Anyone who's ever been to one of my dinner parties—or, honestly, seen me in action at lunchtime—knows that I live for sides. I'm not proud of it, but I regularly treat hummus as an entrée. Not even with crudités.
I understand if you don't want to have a relationship with me anymore. But before you go, you might as well milk me for knowledge. My sides-above-all propensity means I've done my fair share of diligence, by which I mean mainly sampling various coleslaws and the like. So my knowledge of supplementary dishes runs deep. And in the summer barbecue season, I really shine, because summer is the season of sides.
Here are 22 of the best barbecue side dishes, in my very expert opinion:
A classic potato salad, ratcheted up a few notches. Don't think about skipping the hard-boiled eggs, which lend gribiche vibes to the whole affair.
Meet the cabbage slaw that's many times more exciting than it sounds, thanks to its miso-carrot dressing. (Swap a knob of ginger for the garlic if you're so inclined, and it'll be a miso-carrot-ginger dressing instead.)
This Southern-style cornbread calls in chorizo, onion, and corn for a flavor that's hearty and arresting. An unexpected addition, cottage cheese, keeps it moist even the next day.
If there's a more infinitely riffable last-minute BBQ side dish for a crowd, we don't want to know about it. This one's spicy, lime-y, and full of Cotija cheese.
This potato salad is a modern, refined take on the classic. It makes use of tangy yogurt in place of traditional mayo, and swaps out "everything in your fridge, chopped" for fresh herbs and oil-cured olives. It's just as good with BBQ chicken or pulled pork as it is solo, piled high on a plate.
This corn salad's my auto-reply when I get a "Easy side dishes for parties?" text in the summer months. Feel free to sub in whatever you have on hand—no one would complain about bacon, for example.
This roasty eggplant and broccoli salad is even better lukewarm than it is hot. And the miso-ginger dressing? Highly drinkable.
Change minds about pasta salad being only so-so by serving this one at your next cookout. It's a take on peperonata—a classic Southern Italian dish of peppers, onions, and tomatoes, melted in olive oil—and it makes for an earth-shatteringly good accompaniment to grilled sausages. Don't forget the cold beer.
One commenter writes, "This is, unsurprisingly, incredible mac and cheese." Another says simply, "This was a huge huge huge hit." Do yourself a favor and try for yourself.
These are the quintessential baked beans, and no summer cookout would be complete without them.
If you're looking for tender, roasted, spiced sweet potatoes with a peanut butter dressing, you've come to the right place. Add chopped radicchio for a little extra crunch.
Using an Instant Pot for mac and cheese sounds crazy, but it actually allows you to infuse the pasta with way more flavor by cooking it directly in broth, cream, and Pecorino. And a speedy, stovetop panko topping keeps things nice and crispy over on the textural front.
There's so much to say about a good bean salad. It comes together in a flash. It gets better as it sits. And it goes great with crusty bread.
Here's a not-boring pasta salad replete with an even less-boring, no-cook, hands-off tomato sauce. And it's worth every single hyphen.
Every single thing that's great about summer, unite! Oh, and bring some chèvre.
What could be better than regular old cornbread? Tomato upside-down cornbread. Yup, it's a thing, and you should make it.
This smashed cucumber salad has allll of the crispy, crunchy bits. Plus, a tangy vinaigrette to boot.
There's probably not much more you need to know beyond "garlicky" and "roasted potato salad." Okay, we'll say a little more: It's a clever play on Spanish patatas bravas, and yes, there's mayo involved.
This is arguably a main, but in BBQ season, it's happy to play the role of side. And bonus: It's vegan, so you don't have to worry about dairy sitting out if you're planning an all-day event.
On its surface, this salad seems like the same-old green bean situation you see at any cookout—but try it: You'll find it's punchier, more lemony, and perfectly balanced.
These fluffy, buttery rolls are worth the extra effort. Just don't forget that final sprinkle of flaky salt.
Looks simple, tastes anything but. Good luck snagging some of this before it runs out!
What's your go-to when it comes to summer side dishes? Let us know in the comments.
Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests
columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.
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