Here’s the thing about BBQs: When those burgers, ribs, or dogs emerge sizzling from the grill, no one will want anything else. So you must (you must!) have tempting non-meat sides. Because whether you’re throwing the party of the summer or just hosting your in-laws, nobody wants to leave a BBQ feeling… ugh.
We all know it’s a snap to down a burger, then a dog, refill the sangria, and nap under a tree. There’s nothing wrong with that, in moderation. But if we had our way, we’d have you knee-deep in slaws and salads, succotash and summer beans. Make your feast feel a little lighter on its feet. Serve vegetables (or subtly suggest your guests bring them). Here are the easy, breezy recipes we love.
Grilled onion and corn give this crunchy salad a hefty dose of full summer flavor. Radish, cilantro and lime keeps its appeal fresh and bright. For a more protein-forward variation, toss in a handful of black beans or cubes of grilled chicken.
This time of year, as the mercury inches up, the Instant Pot is a lifesaver. (You can even make a cheesecake in it, for goodness sake!) Sriracha eggs are a gift when you’re dreading sticky, sweaty prep work. Eggs typically emerge from the Instant Pot with dreamily easy-to-peel shells. That’s half the battle when you’re scooping out their innards, whisking them with mayo, mustard and Sriracha, and serving them up on a platter with beautiful herby bread crumbs. These can easily outshine the meat at a party.
Uncle Gene always goes for the pasta salad first, and everyone knows it. Make yours one that appeals to all the uncles and aunts and kids alike, as this vegan version brimming with pretty beans does. Watch it vanish in a flash. This is a particularly excellent recipe for scorching-hot days, since it eschews mayo and is safer for a little longer on the table. (Check the USDA’s food safety tips here!)
Say it with us: There must be potato salad. Whether you go in this modern direction replete with artichokes and olives or stick to an old-fashioned, delicious classic, make some. At its best, it is bright with the tang of mayo or lemon, and incorporates some of the veggies you crave or need when the sun is hot.
We’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, when things get fast-moving and we get excited at the butcher, we completely forget about veggies. But corn, folks. Remember the corn. Vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike love it. You can dress it up or dress it down. We are particularly fond of this “corn three ways” recipe, featuring Mexican, Italian and Hungarian variations. Yum, yum.
Southerners know. Where there are ribs, there must be baked beans. This recipe is among our faves thanks to the addition of pure maple syrup, dark brown sugar, dry mustard and salt pork. Think about those flavors mingling together. It’s a snap to prepare, and goes beautifully with anything you’ve shellacked in BBQ sauce. Don’t forget the cornbread or biscuits, now.
Some barbecue stalwarts will insist that there must be potato salad and macaroni salad, and who are we to argue with such genius minds? In macaroni salad, the noodle tends to be the focus, not an accent, so be sure yours is cooked al dente and keep it cool and safe (especially if you’ve used delicious homemade mayo, as in this recipe). Remember not to cut corners on brightening notes. Pasta salad of any sort needs acid, such as lemon or vinegar, and the best ones have chives or scallions, parsley or tarragon. It requires freshness so it feels like a real respite from grilled meat central.
Watermelon. Cube it, slice it, or serve punch out of it, but there must be watermelon. Of course there must be! If you want to upgrade a gorgeous classic, make watermelon salad. This one brims with jicama, lime juice, cilantro, mint and basil. (Yes, it works.) This one has feta, mint and a fiery serrano chili, for the heat seekers in the crowd. They’re both five-star recipes.
Let there be sides. Have a more memorable BBQ. And good work.