Easy bbq sides you can take to any casual backyard cookout – or your end of summer blowout. Because, while food from the grill is good, the side dishes make the barbecue a full on experience. From corn on the cob to Hawaiian macaroni salad to potato salad – Japanese coleslaw to cornbread. Oh, did I mention the spicy and sour pickled veggies? Indulge in the best bbq side dishes whether you like it savory, sweet, spicy – or all of the above!
Sure, the grilled burgers, ribs, bbq chicken, tofu steaks and brats get top billing at any backyard bbq. But show me a picnic table loaded up with colorful side dishes made with fresh ingredients, and that’s where I’ll be posted up for most of the meal.
BBQ Sides Can Blur Borders
Whether you’re usually tasked with bringing your famous mac and cheese and sweet potato fries – or you’re more known for your Korean bbq chicken and vegan Chinese dan dan noodles – food from any culture can make the perfect side dish at a summer cookout.
Here are 20 easy side dishes you can add to your cookout menu – from classic American to international bbq sides.
Three Bean Salad
I love making this bean salad because it’s quick, filling and so flavorful. Plus it’s one of my go-to cookout menu ideas because it disappears from the picnic table in record time. I use kidney beans, green beans and garbanzo beans – but you can use what you have handy in the cupboard for this easy side dish. It’s so easy in fact that it’s virtually impossible to mess up!
Grilled Corn on the Cob With Tomatillo Sauce
Sure, the natural sweetness of corn is delectable on its own. But it’s sometimes fun to dress it up and offer something a little different when its grill o’clock. You’ll get a blast of flavor from the tart and refreshing green sauce made with fresh tomatillos, fresh herbs like cilantro, chilis and creamy avocado. It’s absolutely delicious – and it’s a great alternative to another favorite bbq side: elotes. Extra pro move: crumble your favorite tortilla chips and dust the cobs after you brush the punchy dressing on. YUM! This barbecue hit is ready in 20 minutes from start to finish.
Strawberry, Tomatillo and Watermelon Salad
Talk about luck. This strawberry, tomatillo and watermelon salad was a happy accident I created when I had some juicy leftover watermelon and I didn’t know quite what to do with it (besides eat it sliced, ha!). Mint, shallots and salt and pepper round out the flavor profile nicely. This simple summer salad is sweet, tangy, tart and super refreshing – especially nice alongside heavier bbq staples like ribs and pulled pork sandwiches.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
I’ve always had a weakness for macaroni salad. And when I think of the many versions out there, I’m a sucker for the Hawaiian preparation. It’s creamy, crunchy and on the sweeter side of things. This is one of those satisfying yet humble salads I probably bring to 95% of family gatherings, cookouts and potlucks. It tastes like a sunny afternoon on the beach after snorkeling and paddle boarding. Mahalo!
Japanese Potato Salad (ポテト サラダ)
When it comes to potato salad, Japan might not be the first place you think of. But this sweet, tangy, creamy and chunky potato salad is on so many izakaya menus in the land of the rising sun that this yōshoku classic feels 100% Japanese. The secret weapon is the thinly sliced pickled cucumbers that add crunch and zing. This is my favorite potato salad and it makes a great side dish at any bbq. Oh, and if you’re still wondering about Japanese preparations of Western classics, check out this caprese salad.
Korean Cucumber Salad
Korea doesn’t play around when it comes to bbq. And if we’re telling the truth here, I’m probably most drawn to Korean barbecue out of all of the cultural variations out there. When you go to a Korean bbq joint, small plates of kimchi, bean sprouts, tofu, radish and cucumber salads are placed on your table. Those dishes are called banchan – and they are glorious. This cucumber salad is my favorite of them all. And it’s seriously easy to make – here’s a quick video. Wondering if a gochugaru loaded spicy cucumber salad is a true bbq side worthy to be on the same plate as those delicious hot wings your family and friends
suggest demand you bring to the park? Make it and bring it to your next cookout. You can thank me later!
Red Cabbage Slaw
I’m one of those people who are instantly drawn to the serving platters containing the most colorful food. Can’t help it. If you’re like me, you’re in for a treat with this one. Because, not only does it look vibrant, this slaw has all the flavors and textures in every single bite. Red cabbage and bell pepper soak up the tart, punchy dressing without getting soggy. Orange and apple deliver an understated sweetness – and a few pumpkin seeds and cashews make it filling. This is the perfect bbq side for carnivores and vegans alike.
Slow Cooker Pinto Beans
Are you a set it and forget it kinda chef? I know I am. And this slow cooker recipe is one of those perfect traditional sides for bbq. Both in terms of rustic, hearty flavor – and the fact that you don’t have to pay attention to it. Seriously, at all. Great for those times you’ve been tasked with bringing multiple dishes to the cookout and have a ton to accomplish in the kitchen before you get to relax with family and friends in the park. Just let it do its thing in the crockpot while you make your other cookout sides. Check out this step by step video for these bbq pinto beans.
Pickled Cucumber and Onion Salad
What do dill, chiles and mango all have in common? They’re all key players in this light and refreshing southern style pickled cucumber and onion salad. Tangy cucumber and onion salad is a staple dish in many Southerrn households – and everyone puts their own little spin on it. Mine is tart, sweet and spicy and goes well with everything from hamburgers to carnitas. It’s the food incarnation of a sunny summer afternoon with friends as grill smoke wafts through the sultry air.
Red Potato Salad
This is probably about the most classic bbq side dish I can think of. Tangy red potato and pea salad tossed in a light mustard and vinegar dressing. I use sun dried tomatoes for a deep umami savoriness that plays against the bright and verdant fresh basil. And it’s so easy to make when you’re in a rush to get out the door. This chunky potato salad is ready in just 15 minutes!
Italian Pasta Salad
If you’ve got friends and family that prefer to fill up on hearty salads rather than grilled chicken and smoked sausages, this bright Italian pasta salad delivers some heft. It’s the perfect filling summer salad packed with black olives, cherry tomatoes, red onions, turkey and cheese. Of course you can omit the dairy and lean meat if you prefer plant based sides. The real weapon in terms of flavor is the simple homemade Italian dressing. It’s so delicious you’ll want to use it on everything!
Broccoli Salad With Honey Mustard Dressing
Broccoli that is tender but crunchy: check. Grated carrots, almonds and cranberries: check. Tangy, sweet and savory honey mustard dressing: check. This cookout side dish is healthy without being a bummer. In fact, it’s awesome to see a plate loaded with bbq ribs and broccoli at the same time. Get a big bowl of it on the picnic table stat!
Asian Style Slaw
It looks fiery and spicy. But this slaw is savory, sweet and mild. Mandarin orange segments offer a soft counterpoint to the crunchier cabbage, red bell pepper, wonton strips and sliced almonds. And the dressing is a flavor packed mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar (with a little grated ginger). If you want to keep it super easy in the kitchen, just use a bag of coleslaw mix instead of shredding everything by hand. Easy, done!
Spicy Pickled Vegetables
I’m a big fan of chow chow relish (that iconic Southern condiment made with green tomatoes, onions and sweet peppers). Well, this pickled veggies recipe is my extremely loose interpretation of that. I’m using cabbage, red onions, carrots, bell peppers and jalapeños. But, obviously, you can use whatever looks good in the produce aisle. The pickling brine is a simple four ingredient combination of rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, sugar and salt. Savory, sweet and spicy pickles are a bbq side that should be at every cookout.
Wondering what sides go with bbq – and don’t quite know what to take to that weekend cookout in the park? You can’t go wrong with cornbread. Ever. Now, if you’ve got a family cornbread recipe that goes back generations and always turns out perfectly, you should probably make that one and not risk the wrath of your in-laws. But if you’ve been looking for the perfect secret ingredient to introduce a bit more moisture to cornbread, click the link below!
Cold Asian Noodle Salad
This is absolutely one of those genre blurring bbq sides. Because, at first glance, it’s a cold Asian noodle salad that has more in common with a phone order from your favorite Chinese-American delivery spot than a cookout staple. But look a little closer and, at its core, it’s a cold pasta salad with a spicy and savory flavor profile that features crunchy elements like sliced cucumber and bean sprouts. If that’s not a classic cookout side dish, then we’ve been doing bbq wrong.
Sugar Snap Peas With Sesame Dressing
Grilling season and snap pea season have their calendars synced in the best way. In fact, cold snap pea salad is one of my favorite counterpoints to a plate piled high with burgers, grilled veggies and shrimp skewers. These crunchy, sweet and refreshing sugar snap peas are served with a Japanese onion and sesame dressing that’s nutty and savory. If you only try one of the bbq sides on this list, this is the one.
Kani Salad – Japanese Crab Salad
Now, you could use fresh king crab meat if you were so inclined. But even though it would be technically superior, using the more traditional imitation crab meat in this iconic Japanese crab salad somehow makes it better. Kinda like how a plastic wrapped Kraft Single works better than a fancy expensive cheese in certain recipes. You’ll love the sweet and tangy Kewpie mayo based dressing. This is a recipe I grew up eating – and the side dish my Japanese mother brought to every summer cookout we ever went to in Quebec. Incidentally, it was also the first serving dish on the chipped picnic table in the park to be completely empty 100% of the time.
Summer Rainbow Salad
Making this summer rainbow salad is so easy! Like, seriously… mix everything in a bowl and head out to the backyard easy. Plus, you can use this bright recipe as a blueprint. Swap one summer veggie for another to make your own colorful salad that speaks directly to your tastebuds. The flavors are clean and simple – and putting the whole thing together only takes about 15 minutes total!
Japanese Coleslaw (コールスロー)
Just like there’s a flavor difference between the coleslaw at your favorite deli and the coleslaw at KFC (I love both), there are many different versions of cabbage salad in the Japanese food lexicon. This one is tart and pungent with plenty of rice vinegar, soy sauce and katsuobushi (which gives it a good amount of smokiness as well). What doesn’t change here, is that coleslaw of any provenance is the perfect bbq side to take to any cookout no matter where in the world you happen to be. Check out the step-by-step video to see how easy this one is to make. Now let’s fire up those charcoal briquettes! See you in the park 🙌
So what will you be tossing on the grill? Have you tried any of these easy bbq sides at your backyard cookouts? Are there changes you made that you’d like to share? Share your recommendations, tips and tricks in the comments section below.Print
The Best Three Bean Salad
An easy to make three bean salad that will bring big time flavor and a pop of color to your backyard cookout spread. This iconic bbq side is ready to serve in just 20 minutes.
- Prep Time: 16 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Salads
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Low Fat
- 1 15–ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15–ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 8 ounces fresh green beans, ends trimmed
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 6 jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil, patted dry and finely chopped
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 endive, sliced in half lengthwise and chopped (optional)
- 1/4 cup flat Italian parsley or curly parsley, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon creamy dijon mustard
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Fill a medium size pot with water and add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and add green beans.
- Boil for 4 minutes, turn the heat off and drain. Rinse under cold water until the green beans are room temperature and drain well.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for the salad.
- In a glass or plastic container that comes with a lid, add all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Put the lid on and close tightly. Shake until vinaigrette has emulsified and pour over the salad.
- Toss well until the ingredients are evenly coated.
- Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve.
This three bean salad will keep refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
- Calories: 231
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 262.3 mg
- Fat: 11.7 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.6 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 1.7 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 25.9 g
- Fiber: 9.1 g
- Protein: 8.5 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: Side dish, pot luck