half, remove the core and seeds, and stuff them with cream cheese. Then wrap the jalapenos in bacon and bake until crispy.
For the Fryer
There are a ton of great options for deep-frying veggies in the summertime. Classic onion rings are a great way to go, but you can also use zucchini, carrots, and pretty much any other vegetable to create crispy and delicious side dishes.
Sweet potato fries are all the rage right now, mainly because they are delicious.
Best BBQ Side Dishes for Your Next Summer Cookout
Choosing which sides to make can be a struggle when there are so many wonderful options available. Often, the best way is to select three to four recipes that you want to make and then make variations that go with the type of protein you are cooking.
Many of the dishes on our list today go great with just about anything, but some are better suited for rich, hearty meals while others can almost be considered meals on their own.
Our Main Tip
We like to try and make our sides the day before whenever possible and then limit the sides we are making on the day of the barbecue to one or two items that are easy to manage. This way, we are not overworking ourselves and we still have time to spend with friends and family.
There are a few items you should have on hand for your next cookout. These essentials will make your day go smoothly and ensure you aren't wasting time and energy.
The biggest thing is to make sure you have plenty of fuel (either wood pellets, charcoal or propane) before you start cooking. We always recommend having extra on hand just in case.