As a guest of any backyard barbecue, you’re usually tasked with bringing along a side dish. Some hosts will ask for specific dishes, making your life a little easier, while others will leave it wide open. And when left to your own devices, the easiest plan of action is to grab a yawn-inducing vat of pasta salad at the grocery store around the corner. But we’re here to say: Please, for the love of god, do not.
What you may not realize is Pinterest and the countless number of food bloggers out there are chock-full of much more interesting and mouthwatering side dishes from which to choose. Want comfort food? Stir juicy brisket into a creamy bowl of mac and cheese. Are all your friends health nuts? You can’t go wrong with a light Mediterranean chickpea salad.
The point is, you’re not boring, so that side dish you set down on the grazing table once you arrive to the BBQ shouldn’t be either.
Ahead, we’ve gathered side dishes that may just upstage the main course at your next BBQ.
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.
Asparagus and herb salad
Summer is the time to feast on as many herbs as possible and this quick and easy 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.
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.
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), savory and salty (the barbecue sauce seasoning).
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 and enjoy these crunchy sides all season.
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 — like the above.
Brisket mac & cheese
If you’re headed to a backyard barbecue where calories won’t count (and the majority of guests aren’t vegans), really indulge with this creamy, sinful macaroni and cheese that doesn’t skimp on the moist, juicy brisket.
Give plain, traditional coleslaw a fruity facelift with this easy, light pineapple coleslaw side dish that’ll take you just 15 minutes to make.
Cauliflower potato salad
You won’t find any starch 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.
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 if the spring rolls are the best part of this dish or the sauce, made with ketchup, rice vinegar, Sriracha sauce and honey.