Much of summer's fanfare is devoted to the season's most impressive-looking dishes, like a gorgeous slab of grilled skirt steak with zingy chimichurri sauce or a tray of bright-pink lobster rolls doused in mayo, herbs, and butter.
But what about the side dishes? Every main event needs a bit of support on the sidelines—we're talking grilled vegetables, grains, chilled soups, pasta salads, and more—to make a meal feel complete.
Here are 60 of our best summer side dish recipes, from grilled corn with basil butter and spiced watermelon salad to spicy peanut slaw and a no-mayo pasta salad that even pasta salad haters will love. With so many delicious side options to choose from, you're sure to find something you'll want to eat alongside your main course.
This roasted, charred-on-the-edges eggplant gets just the right hint of brightness from the fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon juice, plus a pinch of sugar for balance.
You'll never eat watermelon the same way again after trying it spiced with cumin and fennel seeds, zingy ginger, turmeric, and a dash of chile powder.
This raw, crunchy salad calls on some of summer's best produce—sweet corn, red peppers, and crisp cucumbers—and gives them a creamy, herby upgrade with a rich-but-not-heavy buttermilk dressing.
This recipe has you cook the farro with garlic, onion, and parsley, making the grain far more aromatic than it would be if it had just been boiled in plain water. Summer-ripe tomatoes, tangy olives, and creamy mozzarella come into the mix to make this salad a worthy side dish, and maybe even a main meal.
Loaded up with green, seasonal ingredients and a silky dressing of citrus and yogurt, this salad is exceptionally easy to make and guaranteed to make you feel good.
This simple sesame noodle salad (vermicelli works best, but any super-thin noodle will do) would be a great match for a fillet of roasted salmon or maybe even some teriyaki-glazed chicken.
We could walk you through how to make this family-favorite potato salad, but you already know how to do it: Boil the potatoes, mix 'em up with the rest of the ingredients, and always go in for a second helping.
Summer fruits are the clear star of this salad—juicy tomatoes and sweet nectarines are an absolute must—though the mozzarella and sweet-tart balsamic reduction are welcome additions.
Roasted chickpeas and za'atar, an aromatic Middle Eastern spice blend, make the perfect match in this vibrant, supremely flavorful salad.
This Genius-approved salad achieves a creamy, balanced, perfectly emulsified vinaigrette—without any mayo or dairy whatsoever. To find out how that magic works, you'll just have to make it for yourself.
We love any and all panzanellas (who could say no to bread salad?), but we especially love this puttanesca-inspired version with bursts of cherry tomato, capers, and olives.
Anchovies might seem like an odd addition to grilled fava beans, but trust us on this one—they make the dish.
These vegetarian-friendly kebabs will never feel like an afterthought for any of your friends with dietary restrictions; they're stacked with bright, smoky flavors and plenty of heft thanks to the tempeh.
Instead of frying up your okra this summer, toss them on a piping-hot grill and douse them in a zesty, spicy Sriracha-lime salt that you'll want to sprinkle over everything.
This golden-brown, tender eggplant gets a welcome hit of heat alongside fresh Fresno peppers. The whole dish avoids becoming too spicy thanks to a pinch of sugar and some cooling mint.
Nothing says summer quite like a batch of freshly grilled corn, but a slather of herby basil butter takes this seasonal staple totally over the top.
Herby pesto and citrusy cream over crusty, grilled bread makes a foolproof side dish or appetizer for a feast of grilled meats, fish, or vegetables.
This grilled watermelon spiked with tequila, chile powder, and cilantro makes an easy (and fun!) side dish, but it could just as easily stand in as a low-lift dessert.
Bok choy shouldn't just be reserved for stir-frying and sautéing—its mellow, green flavor comes alive over the grill. We especially like brushing it with miso butter, which caramelizes just a bit when it hits the flames
You can make this leftovers-friendly salsa after a good day of grilling, but you can also toss those fruits and vegetables over the heat right alongside whatever else you're cooking up for dinner that night.
The natural sweetness of summer tomatoes gets balanced with a bit of spice and tang, plus a quick flash on the grill. It makes a great appetizer, but would also pair nicely with grilled fish, barbecued beef, or sticky rice.
For smokier, feistier, all-around tastier coleslaw, marinate the cabbage in mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar and quickly blister it on the grill before chopping it up.
Of this absurdly delicious marinated-then-grilled eggplant, one reviewer said it best: "This was easy and superb. The next day the flavors had married and, after being in the refrigerator overnight, were even tastier."
Asparagus gets shiny, blistered, and altogether addictive after a quick dip in scorching-hot oil. The dressing and leeks can be prepared a day or two ahead (so easy!), but we recommend serving the asparagus immediately after frying.
If you've got a bunch of tahini left over from making hummus, put it to good use in this cumin and cayenne–spiced cauliflower with toasty pine nuts.
Even traditional meatball fanatics are sure to love the taste—and texture—of these split pea meatballs served over a creamy yogurt sauce made with pistachios, cumin, and lime.
This side dish (or light dinner) couldn't be easier to make—you'll need just one pot and no more than a handful of ingredients, many of which you likely have lying around your pantry.
Sweet roasted carrots get a bright, zingy kick with a drizzle of gremolata made from sharp, peppery mustard greens, roasted garlic, parsley, and lemon zest.
This is the type of summer-ready side dish you're going to want to make when you have just 15 minutes to get something on the table, but don't have the time to fuss over it.
Our co-founder Merrill Stubbs couldn't help but get excited about these goat cheese grits, which she describes as, "Creamy and soft (I add a bit of milk to the cooking liquid), with just the right amount of tang from the goat cheese and a nice hit of heat from coarsely ground black pepper."
The star of this dish is the crispy, crackly brown rice that's similar to the golden layer of crust you'll find at the bottom of a good paella or tahdig.
Put an entire head of broccoli to good use in this coconut-y, creamy dish of soft chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, lively ginger, and a squeeze of lemon.
Our favorite thing about these marinated mushrooms—aside from their earthy, bright flavor and tender texture—is the fact that you can make them a whole day ahead of time and still get a delicious result.
There are a million ways to riff on these easy olive oil–braised chickpeas, but one reviewer gave us our favorite idea: adding carrots and ras el hanout.
Watermelon again, for the win! Preserved lemon, creamy feta, and fresh mint transform this simple chilled fruit into something complex and 100 percent addictive.
This zucchini carpaccio is both no-cook and vegetarian-friendly, which is why it's a staple for big summer get-togethers with lots of friends and family.
Recipe author Hana Asbrink says it best: "I eat this not-recipe throughout the summer when it’s so hot you can barely breathe and you have little to no appetite."
We love cheese in pretty much any and every form, but we're particularly grateful for this spoonable, creamy ricotta with fresh herbs, lemon zest, and good-quality olive oil.
This is a guacamole where the avocado really shines—you won't find much else here besides a bit of white onion, jalapeño, salt, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime for a punch of acidity.
According to one recipe reviewer, this family recipe is "the perfect marriage—one that is layered, interesting, crunchy, spicy, and all-around satisfying."
A handful of salty, crunchy popcorn makes the perfect plus-one to a plate of sweet shrimp "cooked" in lime juice, fresh chiles, and cilantro.
Use up that leftover rotisserie chicken to make this easy-peasy pesto chicken salad, which makes not only a great side, but a wonderful sandwich or salad topper, as well.
Sure, you've heard of red gazpacho, but have you tried ajo blanco, which is traditionally made with a paste of blanched almonds and garlic, stale bread that gets soaked, and olive oil? It might sound like a funky combo, but trust us when we say it's refreshingly tasty.
Summer wouldn't be complete without at least one cup of chowder, and we love this crab and corn version for its comforting flavors and silky texture.
The extra bit of time and effort you'll need to make freshly cooked posole and roasted peppers pays off 10 times over with this mildly spicy, brothy chicken soup.
Salmorejo, a chilled soup typical to the southern part of Spain, is similar to gazpacho—only it's creamier, thicker, and way more flavorful.
Lightly sweet with fresh summer corn, yet nutty and rich thanks to the pistachios, this light and bright chilled soup is an essential recipe to keep on hand during the hotter months.
A riff on "Rhode Island Red" soup, this chowder is a perfect mix of Manhattan clam chowder and New England clam chowder, so now you won't have to pick sides.
If, like us, you're skeptical of the idea of sweet strawberries in savory gazpacho, then take this reviewer's word for it: "Well, I'm happy to report it's a winner in my book."
This flavor-packed curried coconut soup relies not on chicken or beef stock, but rather on a broth of simmered corn cobs.
This creamy chilled soup has just the right amount of heat and tastes great right out of the blender or food processor. But it'll taste even better after a day or two in the fridge.
The only cooking you'll need to do for this dish is the boiling of the spaghetti; all of the vegetables and herbs are served raw with just a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
This laid-back, creamy summer pasta is the best way to use up any extra squash you picked up from the farmers market.
If you've got any pasta salad haters in your life, try making them this mayo-free peperonata version—it's almost guaranteed to turn anyone into a convert.
This pesto isn't like all the rest: It's totally free of herbs or nuts. It does, however, call on kale to make a pasta dressing that's light and fresh, yet still feels satisfying.
PSA: Brie shouldn't be limited to just a cheese board. It also makes a creamy, lightly tangy addition to pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and chopped basil.
Far from your average macaroni salad, this miso-peanut variation gets its edge from the vinegar and chile-garlic sauce.
A riff on Diane Kochilas' Genius pasta, this summer-ready pasta stars lots of alliums and green peas.
This creamy pasta wonder would be incomplete without a few dollops of ricotta; according to one review, it makes the dish.
This pasta has so many things going for it—creamy ricotta and unexpectedly deep flavor from the anchovies and mushrooms, for starters—that we'll be keeping it in rotation all summer long.