16 Crowd-Pleasing Side Dish Recipes for Summer Barbecues

Nobody wants to be the guest who brought the boring potato salad that’s left sitting barely eaten on the buffet table when the party’s over. Up your barbecue game with one of these unexpected side dishes that showcase summer’s best flavors. Prepare for lots of recipe requests — and a guaranteed invitation to next year’s cookout.

Skillet Custard Cornbread With Berries and Honey

Juicy summer berries take center stage in this sweet and savory cornbread. Substitute whichever berries are in season for the freshest summer flavor. Get recipe from The Bojon Gourmet.

Feta, Herb and Shrimp Orzo Salad

This light and refreshing salad is also filling, thanks to the shrimp and orzo. Don’t forget to add plenty of garden-fresh mint and parsley. Get recipe from iFOODreal.

Summer Squash Fritters

Recipe: Summer Squash Fritters from Aggie's Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Aggie’s Kitchen.

If your garden (or CSA box) is overflowing with zucchini and summer squash, whip up a few batches of these fritters for your next barbecue. Get recipe from Aggie’s Kitchen.

Mexican Street Corn Salad

Live Eat Learn's Mexican Street Corn Salad

Photo courtesy of Live Eat Learn.

If summer had an official flavor, it would be sweet and smoky corn on the cob. Take grilled corn to the next level by serving it elote style in a creamy sauce with cojita cheese, fresh cilantro, lime juice and spices. Get recipe from Live Eat Learn.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Pizza gets a serious summer upgrade when it’s topped with paper-thin shaved asparagus tendrils. Experiment with baking the pizza on the grill. Get recipe from Crumb.

Zucchini Noodle Mock Pasta Salad

There is perhaps no side dish more ubiquitous at the summer cookout than pasta salad. Give the tired staple a fresh (and low-carb!) update by swapping spiralized zucchini “noodles” for heavy pasta. Turkey sausage and pesto give this dish plenty of flavor. Get recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

Cantaloupe Gazpacho

Recipe: Cantaloupe Gazpacho from The Fauxmartha

Photo courtesy of The Fauxmartha.

Lemongrass and mint give this chilled soup a bright flavor profile. It will impress fellow summer partygoers, but it’s a breeze to whip up in your food processor. Get recipe from The Fauxmartha.

Watermelon Salad With Mint, Feta and Jalapeños

Recipe: Watermelon Salad With Mint and Jalapenos from Half Her Size

Photo courtesy of Half Her Size.

Store-bought fruit salad won’t stand a chance on the buffet table next to this fresh and fun version that uses spicy jalapeño to draw out the sweet flavor of watermelon. Get recipe from Half Her Size.

Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

Recipe: Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Tart from Oh, Sweet Basil

Photo courtesy of Oh, Sweet Basil.

It would be a crime to let summer pass you by without sinking your teeth into some ripe heirloom tomatoes — and we think this tart is the perfect way to enjoy them. We don’t see any reason why you couldn’t swap in some even more decadent burrata for the mozzarella. Get recipe from Oh, Sweet Basil.

Creamy Cucumber, Avocado, Chickpea and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad

Creamy Cucumber, Avocado, Chickpea and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad from Big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen.

Ripe avocados give this salad a creamy texture, while sliced cucumbers lend big crunch. Add juicy sun-dried tomatoes, and you’ve basically got summer in a bowl. Get recipe from Big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen.

Mint Citrus Snap Peas With Pistachios

Health-conscious crowds will gobble up this paleo-friendly side dish. Crunchy snap peas flavored with cool mint and lemon will be a welcome light note on buffet tables otherwise laden with heavy, cheesy, mayonnaise-y sides. Get recipe from Further Food.

Scallop Strawberry Salad With Basil-Lime Dressing 

Meaty scallops make this salad substantial enough for a weeknight entrée. Or, double (or triple) the recipe and bring it as a side dish to you next summer potluck. Tart lime juice and sweet basil work together to create a simple and tasty dressing. Get recipe from Natural Kitchen Adventures.

Mango Jicama Slaw

Recipe: Mango Jicama Slaw from Garnish With Lemon

Photo courtesy of Garnish With Lemon.

Sticky barbecue ribs and other grilled meats will pair perfectly with this fresh take on coleslaw. Carrots, peppers and jicama pack plenty of crunch, and sliced mango gives the slaw a hint of tropical sweetness. Get recipe from Garnish With Lemon.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad 

Loaded Baked Potato Salad from Foodie Crush

Photo courtesy of Foodie Crush.

Go ahead and toss that basic (read: boring) potato salad recipe you’ve been making for years. This decadent version is bound to become your new go-to. Get recipe from Foodie Crush.

Peach and Prosciutto Caprese Salad

Sweet peaches are the perfect late-summer stand-in for tomatoes in this out-of-the-ordinary Caprese. Salty prosciutto and plenty of fresh basil add to the beauty and deliciousness of this salad. Get recipe from My Bottomless Ex-Boyfriends.

Tuna Tartare With Nori Chips — A Beautiful Plate

Recipe: Tuna Tartare With Nori Chips from A Beautiful Plate

Photo courtesy of A Beautiful Plate.

Elegant summer soirees call for upgraded nibbles. Instead of chips and salsa, bring this (admittedly more labor-intensive, but totally worth it) tuna tartare served with nori chips. Get recipe from A Beautiful Plate.


More from Make It Better: