5 BBQ Side Dishes 5 Ways

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5 BBQ Side Dishes 5 Ways
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5 BBQ Side Dishes 5 Ways

Upgrade your cookout with our creative recipes for potato salad, corn on the cob, coleslaw, baked beans, and pasta salad
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Image Credit: Harry Williams/Corbis

Corn on the Cob

The Basics: Fresh corn, boiled or grilled.

Image Credit: Romulo Yanes

The Upgrades: Paprika Mayo

Put a creamy, smoky spin on classic corn on the cob with this easy homemade condiment. Whisk 2 tablespoons of paprika into 2 cups of store-bought or homemade mayonnaise then spread about 2 tablespoons of the mixture over each ear of warm cooked corn. The mayo mixture can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept, in an airtight container, in the refrigerator. For a mild version, use Hungarian sweet paprika; if you prefer a more intense flavor, opt for Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón).

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 ears of corn.

Image Credit: Sprint/Corbis

The Upgrades: Herb Butter


To add sophisticated flavor and fragrance to summer corn, blend 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme, oregano, tarragon, and chives) with 1 cup (2 sticks) of room-temperature unsalted butter. Shape the mixture into a log and wrap it in parchment paper or plastic wrap, twisting the ends to seal. Chill the herb butter until it's firm, about 2 hours. When ready to serve, spread the butter over hot corn and enjoy immediately. Leftover herb butter is delicious on grilled steaks, chicken, seafood, or veggies.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 ears of corn.

Image Credit: The Luna Cafe

The Upgrades: Mexican-Style Lime and Cheese


Elote de calle, or street corn, is a popular grab-and-go treat throughout Mexico, and it's also easy to enjoy in your own backyard. To add a south-of-the-border spin to your barbecue, start by spreading a thin layer of tangy crema (about 1 tablespoon) over each ear of corn. (If you can't find Mexican-style crema, a naturally soured cream similar to crème fraîche, thin sour cream with a few drops of water.) Sprinkle each ear with 2 tablespoons of Cotija cheese and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and serve right away.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 ears of corn.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Upgrades: BBQ Sauce


Barbecue sauce is a cookout signature, and in addition to slathering it on ribs and chicken, we love to use it as an easy, unexpected topping for corn on the cob. Simply spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of homemade barbecue sauce or your favorite store-bought variety onto each ear of cooked corn. Before serving, grill the corn for about 2 more minutes, over indirect heat, to warm the sauce.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 ears of corn.

Image Credit: The Neelys/ The Food Network

The Upgrades: Roasted Garlic

Rubbing roasted garlic over grilled or boiled corn highlights the natural sweetness of this summertime favorite, while also adding richness. To roast garlic, cut about 1/2 to 3/4 inch off the stem end of 2 whole heads of garlic (the top of each clove should be visible), drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast the garlic in a 400°F oven until it is soft and golden, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves from their skins into a small bowl, add several tablespoons of olive oil, and mash it all together to create a paste. Rub a thin layer of garlic paste over cooked corn and season with salt and pepper. Before serving, grill the corn over indirect heat for about 2 more minutes to warm the garlic paste.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 ears of corn.

Image Credit: Simply Recipes

Potato Salad

The Basics: Russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces, and boiled until tender.

Image Credit: Harry Williams/Corbis

The Upgrades: Lemon, Sour Cream, and Dill

Zesty lemon, tangy sour cream, and herbaceous dill really perk up cold potatoes, and this easy upgrade requires mere minutes to prepare. Combine 1/2 to 3/4 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest, and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill. Once the potatoes are cool, toss with the dressing and serve.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 medium potatoes.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Upgrades: Pancetta and Parmesan

Put an Italian spin on your potatoes by adding nutty Parmesan and salty pancetta. Cook 1 cup diced pancetta until crispy then transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain (discarding the fat or reserving it for another use). In a large bowl, combine the pancetta with 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and 1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise. While the potatoes are still warm, add them to the mixture and toss to combine. Add a sprinkle of dried oregano for a hint of color and a flavor boost.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 medium potatoes.

Image Credit: YumSugar.com

The Upgrades: Warm Bacon and Mustard Vinaigrette

Much like a German-style potato salad, this preparation omits the mayo and is served warm. Cook 1/2 pound of bacon until crispy then transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, and reserve the fat in the skillet. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar, then gradually whisk in about 1/4 cup of the warm bacon fat, or more to taste. Crumble the cooked bacon and add it to the bowl, along with the warm potatoes, then toss and serve. Add chopped hard-boiled eggs for a creamier potato salad.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 medium potatoes.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Upgrades: Goat Cheese and Herbs

Luscious goat cheese and fragrant herbs combine with earthy potatoes to make a light and fresh side that's perfect for summer. Put 2 cups crumbled goat cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until softened. Finely chop fresh herbs such as oregano, tarragon, basil, marjoram, and parsley, and blend them into the goat cheese. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the herbed goat cheese to warm potatoes, toss, and serve this simple, sophisticated BBQ side dish warm or chilled.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 medium potatoes.

Image Credit: Corbis

The Upgrades: Curry

Infused with Indian flavors, this potato salad tastes like a samosa that's come out of its pastry shell. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon curry powder, and 2 teaspoons turmeric. Toss the mixture with cooled potatoes, add 1 cup cooked peas, and season with salt and pepper. For a more authentic Indian flavor, use garam masala (available at specialty markets) in place of the curry powder.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 8 medium potatoes.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Pasta Salad

The Basics: Cooked (al dente) pasta, such as gemelli, fusilli, or farfalle

Image Credit: Brian Yarvin/Getty Images

The Upgrades: Pickles and Peppers

Classic macaroni salad is a backyard BBQ essential. But why settle for the same old standard version? Try adding briny pickles and sweet peppers for a pasta salad with real pizzazz. In a large bowl, mix 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of the chopped pickles of your choice, 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers, 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. For sweeter vinaigrette, add a little more sugar; if you like a more tangy dressing, add more mustard or an extra splash or two of vinegar. Toss the dressing with cooked, cooled pasta and chill until ready to serve. Make this salad with elbow macaroni to maintain the classic feel of this dressed-up dish.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups of cooked pasta.

Image Credit: TheShiksa.com

The Upgrades: Olives, Red Onion, and Mozzarella

The clean, bold flavors of this Mediterranean-inspired pasta dish are perfect for an outdoor party. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with just enough olive oil to lightly coat the noodles then add 1 cup chopped and pitted cured black olives, 1 cup perlini mozzarella (small, pearl-sized balls), 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion, and several splashes of balsamic vinegar. (If you can't find perlini mozzarella, cut fresh mozzarella into bite-size pieces.) Season with salt and pepper, toss, and serve cold or at room temperature. We recommend twirly, playful gemelli for this fun and festive dish.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups of cooked pasta.

Image Credit: Clinton Hussey/ Corbis

The Upgrades: Grilled Chicken, Cherry Tomatoes, and Feta

Adding char-grilled chicken, ripe cherry tomatoes, and salty feta will turn pasta salad into a dish so substantial and satisfying that it can double as a meal in itself—consider it for weeknight dinners, or as a great solution for leftover ingredients. Measure 1 cup cherry tomatoes and cut them into halves or quarters. Next, cut 8 to 10 ounces cooked and cooled grilled chicken into small dice. In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, chicken, and 1/2 cup crumbled feta. Add the pasta and dress with enough olive oil to lightly coat the salad, then season with salt and pepper and chill until ready to serve. Try using farfalle, which are sturdy enough to stand up to heavier ingredients. If you're counting calories, opt for reduced-fat or fat-free feta.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups of cooked pasta.

Image Credit: Corbis

The Upgrades: Pesto and Pine Nut

For maximum flavor with minimal effort, this pasta salad is a busy BBQ host's dream come true. Toss 1/2 to 3/4 cup homemade pesto or your favorite store-bought version with warm noodles, throw some pine nuts in to taste, add freshly grated or shaved Parmesan, and you're ready to serve this delicious dish. Choose a spiral-shaped noodle like rotini or fusilli that will hold onto the tasty sauce. If you have time, toast the pine nuts in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes to bring out their flavor and aroma. This dish can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups of cooked pasta.

Image Credit: NotEnoughCinnamon.com

The Upgrades: Avocado, Bacon, and Sundried Tomatoes

Turn cool avocados into a creamy sauce for a summery noodle side. In a blender, combine 1 avocado, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, and 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar and process until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a large bowl, add cooked, cooled pasta, and toss to combine. Add 1/2 cup crumbled crisp bacon and 1 cup chopped sundried tomatoes, and stir to combine. If using dry-packed tomatoes, soak them in hot water for 10 to 20 minutes, until softened, before cutting them. We recommend penne rigate (grooved) noodles for this recipe, because the sauce clings nicely to their ridges, delivering more flavor in each bite.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups of cooked pasta.

Image Credit: Health.com

Coleslaw

The Basics: Shredded green cabbage, lightly salted, and allowed to sit for about 10 minutes

Image Credit: Maximilian Stock Ltd/Getty Images

The Upgrades: Peanuts and Soy Sauce

Sweet and tangy Asian-inspired flavors will be a welcome change from typical coleslaw recipes. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and 2 teaspoons soy sauce. In a large bowl, toss the shredded cabbage with the peanut sauce, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve with lime wedges on the side.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups shredded cabbage.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Upgrades: Jalapeños and Cilantro

Spice up your slaw with hot chiles and fragrant fresh herbs. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeños, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, and 1 tablespoon cider vinegar. Toss the dressing with the shredded cabbage, season with salt and pepper to taste, and chill until ready to serve. For a milder slaw, remove the ribs and seeds from the chiles before chopping them, so you can enjoy the bright flavor of the jalapeños without the fire.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups shredded cabbage.

Image Credit: The Perfect Bite

The Upgrades: Apples, Yogurt, and Raisins

Light, crisp, cool, and crunchy, this slaw will be a hit with your guests, especially those watching their waistlines. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup plain nonfat Greek-style yogurt, 1 cup coarsely grated green apple, and 1/2 cup raisins. Add the cabbage and stir well to combine. Season the slaw with salt and drizzle with a touch of honey. Chill this sweet slaw until ready to serve.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups shredded cabbage.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Upgrades: Zucchini and Cumin

Summer squashes are at their peak during BBQ season, and while they're great on the grill, they also make excellent additions to cold salads and slaws. Coarsely grate zucchini or other summer squash to measure 1 cup, then wrap the grated squash in a paper towel and gently squeeze to remove any excess water. In a medium bowl, toss together the zucchini and cabbage, then add 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sour cream, and 1 tablespoon ground cumin. Season with salt and pepper, mix well, and chill until ready to serve. This unique slaw is delicious on its own, and also makes a great topping for burgers and hot dogs.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups shredded cabbage.

Image Credit: Tom Mareschal/ Getty Images

The Upgrades: Red Cabbage and Beets

To add extra patriotic flair to your Fourth of July celebration, or brighten the table at any festive barbecue, try red cabbage instead of green. Peel and coarsely grate raw beets to measure 1 cup. In a medium bowl, mix the beets and shredded red cabbage, then lightly dress with balsamic or red-wine vinegar and olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and chill until ready to serve.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8 with 4 cups shredded cabbage.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Baked Beans

The Basics: Baked beans, homemade or store-bought

Image Credit: Neil Overy/Getty Images

The Upgrades: Chipotle en Adobo

Fiery smoked chiles in earthy adobo sauce will add some serious kick to baked beans, an old-fashioned side dish that's perfect for any BBQ buffet. Finely chop 1 or 2 small chipotles (depending on how much heat you can handle). Stir the chopped chiles, along with a few drops of the adobo sauce, into the beans before baking, if you are making them from scratch. (With store-bought beans, add the chipotles and sauce before heating.) If you're not sure how spicy you want the final dish to be, add a small amount of chiles and sauce at a time, stir well, and taste after each addition.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8, using our recipe or 4 cups canned baked beans.

Image Credit: ChiliPepperMadness.com

The Upgrades: Bell Peppers

Fresh bell peppers are an easy way to add color and crunch to basic baked beans. To maximize flavor variety and visual appeal, use any combination of red, yellow, orange, and green peppers. Wash 3 peppers, remove and discard the seeds and ribs, and cut the peppers into small pieces. Sauté the peppers in a few splashes of olive oil until just softened but still crunchy, then toss them into your baked or heated beans and serve.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8, using our recipe or 4 cups canned baked beans.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Upgrades: Sausage

Baked bean recipes typically call for salt pork or bacon, but you can customize the dish by swapping in your favorite sausage. If you're making homemade beans, simply substitute cooked sausage for the salt pork or bacon called for in the recipe. (If you're using store-bought beans, opt for a vegetarian or low-sodium variety so the dish doesn't get too salty, and use about 1/4 pound of sliced or crumbled sausage.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8, using our recipe or 4 cups canned baked beans.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Upgrades: Caramelized Onions

Sweet, tender caramelized onions add umami to already-hearty baked beans. Start by cutting 2 to 3 medium onions into thin wedges. Sauté the onions in about 1/4 cup olive oil over low heat until browned and very soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir the caramelized onions into the baked or heated beans and enjoy.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8, using our recipe or 4 cups canned baked beans.

Image Credit: Alamy

The Upgrades: Bourbon

Adults will be clamoring for seconds of this sensational side with a grown-up twist. For homemade baked beans, simply replace 3/4 cup water with bourbon. (For store-bought beans, add 4 tablespoons bourbon—or to taste—before heating.) And be sure to serve a booze-free batch to the kids.

Each of these easy variations will serve 8, using our recipe or 4 cups canned baked beans.

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Burgers and hot dogs may be the main attraction, but side dishes can take a summer BBQ from ordinary to outstanding. With a few extra ingredients and a little imagination, you can turn corn on the cob, potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, and baked beans into mealtime must-haves. And since many of these variations are meat-free, they'll gain extra appreciation from vegetarian guests.

So, grab your apron and get cooking—we'll help you put a creative spin on these classic cookout recipes.

Check out the slideshow above for ideas to change up your summer sides.

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Quick and Easy Dinners
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