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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Although the main star of any at-home BBQ meal is usually the meat, the supporting side dishes can make or break the party. Luckily, there is no shortage of grilling sides ideas that you can try out and customize for your gathering.
Some grilling sides ideas can be made ahead of time, while others can be thrown on the grill as soon as you get it heated up. Whether you’re looking for sides that fit into special diets, like low-carb, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, or you just want something delicious to complement your main meal, there is an option for you to offer.
Classic Grilling Sides
These classic sides have been served at summer BBQs since the dawn of time. Every backyard BBQ has some variation of these BBQ appetizers, and most guests will expect these options at your party. With easy-to-find ingredients and simple recipes, these sides are quick to prepare, so they’re ready to go when your backyard summer party begins.
1. Pasta Salad
If you’re hosting a summer BBQ, you’re going to want to throw together some pasta salad. There are plenty of grilling sides ideas for pasta salad, but one of the quickest recipes you can make from scratch uses rotini pasta, dried herbs, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and a bit of Italian dressing. Mix it all together, cover, and place in the refrigerator until your gathering. You can easily make this one ahead of time, which frees you up to talk to guests and focus on the grill on the day of the party.
2. Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Both kids and adults love gooey mac ‘n cheese. Make sure to have some on hand to go with your burgers and hot dogs.
Boil elbow noodles, then drain them and set aside. Whip up a creamy cheese sauce using melted butter, flour, half-and-half milk, and loads of shredded cheddar, then coat the noodles with it. Pour everything in a 9”x 13” baking dish, and put a layer of breadcrumbs on top. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350°F, and you’ll have a tasty mac ‘n’ cheese that everyone will enjoy.
3. Grilled Corn on the Cob
Grilled corn on the cob is the quintessential BBQ side. Its mix of sweet, salty, and a bit of char, makes it a flavorful grilling side dish. It’s also super easy to grill. Grab some whole ears of corn from your local farmer’s market or grocery store.
Once your grill is heated up, shuck the corn, and rinse thoroughly. Dry the corn with a paper towel and put the corn on the grill, turning it every 2-3 minutes so that the entire ear is lightly charred. Take off the grill, coat with butter, season with salt and pepper, then dig in.
For a quick Mexican street food version, coat the grilled corn cobs with a mixture of mayonnaise, lime juice, chile powder, and cilantro, then sprinkle with Cotilla cheese.
4. Baked Beans
No BBQ would be complete without an offering of baked beans. You can make these from scratch if you choose, but the most simple solution is to grab a few cans from your local supermarket and tweak them to make them your own.
There are tons of flavors you can try, like bourbon and brown sugar or smoked paprika. Simply buy the brand you like and put them in a small crockpot to warm up with your added flavors.
You could also warm them in a dish in the oven at 330°F or a cast iron dish on your grill. Add a few slices of fresh mozzarella, and scatter a few basil leaves for a refreshing Italian twist on classic baked beans.
Read more: Grilling tips: healthy way to cook.
Don’t Forget the Spuds
Potatoes and grilling are a match made in heaven. Guests will love munching on these delicious, crispy, crunchy, well-seasoned potatoes.
Cut whichever potato variety you please into chunks that are roughly the same size; however, Russet and Yukon gold are the best for baking or grilling. Drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle on salt, pepper, and your favorite vegetable seasoning mix. Put them in a grill pan, either on the grill or in the oven, for about 30-45 minutes. They’ll be golden brown and soft inside when done.
Grilling Sides for Special Diets
It is always wise to offer side dishes at your grill-out that cater to family or friends on special diets. Most of these accommodations are super simple. They often work for everyone’s preferences, not to mention that making these grilling sides for special diets will show you care about your guests.
1. Mixed Veggies
Grilled mixed veggies are probably the easiest option for special dieters. Most people who eat low-carb are able to have veggies like brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, red peppers, squash.
Grilling sides ideas like these grilled vegetables are an easy way to accommodate the diets of your guests. However, you may want to make sure you only use avocado or extra virgin olive oil to grill them and salt and pepper to season.
2. Grilled Fruit
It sounds a little strange and unconventional, but grilled fruit is a unique side dish to offer those who are looking for gluten-free options. You can grill slices of honeydew melon, drizzle them with honey when they come off the grill, or use a grill pan to grill peaches, nectarines, and plums drizzle them with a sweetened balsamic glaze after transferring them to a plate. These sides can also double as dessert if you serve them with vanilla ice cream or thick Greek yogurt.
Thrill Your Guests with Delicious Grilled Sides
These grilling sides ideas are a great way to show off your culinary skills, welcome your friends and family, and create an atmosphere of celebration in your backyard. Summer BBQs are one of the best parts of the season, and with these side ideas, your party is sure to be a hit. Serve these grilling sides ideas with your all-star steak, hamburger, chicken, or seafood, and you’ll have a successful summer celebration.