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Guests of any backyard barbecue are usually tasked with bringing along a summer BBQ side dish. Some hosts will ask for specific sides, making your life a little easier. But some will leave things wide open. When left to our own devices, many of us do the bare minimum: running to the grocery store around the corner to grab a vat of yawn-inducing pasta salad. But we’d like to make an open plea. Can we all, for the love of god, stop doing that? It would be fine if one or two guests showed up with pasta salad in tow. But when 10 barbecue guests show up with the same exact side, monotony—and serious disappointment—ensues.
The thing is, there are tons of summer BBQ side options that have nothing to do with pasta salad. And they’re delicious. And much more interesting. And not at all hard to make. Want comfort food? Stir juicy brisket into a creamy bowl of mac and cheese. Are all your friends health nuts? A light Mediterranean chickpea salad is sure to delight. Street corn. Pineapple coleslaw. The list goes on.
There’s no reason we should all resign to eating the same-old, same-old at every single summer barbecue we attend. There’s too much incredible food out there for us to commit this culinary treason time and time again! So do your friends—do yourself—a favor, and scroll down. There are plenty of delightful summer BBQ sides for you to choose from—some so absolutely delicious they might just upstage the main course. That should be the goal, after all. You should want to turn every summer barbecue you attend into an absolutely decadent affair—not a staid one.
1. Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
For a light, good-for-you side dish that’ll impress with not only its concoction of classic Greek ingredients and flavors, but also its assortment of colors, spend less than one hour throwing together Salt & Lavender’s chickpea salad.
2. Asparagus and Herb Salad
Summer is the time to feast on as many herbs as possible, and this quick asparagus and herb salad lets you do exactly that. You can whip it up in a few minutes, and the herbs can be easily substituted if you have some extras in your fridge that you want to use up.
3. Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Chimichurri
Another dish so pretty, you won’t want to eat it—psych! Perfectly charred sweet potatoes drizzled with a bright, fresh cilantro chimichurri (made with parsley, jalapeño, garlic, onion, red wine vinegar and lime juice) seems simple but bursts with flavor.
4. Grilled BBQ Pineapple Shrimp Bites
Make these grilled BBQ shrimp bites paired with pineapple chunks before you head over, or grill ’em up the second you get to the backyard BBQ. Either way, guests won’t be able to resist an appetizer with the perfect balance of sweet (from the pineapple) and savory/salty (from the barbecue sauce seasoning).
5. Corn Fritters
You’re probably going to have extra corn lying around all summer, so might as well put it to good use. Corn fritters are super easy, and you can make a bunch at once and freeze them so you can enjoy these crunchy sides all season.
6. Grilled Mexican Street Corn
You can never go wrong with street corn. We repeat: You can never go wrong with street corn—coated with a thick layer of salty, garlic-y, cilantro-y, creamy cotija cheese.
7. Brisket Mac & Cheese
If you’re headed to a backyard barbecue where the majority of guests aren’t vegans, go full indulgence with this creamy macaroni and cheese that doesn’t skimp on the moist, juicy brisket.
8. Pineapple Coleslaw
Give plain, traditional coleslaw a fruity facelift with this easy, light pineapple coleslaw side dish that’ll take you just 15 minutes to make.
9. Cauliflower Potato Salad
You won’t find any potato in this potato salad recipe—thanks to the cauliflower substitution—but you will find all the other usual suspects, including hard boiled eggs, celery, mayo, dill and more.
10. Cheesy Shrimp Baked Spring Rolls
Don’t get intimidated—no deep-fryer is needed for this easy, cheesy, shrimp and mozzarella-stuffed spring roll. We can’t decide which part of this dish is the best. Is it the spring rolls themselves, or the sauce, made with ketchup, rice vinegar, Sriracha sauce and honey?