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9 Best Summer BBQ Sides That’ll Steal The Spotlight At Your Next Cookout

By Jayme Muller

July 7, 2023

As you draft up a menu for your next summer BBQ party… Most of your attention is likely on the main dish.

And while it’s certainly important to focus on the main event… It’s not the only part of your plate to take heed of!

Even the best grilled meat will feel barebones if served without a hearty spread of summer BBQ sides.

So, don’t let the side dishes fall to the sidelines! When it comes to summer cookouts… They’re just as important as the main meal itself.

If you’re in search of easy summer BBQ side dishes… Keep on reading!

summer bbq sides

Today, we’ll reveal how to plan the perfect summer side dishes for BBQ parties…

As well as share some easy recipes for delectable summer BBQ sides, that are sure to take the spotlight at your next cookout!

Quick Links:

How To Make A Good Spread of Barbecue Sides

With the right spread… Your summer BBQ sides may be the real star of the show at your next cookout.

But with limitless summer BBQ side ideas out there… How do you decide which spread will be best received by your guests?

Let’s go over some key ideas to keep in mind as you meal prep.

Keep Your Side Dishes Light

salad with salad dressing being poured over

First things first… You won’t want to go overboard at your BBQ party with super heavy side dishes.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should skimp on your summer BBQ sides, either. Far from it!

Just try to keep your sides lighter than the main meal!

Especially if you’re already serving fatty meats (it is a BBQ, after all!)… A refreshing summer salad or slaw may be more palatable than something heavy.

And with lighter BBQ sides on the menu… Your guests can sample multiple dishes, rather than filling up after just one.

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Keep Your Summer Side Dish Flavors Consistent With The Main Meal

So, your sides shouldn’t overpower the main meal…

And they also shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb!

Traditional pasta salad, baked potatoes, and coleslaw are great options… Most of the time.

If you’re having a hamburger or hot dog… You really can’t go wrong with those classic side dish recipes.

But if you’re planning to take a less traditional route… The standard summer BBQ staples may simply look out of place on your plate.

For instance, baked beans probably won’t pair well with something like tacos…

But a jalapeno cucumber salad, on the other hand, may perfectly fit the bill!

Point is, if you’re going for a themed summer BBQ menu… Keep your side dishes consistent with that theme!

Give Your Guests Options

Truly, you can never have too many sides at a BBQ party… And no one’s going to complain about having options!

Regardless of the flavor profile you’re striving to match… You should have plenty of summer BBQ sides for your guests to pick and choose from.

Not everyone has the same flavor preferences…

Some of your guests may have food allergies…

And others may be just plain picky.

With a variety of options for your guests… You’ll likely have something that appeals to everybody. No one will have to go side-less!

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

person putting food on paper plates

You’ll already have your hands full with the main dishes… Which means you won’t want to be overwhelmed with tons of complex summer BBQ sides

If you’re starting to feel the stress… Don’t sweat it. There are plenty of ways to keep things running smoothly.

You could invite your guests to bring over their personal favorite summer BBQ side dishes, to make the party potluck-style…

Tell your family to get their aprons out before the big party starts…

Or, prep some cold dishes ahead of time, and simply pop them in the fridge until your guests arrive.

Come dinnertime, you’ll only have to worry about pulling off the main meal.

Alright… With these tips and tricks in mind, are you ready to get a taste for some summer BBQ side ideas?

9 Best Summer Side Dishes For Your Next BBQ

The best BBQ side dishes don’t have to be ultra-complex.

Read on for some easy, healthy summer BBQ side dishes that can all be whipped up in a pinch!

Grilled Romaine & Corn Salad

This grilled romaine and corn salad is hearty, healthy, and best of all… It’s easy to make!

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Head of Romaine
  • 3-4 Ears of Corn
  • 3/4 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, Cut in Halves
  • Cotija Cheese
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper, To Taste

Ingredients for Avocado Cilantro Dressing:

  • 1 Whole Avocado
  • 1/4 Cup Greek Yogurt (Or Milk Alternative Yogurt to Make This Recipe Vegan)
  • 1 Cup Cilantro (Leaves & Stems)
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Salt & Pepper, To Taste

Directions:

Directions for the Avocado Cilantro Dressing:

  1. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend!

Directions for the Grilled Romaine & Corn Salad:

  1. Take husks off of corn, and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap in foil and grill on medium for about 10 minutes.
  2. While corn is cooking, cut the head of romaine in half, being sure to keep the end/root intact. This helps keep everything together while it’s grilling!
  3. Turn up the grill to a medium/high sear. Take the corn out of the foil and start searing to get nice browning on all sides. Remove corn from the grill, and cut kernels off of the ear. Set aside.
  4. Drizzle both sides of the romaine lettuce with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the flat sides onto the grill, and let sear long enough to create some browning/ light char. Flip to the other side and repeat.
  5. Take off of the grill, and chop into bite sized pieces. Toss into a salad bowl with corn and dressing. Add tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and top with a sprinkle of cotija.  ¡Buen Provecho!

Grilled Chicken Spring Rolls with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

We’ll admit it… These spring rolls are more of an appetizer than they are a true summer BBQ side.

But, they were just so delicious, we couldn’t leave them off our list!

grilled chicken spring rolls with spicy thai peanut sauce

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 1-2

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cucumber
  • Pea Sprouts, to Your Preferences
  • 1 Pound Chicken Thighs
  • Buttery Blend Seasoning (We Used Kinder’s!)
  • 4 Pieces of Rice Paper

Ingredients For The Thai Peanut Sauce:

  • 1/3 Cup Peanut Butter
  • Red Pepper Flakes, to Taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon Water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium high heat.
  2. Cut chicken thighs into strips before grilling.
  3. Season chicken with buttery blend seasoning, and grill each side for five minutes or until cooked.
  4. Wet rice paper in a bowl and let it absorb water for two minutes.
  5. Cut the cucumber into small pieces.
  6. Place cucumber, pea sprouts, and chicken onto rice paper. Fold sides and roll up.

Directions for Thai Peanut Sauce:

  1. Combine all ingredients except water and place in a microwave or saucepan.
  2. Take out and add water, and stir until smooth. 
  3. Serve and enjoy!

Mexican Elote Corn on the Cob

This spin on Mexican street corn transforms a summer BBQ classic into a mouthwatering piece of art.

If you haven’t tried it before… You’re missing out!

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 Fresh Corn on the Cob
  • 1/4 Cup Melted Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 4 Teaspoons Lime Juice
  • 2 Teaspoons of Cumin
  • 2 Teaspoons Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Cotija Cheese
  • Fresh Cilantro, to Garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium high heat.
  2. Mix mayo, lime juice, cumin, paprika, and chili powder in a bowl.
  3. When the grill is preheated, place the corn on for 7-10 minutes, rotating periodically until every side is slightly charred.
  4. When grilled, remove from heat and roll the corn in the melted butter. Then, brush on the mayo-lime mixture.
  5. Sprinkle it with cotija cheese and cilantro, and enjoy!

Zucchini Noodle Pasta Salad Recipe

This healthy, easy BBQ side uses summer tomatoes, Greek olives, and keeps things fresh with zucchini noodles!

zucchini noodle pasta salad for a bbq side dish

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Large Zucchini
  • 2 Cups Halved Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/3 Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives
  • 1/2 Cup Shaved Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients For The Dressing:

  • 5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)

Directions:

  1. Use a peeler or slicer to julienne (slice thin) the zucchinis. Then, slice the strips into long, thin noodle shapes. (Note: Keep your zucchini noodles raw! This will keep them a bit crispy, while boiling them will cause them to turn to mush.)
  2. In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk until well blended.
  3. Place zucchini noodles, tomatoes, and kalamata olives in a large bowl.
  4. Drizzle dressing over the top, and stir to combine.
  5. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Directions:

  1. Use a peeler or slicer to julienne (slice thin) the zucchinis. Then, slice the strips into long, thin noodle shapes. (Note: Keep your zucchini noodles raw! This will keep them a bit crispy, while boiling them will cause them to turn to mush.)
  2. In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk until well blended.
  3. Place zucchini noodles, tomatoes, and kalamata olives in a large bowl.
  4. Drizzle dressing over the top, and stir to combine.
  5. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Refreshing Rainbow Summer Salad

This rainbow salad will bring a welcome pop of color to your plate, and you won’t be able to resist coming back for more!

rainbow salad with olives

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Red Cabbage, Shredded
  • 1 Cup Halved Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 Whole Yellow Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 1 Large Cucumber, Diced
  • 1/2 Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives
  • 2 Green Onions, Diced
  • 1 Carrot, Peeled and Diced
  • Mozzarella Cheese Balls, Blue Cheese, Feta Cheese, or Cotija Cheese (Optional)

Ingredients For The Dressing:

  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt, To Taste

Directions:

  1. Shred Cabbage, dice veggies, and thoroughly combine in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Whisk until emulsified, then pour over the salad mixture and stir to combine.
  3. Add cheese, if desired.

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Caprese Macaroni Salad

This light and healthy Italian Caprese salad will appeal to both pasta and cheese lovers… And it’s the perfect, quick and easy weeknight fix!

caprese macaroni salad

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pound Penne Pasta
  • 2 Cups of Cherry Tomatoes
  • 5 Basil Leaves (Fresh Herbs are Preferred!)
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • 16 Oz Mozzarella Balls

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Directions:

  1. Bring lightly salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, about 10-11 minutes.
  2. Drain pasta, and place in the refrigerator to cool (about 30 minutes to an hour).
  3. Cut mozzarella balls in half and slice the cherry tomatoes. Add both to a mixing bowl, along with chopped basil.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well and pour over chilled pasta.
  5. Add mozzarella, basil, and cherry tomatoes… Serve, and enjoy!

Red Potato and Egg Salad

What can we say? This is a perfect side for most any BBQ… You truly can’t go wrong with a classic potato salad recipe!

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 2-2.5 Pounds Red Potatoes
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs, Roughly Chopped
  • 1/4 Medium Onion, Diced
  • 1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Medium Dill Pickles, Diced
  • 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Directions:

  1. Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces, place in a large saucepot, and cover with lightly salted water.
  2. On the stovetop, bring the water to a boil. Then, lower the heat, cover, and let potatoes cook through until tender, about 10-15 minutes (you should be able to easily insert a fork!).
  3. Drain potatoes and place in the refrigerator to cool, about 30 minutes to an hour.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine potatoes, eggs, onion, and dill pickles.
  6. Add mayonnaise mixture to potato mixture, and gently stir until thoroughly coated.
  7. Refrigerate for an additional hour overnight (optional) or serve immediately!

Pellet Smoked Hot Honey Cornbread

Though it may not be the lightest dish on the menu… Cornbread is an undeniable favorite.

And when baked in a pellet grill… You’ll also get to enjoy some deliciously smoky flavors from this easy, great side dish.

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Cup Cornmeal
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/3 Cup Unsalted Butter, Melted
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Egg, Room Temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat the pellet grill to 400 degrees.
  2. Thoroughly grease a 9-inch pan or cast iron skillet.
  3. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all dry ingredients.
  4. Add butter, milk, egg, and two heaping tablespoons of honey (you can also use hot honey, for an extra kick!). Whisk in until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into the pan or skillet (make sure you have a spatula on hand, it may be thick!).
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, and serve immediately with butter or honey.

Asian Zing Cole Slaw

This easy side dish is a spin on classic coleslaw… With all your favorite veggies, plus a sweet and salty dressing!

asian zing cole slaw

Source: RTA Outdoor Living

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Head Shredded Napa Cabbage
  • 1 Medium Carrot, Grated
  • 3 Scallions, Diced
  • Bell Pepper, Diced (Optional)
  • Snap Peas (Optional)
  • Cilantro (Optional)
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds, To Garnish
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Sesame Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 1 Teaspoon Grated Ginger
  • 1 Garlic Clove, Finely Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Shoyu

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, add the shredded cabbage, grated carrot, diced scallions, and optional veggies of your choosing.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients until homogenous.
  3. Pour dressing over slaw mix and toss until thoroughly coated.
  4. Garnish with sesame seeds, and enjoy!

Want to Make Your Summer Sides... Outside?

Hopefully, these easy summer side dishes for BBQs have inspired some culinary creativity!

But before you get out your cooking tools and clutter up your kitchen… We have just one final tip for making the perfect BBQ summer sides.

Chances are, you’re planning to make your main dish outside, on the grill…

So, wouldn’t it be nice if you could prep your sides al fresco, as well?

There’s no point running back and forth from your indoor kitchen to your outdoor grill to round out your summer BBQ menu.

And with an outdoor kitchen… It’s entirely possible to keep that cooking experience 100% outside!

Not sure what a summer kitchen entails? No worries! We’ll clue you in.

A custom backyard kitchen can be just as functional as your indoor kitchen… For all of your food prep, chilling, serving, and cleanup needs.

You’ll have plenty of countertop space, for chopping veggies or mixing dressings…

Under counter storage for housing all your go-to kitchen utensils…

A fridge for keeping things cool, even in the hot sun…

A sink to easily fill up sauce pots (to boil potatoes or pasta for your summer salads)

And on top of these conveniences… You’ll also get all the cooking power you could possibly imagine!

That includes built-in gas, charcoal, or pellet grills Side burners or power burners Flat top grills… And even pizza ovens!

Curious about what’s possible for your own space?

Our Learning Hub contains everything you need to know to start formulating a plan.

From there, you can try our free online design tool out for size, to get a 3D rendering of your personalized design!

We want you to share in the delight that a summer kitchen has to offer… So when you’re ready, we’re here to help you make it happen!

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FAQ

There are so many options for summer BBQ sides… It can be hard to pin down the best summer side dishes for BBQ!

Luckily, you really can’t go wrong with whatever sides you choose. As long as you give your guests plenty of options, your side dishes stay consistent with the main meal, and none of your sides are too fatty or heavy, your guests likely aren’t going to complain!

For some more specific ideas, foods like orzo salad, pesto pasta salad, watermelon salad, green beans, broccoli salad, tomato salad, and other light and healthy veggie dishes are typically well received at summer cookouts!

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